Marriage has become a hot-button topic in our day and age mainly because of the same-sex marriage debate. But, lets set that subject aside. As easy as that, let’s focus on the real point. Biblically, in the New Testament, marriage is indeed to be between one man and one woman. Marriage is a sacred institution, and the tragedy is that somewhere along the way the church adapted marriage to the world.
Confessing Christians get divorced at rates that cannot be pleasing to God. God hates divorce, while at the same time allowing for it. I have the feeling that Christians don’t respect the idea of vows and marriage like they should. Duh. So, what is some of the problem? One major factor is the idea of love.
In our modern time, love has been redefined as a mix of lust and fluffy nebulous feeling. That, esp. lust, has nothing to do with Biblical love between a man and a woman in marriage that is spiritually equal to a legal, binding contract. We tend to forget that at one point in time divorce was pretty much illegal unless you could show hard evidence of something like ongoing adultery. By tying marriage into lust, we cheapen it, and make it extraordinarily easy to make excuses to get a divorce from someone we don’t “love” any more.
But you have to love your spouse right? No. Not in the way the world defines love. Look at arranged marriages, just for an example. In the beginning of an arranged marriage, the two people don’t even know each other, instead they have trusted either their parents or an intermediary to pick a spouse that meets certain criteria. I believe that we should be able to pick out our spouse; however, I also believe we have lost some of the common sense aspects of arranging a marriage that is going to last.
I don’t really care how good looking a person is if they can’t work. I don’t really care about anything else if they don’t believe in the same God I do. Whether I find the person sexually attractive becomes moot really quick unless they have the same expectation when it comes to kids; do they want them? Can they provide for them? How many? How are they to be raised? Is the mom going to stay at home or not? What about education?
The family budget, and what money is ultimately for. Where are you going to live? Do they have a good relationship with their parents, and on and on. Also, when we get married it is like starting a family that is as permanent as our former family, meaning that my genetic brother is still my brother no matter what happens. I can hate him, or not talk to him for five years, but he’s still my brother. My husband is the exact same. That is the important bit we seem to be forgetting. Two become one flesh.
Annnddd, here’s something a lot people probably don’t want to hear; you need to decide who is in charge. Not in a command way, but someone, at some point, is going to have to lead. If everything is functioning properly, it should be the husband. Women, marry someone with that in mind. I truly believe the husband needs to be at least as smart as the wife. I believe that women can be leaders in the church (such as deacons), and that when God used the term helpmeet, He did so deliberately, and that people miss the part where He uses the same word for Himself.
A weaker thing cannot help a stronger thing. Just sayin’. Men and women are meant to be complimentary, so that life is enhanced by their joining. Ok, so you’ve picked a suitable mate; what kind of love needs to be there in the marriage over time? Many know that there are different words for “love” in the Greek language used in the Bible, and these show us the type of love that should be there (keep in mind this isn’t a pick-one, leave the rest list, this is inclusive).
1) Agape love – This love is an unselfish love and is the key to all the rest. This is the same type of love that God has for us, that unconditional love that forgives. This is the love He had toward us that while we where yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly. We are called to love our spouses in the same way. If you start with selfish love, your mate is rightly going to feel manipulated and judged.
2) Epithumia love – Interestingly this type can, and is, both positive and negative depending on form. The negative side is lust. The positive side is desire within marriage. This is the physical desire that results in fulfilling sex within marriage. Guess what? Sex is good if done in a Godly setting, sex was devised to bring release and intimacy for BOTH partners. This can also be abused if it turns lustful, esp. outside of marriage (or sadly even within). When someone cannot temper this they will hurt their mate if they are demanding, obsessed, and insensitive.
3) Eros love – This is the romantic love often skewed by the media. Romance in Christian marriage is all about pursuing your beloved… it is the chase within marriage. It is seeking out your loved one and showing them how much you cherish them. We have already covered the physical side, so this love includes more than that. This is the compliments, the verbal praises, the together time, the day dreaming, the hugs, hand-holding, the planning, etc…
4) Storge love – This is the comfort type of love. At home with our family we are to feel safe, and secure in love. We should feel that we “fit” together. You know those older pair of jeans that are so comfortable and are just “you?” Well, that’s storge-type love.
5) Phileo love – Friendship love is sharing time and interests together. It’s that feeling of camaraderie and “liking” as well as loving the person you are with. It’s ok to have our own interests, but we should also cultivate interests in common and pursue those as well as our own hobbies.
Again, all 5 types of love are what we should have in our marriages. The key is to find our strengths and weaknesses, and to consciously change the weak areas and work on them, practice fulfilling them. Another key thing to remember is that agape love calls for us to have all 5 types regardless of our mate… that’s the point of “unconditional” love. Be friendly even if you mate isn’t (and don’t be attack-friendly to try to show how wonderful you are). Of course all that assumes that you are not being harmed by an abuser. God does not look kindly on an abusive mate.
If you find your marriage is on rocky ground, seek Christian counseling through a Christian psychologist or counselor, read some good book on marriage, pray and seek God’s help and grace. All marriages hit rough patches, and they can only be smoothed out by understanding how God sees marriage, and what our roles are to be.