The Art of Marriage

– (Short occasional articles to encourage you in your pursuit of a Christ-centered marriage)

1COR13

The Love Chapter:  1 Corinthians 13

In context, this “Love Chapter” is all about the love of Christ being expressed through believers in the life of the Local church.  While this message is primarily a message to believers to help us see that we are to live with Christ fully expressed through our beings, we must, obviously apply this passage to Christian marriage and to the way we express love for our spouse.

5. The Love Chapter: Not Irritable or Resentful  (13:5)  

It is interesting that these two are together because we often see in marriages one person being irritable and the immediate effect is that the other person becomes resentful.   This speaks often to when we allow outside influences affect our expression of love for our spouse.  I can think of times when I have been bothered by something outside our home life and I have allowed that stress to keep me in a bad mood and therefore affect the way I treat the person whom I care more about than anyone else in this world. Why would we do that? But so often that is the case. The reality is that it will be impossible to completely stop irritations from bothering us. Unfortunately, that is life in this world and that is why we call those things irritations – like a mosquito buzzing around your eye.  So what we must work on is trying to keep from carrying our reactions over into our relationships and recognizing as soon as we do so we can stop it.

This is just one area where believers must keep irritations from bothering them. Another component is when we let the little things our spouse does bother us. Irritations are always caused by an outside source that causes a “blister”, and acting irritable is our reaction to the blister. We want things perfect and if our spouse irritates our perceived perfection in any way we become aggravated. It is really a deeper issue of power and control. Either let it go or try to communicate with your spouse to shed some light on the source of the irritation and get their help in overcoming it. When irritations and hurts grow, they lead to resentfulness which is a form of unforgiveness. Resentfulness is a very dangerous thing to hold on to because it grows roots and turns bitter. The deep roots of bitterness and resentfulness will choke out love. Love lets go! So in the famous and overused words of Disney’s Elsa, “Let it go!”

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Intro: I have waited to do any articles on 1 Corinthians 13 because so often we hear this passage used in weddings for its poetic beauty and so often we tune out the Holy Spirit and treat this passage like another catchy phrase embroidered on a pillow in our grandmother’s living room.    But, I want to take the next few Art of Marriage articles and focus our attention on this important message.  Throughout our look at this passage we must keep in mind that Christ is the picture of perfect Love expressed here.  In context this “Love Chapter” (as it has become known) is all about His love being expressed through believers in the life of the Local church.  The church in Corinth was obsessed with themselves (their own abilities, gifts, knowledge, etc…)  So Paul was reminding these Christ followers that in obedience to His commands they were to strive to love in the way he described love in chapter 13.  While this message is primarily a message to believers to help us see that we are to live with Christ fully expressed through our beings, we must, obviously apply this passage to Christian marriage and to the way we express love for our spouse.

 

1. The Love Chapter:  Words & Actions  (13:1-3)  

Remember the context is true godly love, and a love for God first and foremost.  Paul is telling the believers that they can speak the words of being a Christian, they can do the same actions of living like a Christian but it is meaningless if there is nothing behind the words and actions.  He uses love to display this truth.  The actions or works Paul uses to illustrate this are all actions we would consider to be done by someone really gifted in church life, they are all things done by people we would look up to and we would never consider that the one doing these kind of things would not really be true.   Fine words expressing love for another may sound poetic but they are only words if there is no true love behind the words, worse than just being empty they become offensive because they are a lie!  (like everything that comes out of the mouths of politicians- after a while I get tired of hearing the same irritating sound)  Paul uses a very vivid illustration, you can imagine how irritating it would be for someone to hold a big monotone gong up to your ear and hitting it repeatedly.   So the first thing we must consider is our motivation for what we do, in worship, with your church, and with your spouse.  It is easy to determine your motivation.  Just honestly look within to see what drives you to do what you do!

 

2. The Love Chapter:  Patient and Kind (13:4)  

It is interesting that Paul starts his list with the hardest aspect of love to master.  To be patient is to suffer through when another is unkind, unloving, annoying, selfish, unthoughtful, and disrespectful.  Patience endures the actions of others with a spirit of peace and calmness.  The unique thing about patients is that it is hidden until it is forced to work.  Patience is only able to shine when it is surrounded by insolence.   Next Paul moves to a more active aspect of Love.  Inherent in the idea of love is to act in a kind way toward the object of your love.  It would seem there is no need to mention it, but Paul does.  Love expresses itself in showing kindness to others, it thinks more of what it can do that will please, honor, and respect the other person.   A kindness will comfort another; it will encourage them and make them better off, but it is important to know that true loving kindness is not one action, but is displayed in a multitude of actions that define one’s whole character.

3. The Love Chapter: Does not Envy or Boast & is not Arrogant (13:4)  

All three of these negatives that Paul describes as the antithesis of love are essentially the loving of one’s self more than anyone else.  Envy is to desire something someone else has, it is motivated by self and jealousy, it’s always craving something better and something more.  Envy is never satisfied.     Boasting is an expression of pride and self-centeredness.  All boasting is rooted in the selfish need to hold oneself up above and as better than others, which implies that others be brought lower than you.  Boasting is done by those without a firm identity in Christ.  They boast to elevated their identity in the eyes of other and thereby gain approval of others.  When our Identity is in Christ we boast of our weaknesses and of His strength and we don’t have to find the approval of others because our value is found in Christ.  Then last is Arrogance, the essence of pride, the thought that you are the center of all things and therefore better than all and deserving of all good things.  It is truly the worship of self.  These characteristics are the opposite of love because they are so focused on the worship of self that there is no room left to truly love someone else.  Obviously then, to love is to put yourself below another.   How are you doing with that in your marriage and in your church?

4. The Love Chapter: Not Rude & doesn’t insist on its own way (13:5)  

Being rude in a way is the opposite of the kindness that Love is to express.  Rudeness expresses a disdain for the other person,  as if you are counting them as unworthy of your consideration.  Out of all places the marriage relationship is not a place where you want to be discounted or not considered.  Your spouse is the last person you want to discount as unimportant.    However, we are often the most rude to our spouse because we take them for granted , because we are always around them or assume we know them well enough that we pass them over, discount them, or fail to consider them.  When respect for our spouse should be of the highest priority, we often don’t consider them until it’s too late.   To be loved is to be “considered” by someone as worthy as valuable.  One prime example of rudeness then is insisting on having one’s own way.  That attitude is selfish and self-centered and not at all the example we see of Christ expressed in Philippians 2:1-5.  So as we strive to think of others first we are simply acting with the mind of Christ.

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Forgiveness

Almost as essential as the air we breathe, forgiveness, is that necessary for a healthy marriage!  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if you place your trust in a human being they are going fail you at some point.  So what do you do when it happens to be the person you are closer to than any other person on Earth?  Whether the issue is a huge and potentially marriage ending mistake, a small incidental mistake, or whether it is a multitude of smallish mistakes, the answer is the same.  You must forgive them!  So let’s talk about forgiveness, one of the hardest things to do in marriage and life.

To forgive is to release your right to hold someone accountable for the wrong they have done to you. 

In other words, you have the right to be upset, you have been wronged and therefore you feel the desire to exact justice, but Romans 12:19 says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  Therefore, we must learn to release that right unto the Lord and hold nothing over that person.  Pretend if you will, that harboring unforgiveness is like trying to hold acid in your hand, the longer you hold on to it the more damage it will do to you!  Scripture also tells us that if we will not forgive others then our relationship to the Father will be corrupted so that we will not be able to pray effectively.  (Mark 11:25)

So we see that forgiveness is important for our own spiritual health.  It is also important to our physical health.  In the same way that the bitter root of unforgiveness can eat away at your soul so the stress of holding on to grudges can eat away at you physically.

In some cases the person who wronged you may not even be aware they have wronged you and if they are and seem not to care, it will do you no good to hold it over their heads.  In the end your forgiveness may be the only thing you can change about the situation without also sinning yourself.

Finally, as we consider forgiveness in marriage it is also important to identify what forgiveness is not:

-Forgiveness doesn’t make what they have done right.  They will still be held accountable before God.

-Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you will automatically and immediately trust them again.  When trust is broken any wise person will be cautious to not make the same mistake again.  (Though at some point, not allowing a person to earn your trust again could be as sign of unforgiveness.)

-Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you will be able to forget the wrong they have done.  Your human mind will continually bring up that memory.  What you do with that memory when it comes is your choice.

-Forgiveness is not a one-time decision for humans.   Because, we do remember the hurt, we will have to deal with the decision to forgive the person every time the pain is brought fresh to our memory.    It becomes easier with time as you surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life.

Thinking of the other person

One of the hardest things we deal with in marriage in overcoming our love of self.  And before you agree and say “yes, that is exactly the issue my spouses suffers from.”  We should realize this issue is difficult for everyone because it is at the heart of who we are as human beings.  Our default mode is to enter every situation as if the world was centered on me.  One of my favorite ways to think about this selfish obsession with self is the fact that we all hate traffic and as soon as we get caught up in a traffic jam we quickly begin complaining about how the traffic is getting in our way, interrupting our plans, and how these people are causing a major inconvenience to our lives.  All the while ignoring the fact that we are part of the traffic!!   The Apostle Paul gives us great instructions in his letter to the Philippians.  “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,…”  Philippians 2:3-5.  While this applies to every aspect and relationship of your Christian life, it is especially essential to your marriage relationship.  Just imagine how some of the conversations with your spouse might go a little differently if you intentionally entered the conversation with the goal of considering their point of view or perspective rather than focusing on what you want out of the conversation or the situation.  You can apply this exercise in every aspect of life.  For example;  the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, rather than screaming and calling them names as if they can hear you try asking yourself a question that would cause you to consider that person’s point of view.  Something like “What if that person is a pregnant lady about to go into labor and she is in a hurry on the way to the Emergency Room?”  It might just change that way you react.  It will not come natural to think of others first, but with time and practice it should make a difference in your relationships.

Fighting well

I used to love watching those old Jackie Chan movies where he learned the art of Kung Fu and defeated everyone in sight.  We all know that for Jackie Chan to learn marital arts like he did he had to spend years practicing.  Part of the reason I entitle these articles the “Art” of marriage is because I believe it is an art.  It requires practice and patience as you carve out your masterpiece.  And a healthy marriage is indeed a priceless treasure.   So in the same way that a martial artist learns the best ways to inflict pain and thereby neutralize their opponent, so the “marital artist” (sorry, it had to be done) needs to learn the best way to fight.  Unfortunately we normally take the example of Kung Fu master and when we are engaged in an argument with our spouse we look for the easy kill, the way to inflict the most pain, in an effort to claim victory.  We use words as our fists of fury to berate, cut down, humiliate, and silence our spouse.  The reality is that we should study how to fight well.  Rather than looking for how to win the fight we should learn to listen for what our spouse is trying to say.  The goal of fighting in marriage should not be to defeat your spouse, it should be to come out the other side of the fight with an even stronger marriage.   Here are some of the fighting moves we need to learn:  listening to our spouse and then repeating back to them what you believe they said before jumping to defensive maneuvers or positions, pausing the fight when things get hot so you can go to your corners and think about what the other person may be saying, looking beyond the surface issue that has arisen to find the cause of the problem, use words that are non-offensive  and vulnerable like “I feel this way when you…” rather than offensive and accusatory words like “you always do…” or “you never …” (guys, just remember, this is all the exact opposite method you would use to fight a physical fight if someone came up and threatened your bride), don’t allow the sun to set on your anger even if it means you stay up until midnight because the last thing you want to do is allow problems to fester, say you’re sorry in a way your spouse understands, and there are probably many more you can think of but I would end by saying the last thing to remember is enjoy making up!  Happy fighting!

Love & Marriage: like a horse and carriage

Many marriages are failing today because the man and woman simply claim they have “fallen out of love.”  They think without “love” how can we maintain a marriage; aren’t they supposed to go together like a horse and carriage?  Yes, marriage does go with love and love with marriage.  Our problem is that along with the plethora of other things in God’s creation we have redefined, we have also managed to totally confuse and corrupt the meaning of love.

Unfortunately many marriages exist outside of God’s desire and design, especially with non-believers.  They indeed have a type of love, an emotional attachment of feelings and devotion that is a deep part of a person’s being.  But that kind of love for the most part is still ultimately ruled by selfish ambition and self-love.  Some occasions arise like Jesus describes where a friend lays down their life for another friend, and that is an earthly example of agape love, perhaps the best human reflection that we have of God’s perfect love.  However, even those acts of sacrifice fall short of God’s great love (John 15:13 & Romans 5:7-8)!  Jesus was specifically talking to His disciples about His love for them that He was about to display on the cross.  Without personally experiencing the love of Christ in your life and knowing Him who did lay down His life for you, then how can one truly know the extent of what love really is?  Those who know Christ are strengthened to comprehend God’s love that surpasses knowledge!

“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  –  Eph 3:17-19

So I make a bold statement when I say that you can’t truly love another person without having Christ as the Lord of your life!  (In essence I am saying non-believers can’t truly experience love in their marriage b/c they don’t have Christ.)  Without Christ you can know a dimmer reflection of love, the deep emotional bond of affection that I mentioned before, but not the fullest extent of love that we can know on this Earth.  Take that emotional bond of affection we call love and multiply it times a million and you are approaching the idea of “biblical love that is supposed to exist in marriage.”  But even the love from a Christ Follower is still influenced by human selfishness.  It is just overruled by one’s faithfulness to Christ.  So next, if you take that love and multiply it times infinity you begin to approach the agape love of the Father.  That is the love we are to strive for in our marriages.  It is a love that is not ruled by emotions, it is a love that is not earned by works, and it is a love not determined by selfish motives.  Finally, it is a love that cannot be attained in human strength.

 

Marriage: cut & dry

Definition:    A God instituted structural bedrock for human society intended to display the glory of God.  Marriage is a small scale example of the love and relationship between Christ and His Church.  Like everything created, marriage has a purpose and reason for existence.   We see that from the beginning when God made them Male & Female.  He made the family to work in partnership in order to display His glory and to multiply.  No one can deny the biological fact that only Male and Female can fulfill this purpose!!  No one should deny that His glory is best displayed when we live in obedience to Him.

Like everything created, when sin entered the world evil immediately began to corrupt and destroy all things.  What hasn’t been mentioned is that all men have been given the right by the Creator to choose how they will live.  So we must indeed proclaim that the Bible never says you don’t have the right to choose how you will live.  But it does tell us very plainly how God has commanded that we live.  And we have all broken the rules of the Creator.  Driven by fleshly desires mankind has perverted the good purpose of everything God made.  These are the facts.  This is the reality we live in and that we have always lived in.  I need only say that Followers of Christ will continue to hold to the Holy Scriptures in how we define and understand sin.  We will also hold to the Holy Scriptures in how we treat people in how we hold before the watching world the Truth in Love!  (Notice the emphasis on both of those words) We must not and we cannot deny either aspect of our calling to live as strangers in this world.

*Here is a broad swiping look at biblical text having to do with same sex relations:  Genesis 2:24, Leviticus 18:22-23, Leviticus 20:13, Mark 10:6-9, Romans 1:26-32, Romans 5:8, 1Corinthians 6:9, 2Corinthians 5:17, 1Timothy 1:9-11, Jude 1:7

To Non- believers:  This is not meant to be hateful or judgmental.  This is simply meant to communicate what those who follow Jesus Christ believe because of His revelation to us from His Holy Word.  From the depths of who we are we know that we too are sinners who naturally choose our own desires and naturally reject the rule of God.  We stood under the coming wrath of God’s judgement for our sins just like the rest of the world stand under condemnation now.  We were under a death sentence guilty for all we had done in rebellion, we were without hope of being saved from His just and righteous judgement.  Then God made us to realize our desperate situation, He made us to confess our sinfulness before Him and turn in repentance away from our life of rebellion and toward Him and the sacrifice He made in sending His Son to Earth to live in perfect obedience to God the Father so that He could die in our place taking the punishment that we deserved for our sins.  When He brought that confession into our life He gave us the faith to put all of our belief in Jesus Christ, that His work of dying for us and being raised from the dead has redeemed us from our sin and its eternal consequences.   He has made it so that we can live with Him for all eternity.    Knowing all of this to be true we desperately want everyone in the world to see the same truth so they may be saved from the judgment of God.  It is from a love for mankind that we hold up the truth in front of you to say “there is a disease of sin that we all have that is killing us and there is only one cure, that is Jesus Christ.”

As I said before you have the right to choose how you will live.  & there are 2 ways you can live.

The way of the World.     Or      The Way of God.       (you will make that choice right now)

To Believers:  Jesus told us that we would be hated for following Him so we should embrace the common identity we have with Christ.  He was hated because He held the absolute moral standard.  The world doesn’t like to be called out for their sin.  He did it in such a way with gentleness and respect that He remained blameless and innocent before man.    We must strive to follow Him no matter what.   For far too long we have placed our hope in the government and the democratic process.  Why should we be surprised when man chooses sin in this democratic process?  It is only natural that man plunges into the flood of sin.  No matter what that sin might be.  All sin is an offense to God.  Some sins are an abomination.  Either way the supreme court’s redefinition of marriage changes nothing for us.  We live in a fallen world and we are doomed to face the wrath of God for our choice to rebel against Him and to pervert His perfect creation.  It is only by God’s grace that He granted believers the conviction to understanding our guilt, confess our sinfulness, repent and turn to Him to receive the salvation from our sins that He gave us through the death burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.   I was dead and by His mercy He redeemed me.  Glory to God through Jesus the Messiah forever and ever. Amen!!

To the Church:  (Specifically the church in the US)  God is in control and nothing catches Him by surprise.  He works through and beyond man’s sinful choice every day to bring about His ultimate will.  If anything we should see this as a wakeup call.  It is time to get out of bed with our culture that we have become so comfortable in.  It is time for us to stand up and stand out, not as political activist but as little Christs.  We must hold to the truth of Scripture in everything, we must hold that truth up before the world so they might receive it or reject it.  We must do all of this in love, purely motivated by a compassion for the lost world that we were once a part of to be saved from judgment.

We must not worry if our “numbers” dwindle or our tax exemption benefits end.  The church of the Lord Jesus Christ will not fail, we may be pruned, we may be threatened, we may eventually have to start meeting in secret, but the Church will prevail until He takes us home.  So we must get ready to live for Him no matter what the future holds because we know His will is ultimately completed.

To those who claim Christ and homosexuality:  Scripture teaches that when you are saved you are released from the power of sin over your life.  You are no longer required to do what sin wants you to do in your life.   Now you find your identity in Christ & while you are not perfect & will occasionally revert back to your fleshly nature, those momentary lapses are only temporary setbacks, they are not what characterize your life now, Christ is your pursuit and you are to give up those things that are sin.   (While some today try to twist the scripture to say what they want it to say, the truth is obvious).  Practicing homosexuality is a sin just like lying is a sin, if a person continues to practice sin and their life is characterized by that sin, it is because they have chosen that sin over a relationship with God.  God is holy and will not have a relationship with someone whose life is filled with sin.  1John is the best place for you to look, because if you are actively choosing to sin and not repenting then you are probably not saved in the first place.

Can someone who has sinned with homosexuality be saved? Yes, if they have repented and turned to Christ for forgiveness.  Can someone who still struggles with homosexual feelings be saved?  Yes, just like a person who struggles with lust for an extramarital heterosexual relationship can be.  We all struggle with the desire to sin, we must surrender daily to Christ and ask for His help to be victorious over our sinful desires.  But make no mistake, if you are truly saved you will not and cannot continue living in sin.

 

 

Building Blocks of a Healthy Marriage….

building bricks

 The Foundation = Individual growing personal  relationships with the Lord Jesus Christ

The foundation of the building blocks of marriage is the most  important part.  Every succeeding layer is built on top of the  foundation and as the next is built on top of the preceding one,  all are ultimately resting on the foundation.   So the foundation  for a healthy marriage is individual growing personal  relationships with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Scripture  actually commands that a believer should only marry another  believer.  (1Cor. 7:39 & 2Cor. 6:14 – This is so for many reasons and deserves its own space for different discussion.)  Obviously it is important if scripture commanded it, so why is this so important?  Because if you both have the same Master then you know the life of the other person is to be in submission to that master and that changes the whole dynamic of one’s life and essentially one’s marriage.  It is the centrality of Christ that changes the way you live.  When Christ is at the center of one’s life then everything else falls in place as it should.  The moment one takes Christ out of the center and replaces Him with self or something else it throws everything else in life out of sync.  Christ is the truth and that gives us an absolute from which to build off of so in the same way that He is the Cornerstone of the church He is the cornerstone of marriage.   On top of the foundation of “Individual growing personal relationships with the Lord Jesus Christ” we will place the building block of “Unconditional love and Trust”.  Then the next week we will look at a “Commitment to biblical roles in marriage”.  Then we will look at the building block of “Healthy communication and conflict”.  Finally, we will finish with “An environment of fulfillment and mission” on the last week of this little series.

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1st building block  = Unconditional love and Trust

Unconditional love and Trust make up the bottom building block for a healthy marriage.  They form a unique balance that is difficult to explain.  Let’s start with trust first.  Trust is a must.  (Sorry- it rhymes) There can be no healthy relationship without trust.  Why?  Because the lack of trust deteriorates every aspect of the relationship.  The other building blocks depend on trust, for example, you can’t have healthy communication without trust, you will never open yourself up, you can’t be vulnerable and let your defenses down when you have no trust in the other person.  Without trust you build defensive walls to protect yourself, then you have no true intimacy, you have no safe place to drop your guard and rest.   Now imagine having to hold up your defenses constantly in every moment of your marriage.  So how do we get trust.  You have to test the waters and take risks on people in order to develop trust.  Trust is earned over time and through experiences, but it’s destroyed in a moment of stupidity.

It is when trust is broken or threatened that conditions for love begins to arise.  We say “I will love you if”.   And that is when unconditional love must step in to hold things together.   For human beings true unconditional love is impossible, however we continually strive for it and can experience moments of it when we are in complete surrender to Christ our Lord.

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2nd building block  = Commitment to Biblical roles in Marriage

Our God is a God of order.  In the same way that the God head has an order to it in the Trinity, so has God ascribed to the family an order from which to operate.  God has done the same in the church by establishing an order of roles in the church.    All three persons of the Trinity are equally God; they are mutually divine!  But, somehow in their functions they have determined their individual roles and the head of Christ is the Father.   In the same way we are absolutely equal as husbands and wives in value, rights, and authority, but God has created us to have differing functions.  I am going into so much detail here because our human natures want to revolt when we hear the word submit.  And when we talk about the roles in marriage we have to talk about submission.  To explain all of this we would have to spend hours upon hours, so for now I hope this brief explanation is enough to point us in the right direction.  For a marriage to work properly everyone has to be fulfilling their designated roles.  If we were factory workers we would all have assigned jobs to fulfill and if one of us left our job unattended while trying to do someone else’s job the  results could be disastrous.  The bottom line is that we have to trust that God knew what He was doing when He assigned roles in marriage.  We have to trust that our marriage will be better off when I fulfill my function as a husband or a wife than if I tried to make up my own job description.   When we each have a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord, and when we have established trust in God and one another supported by unconditional love then we can truly commit to the roles God has assigned us in the marriage.  We must remember that our commitment to these biblical roles in marriage is only going to be as strong as our personal relationship with Christ allows it to be.  When we are right with Christ then we will be right with one another in trust, love, and our roles in marriage.  (For more about the individual roles of husband and wife come to church the first two Sundays in Dec.)

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3rd building block  = Healthy Communication and Conflict

Communication is the backbone to every marriage relationship.  It is like oxygen to our mortal bodies, if we don’t have it we will suffocate.   Some find it easy to communicate; some find it very difficult, but in marriage it is something we have to work at no matter the difficulty.   Whenever the lines of communication get cut, there will always be other problems that come up.  For some reason silence always becomes fertile soil for the imagination to cultivate all sorts of assumptions and false narratives about why someone did something or why they didn’t do something else.  The inevitable result is that without open and honest lines of communication negative thoughts begin to deteriorate the base level of trust we have in one another and that will break down the whole relationship.  We all have to learn how we deal with issues and learn how our spouses deal with issues.  The married couple is “One Flesh” and therefore, we have to learn to get beyond our own sensitivities, our pride/egos, and our deficient methods of dealing with issues; and we have to honestly communicate with one another.  You will not do this kind of intimate and unguarded communication with any other human being other than your spouse.  But, because you have developed the love and trust you have for one another you have the basis from which to connect in this way.  This requires hard work and sacrifice.  It will not come automatically or quickly, but the marriage relationship is worth it.  When you are able to communicate in this way then it even changes the way you deal with conflict.  Not all conflict is bad.  In fact most issues of conflict in marriage could be turned into a healthy thing if the way we deal with the conflict is handled well.  When assumptions, hurt feelings, and other issues arise, honest and clear communication will lead couples to have healthy conflict.  They can disagree over something or have differing understandings of something and through communication come to a healthy solution.  As a final note, one of the most important keys to communication is “listening”.  Listening to the other person with your guard down and then listening to yourself and your true motivations.   The best tip I can give you is to make it your goal in listening to identify your spouse’s point of view

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4th building block  = An environment of fulfillment and Mission

When all of these other building blocks are in place then the husband and wife can truly function as a healthy body (one flesh).  In the same way that when our physical bodies are healthy and our productivity increases greatly so also if our marriages are healthy our reason for existing will become realized in a much more significant way than if we are trying to function with an unhealthy body.  That is just common sense.  So what is the purpose of our marriage?  God designed marriage to bring glory to Him through His Gospel.  Our marriages, when healthy and biblical can present a clear picture of the relationship between Christ and His Church.  We present that picture to our children, our families, our neighbors, and everyone we encounter as a couple.  If our purpose is to glorify God then our mission to fulfill this is spelled out in our actions as a family.  So when we are operating as in a healthy marriage we are able to work together in God’s mission tasks for our family.  Part of that mission is the raising of our children and as we have seen from scripture in the sermons from December 7 & 14 the greatest gift that will impact our children more than anything else we can give them is a biblical marriage.

 

 

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Being thankful for your spouse

You wouldn’t normally think that being thankful would be all that important to your marriage. However, it is hard to take something for granted when you are grateful for having it in your life. In an effort to stay healthy many people will get up each day and exercise. So, going on that premise, let me suggest that a way to maintain a healthy marriage is to do an exercise in thanksgiving every day. Start your morning thanking God for your spouse. To be thankful means having an appreciation for something or someone. Try spending a moment each day before you even talk to your spouse thanking God for at least one thing about him or her. By keeping this attitude you will usually have positive thoughts about your spouse; you’ll be looking for things to be thankful for rather than things to complain about and you’ll be more likely to encourage him or her with positive words of thanksgiving than negative words. It may be difficult at first but as your attitude of gratitude grows the thoughts of thankfulness will begin to flow with ease.  So you can see how being thankful in your marriage is very important.   After you start giving thanks try to think how you can express to your mate that they are appreciated and that they are acknowledged for their work, their service, and their love.

Patience…………………………………………

Patience……An essential ingredient in every aspect of marriage; in every conversation, in every stressful moment, and in every trial.  Patience will carry you through.  Really take a moment and think how adding a little patience into every situation will help!!

 

We want the best for our kids.

Of course we all want the best for our children; we want their life to be better than ours in every way.  You would be heart-broken if you discovered one day that your children grew up in a house with black mold behind the walls their whole childhood, and that this infestation of your home caused them to have all sorts of medical issues, respiratory problems, diseases, etc  that will affect them the rest of their life.  You would be heart-broken that you didn’t work harder to clean out the walls of your home and remove every mold spore you could find.   So, why do we act like an unhealthy marriage doesn’t affect them just as seriously if not more?  A parent’s example is the most effective teacher a person can have on how to treat ones spouse and how to love and honor the marriage relationship.   They are watching everything we do and say, whether they realize it or not their little minds are storing up every example we set in their memory ready for retrieval once they face a similar circumstance.   One glance at our culture today reveals the consequences that failed and failing marriages have on the lives of kids.  It often results in behaviors in the kid’s lives that continue patterns that lead to more broken homes.  Children grow up thinking it is okay to lie or to disrespect one another, they think it is alright to not show affection for others or to continually ignore the needs of another at the expense of your own.  Start today cleaning the marital toxins out of your home and work on getting rid of the problems plaguing our children.  Think about those little eyes and ears and determine what example they will see and learn from.  It is just as important as getting a deadly toxin out of your home.

Marriage is not a 50/50 relationship

Great marriages require 100% effort on your part not 50/50!!!! We have been convinced by our society that it should be 50/50, after all that is only fair.   But, our idea of fair is that if I do my part I should expect the other person to do their part.  One major flaw with applying the idea of fairness to marriage is that we are relying on the performance of a flawed person to fulfill their half of a bargain and furthermore we can’t rely on the performance of people because we are also flawed humans and therefore would never be able to fulfill our part of the bargain.  “Fairness” reeks of the idea that I only have to do just enough and then it is no longer my responsibility to go any further.   Fairness is consumed with measuring one another’s efforts and that will only lead us to judgmental attitudes and selfish pride.  If we are honest we will admit we have all thought about our relationship from this perspective at one time or another.   But in reality you are “one flesh” and therefore you are responsible for 100% of the effort and responsibility to make your marriage work!!  Finally, let’s consider Christ as our example.   If He considered fairness in His love for us we would all face the wrath of God’s eternal judgment because we are all totally fallen creatures, who by the standards of fairness only deserve hell.  So would we be happy if He just met us half way and we had to work to reach the other half of the way?  We would never be able to live up to the responsibility.   Thank God that He loves us completely.   100%

 

Speaking of Honor and Respect

Wives think carefully how you communicate to and with your husbands.  People in general don’t want to be brought down in front of others they want to be built up.  Men especially want to be honored and respected.  Husbands want to feel like their wife is on their team.  It is hard to feel like the spiritual leader of the family if you feel like your main partner is against you at every level.  Men don’t want to be corrected all of the time (especially in public).  Here is the tricky part, even if you are right, sometimes it may benefit the others person more if you just keep the little corrections to yourself.  Though our pride screams out to correct, you have to consider what is most beneficial for your husband.  Would you rather tear your husband down one little bite at a time sacrificing them for your own pride, or can you maintain the love and respect for that person enough to let it slip so they don’t constantly feel your accusations and corrections.  Ask for wisdom to know when to correct and when it doesn’t matter.  Because, maybe your motivation for correction is genuine and you want to help them, but that can always be done in a different way and especial at a different time when you are not in front of others.  No matter the motivation, most often these little corrections feel like a little attack more than anything else.  So be very careful with your tones, how you speak to a person often is louder than the words you say,  A nagging accusatory voice will kill a man’s need for freedom and respect as a leader.  And talking down to a man like a child will kill his confidence and devalue him.  Whether it was intended that way or not the others person’s perception of your motivation means the most to them when they hear it.  Honestly talk with each other about how you’re talking to each other.  Wives ask your husband how it comes across to them when you talk to them.  Should men do the same?  Of course, we should all think about how we communicate with one another.    There is something cowardly about a man who is always belittling his wife in front of others.  Men must talk with respect toward their wives valuing them and building them up in front of others in the same way.  But ladies, here is a true statement; “Change has to start with you.  If everyone is waiting on someone else to take the first step then no one will ever change”.

 

The Law of Sowing and Reaping

To continue the theme of last week, I am sure most of us are familiar with the law of sowing and reaping.  If you plant (sow) a cucumber seed you will grow a cucumber plant and reap cucumbers.  That makes good sense whether you like cucumbers or not.  I believe men ought to think about their marriages in this way.  Unfortunately many men today treat the marriage relationship as if who we choose to commit to and how they turn out after the honeymoon is over is just the luck of the draw.  And if we are not totally satisfied with the result in a few years then we have the right to trade her in for someone else who may satisfy our expectations.  “For better or worst” has been replaced by “until you no longer please me”.  Men assume they have no responsibility for who their wives become.  But that is not what we see in the Word of God.   While Paul was specifically defining the relationship between Christ and His Church in Eph. 5:26-27, he also lays out for husbands a part of our responsibility.  We are to work to present our wives without blemish.  In a nutshell that means it is the husbands responsibility to see that his wife is becoming all that she needs to become for God’s glory.  That is significant!  What we sow into our wife’s life we will reap.  No doubt when you first get married your wife is a product of her past experiences, who her parents raised her to become, etc.   (That was their job to prepare her)  But the moment you are married you take on the responsibility of ensuring that she will become all God wants her to be.   It is our responsibility.   The wife you have today is largely determined by how you invested in her yesterday.

If you want to reap a good marriage then sow the seeds and invest in her!    Your job is to purify your wife.  (Warning: not the way a parent raises a child).  The way Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.  If your marriage is not all that you wish it could be then work to make it all you want it to be, don’t run from it, avoid it, or live with it – just work at it.  There is no better investment you can make.  Think about it this way, the word “husbandry” from where we get our word husband, is a word originally used to describe the one who tends the garden, who cares for and cultivates the plants.  You get what you invest in.  Like a garden, if you tend to it and care for it your harvest will be plentiful!  If you ignore it, leave it to chance, let little things in without protecting it then it will come to ruin.  And ultimately it is your fault.  Don’t worry we will talk to wives some other time, but the bible says the Husband is the head of the household, so the buck stops with you!

 

It’s not easy, it’s work!!!

That is the understatement of the year.  Maybe you entered into this thing thinking love is easy, it is a feeling that comes automatic, therefore marriage should also be easy.   However, like every great thing it will require work to make it a great marriage.  Think about it this way, most good art requires work.  (there are those rare few that splatter their canvas with different colors of paint and call it art convincing others to pay a fortune for their mess)  Great art however requires great work.   Artist work for year perfecting their craft as they dedicate time, it requires patience, practice, knowledge, intention, and vision  If you want your marriage to be a master piece then you are going to have to work on it.   Make the commitment to put a priority on your marriage.  Don’t give up!!  A great garden will feed a multitude of people, but it requires tilling, plowing, watering, pruning, fertilizing, weeding, and getting rid of the insects.  That is work, but the reward is delicious.  So will your marriage reap a wonderful reward if you will hang in there and work at it.   – May God give you the strength to be strong enough to get to work!

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 Our marriages are under attack on all fronts today and we all need to consider how we can make a greater investment in the most significant relationship you will ever have with another human being.  What was written above were short occasional articles meant to encourage you in your pursuit of a healthy and meaningful marriage relationship.  May Our God and Father bless your marriage greatly as He makes known His Gospel through your marriage.  A healthy Christ-centered marriage will have an immeasurable effect on everyone around it.