Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fighting For Our Marriages

Marriage was created and ordained by God, and is a beautiful thing. But our culture shows us the opposite: A lifestyle of 'convenient' cohabitation and self-fulfillment. My natural hunch would say that the divorce rate is higher than ever, but according to a recent USA Today blog post, the divorce rate is actually at its lowest since 1970. However, The State of our Unions 2005, from a 2005 USA Today article on the subject, says it’s not because marriages are getting any better, but rather people are just choosing not to get married. How sad! So with this news and the dismay to hear about the state of Jon & Kate’s marriage on Jon & Kate Plus 8, I want to go through scripture and see what God DOES say about marriage and why it’s worth fighting for.

I originally started thinking about this with the recent buzz surrounding the season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus 8. (I’ve been a fan for a while, but I am saddened by their talk of divorce and as “believers,” I’m struck that they’re not fighting for their marriage!)

So, here’s my question: What does God say about marriage and why is it worth fighting for?

1. God Created Marriage
When we look at scripture, we see from the beginning that God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27) and that he also created a helper for him, woman, from Adam’s very own flesh (2:23), because God said, “… it is not good for man to be alone.” (2:18) And immediately after God created Eve, he brought her to Adam, and Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” And through this creation, God established the first marriage covenant and what we know today as marriage: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (2:23).

From this very first instance of marriage, we see its true beauty and God’s intent for it … that a man and woman would unit together as ONE FLESH … “they are no longer two but one” (Mark 10:6) … that they would relinquish their individualism and become ONE for the glory of God. (Not that we lose our self in marriage, but we assume the identity of the couple, strengths and weaknesses, and our identity as individuals and as a couple becomes even greater.) And the beauty that we see in this oneness is such a wonderful, physical depiction of the unity of God.

And when we look at what Adam says above, “… bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” I wonder if this sets up the “boundaries” for marriage between a husband and wife that we see in 1 Corinthians 7:4: “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife”? Thoughts?

2. God is Glorified in Marriage
All of creation points to the majesty of God and glorifies him as Creator (1 Chronicles 29:11, Psalms 19:1b), and since God created marriage, he designed it to point to Himself and that it would bring Him glory. Albert Mohler has this to say:
According to the Bible, marriage is not only designed by the Creator as an arena for human happiness and the continuation of the human race--it is also the arena of God's glory, where the delights and disciplines of marriage point to the purpose for which human beings were made…. The exclusivity and purity of the marriage bond points to the exclusivity and purity of the relationship between Christ and His church.
Mohler also mentions this wisdom from Tertullian, one of the early church fathers:
How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in home, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice . . . Nothing divides them either in flesh or in spirit . . . They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God's church and partake God's banquet, side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other's company; they never bring sorrow to each other's hearts . . . Seeing this Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present.
3. Marriage = Protection
God created the union of marriage for our own good … “it’s not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Paul also mentions it in 1 Corinthians 7:1-2, when he says, “It is good for a man NOT (emphasis added) to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” We see here that God created marriage to protect us from immorality. What a blessing!

4. Marriage is a Blessing from God
Proverbs just oozes godly wisdom and when we see what it has to say about marriage it includes countless verses that warn us against immorality in marriage, and sings words of praise for those who place God as the head of their marriage; declaring blessing, rejoicing, goodness and God's favor:

Proverbs 5:18: "May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth."
Proverbs 18:22: "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD."

The first verse above also suggests that part of God's blessing in marriage is life-long companionship ... "the wife of your youth." And for those who fear the Lord, Psalm 128 promises much fruitfulness:
Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways. 2 You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. 4 Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. 5 May the LORD bless you from Zion all the days of your life; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem, 6 and may you live to see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel.
Blessing is also given to us through sex ... yes, sex is a blessing from God! (Tyler Jones, lead pastor of Vintage21 Church, has a good sermon on this topic.) Here are the 6 facets that he deems God designed sex for:

1. Knowledge
2. Communication
3. Fun
4. Release
5. Procreation
6. Sign Post to the Glory of God

(This may not be worded for word, but you get the general idea. Listen to the sermon for great explanation of these facets.)

5. God States that Marriage Should be Honored By All
(Hebrews 13:4) Even by the husband and wife in the marriage!

6. God Tells Us to Fight For Marriage
This command comes to us from Colossians 3:23. I’ve read over this verse many times in my life and have labored over it, but until recently, I hadn’t equated it directly with my marriage. Not that I’m not laboring over my marriage, but I just didn’t make the obvious connection. But what a perfect place in scripture for God to insert this verse (you’d think God was all-knowing or something :) … for the verse I'm talking about shows up just after Paul explains a husband and wife's role in marriage! So, when God created marriage, He knew that it wasn’t something that was going to come easy, especially when it involves the mingling of two sinful lives … and he specifically tells us to “work at it with all of our heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” … this means that we're not even working for our marriage solely for our spouse, but for the God of the universe! So, when we choose to obey this command, we can’t just give a blind-eye to our marriages and labor well over our careers, motherhood, and friendships, but we HAVE to labor well over our MARRIAGES too because God commands us to!

And when I say fight, I don’t mean just when times get tough, but EVERY DAY! If we “fight” for our marriages every day, I believe we’ll have more healthy and god-honoring marriages for the course of our lifetime. And when I say “fight,” I mean that we:
  1. Work at our marriages with all of our heart
  2. Pray like crazy
  3. Learn everything there is to know in scripture about marriage and what it means to be godly women that glorify God with our lives and then PRACTICE it
  4. Die to ourselves, submit to God and submit to our husbands as we honor, love and respect them with our entire beings!

This certainly doesn't sound very easy. At times, the easy route would certainly be to just opt-out of marriage (hence, that's why divorce is such a nonchalant topic in our society), but God's call is much higher and greater than that. There is life in the words above and there is peace and strength there to continue on. Let's grab a hold of these words in Isaiah 40:28-31 and FIGHT:
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

1 comment:

  1. In reading "Sacred Marriage", I've learned a lot, but one of the things he talks about that stuck out to me is that at first, he almost felt guilty for getting married. He talks about how nuns and monks are viewed as holy, priests are to be celibate, and mentions the same verse you quote from 1 Corinthians. He goes on to say that of course you can be very near to God as a single person, but a married couple will sharpen each other. In many ways, it is easier to be single, but there is much to be gained from marriage. Truly the tough times will make you stronger. He shared a stunning story of a preacher's wife who found out that her husband had had several affairs - and she decided to forgive him. Surely this decision was because of what Christ was doing in her own life! Over time, they grew close again and their marriage was restored!

    Thanks for your notes Courtney! Particularly the points of how we can fight for our marriages - fighting is not a passive thing!