By Brian Pepper
In her book, “The Real Home,” Vesta Farnsworth tells a story of Archbishop Ryan who went to a mining district one day to administer confirmation to a class about to enter the Catholic Church. During the service a nervous girl was asked to define what matrimony was. “Oh,” she said, “it is a state of terrible torment which those who enter are compelled to undergo for a time in order to fit them for a better world.” “No, no!”interrupted the assistant, “You are thinking of the definition of purgatory.” “Leave me alone,” said the old bishop smiling. “What do you or I know about it? Maybe she is right.”
Friends, whether married life becomes a blessing or a torment depends upon the persons who enter into that sacred union. I remember the advice of a well known wit. “If you are contemplating marriage don’t…” and then he added, “Until you have heard my advice.”
The Bible gives some very helpful advice to young and old on the matter of marriage. It will be worth our while to take a little time today to see just what it does say.
Where did Marriage come from?
Where did marriage come from? Well, we go back to Genesis and we find the beginning of the world.
Genesis 2:18 says, “And the Lord God said, It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”
God never intended men to be bachelors. Now don’t get me wrong bachelors. Man needs a woman and God saw that need. You will find right through history that behind the great men there was a good woman.
Genesis 2:21 says, “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh instead thereof.”
This is the first surgical operation that is recorded. God took the rib. God could have made Eve from the dust but he took a bone that is nearest to the heart. God did this to show us that every companion is to be a love partner, a true companion.
God, in making the first home a pattern for all future homes, founded it on love. Yes God took the bone from nearest the heart. Not from the head to be above him nor the feet to be beneath him but from his side to be his equal, a heart companion. And so one good man and one winsome woman were joined together.
The Home is a Loving Place
The home is a loving place. If love is not there, then it is not fit to be a living place. When the home is right, things are right almost everywhere.
God said in Genesis 2:24, “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.”
This was given for future generations, for Adam had no father or mother. It was to teach that couples are not to live with their in-laws. There is the principle. One of the great causes of trouble in the home is living with the in-laws. God says, “Don’t do it.”
Newly weds are not to live with their in-laws and that goes for not so newly weds also.
In Genesis 1:28 it says, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply.”
God commanded then to fill the earth. In God’s original plan for the world, he ordained that the world be inhabited by sinless beings, that the world be made up of little Edens. But his plan was frustrated by sin. However in the earth made new, this original plan will be fulfilled.
We should Rear Children
God intended that we should rear children. This is one of the great secrets of happily married life. The scriptures (Genesis 3:16) indicated that before sin entered, childbirth was to be painless.
“In sorrow shall thou bring forth children.” It became a thing of pain and sorrow. Conception became much more frequent because of death.
Planned Parenthood is the best if we are to give the children a good start in life. Especially when in these days, the world is so competitive.
In Genesis 3:16 we read, “In sorrow thou shall bring forth children; and thy desire shall be thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
Man should be a Protector of the Woman
God gave man the position of protector of the woman. When sin came along things became terrible. Man began to treat the women as mere chattels. You can notice it as you read progressively through the Old Testament. You only need to take the Arabs. The woman has no part in their social life whatsoever. She is veiled and concealed having little if any influence. God never intended it to be this way.
In heathen countries we see that men make the women slaves. They are burden bearers, they are bought or sold. Treated like cattle. God never intended that.
Mark 10:8 says, “And they twain shall be one flesh”. Not 3 or 4.
When Christ came he lifted woman up out of her degrading position and put her back into her rightful place.
Wives should submit to their Husbands
In Ephesians 5:22 God says, to wives, “Submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord.”
God wants us to submit to him because we love him. It is not compulsory, we do not lose our individuality and there is every room for self development.
When we submit to Christ there is development. He is the head of the house and that is another secret of success.
Husbands should Love their Wives
He is not to be a dictator. Husbands love your wives. How? Even as Christ loved the church what is that sort of love?
We men are sometimes inclined to be a bit selfish but we have to remember that God asks of us to show a self sacrificing love. This is essential for the proper development of the children and for harmony of the home.
Wives should Respect their Husbands
The wife should see that she has to set an example in respecting her husband. In Japan the wives get down on their knees to the husband. I am not suggesting that you do this but if the wife should respect the husband then the children will learn to do the same.
It is true that she may disagree with the husband, but still she should show proper respect.
What about Divorce?
What then of divorce? Marriage is called “The sacred bond of matrimony.” It has been formed to protect the home and the children. Someone is hurt when the bond of matrimony is broken. In many cases, the problem is that neither of the parents want the children.
In some courts they have a nurse looking after the children right there on the spot in order that one of the parents might relent and take the children.
The curse of the divorce courts today are the thousands of children that are unwanted by parents. The experts claim that this is the greatest cause of juvenile delinquency. Children of divorces mostly are problem children.
Anyway the question that many ask is: Does God allow divorce?
In Mark 10:6-9 the Pharisees tempted Christ on one occasion regarding this same thing. He answered in this manner, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together. Let not man put asunder.”
That’s God’s ideal, his perfect plan.
Any there any Grounds for Divorce?
Now if you were to leave it right there you can see that according to the bible you just cannot divorce but God had to modify. But let us turn to some other verses.
Matthew 19:9 says, “And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication…”
Here is the exception, unfaithfulness, fornication! What is that? It is illicit love or unlicensed sexual relationship. A Christian can obtain a divorce under these circumstances.
Matthew 5:31,32 says, “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
You see, God permits divorce on the ground of unfaithfulness. It is the right thing. But what about the guilty person?
Galatians 5:19 says, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness.” Verse 21 last part says, “They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
An immoral man will never get to heaven. Unchastity before marriage, that is fornication.
They took a poll at one time of those who had sexual relationships before marriage and the percentage was staggering.
The Woman taken in Sin
But there are many who realize that they have done wrong and want to make it right with God and when a person comes to God and asks for forgiveness, God will forgive it. Let me read this marvellous story of the woman taken in sin recorded inJohn 8.
Jesus was left alone with the woman, all her accusers sneaked off one by one. John 8:7 (later half) records Jesus’ words, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
It cut right through their hypocrisy. It tore away their rags of respectability. Jesus turned to the woman and said. Verse 10 says, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” She said, “No man, Lord, And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
That woman became one of the most devoted followers of Christ. She was Mary Magdalene.
Confession, repentance and reformation will bring forgiveness for the sin of adultery.
One may choose divorce for adultery, but that is not necessarily the best way out. It is possible for a partner to be so selfish, so self-righteous, inattentive, unkind and cold in one’s relationship to one’s mate that if one is not strong in God, one can be driven to sin. Divorce on such grounds, we believe, would be unacceptable to God. The other partner would be a sharer in the guilt.
Living together before Marriage
But what of a unmarried couple that live together? Should they separate when they determine to serve God? If there are children, the answer would be no. Rather let them be legally joined together.
Sometimes there are cases presented in which there is so much confusion through wrongs that have been committed in the past that it is difficult to advise what to do. In such cases it is necessary to overlook the past and remember when God forgives, he forgets.
Marriage at the Registry Office
Some people ask if it is alright to be married in the registry office. If God hasn’t joined couples together, is the marriage valid? All I can say is this, the reason the state has set up the registry office is to protect the marriage institution. It is based on the Bible.
But the great pity is that the courts today undo the marriage so easily. I would say that there is nothing to take the place of a church wedding. You can expect the blessing of God in the house of God.
Divorce does not bring Happiness
Speaking of divorce once again, it has been proved over and over again that it does not bring happiness: the majority of suicides today are divorcees. Disappointment and bitterness so often follow in the train of divorce.
Many confessions reveal the plaintive cry, “I wouldn’t divorce him now, even if the experience came to me again.”
Should Unhappy Couples live together?
So many ask, should unhappy couples live together?
In 1 Corinthians 7:10 it says, “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband out away his wife.”
Back in those days if the husband became a Christian and the wife remained a pagan it was an awful situation. St Paul says, “Let them dwell together but if the unbelieving partner wants to depart then let him.”
Under such circumstances God believes in separation. God has called us to peace. If we cannot live together in peace then the best thing to do is to separate.
Some people just can’t get on. Then it is better to separate than to keep on quarrelling with each other. So God gives permission to separate.
Causes of Unhappy Marriages
However let us take a look at some of the causes of unhappy marriages.
Over here in 2 Corinthians 6:14 it says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?”
We should not have mixed marriages. “Be ye not unequally yoked together.” Very often marital unhappiness can be cured by getting rid of the causes. And one of the causes is marrying an unbeliever, or one of an entirely different faith.
Religion goes very deep. In their hearts many a Catholic knows that they should not marry a Protestant. And many a Protestant knows that they too should avoid such a union. It can be the cause of tension in the home. It certainly does not make for marriage happiness.
What about Hasty Marriages?
Then there are those hasty marriages. In Proverbs 21:19 we are told by one who was well qualified to know. “It is better to dwell in the wilderness than a contentious and an angry woman.”
It is not a question of how long you have known the person you are marrying but how well you know them.
Deuteronomy 24:5 says, “When a man hath taken a new wife he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.”
God tells us that war marriages are not a good thing for the man is to stay at home to cheer up his wife. By the way war time marriages head the list as far as divorces are concerned. So if war breaks out don’t get married so that your wife can get the insurance. It is not worth it. Stay at home to cheer your wife up.
In 1 Timothy 5:8 I read, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than infidel.”
A man must be prepared to shoulder his responsibility. The wife too must recognize that she too has a part to play. Selfishness in the home, especially on the part of the one who provides can be a very real cause of marital unhappiness.
I stayed at a home in New Plymouth on one occasion and to my amazement the man of the house had the kitchen cupboards locked and believe me or not he opened them at each meal and handed out a ration to each member of the family. If what I read in the newspapers is true his son shot him some years later. This may be an extreme case but things like this do happen.
Happy Marriages are Made
Happy marriages are made they just don’t happen. I remember once reading of a couple who were celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary, the reporter asked the old gentleman for the secret of happiness. The old man took him aside and pulled out his watch. Engraved on the back on the inside was this message. “Say something nice to Sarah.”
We can tell our wives that we love them. Don’t wait until they are dead, say something nice while they are still alive.
If there is one thing that can spoil our married life it is accumulation of grievances with one on the giving end and the other on the receiving. As it says in Proverbs 21:19 “It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with an angry woman.”
Again in Ephesians 4:26 it says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”
In other words don’t let the night come without making things right. Before the night falls don’t go to sleep at night without putting things in order.
A very successful businessman was not having such a wonderful success at home. There was quarrel after quarrel. Things were almost at an end. They had both had about as much as they could stand. Somehow or other this man went to a revival meeting that was being conducted by a famous evangelist. He felt convicted especially as the evangelist was speaking on the home and the need of Christian love there. Well he decided he would try and see if he could make things better in his home. The next morning a quarrel started so the businessman bit his lip instead of flaring up as usual. He said to his wife, “Darling, I love you.” It shocked her. She had not heard anything like this for years. She began to open her mouth again, when he said the second time, “Darling, I love you.” And she was in his arms.
Couples have quarrels but they have to learn to be tolerant.
God can help
Now in closing I want to mention two things. You should pray and ask God to help you in your choice of a life partner. God knows your needs better than you do. God gave Adam his wife.
The next thing is to marry a Christian and build a Christian home in which you can pray together for we all have problems and we need to pray together about them and with God’s help you will be able to solve your problems.
May God help us to understand our wives and husbands and children better and to express our love in a spirit of true unselfishness.
“Making a Marathon Marriage”
INTRODUCTION: When we left off our study last week we had focused on the real purpose of dating and we said that dating was not for exploration but confirmation! That we should seek to confirm three important things about the person we are dating (because there is always the possibility that our date might become our mate), so we wanted to know if they had a relationship with God, if they were a person of character and if they had communication skills because the capacity for communication in marriage is so vital. Once we have determined those three things about someone and we feel good about proceeding further in the relationship, what do we do and where do we go? I think that we would all agreed that there is a difference between dating and courtship so that’s where we will start today. First, let’s examine what I’m going to refer as:
- THE COURTSHIP
To have a marathon marriage I believe that there needs to be a renewed emphasis on courtship.
- The definition of courtship
What is courtship? Wikipedia defines courtship as the period in a couple’s relationship which precedes their engagement and marriage, or establishment of an agreed relationship of a more enduring kind. Traditionally, in the case of a formal engagement, it has been perceived that it is the role of a male to actively “court” or “woo” a female, thus encouraging her to understand him and her receptiveness to a proposal of marriage.
- The discovery in courtship
During courtship, a couple gets to know each other and decide if there will be an engagement leading to marriage. A courtship may be an informal and private matter between two people or may be a public affair, or a formal arrangement with family approval. Just the other day I spoke with a woman who had married a man that I know, (they had been married 4 months), and she was distraught and in a great state of emotional upset at his behavior and asking me what I thought she should do. I asked her how long she had dated him and she said 4 months prior to their marriage. I asked her if she had attempted to find out anything about him before agreeing to marry him and I got the impression that she had not beyond her own circle of friends and acquaintances. Let me tell you what I believe you need to discover during courtship. (1) You should find out what their convictions are. (2) You should find out as much as possible about their life circumstances. (3) You should find out about how they feel about child rearing issues. These are just a few of the things you need to know in order to build a healthy relationship.
- The duration of courtship
The average duration of courtship varies considerably throughout the world. Furthermore, there is vast individual variation between couples. Courtship may be completely omitted, as in cases of some arranged marriages where the couple do not meet before the wedding. In the United Kingdom, a poll of 3,000 engaged or married couples resulted in an average duration between first meeting and accepted proposal of marriage of 2 years and 11 months, with the women feeling ready to accept at an average of 2 years and 7 months.
- THE COVENANT
For us to have a marathon marriage we must see marriage not as a contractual agreement but a divine and holy covenant.
A BETTER VOW
Eric Snyder, Minister of the Farwell Church of Christ tells this story:
I recently did a wedding. During the wedding rehearsal, the groom pulled me aside and made me an offer.
He said “Look, I’ll give you $100 if you’ll change the wedding vows. When you get to me and the part where I’m to promise to ‘love, honor and obey,’ I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave that part out.” He gave me a $100 bill and walked away.
The day of the wedding the bride and groom were in front of me and we were to that part of the ceremony where the vows are exchanged. When it came time for the groom’s vows, I looked at the young man and said “Will you promise to bow down before her, obey her every command and wish, serve her breakfast in bed every morning of your life and swear eternally before God and your lovely wife that you will not ever even look at another woman, as long as you both shall
The groom gulped and looked around, and said in a tiny voice, “Yes.” Then He leaned in and asked “what happened I thought we had a deal.”
So I gave him his 100 dollars back and told him that she had made a better offer.
SOURCE: Eric A. Snyder, Minister, Farwell Church of Christ, in “A Friend Like That” on www.sermoncentral.com.
My friend, what we need is a better vow and there is one and it’s called a covenant!
- The nature of a covenant
Marriage is not a contract no matter what our culture says. Bill Gothard says: “Marriage is not a contract between two people; it is a sacred covenant between two people, two families, and God, with witnesses to the vows.
A covenant marriage is joined by God and continues “till death do us part.” In a covenant relationship, there is no tolerance of competing affections in either party. God has serious consequences for those who violate their covenant vows. (See Ecclesiastes 5:1–7, Proverbs 6:23–35, Romans 7:1–3, Romans 1:31–32, etc.)”
- The need for a covenant
It is obvious to many folks both in and outside the church that our cultures emphasis on the contractual nature of marriage is not working. We often hear of pre-nuptial agreements in the sports and entertainment world. These agreements are an acknowledgement that for many marriage is viewed as something temporary (until divorce we do part) and so there must be a contingency plan in case the marriage is dissolved. Many states now have offer an option to the traditional marriage license. In states like Louisiana and Arkansas couples have the option of choosing a covenant marriage which requires couples to meet a higher standard for marriage. For instance, couples must agree to pre-marital counseling and divorce is more difficult under covenant marriage guidelines. One of the big differences in perception between contracts and covenants is that contacts are made to be broken while covenants aren’t! Friend, do you see marriage as a contract or a covenant?
ILL – A college man walked into a photography studio with a picture of his girlfriend… He wanted the picture duplicated… The owner of the store noticed the inscription on the back of the picture, it said, “My dearest Tom, I love you with all my heart… I love you more & more each day… I will love you forever & ever… I am yours for all eternity…” It was signed “Diane,” and it contained a P.S.: “If we ever break up, I want this picture back…”
III. THE CONSTRUCTION
Finally, to have a marathon marriage then you need to pay attention to its construction, pay attention to how you build it! Is there a plan or design for marriage? Yes there is and it is found in our text.
Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (weave).
This word is often translated “forsake” and it means that when we get married we are to separate ourselves from our parents. This speaks first of emotional severance. We don’t stop loving our parents; we just love our spouse more! This doesn’t mean we should no longer honor our parents; it means we should re-order our priorities and our allegiance should be to our spouse second (God is first)! If at all possible I would not advise married couples to live with their parents for an extended period of time. Human nature being what it is we will be tempted to turn to our parents for emotional support instead of our spouse.
This word is one of those interesting English words that has two opposite meanings (contronyms). In some places it means to split apart and in others it means to stick together. Here it means to stick together. What is the glue that will cause a couple to stick together through thick and thin? The majority of you will probably say love, right? And you would be in agreement with a popular singing duo who sang “Love will keep us together!” But what if the day comes when love is not enough? Then there is one thing and one thing alone that will keep you together when nothing else will. It is the vows, the covenant that you have made with each other and in the sight of Almighty God! That will keep you together when nothing else will. That will keep you together until love is rekindled and refreshed.
HOW MUCH IS THAT?
Now I can’t find this in the Bible, but perhaps you’ve heard the story that before Eve was created, God was talking with Adam. He said, “You really need a helper, don’t you?” And Adam answered, “Yeah, I really do.”
So God said, “What if I make a woman? She’ll be perfect for you. She’ll be beautiful. She’ll rub your back at night, & your feet in the morning. She’ll plop grapes into your mouth. She’ll prepare all your favorite meals without fail. She’ll clean up the kitchen & take care of the kids. You’ll never have to do a thing, just sit around & be the king of your household.”
Adam said, “Boy, that sounds great, but how much is this going to cost?” God said, “Well, it’s pretty expensive. It will cost you an arm & a leg.”
Adam thought for a moment & then asked, “How much can I get for a rib?”
What does this word weave suggest to you? I think first it speaks of labor or work and a marathon marriage is work, hard work! Weaving a piece of cloth or a garment requires that we work. It also suggests that if we are willing to do the work we will produce something that is strong, something that will stand the test of time.
In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 we find those words: “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up!
Hold up the two ropes and wrap them together to show the strength and companionship of marriage]
Solomon continues in verse 12: “…a threefold cord is not quickly broken..” If a second strand provides more strength, can you imagine how much stronger three strands is?
Now, take a third piece of rope and wrap it around the other two.
What is Solomon referring to here? Who is this 3d strand? Friends, this third strand is Jesus Christ. As you open yourself to Him, as you confess your sins and shortcomings, as you surrender to His leadership in your life and your marriage, He will give you a fresh start, and He will give your marriage strength.
As your marriage moves through the various seasons of life, and yours will, you need to start living according to His blueprint for a marathon marriage. And, you need to base and build your marriage according to His specifications.
If you have not yet surrendered yourself to Jesus Christ by asking Him to forgive you for your sins, this is your first step to having a Marathon Marriage. Actually, it’s the most important thing you can do even if you’re not married.