Focus 3 (of 4) -Couplehood is Forbearance

Focus 2 | Couplehood is Forbearance

Grace leads to unity, communication and empathy. Conditions lead to division.
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See what this Spotlight—and series— is focused on.
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Let’s talk about the difference between friends and couples.
Listen to this audio clip when you’re ready to begin today’s Spotlight.
(And welcome, by the way! It’s great that you’re here!)
There are two ways to work together: conditionally and unconditionally. God shows his perfectly suited love to everyone through couplehood by making only one of those ways truly work.

In the same way that the only version of connection that works between God and humanity is that of unconditional, undeserved, committed grace, so also the only version of love that will truly work in a couple’s relationship is grace. Grace leads to unity, conditions lead to division.
Get comfortable using marriage as a metaphor for you and God.
Take a look at some examples of marriage-to-God language being used in the Old Testament by scrolling through the images below.

As God speaks in the Bible, he is comfortable using the idea of being married to those he loves. He does this because his love is (and has always been) an unconditional commitment, just like marriage. 

Discuss the following now that you’ve read the examples…

Which of these examples most helps you appreciate the idea of “couplehood with God” and why?
Welcome Perspective
A couple will gain unity as they gain unconditional love.
Meet the perfect husband. (The good news is that he’s yours.)
The Bible doesn’t hesitate to talk about Jesus as the husband of the church. While the concept can take a second to get used to, the metaphor is powerful.

(For anyone who has experienced the failures and pain of being in a couple firsthand, having a significant other—or especially a spouse—as fantastic as Jesus has real appeal.)

Listen to this reading of Ephesians 5:21–33.

(Consider following along with the text below as you listen.)
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:21–33

Discover the many perfect-husband qualities of Jesus.

George Whitefield, an Anglican priest and preacher who was a leader in the Great Awakening in the 18th century, preached a famous sermon called Christ is the Best Husband. Below are several excerpts from his sermon.

Take a few minutes to click on—and read through—each of the interactive elements within the  image below. As you do, consider why you might be particularly thankful for each one.
Listen to this song and reflect on being the “bride of Christ.”
Go from unconditional commitment to unconditional love. 
The Bible gets more and more excited about idea of a marriage between Jesus and the church as it talks about the end of all things—and life, forever, in heaven. (Unconditional commitment and love.)

Follow these instructions in reading through Revelation 19:1–10…

  1. Designate one member of your group be the “narrator,” reading all of the non-bold text below.
  2. The remainder of your group will then read—aloud—together the bolded choruses of praise.

Revelation 19:1–10

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:

Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

And again they shouted:

The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:

“Amen, Hallelujah!”

Then a voice came from the throne, saying:

“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
both great and small!”

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

One of the big reasons that this metaphor gets better as it meets with eternity in heaven is that it’s not just Christ’s unconditional love that makes him the perfect husband to the church. It’s the fact that his unconditional love lasts forever. He is totally committed to it and he will never cease being totally committed to it.

This truth of Christ’s love—which means your sins are forgiven not only at the cross but forever, your hope is secure not just now but forever, and your new life is real not just now but forever—allows those who receive his love to react differently. There’s no risk in making it your own!
Let this sink in as you listen to the song, “We Love.”
Worship Perspective
God has set the stage for couples; in faith you are married to Jesus.
Follow these two overlapping steps to discover the importance of the helper.
1. Press play on the audio player below to start the background music—then immediately move onto step two while it plays.
(If you’re experiencing this Spotlight on a single mobile device, skip over step one and move directly on to step two.)
2. Read through “In the Garden” by Brook Ritter and Bobby Giles as a group while the music plays quietly in the background.

In the garden where God made him,
Adam lived and worked alone.
Till the Lord created woman,
flesh from flesh and bone from bone.
Where one stood without a helper,
God made two, this plan begun:
that the two, when wed together
would live and love on earth as one.
Would live and love as one.

Like the Church, the bride of Jesus,
may she honor him alone.
May she help him build your kingdom.
May she help him tend their home.
Like the Lord, who stopped at nothing,
giving life through death for her,
may this man so love this woman,
as they, together, serve their Lord.
Together serve their Lord.

Like the union of the Father,
with the Son and Holy Ghost,
may the children joined together
now and evermore be one.
May they be a new reflection
of your love and unity,
pure delight and true subjection
that ev’ry one of us can see.
That ev’ryone can see.
See Adam and Eve as one another’s savior—each filling a void in the other.
To be clear, Adam and Eve didn’t save one another from sin like Jesus has saved the world from sin (quite the opposite, in fact.) Nevertheless, there are ways in which Adam and Eve saved one another.

Take some time to discuss the following questions with your group. Refer to the concepts in the poem above for context if you need to.

  1. Saviors typically save someone from something. What did Eve save Adam from? What did Adam save Eve from? What did they save each other from
  2. Christ’s saving work is a gift from God to humanity. How was Eve an undeserved gift to Adam? How was Adam and undeserved gift to Eve? 
  3. Human beings aren’t “required” to be part of a couple, but everyone needs Jesus as their savior from sin. Truly, everyone needs grace. How have you observed grace in the couples in your life, whether you are in one or not? 
Learn Perspective
The hope of couples is to know and show God’s grace to one another.
See sex as unconditional service.
Watch the video below, which is part of the high school curriculum— this video is specifically for seniors—from Conquerors through Christ.

The goal is to paint a positive picture of what a sex life can be—and to give students a chance to think about the opportunity to have a healthy one.
Discuss the following with your group:

  1. True or false: The Bible is full of good examples of sexual lives.
  2. A good sexual life isn’t about doing this thing or avoiding that thing, it’s about your _______.”
  3. True or false: God wants everyone to enjoy sex.
  4. Sex is the picture that the Apostle Paul uses to describe the relationship between _______ and the _______.
  5. The key to a good sexual life is _______.
  6. What other thoughts or questions did you have while watching the video?
Share your other questions below.
The church’s tendency to avoid talking about sex has led to a dangerous situation: people are afraid to ask good questions about a good gift of God. Combine that with the devil’s efforts to corrupt sex and you can see the trouble people get themselves into. 

Set aside a few minutes to come up with a few questions you’ve always wanted to ask about sex. (It might be best for each group member to do this on their own.)

Feel free to submit a prayer request by filling out the below form.
(If you choose to make your request public, you'll see it display in the Current at the end of the Spotlight along with anyone else who did the same.)

Prayer Requests

Pray through your requests—together—as a group.
After submitting your requests in the above form, take some time to share with your group whatever requests the group might have for this week.
Serve Perspective
God gives sex as a way for couples to experience to commitment and service of love.
Reflect on all of this by meditating on John’s summary of love.
Start to wrap things by listening to the song Be with Me.
This is a new song that reflects the thoughts of this Couplehood series, and some friends of Illume graciously put together a pretty awesome demo of it—just for you—for this Spotlight.

Sing along with (or listen to) this song to close out this Spotlight.
Feel free to sing along or simply listen. Do what makes you comfortable—but do whatever helps you focus on the song's meaning best.
Farewell Perspective
God meets you in the grace you need, and he teaches you to engage with it in couplehood.
Let's wrap things up by taking a look at what's Current at Illume.
Tap on the buttons in the frame below to see what’s currently happening at Illume—information on everything from current and upcoming online content to live events and opportunities to serve in the community can all be found here.

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