Imagine it’s your wedding day. You’ve had the ceremony, and you’re starting to relax when the minister hands you a gift, a thick book of Marriage Rules. “Read this,” he says. “The secret to a happy marriage is found within.”
You open the book with interest. Inside you discover many rules and guidelines: “Be honest, be kind, always tell the truth, listen well, keep your promises, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ freely forgive, don’t covet your neighbor’s wife,” and that sort of thing. Initially you think, This is gold! I want a successful marriage, so I will do everything this book says.
You keep reading and find there are more rules for marriage than you could possibly have imagined. There are rules for special days and different seasons, rules on what to eat and what to wear, rules on property rights, rules regarding intimacy, rules on family planning, and hundreds more. Phew! I never knew marriage was such hard work. But I want a blessed marriage, so I’ll follow the rules. I’ll even take this book on our honeymoon.
But then you turn to the last page and find a surprising message written in large letters:
If you love your spouse, disregard this book. You don’t need it. If you love your spouse, you will keep all the rules effortlessly.
This should be good news. What relief! I can leave the book at home and enjoy my spouse.
Yet there are some who won’t do it. They’ll keep the book just in case. But there is no just in case. There is no conceivable situation where the rules could replace true love.
Do you see?
If you love your spouse, you don’t need the book, and if you don’t love your spouse, all the rules in the world aren’t going to help.
Some treat the Bible as though it were a book of rules for how to be married to Jesus. They think they will have a happy marriage if they do everything the Bible says, or at least everything Jesus says.
But love doesn’t work that way.
[Extracted from chapter 14, The Gospel in Twenty Questions.]