Love, remember, is proven by the sacrifice it makes.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.
Two men, both in their 80's now, one ready to live, the other trying to beat death.
The first man, Robertson McQuilkin.
I just finished reading his short autobiography addressing the time that he took care of his failing wife, Muriel.
She was diagnosed with Alzheimers. In her 50's.
And he cared for her over the span of 25 years, from the onset of the disease until she died.
Sacrificially cared for her, though he would never call it a sacrifice.
And he eventually resigned from his position as President of Columbia Bible College to become her complete caregiver.
A marriage in a crucible. A man whose wife would never be the same, who would never be able to fulfill his needs in the same way that she had before.
And he chose to stay. Chose to surrender. Chose to give and give and give because the love of the Giving-Christ filled him.
Wife diagnosed with a debilitating illness, her body becoming more and more crippled as the years passed.
Eventually she needed a wheelchair.
And that was just the last straw.
So he left her.
Divorced her; he's with a much younger woman now--
And before she died, she still used to ask about him, ask how he was.
He was still in her heart, the one who broke it--
When the crucible shattered, overburdened with heat.
And a heart, broken, lay among the shards of clay.
A man with feet of clay . . .
Broke the covenant.
And I found myself asking the other day, What holds a marriage together? What holds a marriage together in a crucible?
The logical answer--the covenant--the covenant forged, the covenant spoken and witnessed and signed and consummated.
What holds a marriage together? The covenant, and then something deeper, still, I think--
And that is covenant love.
The love that mirrors Jesus' love for us, the kind of love that McQuilkin had for his wife, the love that gives and gives and gives, for the joy that is the reward.
And His covenant love washed over us.
Because the covenant without love is just a legal transaction-seed, and love is the lifting of that seed into the flower of beauty and grace.
Covenant love -- and what is perceived as bondage ultimately brings freedom, the bondage of love.
McQuilkin said, in an interview--
Ours is a day of passionate pursuit of self fulfillment. And the folk wisdom of twentieth-century America holds that fulfillment can be found only in freedom. So, if some responsibility or commitment, some relationship or value shackles, you have a moral obligation to yourself to break free.
But it's a fantasy. That doorway to freedom and fulfillment may turn out to be the doorway to a stronger imprisonment. I've watched in sadness as many friends and acquaintances march through that doorway. The new bondage may be subterranean, below the level of consciousness, even. But such a person has broken one set of shackles only to shut himself or herself off from the soaring freedom of experiencing God's highest and best. He who preserves his life, affirming himself, will lose it all, says Jesus. Only the one who can say no to self-interest for Christ and the gospel cause can ever find the treasure of true life--freedom and fulfillment in Christ. But we don't seem to get it.
Whatever became of the covenant?
And deeper still, what of covenant love?
What of Jesus?
Elisabeth Elliot tells the story of a man and his wife who were having marriage difficulties.
Desperately wanting to save her marriage, the woman finally convinced her husband to go with her to counseling.
The Christian marriage counselor who met them and learned of the husband's desire for a divorce quipped something along the lines of "Well, I was divorced, and now I'm happily remarried!"
As Elisabeth Elliot put it, "That was all the husband needed." He quickly pursued a divorce and that was that.
No regard for the covenant.
No understanding of love.
The love that held a man named Robertson McQuilkin to his marriage vows, to his wife, to Jesus.
An example of covenant love.
The love born of sacrifice,
The love that brings life.
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