There is no more important relationship than the one you have with God. However, if you are married, your most important human relationship, your closest neighbor, is your spouse.
Wedlock has the potential of not only being the most joyful and fulfilling relationship, but also the most difficult. What a person imagines marriage will be like and what marriage is actually like can be two different things. Even the best marriages have trials and tribulations.
The difficulty of the relationship is evident by the divorce rate. Statistics indicate the divorce rate among second and third marriages is even higher than first marriages. So, swapping spouse number one for spouse number two or three has not proven to be the solution to the problem.
Marriage counselors make a living trying to keep marriages together. Priests, preachers and church leaders are often called upon to comfort and guide husbands and wives. Many spouses have given it everything they had, but because their partners did not, the marriages did not make it. It is possible to bounce back from a damaged marriage with God’s help, but few have entered marriage with the idea that it would not work out.
Christian men and women who are striving to glorify God in their marriages realize spiritual standards apply to them. What are those standards and how can a Christian couple apply them to daily living?
In school, teachers have a standard: a letter grade that is evidence of the student’s achievements. Top students earn an A, while students who have perfect scores rate an A+. Superior businesses are given a triple A rating. With few exceptions, students who achieve an A or A+ and businesses that have a triple A rating do so with a great deal of work, dedication and sacrifice. They believe excellence is worth the effort.
Being willing to apply biblical principles and put the other person first, Christians should be dedicated to the personal sacrifice that makes their marriage work – Accept, Adapt and Aim.
It is true that opposites attract. Very few couples are like in temperaments. Complications come with that attraction, however, because different ways of doing things and opposite views can result in friction. In the courting stage, couples often see the other person as completing him/her. That sometimes means the strengths of one person are contrary to the strengths of the other. It actually may be a weakness of the other person.
A good example is neatness or orderliness. One spouse is often a very organized person while the other is a bit sloppy. You get the picture. That can lead to some interesting situations.
Some people erroneously believe they can change their spouse after marriage. People do change as they grow older, but expecting a certain change in someone leads to inevitable disappointment. Even as we grow, our temperaments remain the same. An introverted child remains introverted as an adult and an extroverted child remains extroverted as an adult. Growth comes in learning to harness the strengths of a temperament and control the weaknesses. However, only an individual can do this for himself. No one else can do it for him.
Men and women think differently and react differently to circumstances. This results in a gender culture shock after marriage. Other cultural differences such as race, nationality, age and faith can further complicate the relationship. Differences that are so attractive before marriage often become conflict after marriage.
Once a person plans to marry or is married, the first “A” is to accept his partner just the way she is. Different is not necessarily wrong – it is often just another point of view – distinct from the other person’s. Different is often just – different.
Accepting another person is only possible if one has a proper view of oneself. In order to accept someone else, you must accept yourself. Sometime that takes more work than accepting your spouse. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself“(Mark 12:28-31 NKJV).
Adjustments are necessary in the marriage relationship. You must adapt to the differences you have accepted in the other person. The primary adjustment is the relationship itself. In the very beginning, God told couples to leave father and mother and become one: a single unit with a common purpose.
The apostle Paul addresses marriage in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Ephesians. After he instructs all believers to walk in love and submit to one another in the fear of God, he turns his attention to marriage partners. What he said has often been misinterpreted, misunderstood and avoided because Paul tells wives to submit to their own husbands. That statement has brought controversy not only in the secular world, but religious circles as well. The biblical principles of looking at a verse in context, however, needs to be applied carefully here as there is no indication here or elsewhere that women are to submit to all men.
In the business world, a necessary hierarchy exists with the president being followed by a vice president, etc. Opinions of other leadership figures are often consulted, but the responsibility for a decision lies with the president. There cannot be two presidents. Nothing would ever be decided on.
Paul is saying that a wife’s submission to her husband is similar to their joint submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. It has been said that where there is no responsibility, there is no accountability. The husband is accountable in God’s eyes for being the leader in his home.
Paul goes on further to say that husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the church. A husband is accountable to God for sacrificial love and God ordained leadership. As Christ died for the church, his bride, that is the standard set for the Christian husband.
The apostle Peter adds that husbands should honor their wives and understand them because both husband and wife are heirs together of God’s grace. He tells the husbands that their prayers could be hindered if they do not do this. Men who say, “I just don’t understand women,” need to remember that God has told them they need to understand their own wives.
A primary need for a woman is to know that she is loved. Respect is vitally important to a man. Paul concludes this teaching with this principle. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:32-33 NKJV).
Often it is the little things of life that cause constant irritation in a couple’s relationship. Have you ever known a spouse who kept a record of wrongs and was ready to relate it at any moment? Instead of confronting a specific issue, sometimes a spouse will drag out all the irritations of the past hoping to justify his point. In what is often called the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, there are sound principles for accepting each other’s differences and adapting to them.
The aim of a Christian marriage should be to put Christ first and bring him glory. If a Christian understands and accepts God’s love for her in her own life, she will be able to love her spouse with a greater love than a non-believer. The Bible has a lot to say about marriage on earth and in heaven. From Genesis to Revelation, marriage is mentioned, sometimes in context of an earthly marriage, but many times with a future spiritual application.
Revelation, the last book in the Bible, speaks of the marriage of the Lamb. The bride, the church of God, will have been made ready for the marriage of the Lamb. The Lamb of God, Jesus, will have done all the preparation himself, though, as the fine linen that will adorn his bride was the righteousness that he bought on her behalf when he died on the cross. When Jesus told a story about a wedding feast, he said that the one person who came to the feast without the proper garment would be cast out. The acceptable wedding garment is white. White represents purity. Since we have all sinned, we cannot get to heaven wearing our own dirty, dark filthy rags. Those who trust in Christ, however, have been washed clean and given the proper garment. Jesus, the bridegroom, has done all the work and preparation for his own marriage ceremony.
Life on earth is preparation for eternal life. The world is watching closely for evidence that faith in God makes a difference in a marriage relationship.