The Perfect Marriage - A Biblical Perspective
The first question that needs to be asked and answered is; "Is there such a thing as a perfect marriage?" The answer is probably no. Even if has been planned by God, we as humans tend to mess things up. The problem with finding a perfect marriage lies in human inability to fulfil God's plan.
Planned in the mind of God and produced in a less than perfect way by humans, it is good to look at exactly what the conditions for a perfect marriage are, so that it can be something that we can strive for. With this in mind let us look at what God intended in his wisdom and revelation.
We need to start at the very beginning with the account of creation. As God completed his work he saw that "it was good". (Genesis 1:31) The second account of creation in chapter 2 records God looking at the man and setting him with the task of taking care of the Garden Of Eden. But then God states, as recorded in Genesis 2:18 "It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. Enter woman to help the man in need. In the same chapter the writer of Genesis states the very basic requirements for marriage: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24, NIV translation). It is interesting that Matthew records Jesus as quoting this passage in dealing with questions about divorce. In Matthew 19:4-6 Jesus then adds; "So they are no longer two, but one".
Here is the mystery and challenge of marriage. Two becoming one, a miracle of a new unit, with each partner bringing themselves to it to create a marriage relationship with new possibilities and responsibilities. In Ephesians 5:21, Paul states one of the basic rules of the Christian life; "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ". A principle that Jesus graphically and powerfully illustrated when he took up the servants towel and washed the feet of his disciples. This principle must then also be applied in the marriage relationship.
God challenges the individuals to surrender themselves to a new situation, providing the promise of starting a new life with its beautiful possibilities that cannot be achieved on its own. In his first letter, Peter states some of the principles of marriage that are important. He mentions that a woman should be subject to her own husband - an unpopular view in modern western society. In any working relationship there has to be a head and God gave this responsibility to man. Man, however, often messes it up by mistaking it as a position of power rather than a leadership role. In 1 Peter 3:7, the writer requires that men treat their wives considerately. Again something that is essential in a working relationship and often abused by men, hence Peter's warning.
Back in the Genesis account we see the first problem that arrives to spoil God's perfect plan for marriage. A perfect marriage requires perfect behaviour by both partners, an impossible dream in an imperfect world. Modern Human Science has described the problem of "Attribution Bias" as being where we, as humans, tend to protect our fragile egos by ascribing relationship problems to factors we do not have control over (a very basic personal definition). So Adam and Eve, as they mess up, play the blame game, something we as humans are experts at.
When a couple are courting they send out the image of the perfect representative of the person the other person would like, and then after time the "real person" emerges.
In a marriage, as the bright and shining (often blinding) light of infatuation begins to grow dim, we begin to realise that the person we married is not as perfect as we had thought they were - the so called "after the honeymoon is over" syndrome. Now a better love needs to replace the highly emotional first love that brings two people together based on emotional and physical needs which blind clear thinking and sight. Now real, lasting and often self-sacrificing love (agape love) has to take centre stage. It is perhaps best described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Here Paul defines love as patient and kind. Then in a negative sense he continues to explain that it is not being proud, or rude, or self-seeking, or easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. Love rejoices in truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. This love never fails.
This type of love is vital as we begin to realise, and more importantly accept, that our partner and even ourselves are not perfect. As we face the daily pressure of everyday life we experience a very big dose of reality. Something that will test every relationship. Work pressure, children, money, time constraints, social and family pressure are but a few of the factors that test relationships. Unrealistic expectations are, however, perhaps the biggest threat. Remembering or perhaps realizing that you married an imperfect human and that you are also imperfect helps acceptance to develop. This is perhaps the real secret to a happy marriage. It does not negate taking every effort to work at the relationship but helps to see a clearer picture.
And so when difficulties and challenges do arrive, as they certainly will, it is important to take a deep breath and remember why you were at one time madly in love with that person. Often in the daily stress and difficult challenges of life the grass on the other side of the fence seem to be more appealing than the slog of daily commitment and hard work. Here the long term growth of a relationship based on the principles outlined by Paul in his definition of love leads to a deeper and more meaningful marriage.
So where then do we look to find the perfect marriage? We start with ourselves by putting the fruit of the Holy Spirit into our lives, making it easy for us to love and then be loved in return. The fruits of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22,23 are "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control".
So your marriage may not be as perfect as you would like it to be, but after all it is still a work in progress. With God's help and a lot of prayer you can start to make it better. You may surprise your partner and even yourself!
Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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