Monday, July 19, 2010

A Biblical Marriage

One month from now my husband and I will celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary. But Biblically, we've been married for ten years, since for the first 17 years neither of us were Christians. Yes, we were married in a church. I even picked out the Bible verses to be read (I was not a Bible reader. I picked out some of the more poetic verses, most of which were ultimately nixed by the pastor).

After our sons were born, we went through the motions of infant baptism, and I volunteered as a Sunday school teacher. But the whole time, I did not know Jesus Christ. Church, I always tell people, was more like belonging to the Jaycees or Elk's club. It was my adult version of Girl Scouts and it was a "duty" I did not particularly enjoy carrying out. Sunday mornings were usually the most stressful of the week. My husband chose to simply opt out, adding to the angst.

The point is, on the surface we looked like a "religious" family. On the surface, our marriage didn't look that much different than any other secular marriage. It operated from the worldly standard of seeking personal "happiness" through a spouse and status. When things went wrong, there was resentment. To deal with resentment, there was substance abuse. And all of it was a result of worldly immaturity.

And then, through the workings of God too numerous to go into here, we both became Christians within a year of each other and, along with our individual re-birth, came a re-birth of our marriage (and our parenting and family as well). See, we didn't know what was wrong with us or our marriage until God showed us what was wrong.

The following words by T.M. Moore beautifully capture how our marriage was transformed by God from a secular, sinful and prideful thing into something that brings peace beyond all understanding:

"Dare we look to the Bible to teach us the measure of a marriage? Of course we should, at least, if we want our lives to be informed and guided by a biblical worldview.

According to the Bible, marriage is the oldest human institution, divinely established for the purpose of bringing an eternal economy and all its benefits to earth. God’s purpose in establishing marriage was threefold: (1) that people should enjoy the benefits of intimate social communion; (2) that offspring should be provided for expanding the divine economy; and (3) that the earth should know the developmental benefits of human interaction coram deo. It was not good for man to be alone; the measure of a marriage is the extent to which it brings friendship, companionship, comfort, and security to a man and a woman, and stability to the children they produce and the society of which they are members. Married couples are to be fruitful and multiply, to reproduce people like themselves who know and honor God and are committed to taking their place in the divine economy. A marriage succeeds when, through the children it produces and the other people it influences, it makes a contribution to expanding the ranks of faithful kingdom citizens. Together married folk are called to interact with the creation—through work, stewardship of property and wealth, and recreation—in order to bring more of God’s goodness, beauty, and productivity into being. The measure of a marriage is the degree to which it succeeds in helping each participant to maximize his or her contribution to the expanding economy of divine blessing.

These three objectives—interpersonal, social, and cultural—can be achieved only where a relationship with God is fostered and encouraged. For only God can enable married couples to look beyond mere self-interest or short-term economic and emotional satisfaction to the larger objectives and divine purposes of bringing the goodness and glory of God to light as far and wide as possible. The biblical view of marriage requires the kind of selflessness and sacrificial giving that can only be sustained for many years when each participant has come to know the One whose own selfless sacrifice points the way, fuels the desire, and empowers the ability to love as He does. Marriage succeeds to the extent that it maintains focus on Jesus Christ and the divine order He is instituting. Only thus can marriage overcome the shallowness and pettiness of mere self-interest, and the self-serving and expedient siren voices of relativism, and engage its participants—husbands, wives, children, extended family, neighbors, friends, associates—in the eternal drama of the unfolding kingdom of God." T. M. Moore on the Breakpoint website

My encouragement to anyone reading this today who is struggling in their marriage is to take you, your spouse and your marriage to Jesus and lay it at His feet. If you're not born again in Christ, begin there. It was the change my husband saw in me that led him to seek God for himself, and which then led both of us to seek God for our marriage. Is our marriage perfect today? No, just like anyone born again in Christ is not perfect either. But it is a marriage that operates God's way, thereby filling it with joy, patience, love, other-centeredness and the ability to forgive and move on. The substance abuse is gone, the pride has been and continues to be convicted, and the petty neediness has been replaced with gratitude to God. The Lord is doing in our marriage exactly what He said in Isaiah 61:3: "to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

In short, Biblical marriages are "oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:3

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

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