A Christian couple who makes a commitment before God to join in marriage must base their relationship on Christian principles. They ought to share a bond of mutual love, honor, and respect. In addition, they should strive for a God-centered marriage with Him as the nucleus of the home. God holds marriage in high esteem for it reflects the spiritual relationship between Jesus Christ and the church (Eph 5:31-32). As the church is built upon Christ Himself, a Christian marriage is built upon Christian principles. By establishing marriage upon these principles, God is exalted, and both husband and wife will enjoy an enduring and blissful Christian home redolent of God's love. Inasmuch as this is true, what are these principles and how do we apply them to our lives so that we can achieve a fulfilling and happy Christian marriage with our spouse?
Respecting the Different Roles of Marriage
In the beginning, God ordained and instituted the first marriage in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:18-24), and He established this precedent for all marriages thereafter. Therefore, a Christian couple must understand and respect the value of their marriage because God is the author and director of their marital union. The marriage bond between a man and a woman is the most intimate and sacred—it is even stronger than bonds built with family and friends. God designed marriage for one man and one woman (Gen 2:25), and this union was meant to be permanent—a life-long partnership between husband and wife. As Gen 2:24 records, "a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."
The Roles of Husband and Wife A husband and wife must recognize that honor and respect are key factors of a fulfilling marriage (Mt 7:12). The husband heads the home and he is the head of his wife (1 Cor 11:3). As the provider, it is to his honor to bear the responsibility of looking after his household, for his family looks to him for authority. An exemplar who demonstrated these qualities was Joshua, who depicted confidence and responsibility when he made the choice on behalf of his household to serve the Lord (Josh 24:15). Moreover, the husband is God's representative and it is also his duty to love, protect, and appreciate his wife (Eph 5:25). Likewise, the wife must appreciate her husband's leadership. She must respect and be submissive to her husband (1 Pet 3:1-2). She is her husband's helper and counterpart—sharing in his own nature. Eve was created, with divine intention, to be a partner and helper for Adam (Gen 2:18). In like manner, a wife should readily accept her role as a helpmeet for her husband because her vow is "as to the Lord" (Eph 5:22). Accordingly, if a Christian couple remains unwavering in their honor and respect for each other, they will discover that marriage is both enduring and rewarding, for marriage is primarily the union of two unselfish Christians. A husband can be inspired by his wife's gentle courage, quiet wisdom, and enduring faith. Likewise, a wife can be assured of her husband's fidelity, integrity, moral rectitude, sincere faith in God, as well as his unequivocal love.
Loving in Difficult Times
Another aspect of a fulfilling Christian marriage is when a couple put their love in the right Christian perspective. This is especially important when our marriage encounters difficult times. To be able to confront the realities of marriage requires discipline, tolerance, acceptance, and the guidance of God.
Do Not Let Emotions Rule Undoubtedly, problems and quarrels will occasionally surface- more often in some marriages and less in others. A Christian couple may lose their self-control in the heat of an emotional dispute. When such disagreements surface, they may be consumed with anger, and react irrationally in an ungodly manner. However, as Christians, we must not allow these unpleasant episodes sour our good relations with our spouse. Neither must we be assailed with hatred or trade insults, for these can be likened to a canker that will corrode our love for each other and do a great deal of harm to what began as a solid marriage.
Tolerance Is Key Though it may seem difficult to do at times, we must learn to accept our other half as they are. We must relinquish any fanciful ideas we have of our partners. Tolerance is a key factor within a marriage, and we must learn to tolerate and live with each other's imperfections. Early into the relationship, couples in lasting marriages learn to develop good strategies to face difficulties. They also understand the need to accept different points of views, and to be able to keep feelings of disagreement, disappointment, and discouragement in the right perspective. If we can mutually accept and tolerate each other, we are on the way to forging a firmer bond of understanding and compassion for one another.
Setting Reasonable Standards We should set reasonable standards in our marriage and accept in good faith what God has given to us. Do not set unrealistic goals and expectations as it may result in unnecessary frustration, anger, and stress on either party. Do not ask for the impossible! We cannot expect our spouse to be what we want them ideally to be; rather, we should appreciate and focus on each other's virtues. We can only hope to improve upon each other's weaknesses. As a Christian couple, we must converse and interact freely with our mate, for lack of communication, growing detachment, and unrealistic expectations may inflame adverse feelings. We must learn how to turn to one another in the face of crisis, and how to unite as one when our marriage is threatened. The path to a fulfilling marriage begins when we are willing to work on the relationship by spending more intimate time together and by being more accepting of each other.
Turning to God for Help When mutual love turns to repudiation, it is of greatest damage to the relationship because it leaves both parties disillusioned and feeling disrespected. At these seemingly helpless moments, we should turn to God and pray together for prayers can solve many problems. It is our safest recourse. At this time, we must dig deep and recall our Christian capacity for love, forgiveness, deep compassion, and unfailing loyalty¡Xnot rendering "evil for evil or reviling for reviling" (1 Pet 3:9), but submitting to one another in the fear of God (Eph 5:21).
Focusing on What Is Important
Sharing and Communication
As a couple, we must learn to share and communicate with each other. To sustain and nurture a healthy marriage, we should share our love, thoughts, and needs, so as to better understand and to edify one another. We must find a way to communicate effectively and this communication must be a two¡Xway effort. This includes walking together in the faith and being fervent and consistent in worship. It is good to have common interests in life and to be able to share the joys and sorrows of our workload. Sharing, within the intimate relationship of a husband and wife, also includes the bearing of each other's burdens: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2). Most importantly, we must communicate together in prayer: "Again I say to you if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven" (Mt 18:19). On a daily basis, we need to study the words of God together (Acts 18:24-26), and to pray with one mind and one heart¡Xremembering to intercede for one another, our children, family, church, and the divine work of God.
"Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 5:20). It is important that, as Christian couples, we acknowledge that our life partner is a blessing and gift from God. We must remain thankful and grateful to God for He has ordained marriage to be a spiritual union. Marriage is a constant learning process that requires team effort. Whether we are experiencing joy or difficulties, we should remain grateful to God in every circumstance. Through each other, we can be uplifted to a higher level of spirituality as we discover the meaning of "total oneness" with our spouse. "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor" (Eccl 4:9). Therefore, we should appreciate and give thanks to God for He has given us a life-long companion to support us in every circumstance, and to be co-heirs with us of the gracious gift of life (1 Pet 3:7).