I don’t have tons of time to post today, but I’ve been thinking a lot about a theology of marriage lately. I wonder how many of us really think about why God created marriage and what impact that should have on how we view marriage. Here are a few of my quick thoughts (sorry I don’t have more time to flesh this out more):
- God teaches us about his love towards us through us observing the mutual love that is so obvious in healthy, godly marriages.
- God created us to love and serve Him. Likewise, husbands and wives ought to enter into marriage to love and serve one another. Issues of the husband’s “headship” aside (that’s an issue for another post altogether!), the Bible is clear that both spouses should love and serve each other sacrificially. God demonstrated his love for us most clearly in the sacrifice of the Incarnation (aka: God the Son becoming a man, Jesus Christ) and dying on the cross to take our sin/judgment upon himself so we could be reconciled to God.
- Individuality is overrated. When husbands and wives hold onto their own individuality in a rigid way others often look at that marriage and think, “They’re married? But they just keep doing their own thing, they don’t really seem to do anything for or with each other.” When Christians try to keep doing “their own thing” while “following Christ,” nonbelievers ask, “If you’re a Christian and you’re following Jesus, why aren’t you different” and then conclude that Jesus makes no difference.
- Adultery is not just about sex. The sins of adultery and sex outside of marriage runs deeper than mere sexual immorality – they are shadows and metaphors of idolatry. We cannot worship Jesus Christ and _______ (fill in the blank). If you try to do that, then you’re not really worshipping Jesus the way you ought to and you’re worshipping him in vain. “Open marriages” may be more common than I realize, but sex outside of marriage is widely considered absolutely unacceptable and wrong.
- God didn’t need to make sex pleasurable or fun, he chose to! Following Jesus Christ is not a fun-less lifestyle, but ought to be characterized by joy and peace.
- There are rough patches in marriage that you need to stubbornly “stick with it” through; and there are times of suffering and trials in life where we cling to Jesus Christ to get us through them. But marriages and faiths that have weathered the storms are left stronger and deeper and better prepared for whatever life may throw at them.
- Divorce just isn’t right… that’s why it hurts so much and leaves so much pain and devastation in its wake. People whom you’ve trusted with your everything should not desert or reject you, especially after they make a vow to love you “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, etc.” Times change and even people change, but vows and love must be kept. When we walk away from our faith in Christ there is a similar effect. Some feel bitter and callous and numb; others feel free and liberated. But, in the end, there is still a hole (acknowledged or not) that nags to be recognized when we try to give our love/faith to another.
- Homosexuality would then reflect man-centered religion. Just as people were created to worship God (and not other people), so men were created to love (romantically) women (and vice-versa).
- Sacred Marriage. This book has had a HUGE impact on me personally and on my marriage. The tagline says it all, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy.” I don’t care who you are (married, divorced, unmarried, teen, college, young adult, elderly, etc.), you will learn a ton from this book!
I could keep going, but I think this suffices for now to get our minds cranking on how deeply God intends for marriages to reflect our relationship with Him. How healthy is your marriage? How healthy is your faith?
What’s the difference between the fire in a fireplace and a fire that’s burning your house down? Boundaries.
Is there such thing as a safe fire? Yes. And No. Even a lit candle which is in a jar can burn your house down if that candle is bumped off the table and the flame spreads beyond it’s jar/boundary.
Sex and sexuality are the same way. God made sex as a wonderful thing… but within its proper boundaries. On television and in movies sex is used as a shortcut to deep relationships, but God gave us sex as the pinnacle expression of love and intimacy within marriage.
I know many people who have good marriages, but whose marriages are seriously affected because of the previous sexual experiences one or both members had before they got married. Sexual purity paves the way to intimacy.
The best definition for intimacy I’ve come across is this: “Intimacy is the joy of knowing someone fully and being known by that person with no fear of rejection” (Andy Stanley, The Seven Checkpoints. Howard Books, 2001. p.81). I believe we all crave that kind of intimate relationship. If we listened to the media, we’d think we get that kind of intimacy through sex. But that intimate relationship comes from sexual purity!
So what are your Moral Boundaries? Where is your “line” drawn? How far is too far for you?
- The further you go, the faster you go
- The further you go, the further you want to go
- The further you go, the more difficult it is to go back
So set clear Moral Boundaries TODAY! If you wait until you’re alone with your boyfriend/girlfriend to define and defend those boundaries you will eventually go further than you originally want (and further than God wants too!). Here are four keys to setting clear Moral Boundaries:
- Know your own boundaries first, and stick to them
- Discuss clear boundaries (if you can’t discuss boundaries, you probably shouldn’t be in this relationship)
- Agree on clear boundaries (if you can’t agree on boundaries, you definitely shouldn’t be in this relationship)
- Don’t sabotage yourself! (as in: Don’t “hang out” in a house all by yourselves and then wonder why you went too far)
So what do you do if you’ve already gone too far?
- Stop! Take a break in the relationship and evaluate whether you need to end it to save yourself.
- Drop! Pray. Confess your sin to God and ask him daily to give you His strength to regain purity.
- Roll! Get away from bad influences and get closer to godly influences
Remember God’s love overcomes all sin when you confess and repent.
- “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:11-12
- “But God demonstrates is own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
I’d like to highlight a book today. “Sacred Marriage” is the best book I’ve read on marriage and has been immensely helpful to Tracy and me. The book is written by Gary Thomas and is subtitled, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” That’s absolutely not saying that we shouldn’t be happily married! He points out the many ways that God desires to use marriage to sanctify us, to make us more like Jesus Christ.
Have you ever noticed how you’re sometimes like a different person when you’re with your spouse – someone you don’t really like or what others to see or know? I’ve noticed that about myself. That’s what Thomas is talking about: Through our marriages, God reveals to us who we really are (the good, the bad, the ugly, and the hideous). God wants every aspect of our lives to be completely devoted to Him… to be “sacred,” set apart for God.
Below is a video of Gary Thomas speaking about “How does marriage make us closer in our walk with God?” If you double-click on the video to open it on the YouTube page, you’ll notice a number of other 2-5 minute videos of Gary talking about various issues related to Christian Marriage. I hope you find these helpful.