OUTDO ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE.
Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor.
In the name + of Jesus.
Normally, I would not stand before a bride and groom on their wedding day and tell them that their marriage is to be a competition. That is a recipe for disaster. It is not hard to imagine what could go wrong with a marriage that is a matter of getting one’s way, winning arguments, and keeping score. And since you both have sinful hearts, you would both find something appealing about winning at the expense of each other. Selfishness is never satisfied. While selfishness loves to take, it despises giving. Everyone always wants more. You are only happy as long as you get what you want. And you will only be happy until you want something else. Now, if you compete with each other in who can score more victories, eventually one or both of you are going to want to quit that game. But marriage is not a game or a contest, and you are not rivals.
Yet, the verse you chose speaks about a sort of competition. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10) Both of you are pledging to devote yourselves to serving, loving, and honoring the other. This is a noble goal, and it will serve your marriage well. God gives a man and a woman to each other so that they will be a blessing for one another.
When God had created all things, everything in the world was perfect. He created the man, Adam; and since Adam was holy, Adam could have lived contently by himself. But God knew that creation was not complete without a wife for the man. So from the side of the groom, Adam, God made a bride for him. Adam recognized the tremendous gift God had given him. Filled with joy, Adam gave us the first poem in the history of mankind to celebrate the joy of finding a wife.
Dan, to my knowledge, you are not a poet, but you would surely speak highly of the bride whom the Lord gives to you. Kimberly, I don’t know that the sight of Dan makes you break out into song, but you surely are thankful for the husband God grants you. You are each a blessing from God to each other. You get to rejoice together in the good times, to encourage each other in tough times, and to comfort each other in sad times. And since the person you are binding yourself to today is God’s gift to you, you will honor God by honoring one another. Outdo one another in honor. Outdo one another in love.
The reality is, you will not be competing against each other in this. You will be competing against your own sinful flesh in trying to love and honor each other. Sinners have a warped definition of love. Our love is usually given as long as the one whom we love makes us happy. If you don’t make me happy, then I don’t need you, want you, or love you. This is not love for anyone but oneself. This is your sinful condition. All people are born with it. Kimberly, you have seen it at work already in 5 year olds. It is no different in adults. But if your love is limited to when your spouse makes you happy, things will get sour pretty fast. You will start keeping track of who does more for the marriage, and you will always be convinced that the other one is coming up short. But true love does not keep score. Day after day, you will need to repent and to kill every desire to win, to control, and to conquer.
Even though you are sinners, you are not without hope. The verse you have chosen from Romans gives you a hint of what your hope will always be. Love one another with brotherly affection. (Romans 12:10) What is brotherly affection? Scripture defines it as the love that Christians have for another. So, what makes that kind of love so special? Because it is drawn from the love that Jesus Christ has for us, his Church.
Jesus Christ is called the Groom, and the Church is his Bride. As Eve received her life from the side of Adam, so the Church receives its life from the wounded side of Jesus Christ. Everything that Jesus did was for the benefit of the Church, for the benefit of you. He does not leave you to suffer the judgment you deserve for your selfish attitude, for failing to cherish his gifts, or for withholding love from your loved ones. Jesus has taken that judgment for you. He did not do this because you deserve this honor. He did it simply because it is for your good. You need his mercy, his forgiveness, and his salvation. Therefore, Jesus secured it for you. Jesus lived and died in order to redeem you from sin and death.
Jesus has outdone everyone in love. Love is not Jesus’ feeling toward you; it is his policy. Even when you grieve him with your sins, Jesus does not despise or dismiss you. For, he loves you. Having bled and died for you, he forgives all your sins. He wants you to be his for eternity. Through holy baptism, he has put his name on you so that you would receive his gifts and be heirs of heaven. This is the honor Jesus has bestowed on his Bride, the Church. It is the honor he pours out on you. In turn, the Church submits to Jesus to receive these good things from him. The Church honors Jesus by observing his commands and by serving others. This is how we show our love to him.
This is the brotherly love you get to demonstrate for one another. Outdo one another in love, in honor, in serving one another, and in seeking the good of the other. Dan, you get to love Kimberly, exalt her, provide for her, and protect her. All that you do is for her well-being. And Kimberly, you get to submit to Dan, meaning that you get to receive his name, his honor, his protection, his wealth, and all that is his to give. You receive good things from him, and you honor him by doing so. Outdo one another in love.
The husband is God’s gift to the wife. The wife is God’s gift to the husband. Each is for the good of the other. You get to honor each other more than anyone else. You get to serve each other more than anyone else. And when you sin against the other, you get to forgive because you will need each other’s mercy. It is all just as Jesus Christ does to love his Bride, the Church. And it is all just as the Church does to honor Jesus Christ.
Outdo one another in love. In this way, you will find joy in the spouse God has given you. And in this way, you will honor God who has given you to one another. In this way, you will reflect the love that Jesus has and shows you.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.