“Servant Love is to marriage what the concept of lift is to aerodynamics. Without it we won’t even get off the ground. By applying it, husbands and wives can be freed to welcome the undiluted blessing of God on their marriage. Yes, this is one of the more difficult maneuvers to master in this journey (we call marriage). But it is also one of the most rewarding” (H. Dale Burke).
This week we want to share some thoughts from the book, Different By Design by H. Dale Burke (published by Moody Press). Servant-Love is a theme we talk quite a bit about. This is because we believe it is one of the imperatives in having a marriage the way God designed it.
Just in case you think Steve and Cindy Wright have a “perfect” marriage, we’ll be honest with you —we’re far from perfect. And we haven’t mastered Servant Love. But, we’re committed to using these Biblical principles every day with the goal that as people observe our marriage, they’re getting a picture of what Christ wants to (and can) do in anyone’s marriage.
We also think Burke’s words, from his book, will help us get a clearer picture of what Servant Love is to look like. As you read through the rest of the Marriage Message, ask God to show you what He wants you to get out of it.
Keep in mind that the Bible tells us, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. But with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Unselfish Servant Love
Paul cautioned us strongly by saying we should “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.” This conceit, if I’m reading Paul correctly, actually leads to selfishness. It does this just as humility naturally prompts us to regard others as equally important, in some cases, more important than ourselves. If I take Paul’s words to heart and start changing the way I think, it follows quite naturally that my way of living will begin to change as well.
The thought that I’m to regard others as more important than myself, as it becomes a conviction of my heart, will tend to turn selfish behavior into servant behavior. How do I know my attitude of conceit is shifting to one of humility? It’s when I find myself looking out not only for my own needs but also for the needs of others. This especially applies to those of my spouse.
The servant lover sees a need and simply does it. Seldom does this quality demand a major sacrifice, although it can. More often it consists of daily little acts that sweeten the relationship a little at a time. I once asked some friends the question, “When do you see your spouse serving you?” Here’s what they said:
Serving Our Spouse
He folds the towels after they’re dry …my way, not his.
She eats the burned toast …every time.
He fixes the coffee …then wakes me.
She goes to the ball game with me.
He empties the dishwasher.
She drops the kids off at the movie.
He picks up the kids from the movie.
He returns almost overdue videos at 11:55 PM.
She lets the dog out …again.
He lets the dog in …again.
He gives me the car …even when it leaves him stranded.
She gets up at 5:00 AM to taxi one of the kids somewhere
…while I sleep in.
All of us need to live like servants. The issue is, whom are we willing to serve? Every one of us serves other people every day. It’s inevitable. For some, the list of who gets served is a short one; for others it’s longer, but one thing holds constant: We decide who gets on that list. If my decision is based on conceit, I’ll be self-focused, I’ll be looking out for number one, and that will be evident to all who observe my life.
What they’ll see is a selfish guy who is known for taking rather than giving, for using without appreciating, for hoarding instead of sharing. Conversely, if a humble heart is driving my decision, what the world will see is a servant —one who gives, who appreciates, who shares. In a word, one who loves.
Servant Love Reflecting a Servant Heart
Dale Burke has shown us the essence of a servant-heart. But the model of the servant-heart comes from Jesus Himself. (Read Philippians 2:5-11.) These verses show us that He is the epitome of servant-hearted love. He didn’t wait until others treated Him as He thought He deserved. He “humbled Himself” to do what He should, in spite of the unfairness of it all.
And while we may not achieve perfection in this area of our lives, we at least need to be committed to moving closer to Christ’s model as we live every day in our marriage.
Another way to put it is what we’re told in James 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…”
To that we say, Amen.
Steve and Cindy Wright
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