Developing Biblical Expections in Marriage

Christian marriage help will give you some more to think about, now that we've laid the groundwork concerning Christian marriage preparation.

If you have not yet read the first part of the article and why it was written, or would like to review it, just click on the link Christian Marriage Preparation.

When we're talking about the Bible and marriage we need to look at the whole life of the believer. The heart of what I have been saying is that learning about marriage should not be left to "on-the-job training." Christian marriage preparation really begins at birth, and carries right on through life. Only in that way will each person have an understanding of God-given responsibilities and expectations in marriage, and be spiritually prepared to make it a success.

But now we shall consider some other things about expectations and ongoing Christian marriage help that follow the wedding ceremony.

Needless to say, the lifelong learning process will continue after the wedding, and after the honeymoon. But it is to be hoped that by the time the couple gets to this point they have received valuable assistance, and have gained the tools to strengthen and deepen their relationship with one another--the tools to establish a rewarding and fruitful Christian marriage.

They should each understand God's purpose for marriage, through a study of God's Word and (if possible) through a life-long learning process. They should have basic agreement as to the husband's responsibilities, and the wife's responsibilities. They should each be committed to building a Christ-centred family life that emphasizes spiritual and eternal goals (as opposed to merely material and time-bound goals).

Here is an important principle. Picture a triangle, with the points at the bottom representing husband and wife, and the point at the top representing God. As each partner in the marriage spends regular time in God's Word and in prayer, and draws closer to the Lord, they also get closer to one another. That is how a triangle is. The distance between the two sides becomes narrower toward the top. And this illustrates God's plan for strengthening the marriage relationship.

Though it is not a popular view today, the Bible teaches that the wife should submit to her husband (Eph. 5:22-24). This does not imply that she is somehow inferior to him. God views both on an equal footing in Christ (Gal. 3:26-28). Rather, it is a matter of organizational structure. God's plan is for the husband to be the head of the home, providing leadership for his wife and family.

But lest a husband begins to think this gives him the right to lord it over his partner, and demand whatever he likes, God has placed beside the above instruction an even higher and more profound standard for him.

The Bible says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her" (Eph. 5:25). Wrapped up in that simple statement is the example of the Lord Jesus in His infinite patience and understanding, kindness and self sacrifice. Only with the help of God can a husband even approach such a high calling. But it is an ideal to which he should aspire.

Any Christian marriage help or advice that is truly biblical will include these key instructions to the husband and wife.

What if potholes develop on the road? What if the marriage, in spite of earlier training and the best of intentions, hits a snag? Where can the couple go to for more Christian marriage help? In such a case, it may be useful for the couple to visit a Christian counselor (or a trained pastor) who can guide them in sorting through the issues involved, and coming to a satisfying resolution.

Sometimes there are blind spots in a marriage, things we are doing, or ways of responding to our partner, that we are not fully aware of, but which are causing hurt and harm. The counselor becomes an impersonal sounding board, an outsider, in a sense, who can help each see what is happening in a little different way. Such a perspective from the outside can be very helpful.

The Prepare-Enrich organization, mentioned in Part One of this article, not only has tools to help those contemplating marriage but others to assist those already married. (To visit their website to learn more about this material, click on Christian marriage preparation)

Are there ever situations that simply cannot be resolved? This is an issue on which good people differ widely. Some assert that divorce is never an acceptable option for Christians. I respect that position. Perhaps they are right. Yet others are just as convinced that under certain extreme circumstances, divorce, and even remarriage after divorce is within bounds. It is not possible to delve into all the points pro and con here.

Though I am open to further light on the matter, my own belief is this. Divorce is certainly not God's ideal. In fact, the Bible says He "hates" it (Mal. 2:16). When God makes of two "one flesh," human beings are not to separate them. It should be an absolutely last resort, when repeated efforts at reconciliation have failed.

A mutual commitment to the permanence of marriage, and to making it work, can go a long way toward bringing healing and restoration. But if a breakup does take place, divorce is always going to be painful, difficult, and destructive. As an illustration, think of two pieces of wood that have been joined by a powerful glue. If we try to separate them again, the break will not be clean. There will be splinters torn from one piece and the other.

But having said these things, there do seem to be situations where separation and perhaps even divorce are necessary. And God understands our weakness, and is compassionate toward us (cf. Ps. 103:13-14). One possible cause of divorce is marital unfaithfulness (Matt 19:9). Another is desertion–and the Bible refers particularly to an unbelieving partner leaving a Christian partner (I Cor. 7:15).

And I would add spousal abuse as a possible reason for marriage breakup. (I am thinking particularly of the physical abuse of the woman, and perhaps of her children.) The danger involved requires at least a temporary separation, until the partner has dealt satisfactorily with whatever is causing his violent behaviour. (This may take many months.) To accept Christian marriage help so often requires a lot of patience in its practical application.

We are all imperfect human beings. That means there will never be a completely perfect and ideal marriage. But we can each pray for the grace to be all that God wants us to be personally, and pray for patience and understanding toward one another. God can do amazing things to turn around a marriage in difficulty. We all need Christian marriage help, from God, and through His people. Let me share a brief story.

Many years ago, my mother taught a Sunday School class for young married women. Lorraine, a friend of ours, was a member of that class. And Lorraine had become a Christian, but her husband was unsaved. Not only that, but he was a heavy drinker. Over many months, my mother counseled and encouraged Lorraine, and prayed with her for the salvation of her husband.

The day came when Fred agreed to attend a gospel service with her. And he was wonderfully saved that night. He stopped drinking, and became a faithful, loving husband. Today, he is 90 years of age. But apart from some physical health problems, his mind is still sharp, and his love for Lorraine and for their grown family is evident. There is always hope. God is still on the throne!

If you are already married, and looking to strengthen your relationship, here is a second book by Wayne Mack to help you. It includes many practical exercises you can try. The book can be ordered from Amazon by clicking on it.