A few years ago, I ran across a Dear Abby article written by a person named “Don’t Feel Guilty.”
***Disclaimer: I am not a normal Dear Abby reader. I feel that’s important to share.
The letter asked Abby for her advice on her marriage. She said that she had cheated on her “perfect” husband during a recent work trip, loved the experience, and plans on seeing this new partner again soon.
Next she wonders why she doesn’t feel guilty (ref Jeremiah 6:15), and then asks what she can do to stop the affair “before it gets out of control.”
Predictably, Abby let her have it. She told her the situation was already “out of control,” and that she needed to fix it. NOW.
I agree — as would most right-thinking people, I imagine.
What Marriage Means in the Bible
No study of marriage is complete without Matthew 19. In just a few verses, Jesus shows what marriage is really all about:
“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”
There is a lot there to unpack, but let’s start with a few basics when it comes to what marriage means according to the Bible.
Biblical Marriage is Between a Man and a Woman
Our culture today wants to change this, but the Bible clearly describes marriage as a relationship between man and a woman. Period.
Jesus says as much in Matthew 19 when it says that He made them “male and female,” and that marriage exists when “he” cleaves to “her.” There’s no ambiguity in that statement.
I don’t think that statement puts me out of favor with most people who call themselves a Christian, though. In fact, I think it’s one of the hills that most religious people are willing to die on.
Biblical Marriage Does Not Accept Adultery
In Matthew 19, Jesus gives us the only acceptable reason why someone can divorce their spouse and remarry someone else: adultery.
“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”(Matthew 19:9
It’s important to remember that while Jesus provides that outlet, that doesn’t mean He necessarily wants it to happen. But the reality is that when someone steps outside the bounds of that marriage relationship, God allows for the innocent party to find another spouse.
Biblical Marriage is Meant to Be a Blessing
Neither of the above two statements are considered “radical” by most Bible-believers. This third one might be, though.
For me to claim that a Biblical marriage needs to be a blessing and filled with love seems to some to step outside the Scriptures. After all, as long as we’re not cheating on each other, what does my happiness matter to God?
Quite a bit, actually. In Malachi 2:13-16, God tells the people that there are two things He hates.
First, He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).
Second, He hates those who “cover their garments with wrong” (Malachi 2:16, 13-15).
You may not think that God cares about how you treat your spouse, but He does. He’s watching how you talk to your spouse (to them or about them), how you treat them, how you sacrifice for them, and how you love them.
The institution of marriage is intended to be for the benefit of each other, but when one party looks only to take, that blessing is betrayed.
God’s Design for Marriage
Aside from creation itself, marriage is the first blessing that God gave His people — even prior to salvation itself.
He has a specific design for it, as well. It’s not something you or I can take and manipulate at will. If we’re going to truly experience the blessing that marriage is, we have to understand His design.
See Marriage as a Gift
I’m not a huge fan of people “forcing” others into marriage. Like most people, I felt a huge pull to get married when I was in my early 20’s. Most of my friends were getting married at that time, so it only made sense for me to also.
What I didn’t realize was that I didn’t have to. I could’ve chosen to remain unmarried for all these years, and use this time to purse God and spread the Gospel.
Or I could’ve become an aircraft mechanic. It really doesn’t matter. Marriage didn’t need to be in the picture (Matthew 19:12).
For those who accept marriage though, you need to do so with the understanding that it is a gift. That doesn’t mean you won’t have arguments; in fact, you might argue more just because of how much you love and are invested in the other person.
But marriage is a partnership designed for the betterment of two individuals. If you’re not a better person as a result of your marriage, you need to ask yourself why.
That doesn’t mean leave, that means take a long hard look at yourself and your spouse and ask what changed. Initially, you saw a life with this person as an improvement. Find that why again.
Find Strength Through Vulnerability
When God created man and woman, they were both “naked and not ashamed.” Undoubtedly, that alludes to the fact that both were without sin. Neither one of them bore the shame that comes with sin (John 3:19-21).
When sin exists inside of a marriage, vulnerability is impossible. We want to hide what we’ve done so that the other person never finds out.
We may think that we’re doing them a service, when in reality, we’re just weakening the marriage. Hidden demons in marriage will cause the relationship to rot from the inside out.
Consider Jesus’ statement to the Apostles in Mark 9:30-37. Just prior to this conversation, Jesus had prophesied His own death, burial and resurrection. Right after, the Apostles were arguing about which one of them is the greatest (interesting choice of conversations but ok).
Jesus halts the argument and tells them that “if anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all.” He then illustrates this point by putting a child in their presence and asking them to receive a child, which would only serve as a burden to someone aspiring for greatness.
What’s the lesson for us? Those who want to artificially prop up how great their marriage is by talking about how awesome they are will inevitably find their marriage shattered by the slightest breeze.
On the other hand, those who humbly admit and confide in their spouse about their failings, ask them for their help, promise to give help to their spouse when they need it, will find a marriage that will not only stand the test of time, but thrive in the storms.
How to Fix Your Marriage
Revelation 2 may be a curious place to talk about marriage advice, but Jesus’ instructions to the church at Ephesus are specifically tailored to those who have “left their first love.” Tell me that can’t apply to marriages.
His advice consists of three easy steps:
- Remember where you have fallen.
- Do the deeds you did at first.
Sometimes, we need a little perspective when it comes to our marriage. We’re so thick in the weeds with the day to day activities that we forget what a blessing our spouses truly are.
By taking a step back and remembering what it’s all about, we’ll nurture the greatest gift that God has given us this side of eternity.Last modified: September 11, 2023