He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him. (Colossians 1:18-19).
The seeds we plant and water tend to bear fruit. This is true in marriage. Often, without realizing it, we demote Jesus Christ from His rightful place as head of everything, and replace Him with ourselves. The seed of self-orientation was planted in the soil of mankind in the first garden in creation by Satan. Adam and Eve were the soil. Unable to distinguish that weed-producing seed from the good seed which would yield fruit to the glory of God, they received the seed of selfishness that produced idolatry and every kind of evil.
What's growing in your marriage garden? With the seed already implanted in our souls, it is natural to water the evil weed implanted within when it comes to marriage. Where Jesus Christ should be first place in the marriage, each one makes marriage about himself or herself.
Usually the weed seed gets over-watered from the beginning through the wedding. Typically, someone gets first place, first consideration. I've wondered if those seeds sprout and bear the fruit of expectations in wives or husbands to continue to receive first place consideration in the marriage. Either can bear a similar crop of selfishness; they can and do. That's the essence of sin in the natural man or woman – it leads us to put ourselves and others in the place of God. How much of your marriage is about you rather than Jesus Christ?
The verses above from Colossians 1 clearly state what the will of God is for everything–that Jesus Christ "come to have first place in everything." Please receive my encouragement in ways Jesus Christ may come to have first place in your marriage. More than likely, you are already watering that seed of truth in your lives. I hope to add some light and nutrients to the soil of your soul so that Jesus Christ may receive greater glory and you attain to all the wealth that comes when Jesus Christ is honored as the preeminent purpose of marriage.
First, be filled with this truth: It is God's will that Jesus be first place in your marriage.
Marriage seldom begins with Jesus in first place. Let me illustrate this reality through the traditional wedding model where the bride is the point of focus. Young women dream, plan, and spend small fortunes to follow traditions that make her the center of attention. Seldom does a wedding not follow the bride-centered traditions. The references to Jesus Christ, if mentioned at all, are often mere sideshows or consist of a musical performance. The let down is often overwhelming after the honeymoon as they return to reality. I wonder if this free-fall could be prevented if the couple had minimized drawing attention to themselves in dress, fanfare, and celebration and instead gave Jesus Christ first place. It would take great courage and love for Christ for a couple and their parents to break from tradition and design a truly Christ-centered marriage ceremony. Does this sound radical to you? It does to me.
I'm not attempting to heap guilt on all of us that followed traditions in our weddings. I'm simply wondering if there is a connection between what is central in the wedding and what is central in marriage. What do you think? I confess that for many years, I wasn't filled with this truth: that it is God's will that Jesus Christ be first place in everything. So my first encouragement is this: let's water the seed with this truth that God has willed that Jesus Christ be first place in our marriages until the soil of our souls is soaked with it.
Second, be filled with this truth: It is God's will that Jesus be the head of marriage.
Colossians 1:18 declares that Jesus is the head of the body. The idea is that God appointed Jesus as head "so He will come to have first place in everything." I think His headship also includes marriage. Why? Because He is the beginning of marriage just as He is the beginning of the church. Paul taught the Ephesians that the headship of the husband in marriage exists because of Jesus' headship of the church. True biblical headship entails loving service and a lay-down-your-life attitude and actions because the husband recognizes Jesus as first place in his marriage. The wife's submission to her husband is to be motivated by her loving submission to Christ as her head. Because she loves Jesus and puts Him first, she relates to her husband in a humble manner. There would be no marriage without Christ, because there was nothing created, even marriage, that was not created through Him and for Him (John 1:2, Col. 1:15-16).
When I say Jesus is the head of marriage, I mean also that He is the source of life in the marriage. He also guides the couple just as the brain gives direction to the actions of the body. What does making Jesus first as head of the marriage look like? It's a husband and wife acknowledging before God that they belong to Christ and that their marriage relationship (both the blessings and the challenges, both the physical and the spiritual) is for His glory and joy first. Their own glory, joy, and comfort are secondary.
Alma and I have found two ways we can give Jesus first place in our marriage through prayer that may be an encouragement to you. If Jesus is to have first place in everything, then surely it means Jesus is to be the first consideration of the day. When a couple begins the day drawing near to the throne of grace in heaven and surrenders the day to Christ recognizing that they awake to another gift from God–life and breath for another day with each other–they exalt Jesus as their head and give Him preeminence. As a couple also prays for Jesus to express His life through them–His love, His joy, His nurture, His humility, His forgiveness, His patience, etc–they are giving Jesus first place.
Additionally, Jesus' headship should extend to all facets of marriage. For instance, financial decisions should be made based on kingdom values. If Jesus is first place, we spend our money in ways that store up treasures in heaven rather than primarily purchasing self-comfort, self-significance, and entertainment. The sexual relationship between husband and wife should be governed by expressing the love of Christ for each other under the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than guided by selfish desires and worldly principles. That's putting Jesus first. Couples also express how they treasure Christ through their weekly schedule. They don't allow activities, sports schedules, work, and leisure to rout out life with Jesus Christ and discipleship of their children in His ways. I hope this second encouragement that Jesus is head of your marriage inspires you to look to Him as your head.
Third, be filled with this truth: It is God's will that Jesus Christ be your fullness in marriage.
I have a confession to make. For many years, I idolized marriage and my wife. Instead of recognizing Jesus' preeminence in marriage, I sought to fill myself with a good marriage. Unfortunately, when someone does that, they make a bad marriage. God never intended for men and women to find satisfaction in marriage or from a mate. Some people create a dream marriage in their minds and seek to get their spouses to think and act in ways that fulfill their dreams. The more they water that idolatrous seed, the more bad fruit they produce. Why? Because they have to manipulate and control people and circumstances to make their marriage dream a reality. Did you fall into that ditch this past month on Valentine's Day? Did you create in your mind what your spouse could do that would make you feel special or romantic? What happened when they didn't fill up your emotional and mental tank, and even if they did do what you wanted, don't you still want more?
Do you recognize the emptiness that comes from idolatry and making marriage, romance, or your spouse first in your life above Christ? Actually, to make marriage and a mate first place is to make yourself first place, isn't it? Your expectations revolve around making yourself happy and full. Lasting emotional, mental, and spiritual fullness can only occur when Jesus comes to have first place in our marriages and we seek to be content and full in our relationship with Christ. Out of that fullness we are able to give to our mates, and in the giving, we are filled. Consider this illustration. When is a pan full of water? It's full when the water overflows the brim. God intended that His children find their fullness in Jesus Christ alone and as that fullness peaks, it overflows in our marriages into the lives of our spouses.
When Paul wrote that God made Jesus head so that He would come to have first place in everything, he continued "for it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him." In some way, the fullness of Christ is related to His being first place. Since it has pleased God that all the fullness dwell in and be found in Christ, He will come to have first place in everything.
Be filled with the Spirit!
Have you recognized that you have been and will always be on a treasure hunt? We were created for fullness. We read above that it pleased God for fullness to be found in Jesus Christ alone. Everything else falls short of filling us. The contrast of emptiness vs. fullness was employed by the Apostle Paul in his letters to the Colossians and Ephesians. The philosophies, traditions, and elementary principles of this world are empty deception (Col. 2:8). They have an appearance of promising fullness, but when embraced and pursued, result in spiritual poverty and emptiness of soul.
God made us to seek fullness of soul and life. He knows that we will only find fullness in drawing near to God and being filled with Jesus–filled with His Spirit–as Paul wrote to the Ephesians (6:18). God has not intended anything or anyone in this world to be capable of filling the emptiness within your soul. God, the Father, sent His Son to rescue us from that empty darkness and transfer us into His kingdom where we find light, life, and fullness. When you find the fullness that is in Jesus Christ, He will come to have first place in your marriage. Your marriage can bring glory to God, for God is glorified most when you find your greatest satisfaction in Jesus Christ.
I encourage you and your spouse to meditate on Col. 1:18-19 and discuss what steps you can take to find your fullness in Christ so that He will come to have first place in your marriage.