Amos posed a timeless rhetorical question about partnerships which I’ve had cause to reflect on recently [Amos 3:3]. When God established the institution of marriage between the male and the female He created, He decreed that the male would leave his parents and be joined to his wife so that they become one flesh [Genesis 2:24]. I’m no historian, but that ordinance – instituted before evil came into the world – is unique to the Bible. What’s also evident is that from God’s perspective, a marriage cannot thrive without unmitigated unity, where both parties are vulnerable to each other [Genesis 2:25]. Consequently, it’s impossible for a husband to succeed – as God defines success – without his wife, and vice versa. A couple working at cross-purposes eventually sabotage their union.
Recently, my wife said something quite profound during a disagreement (yes, we have those too). She equated marriage to a pair of mountain climbers tethered to the same rope. I’m not great with heights, so I know little about mountain climbing. Nevertheless, it’s evident that if both climbers are to reach the summit, they will need to work together. In essence, your partner’s success is in your best interest. If they fall, you aren’t reaching the summit either. Both climbers must desire the same outcome, agree on the steps to accomplish their desired goals and work together to achieve them. Along the way, they will encounter obstacles and difficulties which they will only overcome with aligned interests and unity. My wife’s point was simple: we both fail in the areas of our lives where we pull in different directions.
My wife and I regularly remind each other of the importance of unity in our purpose, objectives and priorities – non-negotiables for a thriving relationship. Even our relationship with God requires agreement. We cannot advance in our Christian walk unless we agree with God about what He says. The ordinance of biblical marriage stated in Genesis, the Gospels (Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7) and the Epistles (1 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 5:31) mandates oneness between husband and wife. If they are one, it also implies that everyone else, including their children, is external to the union. Therefore, it’s imperative that a couple agrees on how they deal with the external entities within their sphere of influence. Failing to do this often introduces chaos and conflict into the relationship making it difficult, and sadly, impossible in some cases, for the two to walk together.
Managing outside influences, which I’ll loosely divide into relationships and responsibilities, is usually challenging for couples, especially where there are significant differences in their backgrounds. The impact of nurture and nature invariably shapes their paradigms – which typically leads to contrasting approaches to managing relationships and responsibilities. A level of maturity is required to account for these factors as couples approach life together. Additionally, both parties must be teachable, open to correction and willing to compromise as they encounter their differences – submitting to each other out of reverence for Jesus [Ephesians 5:21]. I’ve also found that when both parties yield to the authority of God’s word and live according to its principles without duplicity, Scripture becomes the ultimate arbiter in their union and a guide to dealing with the situations they encounter. Their marriage inevitably thrives as a result [Deuteronomy 30:9-10, Matthew 7:24].
It’s always worth remembering that you and your spouse are flawed. Agreeing to be guided by the word of God in your relationship doesn’t negate human frailty. With that in mind, each party should clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. A couple must be willing to bear with each other and forgive grievances because we all need God to forgive us. Most importantly, they must put on love in addition to these virtues because love binds them together in perfect harmony [Colossians 3:12-14]. If a couple can lay aside their ego, and adopt the posture described by that passage in Colossians in the good and bad times, reaching agreements will be less challenging. Furthermore, when in doubt, they’ll be able to examine Scripture together to see what it has to say about the issues and decisions confronting them. What sort of atmosphere would you expect to find in such a home?
This week, many couples will be celebrating their relationships. And so they should [Psalm 133:1]. Sadly for some, beneath the veneer of beautiful outfits, fancy meals, and smiles are deep-rooted issues and unresolved disputes causing pain and fission. Regrettably, I’ve witnessed instances where this is the case, yet one party is unaware of how the other truly feels. How does such a marriage thrive? Can the two walk together? Besides, such an atmosphere presents opportunities for the devil to sow more chaos and discord. It doesn’t help either that today’s society has much to say about marriage, as though we came up with the idea. Nowadays, many claim that the biblical principles of marriage are antiquated. Yet, some of the cultural norms many outside and inside the Church have adopted, which stand in stark contrast to God’s word, are causing even more chaos in marriages and ultimately leading to increasing divorce rates.
Unfortunately, many people today are in cantankerous relationships, some living in quiet desperation. They regret their spousal choices because they are at cross-purposes with their partners and incapable of meaningful consensus. If this is where you find yourself – despondent, struggling to envisage a thriving marriage, don’t despair. As someone once said: “It takes one person and God to make a marriage work”. If you can lay aside the hurt, embrace the whole counsel of God’s word, and stand in the gap for your relationship, the One who created marriage will fix and restore yours [Joel 2:25].