Summary: As disciples of Jesus, husband and wife must not separate from one another. They are stronger together. By growing together, they prepare each other to fight the battles in life and win.
In my last post, I talked about adultery and lust. Jesus continues on the same wavelength when He talks about divorce next. So in this post I want to expand the discussion to marriage.
When I was pastoring and Shillington, I was surprised that some couples came to me for marriage counseling. I am single. What do I know about marriage? I don’t have personal experience with it, but the Bible speaks about it a lot.
So my marriage counseling sessions went like this: one spouse dragged the other spouse to my office. They wanted to use the time to gripe and complain about their spouse. I surprised the husband in one session by stopping his wife after 15 minutes. I turned to him and said, “What’s your side of the story?”
He looked stunned and blurted, “You’re going to let me speak? Nobody ever asks me my side.” I responded that there are always two sides to each story in a marriage. We made some ground in the issues this couple had.
I don’t know much about marriage. But anything I know and can counsel comes from the Bible says in my observations of couples over the years. So, I will only present what the Bible has to say about marriage. As a disciple of Jesus, especially if you are married, you need to be conformed to the image of Christ in your marriage. Let’s get started.
Your Closest Human Relationship
Jesus continues after talking about lust to address adultery next in His Sermon on the Mount. The issues of lust, adultery, and divorce dance around marriage. Each of them is a form of violating the love couples share with one another.
Before we get to what Jesus taught about divorce, we must take a bird’s eye view of what the Bible teaches us about marriage. This will not be an exhaustive look at marriage in the Bible, but the most important parts will be here. Marriage is the most intimate and closest relationship you can share with one person.
It saddens me as a pastor to see how many divorces have been outside and inside the Church. I would think Christian married couples could do better than the world with divorce. But this is not the case. The last statistics I have heard (and I may need to update my stats) is that divorce among churched individuals is about the same as the world.
We have key biblical teaching on dating and marriage. I include dating in this conversation because we should use it to get to know a person and see if we fit with them. Biblical marriage leaves little room for divorce.
As a pastor, I counsel there are only two reasons the Bible gives for divorce. Jesus gives the first of adultery. Divorce is an option if you can’t work it out. Second, I believe the whole counsel of Scripture allows for abuse as a reason for divorcing their spouse.
How many of our marriages are candidates for divorce after these criteria? When I was counseling couples, I can’t remember one reason they would have to divorce. Of course, I am speaking as an outsider. You may feel differently in your marriage.
I’m amazed two people can stay together. There is so much strife in our world and it’s so easy to anger another person. When you live in close quarters with another person, you may grow closer together at first, but you see cracks forming in the marriage.
Married couples must make amends and remember why they got married. There had to be a reason. Focus on the good. Open communication about the things that bother you, the pressure points that keep you apart.
The emotion of love wears off within the first two years of the marriage. All that’s left is your commitment to unconditionally love one another. Unconditional love acts instead of feels. No matter how you feel, your commitment to your spouse never wains. Imagine if Jesus decided one day, “He really messed up sinning against Me. I don’t think I love him anymore.” Thank God that in His grace He doesn’t give up on us. He is our example to not give up on one another.
Be Enamored with Each Other
The story of marriage begins in Genesis 2:23-24 after God made Adam fall into a deep sleep to take part of him to make a companion unlike anything he could find in God’s creation. When Adam awoke, he met Eve.
He responds poetically that she is perfect for him because she was part of him. Unlike anything in creation, she was one of his kind. For her, a man leaves the family he has always known to begin afresh with her. She is so precious and cherished that he leaves and cleaves. He holds fast to her.
Sadly, most couples only cling to one another for so long. After the newness of their relationship wears off, they return to what they were. They don’t become one to stay one. They don’t follow the extent of their vows. It’s easier for them to abandon their commitment to one another.
Jesus talks about divorce, the ending of a relationship God instituted from the beginning of time, by saying the certificate of divorce is a license to force his wife into adultery (Matthew 5:32). Think about that for a moment. Couples who separate and dislike each other so much they force them into sin with someone else.
When Jesus spoke of divorce later in Matthew, He said it’s because of the hardness of their heart it was allowed, not God’s best (Matthew 19:7-9). What the Pharisees and lawyers took as a right to treat their wives to divorce Jesus said was a deficiency in them.
Married couples can’t count long, they don’t try to reconcile and live in peace with one another because of the hardness of their hearts. I didn’t say that. Jesus did.
Maturity in marriage is not to grow tired of one another or grow apart. Maturity is to grow together deeper, a bond that no one can separate, least of all the husband or wife. To mature in your marriage is to keep a tender heart toward your spouse. It’s to cling to your spouse more firmly as the years go by.
Go to War for One Another
Divorce is to go to war with one another. But God intends marriage for husband and wife to go to war for one another. Adam was alone and when God saw it wasn’t good, He made a helper for him (Genesis 2:18). The word for helper doesn’t mean servant. It’s used to refer to God in Scripture.
This word for helper means one who is strong in the things that the man is weak in. She is the perfect counterpoint to him. The two make each other stronger. They complement one another. To some Hebrew scholars, the best understanding of this word for helper is an ally in battle. Rather than fighting with one another, husband and wife strengthen each other for the war the world brings to them.
They are victorious because they rely on one another rather than turning on each other. It’s the ultimate relationship of trust. Divorce and adultery destroy that trust, weaken both husband and wife, and leave them vulnerable to the world instead of to one another.
God made husband and wife to be companions for one another. They fit together. They are stronger together than apart. He made them to share everything with each other. The longer they spend together, the stronger they become, able to take on the whole world. And win. But apart, they both lose.
Avoid Separation at All Costs
It’s my pastor’s heart that will do everything in my power to help resolve issues between husband and wife. They must do everything they can to stay together. Otherwise, they leave each other weaker to handle what lies ahead.
God designed marriage to make two people stronger as one. One great illustration of the power of one was given to us in my youth group. When dating, if you break the relationship by cheating with another, and you keep doing that, you are like tape that lost its stickiness.
God designed us to stick to one person, and that one person to stick to us. The more adultery that happens in the marriage, the less husband and wife stick to one another. They lose their stickiness to one another, but they also lose the ability to stick to another person.
Except for sexual immorality, Jesus calls husband and wife to stick together. They weaken one another if they don’t. Nobody wins in a divorce. God made you to stick together for the whole of life.
When you’re dating, have this end in mind. Look for the partner who strengthens you for the fight of life. Don’t be distracted by emotion that may not last. If you can unconditionally love your spouse, you strengthen the emotions that drew you to one another.
It Doesn’t Last Forever
The Sadducees, who didn’t believe in resurrection, tried to trick Jesus. They placed before Him the scenario of a woman marrying multiple husbands to fulfill the law of leverite marriage (Luke 20:27-30). Their goal was to prove that resurrection doesn’t make sense for married couples.
Jesus revealed something about marriage and heaven that confounds scholars. He said that marriage ends in death. In heaven, no one is married or given in marriage. Only death can separate a couple. You become one flesh with your spouse. Your legal attempts to end that union don’t sever your connection.
The longer a couple stays together and grows together, the less they want death to end their marriage. They cherish the intimacy they develop. They don’t want to not be married anymore.
When that time comes, I think that’s why the Bible describes God’s relationship with us like a marriage. It’s why Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church is His bride. Though there is no marriage between people in heaven, there is a marriage between Jesus and us. We are one with our Savior and Lord. It’s a beautiful thing, a mystery for both marriages (Ephesians 5:32).
Love your spouse with all your might. Make yourself the best you can be for your spouse. Personally grow and bring the best of yourself to your relationship. Rely on your spouse and fight the battles of life together.
The Bible offers much for the married couple to practice together, and Jesus teaches us disciples how to love in this intimate relationship. Next, we will discuss oaths and retaliation.