Christian Marriage

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this article is to share what I have learned about Christian marriages. There are many aspects of a true Christian marriage that need to be revealed so that Christians will benefit resulting in highly productive and successful marriages. I believe that the typical teaching of the husband’s and the wife’s respective duties in a marriage relationship is inadequate and falls well below what is necessary to have a successful marriage.

This study?is the result of research, interviews, personal insight and experiences, and the experiences of others. I have been married for about 11 years as of the writing of this article. I have experienced ups and downs as well as confusion as to what marriage is all about. Though I didn’t have specific expectations of my wife and what she should do, I did have a concept of an ideal marriage in my head. This concept of marriage, which I will discuss later, was not consistent with my actual marriage to my wife Carla. Many related areas began to be effected by my not realizing what marriage really is. The concept of love had long left me. The concept of togetherness didn’t seem to exist the way I thought of it. The responsibilities of my wife and myself became unclear. Though I didn’t have a troubled marriage, I do believe that I had an uncertain one.

I therefore began to pray to God to teach me how to establish and maintain an effective, prosperous, and fulfilling marriage. God answered my prayer and is still answering it. I have gained a wealth of information concerning a Christian marriage and am very excited about sharing what I have learned with others. I have found that the typical teachings in the church are very inadequate in helping Christians have a fulfilled marriage. We will see in this article that a Christian marriage is a whole lot more than the husband doing his duty and the wife doing her duty within the relationship.

A Christian marriage can be beautiful if we acquire the necessary information about it from the right source. That source is the Holy Scriptures. I pray that this article will be a blessing to you and result in a prosperous marriage relationship between you and your spouse, or your future spouse.

The Authority of the Scriptures

It is very important that we ensure that we are on the same page regarding marriage. This means that we all use the same standard for evaluating the Christian marriage relationship. I will use the Holy Bible as the source for true marriage standards. In this study we will define marriage, the conduct within it, and those things relating to it, from the information given to us by the Bible in its proper context and considering the background (culture, customs, traditions, etc.). So the authority of what is a Christian marriage and how the marriage should exist and operate will be taken from the teachings and source information in the Bible. This is expected since we are discussing Christian marriages and the standards for the Christian life is revealed in the Bible.

The Relevance of Church Teachings

I also recognize that there are various church teachings regarding marriage especially in the marriage ministry of some churches. This includes the process of courting, the wedding, governing the household, sex, and conduct within the marriage. I have found that many church teachings on marriage are inadequate, non-biblical, male chauvinistic, demeaning to women, or just plain wrong in some cases. Therefore, the authority of scripture becomes increasingly important. I will not use the teachings from the church to define marriage or to analyze what a marriage should be. However, please consider that I am human and am subject to my own personal biases as well as conditioning received from being in churches. I will try my best to keep these to a minimum in this article.

What is a Christian Marriage?

A Christian marriage is more than just the union of two Christians of the opposite sex. A Christian marriage is characterized and governed by Christian principles that are taught in the Bible. Please note that a Christian marriage is not defined by the teachings of a church. A Christian marriage adheres to the standards of marriage revealed in the Holy Bible regardless of a church’s teachings and practices. Let’s start with the typical perception in the church community of what a Christian marriage should be, which I believe is incorrect.

The Typical Perception in the Church Community

I have found that the typical church teaching about marriage is a functional unit governed by duties and responsibilities. The typical teaching on marriage is composed of the duties of the husband and the duties of the wife. Typically, it is the husband’s job to cater to the wife. His duties include, but are not limited to the following: Hold the car door for her, Hold her chair for her when she wants to sit down, protect her, comfort her, love her, and provide for her. The wife’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to the following: Prepare meals for the family, raise the children, custodian of the house as far as cleaning and organization, provide sexual pleasure for the husband, and submit to the husband.

Though a marriage will contain these items, they are not the definition of a Christian marriage. A marriage is not defined as a union with responsibilities or duties for both parties. The fundamentals of marriage are hidden by these rulebook type teachings. Also a true Christian marriage that is productive and ever growing cannot be based on rules and responsibilities. Rules and responsibilities are superficial when it comes to a relationship. For example, a marriage based on rules and responsibilities alone will have little to no love, caring, and genuine happiness since these things are not part of the union. Our relationship with Jesus Christ and the Father is not based on rules. It is based on first God’s love for us and our love for Him. We will talk more about this later.

Too many marriage ministries in churches are based on this rule mentality. Too often the marriage commitment is lowered to something like the husband remembering to help his wife take her coat off or to hold the car door for her. This is unfortunate and very damaging for the prospects of a fruitful marriage relationship.

So we are again where we started. What is Christian marriage? We must head for the authority for Christian doctrine in order to get a satisfactory answer for this. Our source is the Holy Bible. So what does the Bible say about marriage?

The Origin of Marriage

We must understand the origin of marriage in order to help us understand the Christian marriage. What did God intend marriage to be? What was His purpose for marriage? Let’s look at the Bible for the answer to these questions. The first scripture we will look at is in the book of Genesis.

(Genesis 1:27-28 KJV) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. {28} And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

What can we learn from this scripture? The first thing that we see is that male and female are created in the image of God. That will become important when we discuss the roles of the husband and wife as well as the authority within the household. Another thing that we see is that they were to procreate. One of the purposes or functions of the marriage relationship appears to have been for procreation. I personally believe that this idea of procreation included providing a secure and stable environment for the children to develop in. The two were also to have dominion over the Earth. This will also become very important in our discussion of the roles in marriage and authority within the marriage relationship. For now just consider that the male and female were to have dominion. This is not to say that it is the purpose of a marriage to have dominion over the Earth. The point I want to bring out here is that both the male and female had dominion and not just the male.

There is another thing that we should take particular note of. The Bible specifically says that the union was between a male and female. There was no provision for a male to male marriage or a female to female marriage. Though gay and homosexuals do have certain rights, as do any other human being, they do not have marital rights in the realm of Christianity. We should also note that Christian marriage is not the only type of marriage. Those in the world have their own definition of marriage such as homosexual or gay marriages. These same sex couples have similar rights as do opposite-sex marriage in some non-Christian environments. These marriages are not discussed in this study.

Now let’s look at another scripture relating to marriage. Again we will turn to the book of Genesis.

(Genesis 2:18 KJV) And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

(Genesis 2:22-24 KJV) And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. {23} And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. {24} Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

First, let’s look at verse 18. God said that it was not good for the man to be alone. The important thing to see here is the establishment of the marriage union. What is good is for the male to have a companion-a helper with him. So we can reasonably say that God intended the union of a male and female to fulfill their need for companionship.

The woman from the Rib

Now let’s focus our attention on verse 22 for a moment. Why was the woman created from a rib? What is the significance of the rib? I believe that the rib is significant in this story otherwise there would be no need to specify a rib. The story could have simply stated that the woman was created from man or something like that.

There are some that believe that the biblical account of creation was derived from or influenced by the Sumerian Dilmun poem (Sumerian theology).

Part of the poem speaks of the water god Enki who was cursed by the great mother god, Ninhursaq. Eight places of Enki’s body became ill and his health began to fail. Enki’s health is deteriorating fast and a fox promises the air god, Enlil that he will bring Ninhursaq back if properly compensated. The fox brings Ninhursaq. Ninhursaq seats Enki by her side and inquires about his sickness. She brings eight healing deities corresponding to the eight ailing body parts. Enki is brought back to good health.

What does that have to do with the rib and Eve? Well one of Enki’s ailing body part was the rib. The deity that Ninhursaq created to heal it was called Nin-ti (“the lady of the rib”). The Sumerian word for rib is “ti.” The same word also means to make life. Therefore, Nin-ti can also be translated as “Lady who makes life.” It is believed that these play on words carried over in the biblical narrative as well since Eve means the mother of all living and she came from Adam’s rib.

However, the Sumerian Dilmun poem describes a very different situation then the Garden of Eden. Also the Hebrew word for rib (tsela) and that for “who makes alive” (hoveh) have nothing in common. Therefore, we cannot substantiate the claims that the Hebrew Bible’s account of creation derives from the Sumerian myth. The two stories are very different in dissimilar settings. So then we are right back where we started. Why the rib? What is the significance of the rib? Let’s look at the context of the biblical narrative of the creation of the woman.

We see in Genesis 2:19-20 that God created all of the animals from the dust of the ground and brought them to Adam because it wasn’t good for him to be alone. However, we see that there still isn’t a suitable helper for Adam. So now we are presented with the story of how the woman was created from Adam’s rib (or side). Recall that God had already made animals from the dust of the earth and brought them to Adam but they were not suitable for him. So God created another being from Adam himself. He created the woman from the body of Adam, in particular, his side. This may indicate that the woman is to be by the man’s side and not beneath him, behind him, or in front of him. The man and the woman were partners together in a Holy union ordained by God. They were what we call today, married. The man and the woman share a union and a special relationship that no other creature has. They have a partnership and commonality. They are one, not with the earth, but with each other.

Now verse 24 sums it all up, which I believe was the point of the narrative preceding it. A man shall leave his mother and father and cleave (join) to his wife. They will, therefore, form one flesh or one unit in a marriage relationship. So the point of this narrative is to reveal the special relationship that a husband has with his wife-the God-ordained union called marriage.

God-Ordained

Let’s look at another scripture from the New Testament that gives us more light on what a Christian marriage is.

(Matthew 19:4-6 KJV) And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, {5} And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? {6} Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

I believe that this particular scripture is paramount in understanding what a true Christian or godly marriage really is. Let’s dissect this scripture further. Keep in mind that this scripture is Jesus’ response to a question about divorce. First, we see that God made male and female from the beginning. We discussed this in the previous section. As also in the previous section we see that a man should leave his father and mother to be joined to his wife actively. The next phase is very important in my opinion. The two shall be one flesh. The union of marriage is just that-a union. Two people come together and form one unit. Next, Jesus says in so many words that no one should take apart what God has put together.

I have to make one thing very clear about this scripture. It does not imply that God has ordained all marriages or that He has put all married couples together. Jesus’ statement only applies to those that God has put together. Now, this brings up the question of how do we know whom God puts together. I am not going to discuss that at this time.

The main point that I wanted to highlight in the above scripture is that the husband and the wife form one unit, one flesh. That is very important in marriage management.

?The New Union

I want to make a point now. Family members have no right to interfere with the activities of a married couple. Family members have no right or authority within the household of a married couple. The Bible says that the male will leave the mother and father to cleave to his wife. He LEAVES them. Not in the sense that he is no longer a part of the family since we have to consider the Bible’s teaching about honoring our parents. It means that we have to sever ourselves from the influences and operations of our first family and cleave to our wife to form a new family. We still will be a part of our first family but that family should not interfere with the family created by the union to the spouse. It is the responsibility of the couple to ensure that this is so. We will talk more about this aspect later in this article.

The Foundation Of Marriage

We saw earlier that a husband and wife have a special relationship that no other creature has. They are bound to each other forming one flesh. What is the foundation or glue of this union? What is the defining point of a marriage relationship and what will keep it together?

First, notice that the Genesis narrative does not mention love. It instead implies a union that is established when a man leaves his family to join to His wife. There are two major beliefs concerning the foundation of Christian marriage. They are love and covenant. Let’s look at these.

The Love Component

First, let’s look at what love’s got to do with it. There is a song by Tina Turner that asks the question “What’s love got to do with it?” The song goes on to state that love is just a second-hand emotion. Though some would adamantly disagree, I believe that there is some truth in that statement else a marriage based on love would last until death really parts the couple. Is a Christian marriage based on love?

A Christian marriage is not based on love nor can it be. This is very important, else the marriage will be very strained after only the first few years or so. Let me try to explain what I mean. Very often the love begins to diminish or fade after a while in a marriage relationship. We will discuss the reasons for this later in the study. If love were the basis of marriage then most of us would have a rough time at it. There will come a time in a marriage where the bliss, romance, and infatuation, “love conquers all” mentality, and the newness of the marriage will wear off (unless you don’t let it). Then what will happen? Love cannot sustain itself in a marriage relationship. It must be sustained by something external to it. This external energy source is more related to commitment than feelings for each other. Therefore, I submit that Christian marriage is not based or founded on love though love is a very important component in the marriage.

Commitment

So what fuels this love or what fuels the marriage so that love can be maintained? The answer is commitment. Remember the wedding vows? Those are promises or commitments that both parties made to each other. For better or for worse they will be married to each other. We promised to love and to cherish each other. All of this is made possible by the fact that we made a covenant or an unconditional promise to do so. Therefore, a marriage is based on the covenant that the husband and the wife made to each other on that wedding day. This covenant was the result of the commitment to each other. So a Christian marriage is ultimately founded on commitment.

The covenant is not conditional. It is not based on whether the husband or the wife remain a certain way or look a certain way. It is not conditional on the couple’s happiness or sex life. Love can remain if the commitment to the marriage remains. Happiness can be sustained if the commitment is maintained and acted upon. This raises a very important point regarding marriage commitment-marriage involves a lot of work!

Work

I recall a question asked in the movie “The Preacher’s Wife.” The question was something like “What do you do when the fire goes out?” The question was in reference to the love that dies between a married couple. Later, the angel, Dudley said that the answer is “You don’t let it.” How is that possible? How can you actively keep the fire between your spouse and yourself blazing, as it was that wedding day and before? The answer is to work. You will only make an effort to work if there is a reason to do so that is where commitment comes in. So you will work at maintaining a fulfilling marriage if you remain committed to your spouse and to your marriage.

The important thing to see here is that if you are no longer committed then you will no longer work to keep the marriage strong. If you are no longer committed then love will eventually die since you have cut off its fuel. The union will become weaker until the two separate either physically or effectively (living in the same house but not together). Let’s look back at Genesis?2:24. The Hebrew word translated “cleave” is an action word. It means to cling or adhere; figuratively to catch by pursuit or to pursue. This pursuit is work and is constant. It doesn’t end after the wedding day. There should be a constant pursuit for the wife, and likewise the husband. Both have to work at maintaining a healthy marriage.

Commitment, Love and Happiness

I stated earlier that commitment would keep the love alive or the fire burning between a married couple. However, I should make something very clear. That applies overall to the marriage and is not indicative of any particular point and time within the relationship. What do I mean? Just because you remain committed to the marriage doesn’t mean that you will always feel great love and compassion for your spouse. Just because you are committed to your spouse and marriage doesn’t mean you will feel good about them all of the time. There may be times where you feel really bad about your spouse and marriage. There may be times where you are tempted to look elsewhere for fulfillment because of the frustration you experience in your marriage. However, your continued commitment will help you get over these times and work to make things better thus establishing an environment where love and happiness will germinate and grow.

Commitment will keep you pursuing your spouse and working to establish and maintain a fulfilling marriage relationship. Regardless of the bad times or the good times, the commitment will keep you stable, hopeful, and working to make things right. Of course, it is a lot more effective if the husband and wife are committed to the marriage. If only one is committed then the committed one experiences a whole new set of problems and frustrations. We will discuss that aspect later.

So I don’t want you to think that commitment equals love and happiness. There may be times where all of the commitment in the world won’t make it right because the spouse really doesn’t care and is not committed. However, commitment is the foundation for a prosperous and fulfilling marriage relationship.

The Fuel for our Commitment

Another very important aspect of Christian marriage is not only a commitment to each other but also a commitment to God. Recall that marriage, in general, is not necessarily a Christian marriage. A Christian marriage falls under the realm of Christian beliefs and practices. We said earlier that commitment can cause love to be fueled but what fuels the commitment? What will keep you committed to your spouse during the bad times as well as the good times and through troubles and disagreements? The power of God! The Holy Spirit can empower you to continue in your commitment to your spouse regardless of the circumstances. Without the Holy Spirit fueling us and helping us, we would only be able to rely on our own energy to remain committed, which is very much influenced by the circumstances around us.

Therefore, the husband and wife in Christian marriage must be dedicated to living a life pleasing to God and according to God’s ways-Living a life in Christ. Each person is striving to live their life according to the principles that are taught in the Bible for the New Testament Church as well as gleaning from the activities and instruction given in the Old Testament. Each person is striving to fulfill the God-given purpose of their marriage. This will enable the husband and the wife to rely on a “force” outside of them to sustain them in their marriage. We are always accountable to God so we are therefore responsible to ensure that our marriage remains a Christian one and that it remains vibrant, strong, and a ministry in itself to others.

A commitment to God is crucial in any aspect of a Christian’s life and greatly in the case of a marriage relationship. A sensitivity to the Spirit of God is necessary to keep us going when things just don’t seem to be going right with our marriage or our marriage is frustrating us and letting us down. If you can’t turn to God for help, then you are indeed in a lot of trouble. Your only recourse is marriage counselors, which I have been told are not very effective pertaining to Christian belief (not that they are a bad thing). It is a great thing to know that God is looking out for you and will help you if you turn to Him. So we must remain committed to God so that we can remain committed to our Christian marriage.

Divorce

The Bible reveals to us that God did not intend for divorces to occur. Marriage was designed to be a life-long commitment. With God, entering marriage is much more than a legal procedure or contract. it is an actual binding of two people perhaps at a soul level or the like.? Two people become one flesh in a real marriage ordained by God, i.e., God put the two together.? However, we know that people get divorced all the time.

Jesus was asked about divorce by the religious leaders.? They asked if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds and later they asked why Moses allowed them to give their wives divorce papers and send her away.

?Matthew 19:4?9 (NKJV) ? [4] And He answered and said to them, ?Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ?made them male and female,? [5] and said, ?For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?? [6] So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.? [7] They said to Him, ?Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?? [8] He said to them, ?Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. [9] And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.?

According to Jesus, the only grounds for divorce is sexual immorality.? It seems that a divorce does not occur at the same level that the union exists.? That is perhaps why divorce does not sever a couple that God has put together.

I want to highlight something that I think is significant.? Jesus said, “Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.” I asked myself many years ago whether or not every marriage is the result of God putting the couple together.? Is it possible that there are people who are married that God did not put together?? Is it possible that people marry those whom they should not have married?? Is it possible that a Christian marries someone that God is opposed to them marrying?? If someone marries someone that is not God’s will, then does that force God to join that couple anyway?

I believe that marrying the “wrong” person does not force God’s hand, so to speak, in condoning or establishing the union.? Does that make the marriage a possibility for divorce?? I can’t say because the Bible doesn’t directly address this situation.? However, if we consider marriage as a whole, then we might conclude that a couple who commits to each other before witnesses and even God are totally married even if they are not right for each other. There are some clues that we can glean from the Apostle Paul’s writings.? In particular, read 1 Corinthians chapter 7.

The idea of divorce is not black and white as one may think from Jesus’ teaching on it in Matthew 19.? It is unlikely that Jesus or the Apostle Paul was presenting the idea that once married, you can never divorce, and if you do, then you are never to remarry.? Instead, based on studying Paul’s comments on this topic, there appears to be an innocent party and a guilty party with regards to a divorce.? With Paul, the guilty party is the spouse who wants a divorce for the opportunity to find a more appropriate or desirable spouse.? For example, a husband may divorce his wife because she does not fulfill his sexual needs (from the context of 1 Corinthians 7).? The husband would be guilty and the wife would be the innocent.? The innocent is not prohibited from remarrying, however, she is to pursue reconciliation with her husband.? Reality suggests that such may not be the case, i.e., that reconciliation is not possible.? It is unlikely that Paul (or Jesus) is prohibiting the divorced spouse (the innocent) from remarrying.? However, it does seem that the guilty is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to his former wife (if possible).

I personally know people who were divorced by their spouses.? Does that mean they are never to remarry?? I don’t believe so.? Reconciliation is still to be pursued, but in many cases, such is not possible, especially if the spouse has gone on and remarried.?I have seen people who have gone through much stress, frustration, and extreme emotional lows because of a bad marriage but still managed to salvage their marriage. I have seen others who made the same efforts but the marriage just wasn’t restored and divorce was the result.

The main thing is that Christians who have gone through a divorce should not be condemned. They have already gone through a very bad experience. I have seen Christians who were divorced, remarried and seem to be doing very well. Who are we to judge anyone for what they have done? Suppose they went against God’s will from the beginning and were not supposed to marry the person? Anything could be involved so we can’t judge. In one way or another, we have all sinned. We should do our best to comfort our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone through a divorce. They need our prayers and support, not our condemnation and ridicule.

Should You Marry a Divorcee?

Should a Christian marry someone who was previously divorced?? Some would say, no.? However, that is not the answer in all cases as we briefly discussed above.? A person may be divorced for a plethora of reasons.? It could be because of adultery, abuse, incompatibility (unequally yoked), infidelity, and more.? However, the Bible teaches us the following.

  1. A person should not divorce their spouse for “any reason.”? This means that there is no blank check for divorce.
  2. Divorce is permitted for sexual immorality
  3. Divorce is allowed if an unbelieving spouse decides to leave

Marrying someone who is divorced may be risky.? For one thing, they should always seek reconciliation with their former spouse and vice versa.? Marrying a divorcee will make that impossible.? Another issue is the reason for the divorce.? Who divorced whom?? This is especially true if the person you are interested in has been divorced multiple times.? You really need to know why they were divorced.? Furthermore, you should always do your due diligence when deciding on who you will marry and spend the rest of your life with.? The process of determining if you will marry a certain person should not be taken lightly.

I would also suggest that you do not allow your emotions to dictate whether you should marry a divorcee or not.? Remain objective and ask God for wisdom in the matter.? You may discover things about your love interest that would be a “deal-breaker” or you may find that their former spouse was abusive or cheated on them.? In either case, know why and get to know your love interest that much more before you propose.

Here is what I think is a comprehensive article and a series of articles on this topic.? Read these to get more information about divorce as it relates to the Christian life.

 

Why Get Married?

Why should a man and a woman get married? One may argue that they can simply live together. My question is not as general as in questioning the institution of marriage. My question is specific in addressing a marriage to a particular person. At what point in a couple’s relationship should they get married. I will present some points that will help answer this basic question.

Know What Marriage Involves

A couple must know what a marriage relationship is and what it involves. It is a life-long union involving a lot of work to sustain it. There is no testing phase where they are married for a while with the understanding that if things don’t work out that they can divorce. From the beginning, divorce is not an option.

A couple should also understand that a marriage should not be based on superficial things such as looks, sex, and the desire for children. Marriage is a union entered in because the two are committed to each other for the rest of their life regardless of how good the sex is, how good the spouse looks, and how many children are produced. Marriage is entered into because the two are committed to each other and desire to fulfill the God-given purpose of their union-That’s it.

My own personal opinion is that marriage, or rather the wedding is simply the next step in the relationship. A relationship has grown and the two have grown to form one unit. They spend a lot of time together and share a lot of things. Their life is part of each other. They may even go shopping together!

Friendship

Some believe that your spouse should be your friend. However, I think that this is rather relative. I believe that you should be able to confide in your spouse and able to be open about very personal things. However, a spouse being your friend is dependent on how you define a friend. For example, you may have grown up and developed criteria for a friend as one who you can play sports with and go out to sporting events. A friend to you may be someone whom you can train in the martial arts with or whom you can get rough and physical with as two brothers would. Your spouse may not be that person. Your spouse may hate sports or the great outdoors. So is your spouse your friend in these situations. In a strict sense, no. However, overall he or she may very well be a friend to you but they just don’t get involved with everything you like. This is true for any friendship though. One of your friends may like sports and you enjoy sporting events with him or her. Another one of your friends may not like sports but you enjoy hanging out with him or her or just talking to him or her.

In general, I would say that your spouse should be a friend. You should be able to trust your spouse, confide in your spouse, and openly turn to your spouse to reveal your “deep inner-most” secrets among other things.

Togetherness

Are the two of you really together in the sense of being one unit? Is your life part of your mate’s and vice versa? Can you see yourself living with this person for the rest of your life-not that you have to know everything about your mate? I believe that the union exists between the man and the woman before the wedding day. I recall a former pastor of mine telling my wife and I (at that time we weren’t married though) that we were already married. I didn’t quite understand what she meant until some time later when I contemplated the idea of the marriage union and togetherness.

Togetherness should be based on the person and not superficial things. Togetherness should not be based on the prospects of good sex, being seen with such a fine person, money, or the like. You have fallen in love with the person and enjoy the company of the person. You are committed to the person and not what he or she has to offer potentially.

Let me say that having sexual intercourse together is not togetherness. That is simply sexual intercourse. Sex in a marriage can be an expression of that union. Sex outside of marriage is simply called fornication and the Bible teaches against it without a doubt. Also being together all of the time is not necessarily togetherness though it may be the results of such. Togetherness really takes place in the heart. Togetherness resides deep in the soul where you and your mate are part of each other in a spiritual or soulical way.

The Next Step

I was once asked why I married my wife? My answer is simply that it was the next step in the relationship. I didn’t marry her because I love her, though I did. I didn’t marry her because I wanted great sex or a better financial outlook. I married my wife because that was the next step in our relationship. We moved beyond the boyfriend/girlfriend arrangement. We moved into a realm of commitment where it was obvious that God put us together. We had known each other for more than five years before we were married. This provided a great amount of time for the relationship to grow and survive challenges.

The Family

Are you going to marry your mate or his or her family? That is a very serious question. You have fallen in love with a particular woman or man and not their family. If your mate is adamantly attached to his or her family (particularly the parents) then you may want to think twice before jumping into a commitment because your commitment will be to your spouse and his or her family. Of course, this shouldn’t be confused with a close family relationship. However, if your spouse will permit their family to influence the marriage then you have trouble waiting.

Also, you should know something about your mate’s family. What are the parents like? What about the cousins, siblings, uncles, and aunts? Are they “crazy?” Is their family intrusive? You have to make the decision of marrying your spouse or your spouse and their family. Just know what you may be getting into before you commit.

Religious Beliefs

Since we are talking about a Christian marriage it is very important that your mate’s religious preferences are known. Of course, this should be established at the beginning of the relationship. The church attended should not determine religious beliefs. It should be determined by communicating with each other and discovering what your mate believes about God, Christianity, marriage, Jesus Christ, etc. After that, it is your decision as to what you want to do. However, consider Paul’s advice.

(2 Corinthians 6:14 KJV) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

The principle of not being yoked together with non-Christians applies in a marriage relationship even though this scripture is not specifically referring to marriage. The term “unequally yoked together” can be understood as the establishment of a committed relationship between two people with different motives or expectations. For example, a Christian and a non-Christian going into business together would be unequally yoked together. The same is true for a Christian and non-Christian entering into marriage.

Expectations

Expectations for marriage or spouse can be very dangerous and the cause of much grief later. However, each person should have a general expectation for the marriage. This expectation could be to fulfill God’s will for their union, have a fulfilling marriage, or to expect to work hard at keeping the fire burning.

Finding Your Mate

We are going to look at the activities that precede marriage in an effort to give those that are contemplating marriage some information that may be useful. I have been married for over 11 years at the time of writing this document and I have spent over 15 years researching and contemplating marriage as a whole as well as talking to many men about their marriages. Therefore I feel that I have useful information to share with anyone that intends on getting married.

What are some things that happen before the actual wedding day? What leads up to the big proposal? These questions are the subject of this part of the “Christian Marriage” series of studies. I hope to provide useful information to those who intend on getting married or would like information to help them plan for marriage. We are going to talk about finding the “right” mate in this part of the series.

Why Should You Marry?

Why should we bother to get married? Why can’t men and women simply live together have children and live happily ever after? Well, this is actually possible but not biblically sound nor socially constructive to the child’s development. Two people marry because they are committed to each other. Marriage is usually the next progression in a relationship after courting. Marriage is by far one of the most serious decisions that you will have to make in your life. Is this the person for me? How do I know if I should marry this person? These questions race through your head even if you do feel comfortable about the person. Only time will tell, however.

Marriage is desirable because of the stability it provides for the family, even if that family is just the husband and wife. This, of course, assumes a good marriage. Marriage can also prove to be very beneficial to the development of the man and woman as they purportedly pursue dreams and goals together. Marriage by nature is a good thing however; having a good marriage is a whole different ballgame and will require a lot of work by both the husband and the wife.

Why Marry a Certain Person?

You are in a relationship with someone and the thought of marriage is in the air.? Why should you marry this person?? People get married for many reasons.? In part one we discussed that love is one reason why people get married and we found that love alone is insufficient for marital bonding.? People also get married for the following reasons:

  • They produce a child out of wedlock
  • A sense of security that their spouse will provide (such as financial security)
  • Need a father or mother for children
  • Prospects or the continuation of good sex
  • The pride of linking with such a person (supermodel type)

Here is where the problem starts for many.? Simply said, they marry or pursue the “wrong” person and/or for the wrong reasons.? Choosing the right mate is extremely important to increase the probability of a productive and successful marriage.? I think that it is commonly believed that if a woman has a child out of wedlock then that woman and the father of the child should get married.? On the surface this sounds logical, however, logic will not produce a successful marriage.? Instead, the marriage will be in trouble from the very beginning unless the two really have a genuine love for each other, have a strong relationship, and are really willing to commit to each other for life.? A marriage resulting from this type of circumstance is a marriage based on duty and no commitment and will not necessarily produce a good Christian marriage. This doesn’t mean that such marriages can be successful. I am only saying that a child before marriage should not be the sole reason for two people to be married.

Getting married for the wrong reasons to the wrong person can be devastating. This may result in the man, woman, or both living the rest of their life in misery. Their marriage may end in separation or divorce. Worse, they may never separate and simply live a miserable unfaithful existence with each other.

Basically, you would decide to marry a specific person if you believe in your heart that you will commit yourself to him or her. You love her, care about her (or him), and you want to live the rest of your life joined with this person so you pursue marriage. Technically, you marry someone because you want to. You may find that marriage may one day appear as the next step or natural progression in your relationship.

How do you know if this is the right person? The truth of the matter is that you won’t. How would you know whether to take one job over another? Similarly, you won’t. Only time will reveal whether or not you probably made the “right” decision. Of course, having a good marriage involves a lot of work on both parts so even marrying the “right” person doesn’t guarantee a good marriage. So the bottom line is to do all you can to choose the right person for you and to continue to nurture your relationship after the wedding day to increase your chances of having a wonderful marriage.

Finding the Right Mate

How do you know when you have found the person that you should marry?? Some say that you should just trust God to lead that special person to you or lead you to him or her.? Others believe that God will show you your spouse when you meet him or her.?? I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle.? Let me explain.?? Let’s look at what the Bible says about acquiring a spouse.

(Proverbs 18:22 NIV) He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.

I would like to focus in on the word “finds.”? This implies that the man searches for the wife.? Also note that the one who finds a wife, which is good, receives favor from the Lord.? In other words, finding a good wife is an indication that a man has received grace and favor from God.? Let me show you another scripture that applies to the principle that I am trying to share.

(Psalms 1:3 NIV) He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Again we see how God blesses what we do.? A man will seek a wife and will find one.? God blesses the man’s activities by him finding a wife.? Now there are a lot of other scriptures that I can quote that further illustrate the concept I am trying to relay to you.? However, instead of quoting them let me simply reference them for you to review at your convenience.? See also the following:

Psalm 119:105-The word of God can direct us as we search for a wife (application of this scripture)

Matthew 7:7-We will find a wife if we seek (application of this scripture)

Joshua 1:8-The importance of God’s word and success and prosperity (an application of this scripture)

The point that I want to make is that I believe that a wife is not going to simply drop out of the sky.? It is very unlikely that you can go on with your life and do nothing to look for a wife and then expect one to show up.? I believe the same principle applies to women looking for husbands as well.? How is this so?? Isn’t it the man’s job to pursue the woman? I don’t believe this is entirely true. Yes, a man will pursue the woman of his dreams, however, the woman should also pursue the man of her dreams. The man and the woman will respectively pursue in different ways but both will still pursue.

I believe that the spouse must be pursued both before marriage and after the wedding day (as we stated in part 1).?? This pursuit is active and involves many things that you may take for granted.?? In order for you to find a good wife (or husband for the woman), that potential spouse must somehow catch your attention.? This leads us to the realm of attractiveness.

Attractiveness

It is first necessary to be attracted to someone or be attractive to someone in order to connect with a possible mate. Now here is where some go very wrong and end up entering a relationship that results in disaster. Many men become interested in a certain woman because she looks “FINE!” He may like her general appearance, her nice legs, her breasts, her smile, her arms, or her behind.? Basically a man may become interested in a woman because of her physical attraction and likewise, a woman may become interested in a man because of his physical attraction.?? I must say that the attraction of a man to a woman tends to be different in some respects.? A man does not care what kind of car a woman drives or if she drives a car at all.? However, women, based on the information that I have gathered, will consider the type of car a man drives or if he drives at all. This is based on what the man and woman want in a relationship respectively.

There is more to attractiveness than physical attraction.? Many men, including myself, find women interesting who are of course generally fit and healthy and who are intellectually stimulating.? There is also the general aura of the other person.?? There is much more to a human being than just flesh and blood.? I believe that there is a life force, which some call Chi or Ki.? Some may think of this life force and associate it with the aura of a person or energy that emanates from the person.?? We can sense these things and react to them, usually subconsciously.? I recall Pastor Blumentoe explaining this to us (Bible class students).? She asked us if we had ever met someone and, for no reason at all, felt uncomfortable or comfortable about that person?? She said that this reaction could have been the result of our response to their life force or spirit.? I tend to agree, however, I don’t want to get into a discussion on that topic at this time, especially since it is very subjective.

There may be many things that can induce a person to become interested in another in the area of male-female relationships.? There is physical and intellectual attractiveness.? Physical attractiveness is more than being pretty or handsome.?? It involves good grooming and good hygiene.? A beautiful person does not have to look like a supermodel.? Beauty comes from within and radiates outward. ?External beauty is only a cover that does not indicate what’s inside.? For example, a brand new body on a car with a corroded engine and torn seats is not a good car to have.? However, a clean car with a good paint job with a working engine and clean seats is more desirable.? My point is not to narrow your scope for a possible mate by looks alone.

It is a very dangerous thing to enter and pursue a relationship with someone because they have a great body and is the prettiest thing you ever saw.? What’s inside??? Be sensitive to who the person really is and not just what he or she looks like.?? Looking for the tall dark and handsome man or the 36-24-36 women is no guarantee whatsoever of a good and lasting marriage.? Learn to be attracted to the whole person.? Probe the person for signs.? For example, does the guy that you are interested in, ladies, seem to always catch himself before he is about to say what sounds like a curse word?? Does this person always want to be alone and in private with you or always wants to go to a bar?? These are signs of other things that are lingering below the camouflage of the outer appearance and smooth talk.

Attractiveness is the quality of the whole person. What attracts me may not attract you. Some men like skinny women while others like big ones. Some women like hulk men while others like lean guys. You have to realize that what attracts you may not be attractive to someone else, which means that someone else’s opinion about your new-found “friend” may be invalid.

There are some general things that you can do to be attractive. Be yourself in good condition. If you are a sloppy person with bad hygiene then you will not likely attract many people. I believe it is important that you take care of yourself by looking at your best all of the time. We will see that this is a neglected aspect once a marriage has been entered. That is, we may think that it is OK to let ourselves go once we are married. Here are some things that lead to attractiveness.

  1. Physically fit (we can’t deny the importance of this)
  2. Good grooming
  3. Good language
  4. Good hygiene (don’t smell bad and brush your teeth, etc.)
  5. Wear nice and clean clothes
  6. Look your best all of the time

If you are an abrasive person then don’t put up a front to appear passive. There are men that find abrasive women attractive. If you put up a front and attract a man that is turned off by abrasive women then you have just created a very bad situation, which began with deceit.

Attractiveness also deals with your character and demeanor. Are you an honest person, hardworking person, rude person, etc.? Do you exhibit self-control and are you upfront about yourself? The type of person you present yourself to be will greatly influence who you attract and vice versa.

Compatibility

You must realize that you are looking for a spouse and that spouse will be with you for the rest of your life.? Therefore, you should take special care in entering a relationship with anyone.? The union between a man and a woman is not merely a physical one.? There should be compatibility between the two that indicates the possibility of a successful marriage.? You can see very quickly here that good looks and good sex will not lead to a successful and prosperous life together in marriage.? Do not let sexual or psychological infatuation or romantic delusion lead you to get married.? This may lead to a very unhappy marriage.

The Bible tells us that the husband and the wife form one flesh (Genesis 2:24).?? Simply getting married does not form this one flesh. There must be a oneness or unity between the two before the wedding day!? This means that the two has to be compatible.? What is this compatibility?? Consider the following scripture.

2 Corinthians 6:14 through 2 Corinthians 6:15 (NCV) 14You are not the same as those who do not believe. So do not join yourselves to them. Good and bad do not belong together. Light and darkness cannot share together. 15How can Christ and Belial, the devil, have any agreement? What can a believer have together with a nonbeliever?

I choose the New Century Version of the Bible because I really liked the way this scripture was worded, which is consistent with the actual meaning. Basically, two people should be compatible before they enter into a binding relationship whether that relationship is marriage, friendship, or business partner.

The best, if not only, way to determine compatibility is to inquire and observe. Ask questions and observe how your “friend” behaves and responds to situations. What church does he or she attend and what clubs does he or she belong to. Answers to these and similar probing questions will greatly help you determine compatibility.

Born Again

The most fundamental compatibility in a Christian marriage is that both the husband and wife are Christians themselves and not as a result of the relationship.? I believe that your mate should have been a Christian before you met him or her else there may be a suspicion that he or she only professes to be a Christian in order to win you over.? A professed Christian is not a born again Christian.? A professed Christian is simply someone who has gone through the motions that the church requires and claims to be a Christian.? So your potential mate should be a Christian already, at least ideally.

Note that finding someone in a church service is no guarantee that he or she is a Christian.? Only examining that person and prayer will help to determine if the person is really a Christian or not.? The Bible tells us that we should not be unequally yoked (joined in any binding relationship) with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).? Though this scripture is not exclusively referring to marriage, it does apply just the same.? In general, a Christian should not enter into any binding relationship with a non-Christian on a personal level (else we would have to leave this Earth).? For example, you shouldn’t marry someone that is not a Christian and you should not enter into a business partnership with someone that is a non-believer.

The Family and the Past

What is the person’s family like?? What significant events occurred in the person’s past that would leave you doubtful of a successful marriage?? Was the person a drug addict right before you met?? Did the person quit drinking or doing drugs in order to be accepted by you?? What does your observation of the family tell you about the person (consider you will be marrying into that family)?? The answers to these questions are clues or information that you can use later when you decide whether or not you want to pursue the relationship for marriage any further. However, just because someone did drugs when they were younger should not be a reason to drop them from your interests.? I know people that did drugs in their youth and are now powerful men and women for God.

I am trying to emphasize the importance of knowing the environment that your potential spouse came from.? Know something about the family.? Know your mate’s relationship with his or her family and immediate past.? Having this information can help you plan on building a strong relationship before and after the marriage.

I believe that there should be some compatibility between the two families. Why is this important? The family that you grew up in has a great influence on the way you operate. Therefore, if you operate one way and your “friend” operates another then many days of misunderstanding and miscommunications are waiting for you. Compatible family helps to ensure that both of you operate in a similar manner. For example, if you grew up in a family that treasures the development of the family unit and your possible mate grew up in a family that thought very little about the unity of a family then there could be a lot of friction between you and your friend if you get married. At the very least you should know what you might be getting into.

Religious Doctrine

What is the religious background of your mate besides the fact that he or she is a Christian?? Again it is important that Christian marriage is between two Christians.? However, even if both are Christians there can still be some major differences that could lead to incompatibility.? There are major differences between denominations and even among churches in the same denomination.? So know as much as you can about your mate’s religious convictions and teachings, which could greatly influence your marriage and family life if you were to marry.

Some things you may want to look for are the type of church your friend attends if at all, the beliefs of his or her church, how dedicated he or she is to their church, etc. Don’t count a person out just because he or she doesn’t attend a church. There could be a valid reason for such since I too was in a state where I didn’t want to have anything to do with church tough my love for God didn’t waver.

Educational Differences

Incompatibilities can occur between two people with vastly different levels of education.? This lends itself to communications, which we will discuss later in this study.? A highly educated person may find it difficult to communicate with someone not as educated.? For example, a woman that is a doctor may find it difficult to relate to a man that is a truck driver.? This doesn’t mean that a highly educated person shouldn’t marry a less educated person.? It does mean that there is another opportunity for a communications gap, which can be addressed and resolved if you know about it.

Culture and Social Environment

Cultural and social differences are yet another opportunity for incompatibility due to difficulties in communicating with each other.? Consider the cultural differences of the family you may potentially marry into and your family.? Cultural differences are a major hurdle in any relationship because of the differences in communication and interpretation of gestures.? Try to be aware of the cultural and social environment that your mate comes from.? This will help both of you develop a way, for lack of a better word, to get along.

Of significant importance is the type of lifestyle that your mate comes from.? Is he or she a country or a city person?? Differences here might lead to communications challenges in addition to incompatibility is lifestyle goals and family activities.

Nationality differences are very significant when dealing with culture.? For example, I am sure you can see the vast differences between the culture of a black man and a Chinese woman.? Stress may also develop from national concerns as well.? For example, marital stress may develop if the country of your spouse is suddenly considered an enemy of the United States (or your country) and vice versa.? I am sure you can see the stress that may result in this situation both internally and from without.

Does this mean that you should only marry someone with the same culture, social environment, and nationality as yourself?? No!? I am only presenting some things that may cause problems in marriage later.? Knowing these things upfront gives you and your mate the opportunity to develop ways to deal with these differences and situations.

Racial Differences

We cannot neglect the impact of racial differences in a marriage.? Racial differences include social, cultural, and sometimes nationality concerns.? Should a black man marry a white woman and vice versa?? There are some who believe that people should marry within their racial boundaries and others believe that it doesn’t matter.?? I am one of those who believes that race in itself should not be a factor in a marriage relationship or any relationship for that matter.? However, what we must consider is the impact of the racial differences in a marriage.? How do both families feel about interracial marriage?? Though the man leaves mother and father to be with his wife, it is important that he knows ahead of time the feeling that his family has for interracial marriage.? The same holds true for the woman.

The only impact that race has on a marriage, in my opinion, is the differences between the races regarding culture and the like.? For example, black people tend to eat different types of food than white people.? A black man who marries a white woman should realize that chances are that his wife will not cook like mom or like himself.? Again, these are only things that need to be looked at before marriage so that they can be dealt with before the wedding day.? However, race in itself should not be a factor in marriage.?? You may realize that you may be ostracized or ridiculed by your family and friends.?? However, you may decide that you just don’t care and will not let their problems with interracial marriages interfere with your love and devotion to your mate/spouse.

In general, interracial marriages can invite trouble.? The trouble usually stems from other people’s opinions and perceptions.? As I said, the first line of trouble or milestone is the differences between the methods of doing things between the two.? The second line of trouble is external.? Both can strain the marriage greatly.?? However, if the husband and wife are aware of these then they are more prepared to deal with it and not let it affect their love and devotion to each other.? They will work through all of those hard times and they will triumph over the prejudice and snickering by family and friends.

Personality Differences

What type of person is your mate?? Past all of the infatuation, what kind of person is your mate?? What personality does he or she have?? Knowing this can only come by getting to know your mate personally and intimately.? This is one reason, if not the major reason, that I believe in a long courtship.? Is your spouse carefree and you are cautious?? Know these things upfront.

Lust of the Flesh?

Do you lust after your mate?? Are you more interested in the other person’s body or the prospects of sex than in a personal relationship?? Is your goal the body or the person?? Do you see yourself being satisfied sexually, economically, emotionally, and securely by this other person?? If these are the reason for pursuing a relationship then you are headed straight for trouble.? Soon the infatuation WILL wear off.? Soon your mate will not look as great as she or he did when you first met.?? Soon you may see someone else that you lust for.? Then what will you do??? You will begin to think of your marriage with contempt because you are not happy and your happiness resides in that other person that you lust for.? Lust is not a viable reason for marriage.

The word “lust” means to have a strong craving or desire. Lust usually refers to a strong sexual desire or craving for someone (of the opposite sex). In itself lust is a great thing in a marriage, assuming it is not the foundation of the marriage since your great craving is for your own spouse.? It is great when you see a beautiful looking woman that has a great body and at the same time, feelings for your wife arises.?? That is the greatest feeling in the whole world and it takes quite a bit of effort to get to that point.? There is a saying that men use when they see good-looking women and gives her a second glance and at the same time someone is commenting on his noticing the other women.? The saying is “I am married not dead.”?? There are many beautiful people on this earth both men and women.? There are many women that simply look great and there are men that simply look great to a woman.?? I would be foolish to say that my wife is the only good looking woman on Earth.?? That would be a lie and it would set me up for a lot of trouble when a good-looking woman is in the area. Since your relationship is not based on lust and you don’t base your relationships on lust, then seeing someone that looks good is not a problem. Just remember Matthew 5:28.

Therefore, what I have done is to learn to lust after my wife–if I can say it that way without seeming sacrilegious.? I desire her and no one else.? Any sexual stimulation that may arise in my flesh from observing any woman is automatically diverted to my wife.? I worked hard to develop a strong sexual relationship with my wife so I have no problem knowing that there is good, fresh, and safe water in my own cistern (See Proverbs 5:15).? My point is that lust should not be the reason for marriage.

The Perfect Mate–NOT!

It is easy to believe that you will marry the perfect spouse.? You will marry that tall dark and handsome–and rich–man that will take all of your troubles away and you will live happily ever after.? If you pursue that FANTASY then you are setting yourself up for great marital failure.? You may not even survive the courtship if it is long enough.? A man may think that he will find a wife that is 36-24-36 and will give him great pleasure in bed and looks like an angel.? Again.? You too are setting yourself up for marital failure.? Yes, it may just so happen that you marry an aerobics instructor or someone who looks like one but that has nothing to do with a successful marriage except incompatibility issues (A health-conscious person may find it difficult to relate to a health apathetic person).? In general, do not pursue the perfect mate.? He or she does not exist.

Humans are not perfect.? Therefore, you will not find the perfect mate.?? Humans have flaws and you will have to learn to live with personality flaws and other perceived flaws.? Perfection is relative anyway when we consider the level of perception we normally operate at.? A man may consider a woman to be a perfect 10 if she has a great body and a great face.? That is so far from true perfection that it is pitiful that people are judged in such a way.? I have seen couples where the woman looks absolutely great and yet she and her husband do not get along.? One would say that good sex should solve the whole problem.? One would think that the fact that she looks so good would give the husband reason to compromise to keep her.? However, the looks are unimportant after disillusionment sets in.? That is why her great looks aren’t enough to sway him consistently.

So again there is no perfect person.? There is no perfect mate so you should not look for him or her.? Perfection is relative.? Therefore you should try to find, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the right mate FOR YOU!

 


The Christian Marriage
By William R. Cunningham
1999 All Rights Reserved

 

My Hope in Marriage

“My Hope in Marriage” is a Pursuing the Truth Ministries’ website that is dedicated to marriage.  There you will find a plethora of articles on marriage.

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