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Rediscovering Eden
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By David B. Smith

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iBelieve: Marriage | PDF Version | Study Guide: Marriage and the Family

It’s safe to say that if you’re looking for a positive role model for biblical marriage, the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond wouldn’t be the place to start — for at least two reasons. First, it’s a relationship of almost constant bickering and belittling; “idiot” is Debra’s commonly used term of endearment in addressing the man of the house. And the Barone family is in clear violation of the Bible’s injunction to “leave father and mother” in order to be united to a new wife. A nosy, interfering, smothering Frank and Marie live right across the street.

But Father Hubley, who tries vainly to patch things up between the warring couple, can provide cheerful reams of wisdom from the pages of his Bible. It’s good news that our heavenly Father is rooting for our happy marriage and is pleased by the joy we find in a Christian union. Imagine a parent who sends you off on the honeymoon with good wishes and encouragement and cheerful support . . . while even footing the bill for the honeymoon suite! In Eden, God bestows two generous gifts on the first human couple: the blessing of marriage and then the glorious leisure of a weekly Sabbath where they can explore and plumb the fullest extent of marital joy.

We can learn a great deal about the heavenly ideal of marriage by considering the unity of the Godhead. The Trinity is made up of distinct persons and unique personalities — now blended by a mutually edifying, dynamic, permanent and unbreakable bond. Just as Father, Son, and Spirit have their specialized roles, husbands and wives both fill irreplaceable positions within the family circle — with a husband providing spiritual leadership and a willingness to sacrifice himself for his chosen bride. Christian marriages are designed to last for eternity, living out a sacred pledge of the highest possible commitment level.

In Genesis 2, right after the Bible tells Junior to leave the nest in order to go live in faithfulness with a bride, we find the familiar expression: “cleave unto his wife.” Interestingly, the word “cleave” comes from the un-sexy Hebrew word davaq, which basically describes stickiness. Clumps of damp mud stick together, and a husband and wife make the gritty determination to bind their hearts and lives together through good times and bad, in the sunshine and in the shadows. There will be happy days and hard ones, and moments when both parties feel like dissolving the arrangement, but a marriage vow is the second most important promise we will ever make.

I love the perhaps apocryphal story where Christian marriage counselor Charles Shedd had a spat with his bride of many years. Tempers flared and prickly words were spoken. Oh, they were still committed to each other, but at this dark moment, clouds of discouragement were hovering over the silent space between them. Dr. Shedd’s ice-encased wife finally broken the stalemate with this short and eloquent note: Dear Charlie: I hate you. Love, Martha. Because Christian marriage is an abiding, feisty, surviving principle more than a gauzy and giddy feeling.

Divorce is a tragic reality in some Christian relationships, but the Word of God only gives sanction for a breakup destroyed by the act of adultery. Even then, the healing grace of Calvary may well save and restore the marriage. One theologian conceded that in this broken world, marriages do end, but the family and the church should consider such a step to be a tragedy on a par with an amputation. We need to make herculean, sacrificial efforts to shore up and rescue a struggling partnership.

In Bible times, God’s prophets conceded that because of humankind’s hard-heartedness, God reluctantly permitted divorces. In some societies, polygamy occurred . . . with a myriad of wretched jealousies and generational dysfunction. But the Christian Church needs to faithfully lift its members to the Eden model where marriages are pure and lasting, where both parties are committed to similar spiritual goals and are “equally yoked” — faithful parts of the same church communion. And we have to explicitly acknowledge two realities: the Bible contains clear prohibitions against all forms of sexual contact outside of the marriage bond, while encouraging a generosity of physical expression within the circle of intimacy. Paul, writing to married couples In 1 Corinthians 7, frankly promotes a giving and loving unity between husband and wife.

The Word of God also addresses the duty of parents to nurture and protect the children God brings into their home. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6). Fragile children need the security of both parents’ unconditional love, and the blessing of living in a home where God is enthusiastically praised and obeyed.

A misguided teenager taking a Sunday School quiz once grumbled: “The Bible says you should only be married to one person. This is called monotony.” Give that kid an F, because the blessings of a vibrant and monogamous Christian relationship are one of life’s grandest adventures. (And our heavenly Dad loans us His VISA card.)
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David Smith writes from California. (23 of 28)  His author web page is davidsmithbooks.com. Biblebay Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information.