God’s loving design
God is love (1 John 4:8,16) and when he purposed to make mankind they were to be made in his loving image (Gen. 1:26). This means that human beings were going to be able to experience in their own relationships the kind of love the persons in the Godhead have for one another (John 17:23). In human terms, this love finds its most intimate expression in the marriage bond that exits between a man and a woman. (Gen 2:24).
So holy is this bond in God’s sight that the loving relationship between husband and wife is even compared with the love Christ has for his church (Eph. 5:21-32).
Although the subject is a vast one, it is not only helpful to look at some of the basic Bible teaching on marriage but also to deal with at least some of the issues Christians face in a society that is increasingly amoral both in its values and practices, especially with regard to marriage.
Because marriage is so important to God and, potentially, a source of so much blessing, preparing for it properly (and avoiding pitfalls the enemy would like to trap us in) is an essential priority.
1. What is marriage?
When God gave Adam and Eve to each other (Gen. 2:24), he established the basic principle very clearly. One man and one woman live together in a committed, stable, sexually exclusive and faithful relationship.
Marriages begin with weddings. Although the way weddings are celebrated varies from culture to culture, weddings themselves are public ‘leaving and cleaving’ occasions, formally celebrated in the social context of the couple, e.g. Gen. 29:22,23 (Jacob), John 2:1,2 (Cana).
Our social context in England includes the laws of the land. By these the marriage commitment is publicly legitimized, honoured and protected. Christians should have no difficulty accepting this legal framework (Rom 13:1).
The public nature of the commitment is ultimately what differentiates being married to each other from ‘living together’ (John 4:17).
2. The basic purposes of marriage
The creative purpose of man according to Gen. 1:26-28, is that in their loving commitment to each other and to God, husband and wife will:
A) Bear the image of God
Just as the Godhead is three persons in one, so in marriage two become one. Bearing the image of God in our marriage relationship means being committed together in unity and loving harmony.
B) Be stewards of God’s creation
‘Have dominion’ and ‘rule’ means looking after God’s world (and everything in it) on his behalf. Practically this means that all the resource at our disposal like a house or car, are jointly held on trust for God to be used to bless others and not simply to be used to meet our own needs.
C) Be fruitful and multiply
The love that flows out of the marriage relationship provides the only really secure spiritual, moral, emotional and social framework for having and raising children. This is God’s plan.
Selfless and loving marriages model the love between Christ and his church. Homes in which Christ truly is the head are an inspiration to other believers and a blessing to society as well.
3. Before you even think of getting married!
a) Check out your basic Christian commitment
The answer to the following questions will help you recognize whether you are a ‘giver’ or a ‘taker’:
Is Christ himself the focal point of my life? (Psalm 37:4; Heb. 12, 1,2; Phil. 3:12-14).
Is my Christian life characterized by service, sacrifice and self-denial? (Luke 9:23-29); Phil. 4:12, 13).
b) Avoid the enemy’s pitfalls
Dating. If your faith in Christ is really the most important thing in your life, can you seriously contemplate dating or being married to someone who does not share that faith with you? (2 Cor. 6:14).
Intimacy. Sex is for marriage. For good spiritual, moral, emotional and medical reasons don’t cross the line, or even get anywhere near it!
c) Serve the Lord together
There is no better way of cementing your friendship than praying together and getting involved in the activities and ministry of the church. It will also help prevent your relationship from becoming self-centred.
4. What is …?
Our society is increasingly both amoral and culturally diverse in its values and practices, especially with regard to marriage. It is therefore good to consider some of the issues people face who, having become Christians, now want to live in a way that pleases God.
a) What if we have been living together but now we have both become Christians?
Regularise your relationship by getting married as soon as possible!
B) What if we have been living together but my partner hasn’t become a Christian?
You need to talk through with you partner the implications for your relationship of your new found faith in Christ.
C) What if I am an unmarried mother and on my own?
Don’t get involved in any new sexual relationships. Keep yourself pure and start living for Jesus. Ask him to provide for you, even for a believing partner (Matt. 6:33; Phil. 4:19)! God loves you and has a perfect plan for your life, trust him.
If you are in any of these or similar situations, we encourage you to arrange to see one of the elders for a confidential pastoral chat.
As elders at New Life we are committed to helping folk through difficult and often delicate personal dilemmas, by seeing God’s grace at work rather than by applying a set of ‘one size fits all’ rules. This is because we are only too aware that many who have recently come to know Christ can still find themselves in a variety of circumstances which are far from ideal.
Maybe your situation isn’t as straightforward as you would like but if you are willing to let God help you sort it out, these is no reason why you shouldn’t start living for Jesus right now. Share your faith with family, friends and work colleagues and begin to serve him wherever you have the opportunity.
5. Enjoying your marriage
Even if marriages are made in heaven, as some maintain, they still have to be worked out in everyday life! We therefore need God to help us fulfil the commitment we made to each other on our wedding day. Loving, cherishing and serving each other in the love of Jesus is what marriage is all about. Here are a few tips:
A) Let God’s love mould your marriage
Develop intimacy with him, receive his love and give it away to each other (Matt. 22:37-39; Eph. 5:33). Be kind, patient and tender.
B) Talk and communicate with each other often
Take quality time to listen to each other and to share your thoughts, hopes and concerns. Discuss issues openly and prayerfully; make decisions together about finances, children or jobs etc. (1 Peter 5:6,7).
C) Do things together
Even though it is natural for people to have differing special interests or hobbies, make every effort to develop common interests. Avoid the things that will have you leading separate lives. Ask the Lord to show you ways in which you can serve him together.
D) Let God change you
Don’t try to change each other into your own mould! Give one another space to be different. If you think you need patience with your spouse, remember they probably need twice as much patience with you! Accept each other as you are and let the Holy Spirit make you both more like Jesus (2 Cor. 3: 17, 18; Gal. 5:22,23).
E) Live in forgiveness
Sometimes husbands and wives say or do hurtful things to each other (often without even realising it!). If these situations are not dealt with properly and promptly they will seriously mess up your relationship. Learning to say sorry, forgiving your husband or wife and then letting go of the offence is vital for the health of your marriage and your family. Remember, forgiveness and reconciliation are at the heart of what it means to be a Christian
(2 Cor. 5:17-19).
If you would like to follow up on any of the issues briefly touched on in this short leaflet, do feel free to approach any of the elders. They will be happy to talk and pray with you or refer you to some of the excellent resources available on marriage.