The New Testament does not say a lot about marriage. Jesus talks about the permanence of marriage in the Gospels. Paul addresses married couples in 1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5, and Colossians 2. Peter and the writer of Hebrews speak of marriage in 1 Peter 3 and Hebrews 13. Marriage is good and should be permanent since it is a one flesh union picturing the relationship between Christ and the church. The marriage bed must be held in honor. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and not speak harshly to them. Wives should submit themselves to their husbands even if they are disobedient so their husbands might be won without a word by their behavior. That is almost everything the New Testament said about marriage.
There were times I wondered why more wasn’t said about marriage, but most of the passages of Scripture that were helping me grow as a husband weren’t about marriage anyway. Then I ran across a quote which said something like this, “the New Testament doesn’t say more about marriage because most of marriage is basic Christian discipleship.” (I wish I could remember the origin of the quote.) This is correct. Most of marriage is following Jesus and living out what it means to follow Him. There are three basic components of following Jesus that shape and change our marriages.
From the early pages of the Bible, the biblical writers teach that marriage lasts for a lifetime. Two people join together as one and they remain committed to each other for the rest of their lives. Couples who want a happy, thriving, God-glorifying marriage must embrace this truth. This is especially true for couples who are walking through difficulty. Remaining committed to your marriage gives you a foundation for working through your problems together. You are way more likely to be willing to work on your marriage when you are committed to staying for the rest of your life. The results are joy-giving and God-glorifying. Tim Keller shares some wonderful news about this in the book he coauthored with his wife Kathy, The Meaning of Marriage. Most couples going through difficulty will be happy in three to five years if they will remain married. While the this time frame doesn’t suit our instant gratification society, it is encouraging to know that there is benefit to remaining committed to each other.
As a quick aside, if you are married and you’re walking through a difficult season, go talk to someone. There is no shame in getting outside help. It does not have to be a Pastor or counselor. You could find a couple whose marriage you respect and invite them in to talk with you about what you are experiencing. Don’t let pride keep you from seeking how someone who could really help you in the long run.
Paul instructed believers in Ephesians 4:32 to be “kind to one another.” Obeying this simple passage of Scripture makes a tremendous impact in our marriages. Our default mode is to be kind to those who are outside of our homes and treat those in our homes based on our mood that day. Days, months, and years of unkind words and bad attitudes take their toll on a marriage. Instead, we do well to remember God’s kindness to us, and to remember how that kindness shapes the way we treat other people. What if we began to see our spouse and our closest neighbor and treated them with consistent kindness? “D.A. Carson recently said the great aphrodisiac in marriage in kindness. These are wise words, as simple kindness can be effective in showing love to our spouses.
At its best, marriage unites two sinners who are saved by God’s grace. Two sinners are going to sin against each other. When your spouse has sinned against you, you have two choices. You can marinate in their sin against you or you can forgive them and let it go. The first choice kills a marriage. Consistent unforgiveness turns into bitterness, anger, and hostility. It can take two people who love each other and make them despise each other. On the other hand, forgiveness grows love in a marriage. Let’s say a husband speaks harshly to his wife out of frustration and realizes he has sinned. He tells her that he is wrong and asks for her forgiveness. Then she forgives him and refuses to hold it against him. They have just preached the Gospel to each other. The husband has done so with his repentance and she has by forgiving as she has been forgiven. Approaching marriage this way helps a couple take their sin and harmful behavior towards each other seriously and helps them walk in freedom and love rather than bitterness and anger.
For Further Reading:
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller