Earlier, Zack Franklin discussed Scripture’s teaching on the spiritual, social, and material blessings of marriage. Today we continue with practical steps Christians can take to restore a biblical view of marriage.
Unfortunately, any masterpiece painting can suffer from damage or decay over the years. God’s master portrait of marriage is no exception. Just as museums dedicate themselves to carefully restoring a masterwork, perhaps the church is now facing a time when it must carefully restore a Biblical view of marriage. As that restoration process begins, the church can consider taking the following steps:
1. Pray for the Spirit’s help in understanding the Scripture’s teachings about marriage.
Both secular and Christian bookstores are filled with books about marriage, but only one Book gives God’s inspired teaching about marriage. The Spirit who wrote the Book is willing to help His people understand all that it contains. Therefore, Christians must pray for spiritual illumination when reading the Bible and seeking a renewed mind about marriage. When God’s ideas are given first place, many of man’s vain traditions regarding marriage will be permanently shelved.
2. Present marriage as a combination of blessings.
Biblical marriage is not a one-dimensional painting. The media often paints marriage as little more than romantic and sexual ecstasy. The pragmatist teaches that marriage is a means for economic gain or social fulfillment. Christians sometimes view marriage as a spiritual-fix-it that will produce holy habits. Others see marriage as an additional responsibility loaded with a lot of difficult tasks. Although marriage involves romantic intimacy, material acquisition, social interaction, spiritual opportunities, and challenging responsibilities, the Bible presents marriage as more than any one of these things alone. The Bible presents marriage as a multifaceted favor from God. It is a good gift containing a variety of blessings. It is not a mandatory obligation. It is not a drudgery to be endured. It is not a command that simply yields benefits when obeyed. It is a God-wrapped present that, when opened and stewarded well, fills a life with multiple blessings.
3. Emphasize that responsibilities come with marital blessings.
Although it is important to emphasize the blessings of Biblical marriage in a world where negative portraits of marriage abound, the Christian community must also emphasize that the person who chooses to marry is choosing to take on significant responsibilities. Just as the gift of eternal life comes with the responsibility of discipleship, so the gift of marriage comes with the responsibilities mentioned in the marriage vows. Time, energy, emotions, money, and prayers must be devoted toward one’s spouse. Marriage is a commitment to give to the best interests of another. When both people commit to giving unreservedly, both people get immeasurable blessings. Without responsible giving, however, many of the blessings of marriage will go unrealized.
4. Create realistic expectations about marriage.
Christians must be careful to avoid idealistic overstatement when talking about marriage. Marriage is not a “daily honeymoon.” Marriage rarely involves walking along a moonlit beach and eating in a fancy restaurant. It often involves washing the dishes, walking the dog and taking out the garbage. Marriage rarely affords seven days of endless conversation with no work responsibilities. It often involves catching up after a long day of toil and sitting silently in a room while both parties are busily at work on a project. One has to be just as comfortable with a partner’s silence as the partner’s words. Marriage is also not “unending bliss.” It involves moments of bliss intermittent with moments of sorrow, days of victory intermittent with days of defeat, times of enjoyment intermittent with times of discouragement, and, ultimately, all of the ebb and flow of marital life comes to an end when this life fades away and eternity begins. The relationship with Christ is the Christian’s endless, permanent love affair, not a relationship with a spouse (Luke 14:26-27). In other words, marriage is not a matter of “eternal love.” It is about a lifetime of loving partnership until death bids a couple part. Because it is not eternally permanent, it is not more important than Christ or the gospel. This perspective insures that everyone in a home is circling around Christ as the center of what makes life worth living and not a husband, wife, or child.
5. Encourage marriage for the glory of God.
First Corinthians 10:31 commands, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Ultimately, the proper reason for doing anything is the magnification of God. If an action or decision will not bring praise, glory, and honor to God, but will diminish people’s view of the Lord, then the step or choice is not worth making. This principle applies to marriage. Prior to marriage, every single person considering marriage needs to ask, “Why am I getting married? If I get married to this person, will I better glorify and serve God, or will my ability to worship and serve the Lord be hindered in some way?” After one gets married, a person needs to daily ask, “How can I glorify God through my marriage today? What can I do to make my spouse and others think highly of God?” The couple determined to use the institution of marriage as a tool for magnifying God’s faithfulness and covenant love will never bring reproach on God’s name by pursuing divorce. In the end, the best reason for getting married and staying married is the potential to enhance the reputation of God.