She saw him at the bus stop every morning at 5.30. He never boarded the bus and he didn’t speak to her. But his kind presence made her feel safe. She always wondered who he was and why he was there so early.
One day she got to the stop later than usual and as she walked up, she saw him rush out of a nearby house — his wife watching from the doorway. Looking relieved he said to her, “We thought something happened to you!”
It turns out his wife had first noticed her waiting alone at the stop each morning. She sent her husband — day after day — to stand near the woman and watch for anyone who might harass her.
Love has a way of challenging us to treat others well because love holds high expectations of us. A couple that loves well will often extend that love to their children, their neighbors and the passersby with whom they share their world. As iron sharpens iron, these loving couples push each other to be better members of their community. In that way, marriage empowers spouses to grow past love for each other to love for the community.
Acts 2:44-47 gives the inspiring testimony of what God can do with marriages committed to him. When families in the early church committed themselves to the Gospel, they changed how they interacted with each other … and with the community around them. They invited people into their homes and gladly shared food with them. They sold their possessions and distributed the proceeds to those who had need. The Bible says their behavior brought them favor with all people. There was something about how they chose to live that others saw and wanted to be a part of. A godly marriage is a tool that God uses to invite others in — to make them feel welcomed and loved.
The flip side of this life-changing love is a marriage that is so focused on itself that it does not see the needs of others. This is illustrated in the biblical story of Haman and Mordecai (Esther 4). Haman, the prime minister of Persia, expected that everyone should bow to him. It made him livid that Mordecai, a minority colleague at the palace, refused to follow the rules and bowed only to God.
Mordecai made Haman so angry that he couldn’t even enjoy the blessings he did have. At a dinner party at his house, he complained to his wife and friends. “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” Esther 5:12-13 (emphasis added). Haman literally felt his life was worthless because someone would not behave the way he wanted. Zeresh, Haman’s wife, encouraged him to set up gallows in their backyard to hang Mordecai.
Haman and Zeresh were more involved in their own interests and upward mobility than they were in the well-being of others. More than that, they went out of their way to bring someone down in order to get where they wanted to go. In Haman and Zeresh’s case, the result of plotting against the Jews ended in tragedy. Haman was hung on the gallows that he built for Mordecai. His sons were killed (Esther 9:6-15).
The marriage mission
What influence does your marriage have in your community? Does your love invite others in? Do you go out of your way to show compassion and care, even for those on the fringes of society? Or are you so focused on your own needs and trials that others fade into the distance? In these challenging times, God calls for His people to love like He does.
God’s love counts others as more significant than self (Philippians 2:3). That might mean giving priority to easing another’s pain over maintaining your comfort. It’s keeping your eyes open to see the needs in your community and then doing something addressing some of those needs. Self-sacrificial love speaks up for the helpless and brokenhearted. Your marriage has the power to influence nations — for good or for harm. Your witness could turn the tide of history.
May we take up the challenge today to become missional couples for the glory of God.