Marriage Series (Part 1. One In Spirit)
Although this article is part of a series, it is a complete study on its own. Part 1 of a triple study in this series. (Parts 2 & 3 are together in a second article.)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
It wasn't all that long ago (starting in academia) it became fashionable to think of human beings as just another member of the animal kingdom. New terms were introduced for our familiar traditions and treasured values. Instead of men and women, we became males and females. Instead, of a marriage covenant, it has become a marriage contract. Instead of husband and wife, we are thought of as life partners. This down-grading of terms began to be more and more accepted until now, most people don't say men and women at all. They don't say marriages, they speak of living arrangements and lifestyles.
Just because our society has moved ever farther away from God's model and has introduced different terminology into our speech, doesn't mean that the institution of marriage has changed as far as God is concerned. The divorce rate is a testimony as to how well the new thinking has worked, as opposed to the original model instituted by God Himself.
In this first installment of a two-part series, we will be examining the idea that marriage partners are tailor-made by God to be there for each other. We will look at the concept of inter-dependence instead of co-dependence, known in Biblical circles as "leaving, weaving and cleaving". This is where God super-humanly takes two very different lives from two different families and through Divine providence not only prepares these two lives to become one family unit but then engineers that merging into one living illustration of an eternal relationship. This requires our cooperation, of course, for God will not remove His gift of volition from us. We are still free to choose to rebel (and very often we do) thus slowing the progress God wants us to achieve.
"And He answered and said to them, Have you not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they two shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man cut in two." (Matt. 19:4-6)
This relational dynamic of marriage effects the behavior of humans unlike any other arrangement of living. Marriage is, whether acknowledged or ignored, a spiritual changing of the relationship. That is, whether Christian or not, marriage partners are made one flesh - by God. They are no longer just two bodies, two people living in the same living space. It is not just a living arrangement. Their bodies belong to each other. God has made them one flesh. This is the reason that so many marriages last only a few years despite the fact that the couple lived together for a much longer time before they were married. When the marriage covenant is made before God, God joins the two into one flesh. A spiritual change has occurred. They then are a living illustration of Christ and His "bride," the church. Each couple is to live with that spiritual aspect in mind. But there is an enemy to marriage that hates to see this living illustration of Jesus with His bride, so there is an immediate attack on the newlyweds. What may have been a friendship, a loving co-mingling can change into opponents on a battlefield.
There is to be an automatic aspect and a cooperative aspect to the weaving of two lives into one. The automatic aspect is the one we just spoke of above. God is witness and guarantor of the marriage covenant. The other aspect is the cooperative aspect of the weaving into one flesh. God has never simply controlled anyone's mind and replaced their thoughts with His. It is up to us to cooperate with the Spirit to allow ourselves to be melded to each other. Personalities of each make room for the other spouse. There are unspoken rules that are laid down as to space shared, verbalizations that are accepted and those that are not.
"For none of us lives to himself or dies to himself." (Romans 14:7)
The triune nature of man also comes into play, how that we are a body, soul (mind, will, emotions), and spirit. All humans are created with these aspects of body, soul, and spirit within them. The Bible says that we are born into sin and that our spirit is "dead" within us. The word for dead means that it is inactive, useless, inert. It lives but with no connection to a holy God. There is no innate God sense but a separation from God is present. The Bible says that when we receive Christ as Savior, our spirit is made alive. A connection is made or rather restored to what it was before the fall of man. The Holy Spirit begins to communicate and motivate our human spirit connected with us that "sits in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." We still have the ability to rebel and not listen to the spirit who is in communion with God but to listen instead to the flesh that sins.
When considering the concept of weaving and cleaving, it is important to start with our spirit. After salvation, God deals with our spirit all of the time. Our spirit begins to understand God's will for the marriage relationship. It is our spirit which sits in God's presence and communes with Him. The weaving and cleaving process begins (or should begin) in the spirit of man. Sadly, however, the majority of people don't realize this fact until after years of needless struggling to blend their lives together (if their marriage even lasts years). They try to have a meeting of the minds when their minds are going in different directions. Utilizing the power of standing together in spirit while being filled with the Spirit of God, is the key to strength and a formidable weapon against Satan's effort to destroy the marriage. The quicker we see that it takes three to make a marriage and not just two (the two spouses and God), the sooner we will discover the secret to a lifetime together.
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us , even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us all sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:4-6)
1. Walking With God Together.
The Christian life involves movement and decision, growth and progress. God has an agenda for us as individuals as well as an agenda for our marriage. Like an artist weaving a tapestry that is our life, God moves our lives according to His sovereign will. Husbands and wives are to be there for one another to help each other in their walk with God.
Husbands, do you walk so as to be the role model for your wife, as Jesus commanded you to do? Or do you argue and try to dominate her? Can your wife point to your life as the example of a man she can respect pertaining to the Lord? Or are you the example that she uses of a "bad Christian"? Do you love her and put her before yourself? Or is her reality that she comes in second or third or fourth in your range of priorities?
Wives, are you an inspiration to your husband? Can he look at you and see a woman that loves the Lord and her husband? Or do you seeing yourself nagging and pointing to his failures? Do you build him up with a life and a heart that loves the Lord? Or do you see him running from you to the haven of work or friends? Can he point to you and say you are "worth more than rubies" and that you are like the woman depicted in Proverbs 31? Or are you the "dripping faucet" of Proverbs 27:15?
Go ahead, put yourselves to the test. It is an admittedly difficult test if you are not walking with the Lord. If a person attempts to fake a relationship with God he will fail to be one in spirit with his mate.
"Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them." (Colossians 3:19)
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her 26to sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word." (Ephesians 5:25)
"Who can find a virtuous [lit. war-worthy ] wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax and willingly works with her hands. She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar. She also rises when it is yet night and provides for her household, and a portion for her maidservants. She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms. She perceives that her merchandise is good, And her lamp does not go out by night. She stretches out her hand to the distaff and her hand holds the spindle. She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hand to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for her household is clothed with scarlet. She makes tapestry for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them and supplies sashes for the merchants. Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also and praises her: "Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all ." Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates." (Proverbs 31:10-31)
"A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike." (Proverbs 27:15)
2. Talking With God Together.
God is the "author and finisher" of our faith, and of our marriage as well. He tells us to ask of Him and He will grant us wisdom. Begin to stand together by remembering that you are "one flesh." Then include God as the common governing factor in your lives. Talk to God verbally in each other's presence regarding everything. Reserve time to do this. Satan will try to steal this away first before he attacks anything else. Remember, you don't have to be in the perfect mood to pray together. Emptying yourself before God in the hearing of your mate won't cause lack of respect from them but will cause respect for you to grow. Don't let Satan rob you of what should be your family's greatest strength. He uses feelings of embarrassment, shyness, and emotional upheaval to try to convince you that now is just not the time to pray together. He actually is afraid of the strength that it gives the couple together before a Holy God. Though praying separately is important, the Enemy will say that is enough, that praying together is unnecessary, but that's a lie. HEY!!! Have I got your attention? Good. Pray together. If you've never tried it, shame on you. Do it and change your life.
3. Learning About God Together.
There are two places in which we learn about God and two fronts on which our enemy will attack to weaken our marriage. The first place is obvious to everyone and that place is church. Church is where we go to feed on God's Word. We drink in the essential fellowship that the church body needs to be healthy. The other learning place is our own family unit, starting with ourselves and our own personal reading and study of God's Word. Then in our family devotions, where we marvel the depths of God together as husband and wife.
Again watch for the enemy. The target will be family devotions first. He knows how much the family is weakened when it is split up. He will bring things into our lives that make us busy, too busy to sit down together. Or he will bring in the aforementioned feelings of embarrassment, etc. At any rate, the devotions are usually the first to go as the marriage unit weakens. The next assault is on personal devotions, and we weaken further. The next phase is to divide and conquer family church attendance. Sometimes we decide that we will go to different churches, or one will decide that they don't have to go to church at all. Many times this starts with one service and then widens to include all the services. By this time, the marriage is in serious trouble and the effort by the enemy is the push for divorce. Do you doubt any of what I say? I wouldn't if I were you. The divorce rates are the lowest when both marriage partners attend church together on a regular basis.
4. Serving God Together.
There are precious few couples that serve God together, but each would tell you of the joyous blessing they receive from God because they do. They would tell you of the strength and peace of mind they get from knowing that their lives have a separate and collective purpose. They would tell you that the enemy has far fewer victories over them and over their children. They will tell you that instead of letting the things that bring most people down effect them, they can remain focused on heaven and meeting all of the people whose lives they've touched as a couple in service to the King.
If you recognized yourself in one of the illustrations above that shows that your marriage is weak and you want to strengthen it begin with a personal inventory. Was there ever a time in your life that you know of that you came to an end of yourself and turned to God to save you. If not, you should consider that the starting place at which to begin to solve the problem. God did not make seeking Him hard or receiving Him unattainable. No, rather, He made it incredibly easy. It does take some faith though, some fundamental belief. So if you've examined what you believe about God and found that you believe that Jesus is His Son, born on earth to die for you, you are one step closer. Now turn your attention deeper inside yourself. When you do, do you see your flaws? your sin? That's okay, we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. As you remember and scan your life in your mind's eye, do you see that the way you have lived has needed God? If you are willing to call out to God, to forgive you of your sin and are willing to turn to Him as your only way of salvation, you are home free. Pray this:
Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I know that I have never come to You and asked You to forgive me of my sin and to save me. I believe You were nailed to the cross, were buried, and in three days raised from the dead. I turn from my life and my way and turn to You now as the only way of salvation. Please forgive my sin and save me. Thank You for hearing me because I prayed this in Jesus' holy name. Amen.
Others in this series of independent articles: