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Marriage and the Family
By David B. Smith

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Walter and his wife Mahala were two of the fortunate ones: they got to ride first class, in Cabin C-86. Walter was a millionaire several times over, having done well in a number of Cedar Rapids industries. The Douglases had spent three months touring Europe and were now heading home to Iowa.

But Titanic had struck an ice berg. And this wealthy man, privileged and comfortable as the lifeboats were being loaded, was offered a spot with the women and children. His wife tugged at his arm. “Walter, you must come with me.”

Mr. Douglas’ response is classic, its own Bible study on the topic of marriage and commitment. “No,” he said firmly, turning away. “I must be a gentleman.” Along with 305 others, his frozen body was picked up a few days later by the cable ship Mackay-Bennett.

It was true in Bible times; it was true in 1912; it is true today. A wife generally does not die for the husband; the husband gladly sacrifices and even is willing to die for his wife. That is his designated role.

Marriage is a favorite Bible topic for many of us, and God’s Word has an entire honeymoon suite full of choice counsel for those who enter into this sacred commitment. In our liberated 21st century, we sometimes rebel against the gender-role guidelines expressed in the New Testament, but they create a portrait of mutual respect and sacrificial love. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:22-24).

Eden Wedding. The miracle of matrimony and the blending of two distinct genders go clear to the beginnings of time itself. God created man in His own image; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27). One chapter later, after describing the intimate, hand-crafted miracle of marriage, A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). The King James offers the tough, gutsy word cleavea man shall cleave to his wife. It’s a word suggesting stubborn stickiness, a firm and resolute fastening; Isaiah uses the same concept to describe metal welding. So marriage is a lasting, permanent bond designed to be as intimate and eternal as the Father-Son-Spirit unity within the Godhead. Matt. 19:6 is a familiar challenge read at most Christian weddings: “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Is Divorce Permitted in Scripture? Jesus admitted, upon being questioned, that in Old Testament times Moses bowed to the realities of life and permitted divorce for a variety of causes — some trivial. Why? “Because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way,” Jesus says sternly, “from the beginning.” He goes on to amplify heaven’s high aims: only the sin of adultery is grounds for a divorce. All other reasons fall short and demand a more sacrificial effort. Even today, where sometimes Christians have their relationship founder, divorce should be seen as a wrenching final step, “like an amputation,” one counselor said.

What Makes a Happy Marriage? The Bible describes it as an intimate fellowship, bringing a lifetime of joy. Jesus gladly attended weddings and even worked His first miracle to make a feast more successful. Ideally, a person gets married with the wide-eyed joy of realizing: “God has placed me in this world to make my partner happy.” The Bible describes a man leaving his parents; marriage is a person’s highest emotional commitment. The concept of “one flesh” is more than sexual; it holds out the promise of true closeness, a comforting partnership, a defended unity that no third party can invade.

1. Unified Purposes. Amos writes: Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (3:3) By communication and unselfish compromise, a married couple must always seek to understand and love and accept the other, praising the successes and forgiving the lapses. Ben Franklin once quipped: “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half closed afterwards!”

2. Common Faith. It is actually a Bible command that Christians should only marry within the faith. Don’t go into partnership [KJV: be unequally yoked] with those who believe differently from you. It won’t work. How can right have fellowship with wrong? What does light have in common with darkness? How can Christ and Satan be partners? (2 Corinthians 6:14, 15, Message). At the same time, if one partner in a marriage becomes a Christian, Paul advises them to faithfully stay with their unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:13).

3. Physical Joy. The Bible is an enthusiastic proponent of married bliss and a satisfying sexual union. In Old Testament times, the Hebrew writers carefully said that a man “knew” his wife — and babies showed up soon after! Song of Solomon is an unabashed paean to the joys of sex blessed by heaven. C. S. Lewis wrote a teasing satire, The Screwtape Letters, where demons complain about the fact that God designed sex and does not at all mind His creatures enjoying heaven’s creation. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul actually advises married partners to be sexually generous with one another, eager to satisfy and please; short periods of abstinence should be strictly for prayer and meditation, with a cheerful reunion soon  to follow. Ed Wheat, in Love Life For Every Married Couple, writes: “The Scriptures tell us clearly that the joyous sexual expression of love between husband and wife is God’s plan. It is, as the writer of Hebrews emphasizes, undefiled, not sinful, not soiled. It is a place of great honor in marriage — the holy of holies where husband and wife meet privately to celebrate their love for each other. It is a time meant to be both holy and intensely enjoyable.”

Straight Talk Meant For Our Protection. Every father knows the impulse of wanting to safeguard his teenaged daughter. Bill Cosby admits that when his girls began to bloom, he was tempted to patrol the swimming pool with a shotgun and aim it at anyone swimming too close. But the fact is that God gives unambiguous guidelines meant to keep us safe. Sexual expression, according to Scripture, is meant for a husband and a wife. According to the Seventh Commandment, adultery is a sin. A sexual affair invariably demands lying as well; even Hollywood films and modern couples refer to it as “cheating.” Premarital sex is equally wrong, Paul writes: It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Entertaining lustful thoughts or viewing pornographic images, Jesus said, were as much a Commandment violation as actual adultery itself (Matthew 5:28). 

It is increasingly a delicate challenge for the community of faith to responsibly deal with the Bible’s unavoidable verses addressing homosexuality. Theologians and Bible students are prayerfully continuing to study; as they do, it is important for all believers to manifest both a high regard for Scripture and a caring, sympathetic love for the adults and young people — and their loved ones — sincerely struggling with emotions and longings they often do not fully understand.

Parenting. Psalm 127 tells us: children are a heritage from the Lord. God calls us to nurture and train them, giving them the safety of our unconditional love, a solid Christian home, and training in the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:7, Proverbs 22:6). Ideally, parents will dedicate their children in a good Christian church and also invest in a Christ-centered education.

O God, You have so consecrated the covenant of marriage that in it is represented the spiritual union between Christ and His Church. Defend this couple from every enemy. Lead them into all peace. Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle above their heads, and a crown upon their foreheads. Bless them in their work and in their companionship; in their sleeping and in their waking; in their joys and in their sorrows; in their life and in their death. Send Your blessing upon these Your servants, that they may so love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal Church).

View related article: Rediscovering Eden

David B. Smith writes from California. (23 of 28) His web page is davidsmithbooks.com. Biblebay Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information.