When COVID-19 Closed Nursing Homes, This Husband Moved in to be With His Wife: The Power and Appeal of Unconditional Love
Jack Eccles is a longtime Baptist pastor with two doctoral degrees. Even at the age of ninety-three, he is currently learning German and recently posted a sermon to YouTube.
His wife of seventy years, Gerry, is the mother of their nine children. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2015 and lives in a nursing home in North Carolina. On March 12, when Dr. Eccles arrived as usual to spend much of the day with her, he was turned away because of the coronavirus pandemic.
So he returned the next day with a suitcase of clothes, books, medications, and his computer. The facility had agreed to rent him a single room so he could care for Gerry.
He has been there ever since. Wearing a mask and goggles, he feeds her three times a day, checks to be sure she gets her required forty ounces of liquid a day, and wipes drips so they don’t stain her clothes. He positions Gerry’s head and neck carefully to be sure she doesn’t choke.
Their profile in the Wall Street Journal is an inspiring story of love, family, and ministry. In it, Dr. Eccles explains his care for his wife simply: “We’re married. I want to be with her. She took care of me for seventy years, and now it’s my turn.”
Being the ‘Bride’ of Christ
Jack and Gerry Eccles are examples of a true biblical marriage: a lifelong, unconditional covenant between a man and a woman (cf. Matthew 19:4–6). If through the years they had focused on their marriage for only a couple of hours once a week and a few minutes each day, their relationship could not be the love story it is.
Now let’s note that Christians are the “bride” of Christ (cf. Revelation 19:7). If we focus on our “Spouse” for only a couple of hours once a week at church and for a few minutes of prayer and Bible study each day, how strong can our relationship be?
Yesterday, we focused on God’s call to trust him not just for our salvation but also for our sanctification, yielding every dimension of our lives to his lordship. As Oswald Chambers noted, our Lord “never asks us to decide for him, but to yield to him, a very different thing.”
Today, let’s consider the countercultural nature of such a lifestyle, then we’ll focus on two simple but transforming ways to “yield” our lives fully to our Lord.
What Americans do to ‘Retain Their Social Standing’
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler’s latest book is titled The Gathering Storm. The title comes from Winston Churchill’s prescient metaphor warning of Hitler’s rise. Mohler’s book similarly describes the rising threat of secularism and the urgency of biblical response.
I thought this cultural analysis was especially noteworthy: Following the work of sociologist Peter Berger, Mohler notes that secularism in America is taking a different path than in Europe. Rather than rejecting biblical truth and values outright, Americans transform Christianity into something “more cognitive and optional.” We affirm spirituality but reinterpret it to align with secular orthodoxy.
Our society’s flip-flop on same-sex marriage is an example. Mohler writes: “When the cultural tide turned against our society’s empty religious commitments, people were happy to jettison their moral judgment on homosexuality in order to retain their social standing.”
As a result, “Many religious believers in modern societies now operate as theological and ideological consumers, constantly shopping for new intellectual clothing, even as they believe themselves to be traditional believers.”
Two Practical Steps
As we noted yesterday, our evangelical emphasis on personal salvation, while obviously urgent and biblical, can be part of the problem if we stop there. Jesus is not just our Savior — he is also our Lord. As Abraham Kuyper notes, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
Today, let’s consider two practical consequences of the fact that Jesus is “sovereign over all.”
One: There Can be No Area of Sin We Shelter From His Lordship
We sin when we do what God forbids (cf. Deuteronomy 28:15) and when we refuse to do what he commands (James 4:17). His word warns us to “repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin” (Ezekiel 18:30). Unrepented sin blocks our prayers (Psalm 66:18) and obstructs the empowering work of God’s Spirit in our lives (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30).
Are there areas of unrepented sin in your life today?
Two: There Can be No Call to Obedience We Refuse to Answer
We show that we love our Father by keeping his commandments (2 John 6). If my sons said they loved me but refused to do what I wanted them to do and chose to do what I did not, I would question the sincerity of their love for me.
Is God calling you to a step of obedience you’ve not yet taken?
Why Unconditional Love is so Appealing Today
Dr. Jack and Gerry Eccles have been holistically devoted to each other for seventy years, a story that is so powerful it was featured in the Wall Street Journal. This is the uniqueness and appeal of unconditional love in a conditional, transactional culture.
If you were to be even more holistically and unconditionally yielded to your loving Father, what would need to change in your life today?
Originally published at denisonforum.org. Republished with permission.