Ephesians is considered the cornerstone scripture for marriage. Ephesians 5:22 starts the instructions concerning wives and husbands specifically.  In this passage we hear the often quoted “Love your wife as Christ loved the church” and the controversial quote “Wives submit to your husband in all things.”  I have heard these scriptures often throughout my marriage, but it was decades before I started exploring how I could ever love that sacrificially.  If love and submission are the light that comes from the flashlight of marriage, what are the batteries?

Where Can I find the Power Button?

The answer is found a few scriptures prior, in Ephesians 5:18, where we are instructed to be “filled with the spirit.” The subsequent scriptures guide how you will act towards your spouse, children, servants, and masters, but it is being “filled with the spirit” that provides the power you need to serve in these relationships. The Spirit, whom Francis Chan refers to as The Forgotten God, is the source of power for a Christian marriage.  So, what does it mean to be filled with the spirit?

Filled with the What?

Dr. Adrew Farley defines it this way:  “To be filled with the Spirit means to allow the Holy Spirit, who already dwells within us as believers in Christ, to guide and empower our lives. It is not about receiving more of the Holy Spirit, but rather surrendering to His leading and allowing Him to work in and through us. In Ephesians 5:18, the apostle Paul encourages us to be filled with the Spirit. This means that we should rely on the Holy Spirit’s strength, wisdom, and love to live according to God’s will. Being filled with the Spirit involves being inspired by the love of Christ and allowing the Spirit to influence and inspire us continuously. It is about knowing the love of Christ and finding relaxation, peace, and inspiration from His enormous love. When we are filled with the Spirit, we can experience the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and be empowered to serve and encourage others, speak boldly, share the Gospel, and find joy despite persecution (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 4:31, 6:3, 7:55, 11:24, 13:52).”

The reality is that the Spirit of God lives within us, in union with us.  He has given us His mind, and it is when we think with the mind of Christ, and submit to the will of Christ, that we can express the love of Christ to our spouse.  Our thinking influences our emotions, our emotions influence our actions.

Marital problems allow us to explore the source we are living from like no other relationship.  When Patty and I are arguing, I have the opportunity to ask myself “am I expressing the desires of the Spirit, or am I expressing the desires of the flesh?”  Sometimes I am living from the Spirit and what I am advocating is needed.  More often, I am living from the flesh and what I am advocating is what I want or feel I need.  The good news is, now that I know I need to check the battery, I can redirect my thinking to where God calls me faster than I used to.  During all of the trials we face in life, especially the trials we face in marriage, we need to check the source of our thinking and actions. Are you acting from the flesh,  demanding your way, or acting from the Spirit as an expression of God’s love?