Friday, 5 April 2013

Marriage and the Purposes of God

Over the years I have taken several Spiritual Gifts inventories.  The gift of “discernment” has never made my top five.  So it is with that in mind that I am less likely to take issue with an article written by a fairly reliable source. 

The article in question bore the name of the title of this blog.  To be fair, I already have a very strong opinion about what I think would be God’s purpose for marriage.  You may have guessed the article didn’t select my answer and now I will attempt to convince you why I’m right.

The article used Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:18-24 as the basis for its position.  According to these two passages there are three possible reasons for marriage.

1.    Having children

2.    Protecting us from sexual temptation

3.    Providing for loneliness

The literature dismisses the notion that procreation is the primary reason for marriage (Genesis 1:28) on the basis that childless couples would have lesser marriages and that once the last child was born they would be, as a couple, unnecessary.

The literature eliminated protection from sexual temptation as the primary purpose for marriage since the concept of marriage was conceived (forgive the play on words) prior to sin entering the picture.  Perhaps more importantly if sex is the primary reason for marriage, then our partners are just a means to an end, to satisfy a need that we have. 

The text landed on companionship as the primary purpose for marriage. (Genesis 2:18)  This suggests that again it is all about me, my emotional desires and my need to not feel alone.  Unfortunately I know of married individuals who feel very alone.

What I find particularly ironic is that in this same lesson the authors say, “But the task of humanity is more than procreation (and protection and companionship). The task is to reflect God’s glory in His world as His image.”  The italics are my words.  I strongly believe the purpose for marriage is in fact to bring glory to God.  We are told that the marriage relationship is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and His bride the church. (Eph. 5: 25-29)

Christ was and is “other-centered”. His ministry was all about loving people and giving glory to the Father.  This should be our motivation for whatever we do.  If our primary reason for marrying someone is for what we can get out of the relationship then we have adopted the world’s view of marriage, one satisfied by a contract, not a covenant. 

 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Bible Darts

Do you know what a Bible dart is?  A Bible dart is when someone throws out a verse of Scripture in an attempt to admonish or teach.  Sometimes such a dart is meant to provide comfort but it rarely does.

Such an example is found in marriage all too often.  It occurs when a husband or wife take a verse out of context and quote it to their spouse in an effort to control their mate.  Pssst – “Ephesians 5:22 says ‘wives submit to your husbands.’”  Pssst – “Oh yeah, well 1Peter 3:7 says ‘husbands be considerate of your wives and treat them with respect.’”  

A Bible dart is not very helpful.  Rather than achieving a change of behavior it generally produces anger and/or defensiveness.  “Who are you to quote the Bible to me?”

Ephesians 5:22 is often misused by husbands who want to control and domineer.  To be fair we should start with Ephesians 1:1 through Ephesians 6:24 but I’ll settle for Ephesians 5:21 through 5:33 to make the point.

Verse 5:21 says that as brothers and sisters in Christ we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  This verse alone suggests that neither person is in a dominant position over the other. If this isn’t enough then I would suggest that it is only fair that the husband obeys the  commands to love his wife as much as Christ has demonstrated His love for his bride the church (5:25) and to love his wife as much as he loves himself.  Checkmate.

The overriding theme of Scripture is love.  God is love and with His grace and the help of His Spirit we are capable of loving others.  Bible darts are often meant to inflict guilt and pain even if only at the subconscious level.

Perhaps before we are tempted to pick up a Bible dart we should remember the verse that instructs us to pick up the first stone provided we are without sin.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Is Love a Choice or a Feeling?

19 And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. 20 I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.  Hosea 2:19-20 NRSV

It seems as though couples can fall in and out of love quicker than Starbucks can make a Caramel Mocha Frappuccino.  Fortunately for us, God is much more committed to a long-term relationship – as in eternal.  In several places in Scripture God refers to his children as His bride, He being the faithful bridegroom. We are in a covenantal relationship with God, a loving relationship that lasts forever.

As long as we equate love with a feeling our commitment to the relationship will be fleeting.  Feeling is an emotion and even the most placid, steady, unobservant male experiences shifts in his emotions.  Our emotions change several times throughout any given day.  No one can stay on an emotional high even if they were to use cannabinoids.

Even the euphoric act of “falling in love” is a conscious choice and so it must be said of “staying in love.”  Those who stay in love tend to dwell on the positive aspects of their marriage while those who are disillusioned focus on the negative.  That is a choice.

Those who stay in love treat love as an action verb.  They go out of their way for one another, to put the other’s needs ahead of their own.  They accept that their spouse is part of God’s sanctification plan and that their spouse is an instrument in God’s hands to bring about change.

Those who stay in love celebrate their differences instead of bemoaning them.  They recognize that God is Sovereign and that He has a plan for each of us.  They see their spouse as a gift from God – again that is a choice.

It has been said that we talk to ourselves more than anyone else does and we tend to listen to ourselves, believing what we hear.  The next time you start to dwell on the negatives in your marriage – STOP- and think about as many positive things about your spouse as you can.  By retraining your mind you will begin to change your feelings about your spouse.  This is not a manipulative trick, it is what God does with us every moment of every day.  It is called grace.  God chooses not to dwell on our flaws and blemishes.