He laughed at me, mocking me for using words like yield and cooperate. I didn’t expect the sarcasm about our family’s way of seeking God’s direction, but I should have. For a lot of people, cooperation in marriage is a punch line or lightning rod, an outdated way of thinking and living. Maybe you’re in that camp and you’re mostly determined to see your rights respected and your agenda advanced. I’m not in that camp. When the ring of laughter faded from my ears, this conviction lingered in my heart: Cooperation in marriage is no laughing matter.
One passage in the Bible gets a whince from women more than the king offering to cut the baby in two or the moment God closed the ark. Ephesians 5:22 and its companion Colossians 3:18 poke wives and would-be wives in the eye with one word: submit. But I don’t even need to go there to tell you why cooperation as a couple is nothing to laugh at. Look at Philippians 2:1-11.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
For about a year now, Jeff and I have wrestled with God for direction. We knew He was moving us, but like Abraham and Sarah, He was just saying we needed to pull up stakes, pack our things, and start over in a far place. It’s been like a long, slow scraping of the knee. For the first time, I’ve wondered if Sarah loved the home she left like I do. Leaving what you love is never easy, but God doesn’t call us to “easy.” Ultimately, God spoke to Abraham, and ultimately, I believe God directs my husband to steer our family. If I trust the holy God to lead us, I have to trust my human husband to lead me.
A loving leader strives for unity and understanding, but that means a partner has to cooperate, even if the path is hard and the destination unknown. Christ wins when we cooperate.
3 truths for cooperation in marriage
I learn 3 things from Paul’s description of Christ’s cooperation:
- A spirit of cooperation is a beautiful thing
- A spirit of selfishness is an ugly thing
- A disciple’s mind is the mind of Christ
Having the mind of Christ doesn’t come naturally. After all, we’re naturally conceited (v.3), making ourselves most significant. But the mind of Christ isn’t for “extra-serious” disciples; it’s OURS in Christ. It means we know we are not God, so we don’t expect to be sovereign or in control. We empty ourselves and fill up with God, taking the identity of a humble servant, and taking the path of obedience to God’s plan. For a married woman, cooperating with her husband is cooperating with God.
To yield our selfish nature to God’s leadership is to participate in the Spirit (v.1), to work towards the same mind, same love, same purposes, same thinking. As we yield, God receives glory from a husband who sets the rhythm and a wife who gets in sync to create oneness. When we cooperate, Christ wins.
Cooperation is nothing to laugh at, but I’m grateful someone did. It reminds me of how much I value walking with my husband, not against him.
Maybe you need to stop mocking cooperating. You can start with asking forgiveness of your husband and asking for God’s help. God will believe you, but your husband might take a little proof from persevering in the new way. Don’t be afraid you’ll lose your rights or regret your course. Cooperation leads straight to God’s glory.