We’re less likely to do well in marriage if we don’t understand what God intended for the relationship.
A primary reason for many marital problems is a failure to understand, respect and live by God’s intended purposes for marriage.
Take a few moments and review some of what we know about God’s purpose for the marriage relationship. Consider three purposes for marriage
1. A gift from God
Marriage is God’s gift to humans. It was given to us to resolve the problem of human loneliness. God meant for marriage to be a complimentary companionship. “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).
It’s possible that your marriage doesn’t feel like a gift because it’s a troubled relationship. But for marriages to flourish in their God-intended way, a husband and wife must see their marriage as God’s gift and thank Him often for it and specifically for their mate. This sets an important tone for how we think about marriage and about each other. It’s a needed attitude check!
2. A one-flesh union
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24-25). Marriage was given by God as an exclusive (leaving father and mother), permanent (cleaving/united to), one-flesh relationship between one man and one woman.
One-flesh union is more than two bodies uniting. It’s a person-to-person fusion of two lives celebrated by physical union. The physical union is the consummation of a God-formed bond. Physical union alone does not constitute a marriage – nor necessitate one (Matthew 1:18-19; John 4:16-18). The union is not the disappearance of one life into another, but the unique joining of two lives with their individual identity and gifts making the two stronger together as one (see: Unity Sand: A picture of marriage).
2. A covenant-based relationship
God speaks of marriage as a covenant relationship. This fact alone should cause us to reflect deeply on what God intended by connecting marriage and covenant. It should also significantly affect the way we live in a marriage.
The covenant nature of marriage is most clearly mentioned in the Old Testament book of Malachi:
“Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. ‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel, ‘and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,’ says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” (Mal. 2:13-16).
Unlike contractual arrangements, (typically entered on a time-limited basis for personal advantage), the marriage covenant is entered for the purpose of shared intimacy, care and responsibility – in a permanent relationship.
“It is not your love that sustains the marriage… but the marriage that sustains your love.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
In their vows, the bride and groom promise to be each other’s loving and faithful spouse. This promise includes times of prosperity or need; joy or sorrow; sickness and health; to love and to cherish, till death causes us to part. The final part of the vow I ask couples to repeat is: “according to God’s standards.” Covenant keeping and accountability in married life is based on God’s standards. So if you’re poor, for example, because a husband will not work, he is not living according to God’s standards (see: I Timothy 5:8). Accountability is needed if he wants to enjoy the fulness of the covenant relationship of marriage.
The husband bears primary responsibility to lead in the marriage covenant. His leadership should be honored by his wife and family (Ephesians 5:22-24, 33; 6:1-3) and exercised with love (see: Ephesians 5:25, 33; John 10:11-13; I Corinthians 13:4-8) and thoughtful consideration (see: Philippians 2:3-5). Scripture warns husbands who treat their wives with insensitivity (see: I Peter 3:7).
What changes do you need to make in light of the truths about marriage as a gift, a one-flesh union and a covenant based relationship?