ARLove and Covenant in MarriageHave you thought about the condition of your relationship with your spouse lately? Does your Christian marriage make a positive difference on the church and encourage loved ones around you?This article reminds us that we need to make the most of our marriage; to live in love and harmony with one another, and to positively impact the wider community of family and church.
THE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE
In the process of God’s creation, all that He created was deemed good. God created Adam, the first man, on the sixth day, but He reckoned that it is not good that he should be alone. So God created Eve, the first woman, to be a helper for him.
The purpose of marriage is for the purpose of life. Thus, in Gen 2:24, the Bible says, “Therefore, a man shall leave his mother and father and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
The three verbs in this passage illustrate the three significant aspects of marriage:
• To Leave: Man and wife must become an independent entity.
• To Join: They must come together not just in a communion of two lives but, more importantly, to be in unison their entire lives.
• To Become One: What started out as two separate lives can find completion and fulfillment in one body under Christ.
We have just defined the purpose of marriage. But how do we live out this purpose?
Most love stories talk about the process of falling in love, and the story often ends after the couple say, “I do.” But we know that this is only the beginning. After a man and a woman come together “happily ever after,” another story begins. And this is the story about love and covenant.
Love is the most important thing in a marriage. It is something into which all of us who enter into marriage must put effort. Love equips us for marriage, and marriage is nurtured by love. Only then can the bond of husband and wife be strong.
We must understand that love in itself is a form of enjoyment, and this is to fulfill human needs. To catch a glimpse of love, we can look at how Adam reacted when he first saw Eve (Gen 2:23).
He deeply felt that she was the bone of his bones and the flesh of his flesh. And by his words, we can see that they were truly joined together as one. To each other, they became the other’s joy.
The Chinese say that marriage is made in heaven. In other words, this is the best gift that God has prepared for human beings. We must all treasure our marriage and be filled with sweet love.
Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice in the wife of your youth.
As a loving deer and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
And always be enraptured with her love. (Prov 5:18, 19)
The Early Years
When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken. (Deut 24:5)
According to God’s instructions, a man who has just taken a new wife does not need to go to war or be charged with any business, just so that he can spend that first year of marriage and bring happiness to his new bride. This is the wisdom of God.
In the early years of marriage, both husband and wife must deal with many changes because they have entered into a new lifestyle. Many couples will tell you that the first years are when many conflicts will arise.
There must be a period of adjustment to one another, and it is a time to nurture a deeper love, to resolve conflicts, or to iron out issues. This is a key step in establishing a solid bond with our spouse.
There is a trend in society where the husband and wife work in different places and are separated for a long time because of their career pursuits. Even though they are able to find happiness with this arrangement, they have yet to build a firm foundation.
And since they are more often apart than together, their communion with one another is mostly physical, and their communication on the emotional or intellectual front suffers.
The Growing Years
If the marriage bond is not established in the early years, the couple will discover that they clash in many areas. This is because they have not taken the time to grow together or to resolve their conflicts. Living and bonding with one another is a key factor to resolving marital conflicts.
We ought to learn to understand one another. Everybody has weaknesses. 1 Pet 3:1-7 tells us to dwell with our wives with reason and understanding. Not only husbands but also wives ought to put this to practice, which will lead to mutual respect.
The essence of love, as beautifully scripted in 1 Corinthians 13, should be the guiding principle in how we love our spouse. Both should take the initiative to show care and concern.
Learn not to be jealous, boastful, self-seeking, or calculating of each other’s weaknesses. Whenever conflicts arise, return to the Bible’s teachings to resolve them, for conflicts will always be there, and we need to train ourselves not to be easily provoked.
Husbands and wives ought to change one another, to be submissive to one another, and to attract each other with a gentle and quiet spirit. And even if the other party has wronged us, we ought to use a gentle and quiet spirit to touch the other person.
The Lasting Years
If we look at the relationship between Isaac and Rebekah, we can see how much Isaac adored his wife: “When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah” (Gen 26:8). This passage records Isaac’s love for Rebekah, which was apparent even to the king.
Today, we also ought to show endearment to one another in this way, so that in our daily lives, we are able to experience the sweetness of marriage. This is indeed the bliss that marriage brings. It is a form of joy, and it can satisfy all our needs.
I’m often very touched when I see senior couples holding hands and growing old together. If you notice, they move in unison and there is often no need to discuss or plan every detail. If we can make it this far, then advice and counseling are often no longer necessary.
We must understand that our marriage is not just for ourselves. It is also for our entire family and the greater family of the church. We must therefore be very cautious in selecting our partner.
Serve One Another
Sometimes, it is easy to marry non-believers because we do not place enough emphasis on our faith. But such a marriage will end up sapping the strength of the church. Many people become weak in their faith as a result of their inter-faith marriage, and they lose the zeal to participate in church work.
When we marry in the Lord, we can encourage one another to walk this heavenly path together and to help one another live a life of faith. Marriage in itself is a form of service and partnership, allowing us to use our lives to be a good influence to others.
Today, we must not attempt to fit our relationship into the conventional “one plus one equals two” equation. Although politically correct, equal partnership in marriage is not about equal status between husband and wife. Rather, our mentality should be “one plus one is greater than two.”
This explains why the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 brought unequalled blessings to the family. She took very good care of the family so that the family was joyful and her husband and children were greatly blessed. Even the poor and needy received the extension of her hands (Prov 31:20, 28).
Serve the Church
Marriage is also a testimony and witness to itself, and the people around us also participate in our joy. It is not just the coming together of two people but more like the coming together of two families. It may even be the coming together of two churches.
In a wedding ceremony, two people testify that they are willing to take each other as husband and wife. They say their marriage vows in front of many people, making an open and public acknowledgment.
We must understand that marriage is not a two-party event. Through our marriage, we enter the communities of church and society to bring more blessings to the people around us.
Non-resident youths often came to the local church I attended because their studies brought them to the area. After graduation, they married there and settled down. Gradually the church grew because of their faithful involvement.
The newlyweds served God together, and many of them committed to taking care of new students. While they found love and marriage within the church, they also set an example and encouraged others to do the same. They became a very strong force in nurturing the growth of the church.
Many years later, this small church grew into a church with over six hundred members. Through their example, we can see the strength that a blessed marriage can bring to the church. When youths who truly love the Lord come together, it is a great blessing to the church.
Let us learn to manage our marriage so that we can, in turn, manage the house of God.
A LASTING COVENANT
Marriage is also an opportunity to receive blessings and grace from God. In Eph 5:22-33, the apostle Paul used the relationship between husband and wife as an analogy to describe the mystery of the relationship between the church and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I believe this is the same in our marriage today—that through the love we build with our spouse, we can experience the deep tie that we have with God and His church.
Therefore, we must cherish our marriage and not chose to be easily separated from one another. If this is our determination—that this is our only marriage in life and we will not give up too quickly—then let us put in our best effort to nurture our marriage.
Do Not Compromise Our Marriage
There are certain areas to which we must pay attention, areas that can cause us to break our marriage covenant with our spouse.
Very often, there will be third parties that affect a marriage. Sometimes, even friendships, regardless of same or opposite sex, can interfere in the marriage. This is impermissible. Therefore, we must use wisdom when we come into contact with others and be vigilant at all times, so that we are not enticed by the devil.
We must understand that the covenant of marriage is the closest relationship we have, and it surpasses all other relationships. It even surpasses our relationships with our parents and children.
We cannot overlook our marriage to show filial piety to our parents. We can see many examples of broken marriages where, one spouse’s relationship with his or her parents was stronger than with the partner after marriage. I’m not saying that we should not be filial to our parents, but it is important that one spouse supports the other when conflicts with in-laws occur.
After a woman gives birth to a child, she will place all her emphasis on her child. And because the husband works hard outside to take care of the family, the relationship becomes strained. Slowly, she draws further away from her husband. We must also be careful of this.
Some mothers place all their emotions on their children. And when a child grows up and gets married, they begin to compete for their child’s affection. Rivalry builds up, and this can be destructive to the child’s marriage.
Therefore, the proper marriage covenant is one that must surpass the relationships between parents and children.
In our life of marriage, let us esteem all aspects of love, so that our marriage might be filled with sweetness. Let us make time to spend with one another and deepen our relationship with God by serving Him together. Let us also hold fast to the marriage covenant with the conviction not to separate from one another or allow others to separate us.
Our joy comes in knowing that our walk down the aisle continues into the aisle of eternity in heaven. It is realized when we serve God together, and it is blessed as we bring up our children in the Lord.