29 May 2012

Your marriage matters

by Dan Phillips

Though I've written often on marriage (like, oh, I don't know...say, this and this and this and, somewhat famously, this), I am returning to it from a number of angles, Lord willing. My hope is both to help couples, and to give an "assist" to fellow-pastors.

Here I just have a simple point to make: your marriage matters. Say, look; that's even the title!

"Matters" to whom? Well:
  1. It matters to God. Really, if I'm writing to actual Christians, we should be able to stop with this one, shouldn't we? You took vows invested with meaning He'd given to them, and He cares about that (Num. 30:2; Deut. 23:21-23; Pss. 61:8; 76:11; Prov. 20:25; Eccl. 5:5). He is invested in your marriage. He invented it, it's His institution, and you entered into it. It's an institution He cares a great deal about, and into which He has built great meaning (Eph. 5:22ff.). So, really, you think you can just tolerate your contributing to an unhealthy, non-optimal, cludgied-up marriage, and have that be OK with God? Seriously. Wake up.
  2. It matters to your spouse. You promised that man, that woman, that (s)he could trust you absolutely. Brother, you promised to lead and love and sacrifice, as Christ did for the church. Sister, you promised to respect and to subordinate yourself, as the church should do towards Christ. You told this person, "Though all else fail you, you can count on me. You can forget about looking for sex or love or devotion anywhere else. I'm your man/woman." You promised to make that the most important human relationship in your world. You think you can walk that promise back, and it has no harmful consequences? Seriously. Wake up.
  3. It matters to you. In more ways than you can think, it matters to you. Let's just start with the boneheadedly obvious: supposing you're in a marriage that is other-than-humming, and there's something you can do about it. But you're not. Why? You were going to get going on that when, exactly? When life really starts? Dude, sister, news flash: it started. When you get to Heaven? That's stupid. When the kids are grown? That's stupid, hateful, and irresponsible (see below). But really: you took public vows before God and everyone to make this the most important human relationship in your life -- and you're inattentive or neglectful towards it, or you tolerate in yourself a pattern of sin or fleshly indulgence that harms it? And you think that doesn't matter? Seriously. Wake up.
  4. It matters to your children. This is the saddest part. We all say we think it's the saddest part -- even people who tolerate and even cultivate marriage-harming sin in themselves pay lip-service to caring about The Children, while their lives show they care a whole lot more about unrepentantly indulging their flesh in this or that way. But kids see, they notice, they take note, they know at some level, and they are harmed. Not merely discouraged, distracted; harmed. Home should be a safe, healthy, Christward place for them. They get their ideas about marriage by watching yours. Suppose they see in you (we're not talking about your spouse, just you) a high doctrine of Scripture and swelling words about Christ, but a pattern of tolerating ongoing sin in yourself? You think that's not an eloquent and harmful lesson? You think they can just walk it off? Seriously. Wake up.
  5. It matters to your church. Maybe not right away, because it is possible to put on a good face for an hour or two a week. But you can't be giving yourself to godly, Spirit-led worship and service with a bunch of relative strangers if you're not obeying the great and the second commandment (see numbers 1 and 2, above) at home, can you? Does that make any kind of sense? Seriously. Wake up.

I plan to say a lot more with a lot more specifics. If you want a lot of Biblical study and content and counsel, you can get a head start right here, as perhaps some readers could attest. We won't be duplicating that content, but those are the woods in which, God willing, we'll do some picknicking.

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yankeegospelgirl said...

Purely out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on the morality of re-marriage by the innocent party in a divorce involving unfaithfulness?

Nash Equilibrium said...

Great points, Dan. Everything in our nature seems to work against us in this area... attesting to the truth that this area probably matters more than just about any other area of life. Definitely more than any other interpersonal relationship in life, even though we often treat it as though it's the least important!

DJP said...

I think that, in a post entirely about giving your best efforts to building a godly marriage, divorce is as on-topic as thermonuclear war.

Which is to say, not.

Bill Honsberger said...

Dan - I would add that it your marriage matters to THE KINGDOM as well. As Eph 4 makes so clear - when the parts are fitting together the body is edified and we are blessed. So when the parts are not fitting together...we are not. As a missionary on support for twenty plus years - I thank the Lord for supporting us through His people and I am very aware that church splits and divorces are the most common way that missionaries lose support.
I could also tell you a horror story of a prominent Christian university that lost its way many years ago - and it was a divorce in the president's office that played such a huge role.
We are not islands and our choices have so many ramifications as you stated very well.

Andrew Lindsey said...

"Yeah, but you don't understand my situation." [That's basically the quote I've heard from others who are unwilling to listen to points like the ones you've shared.]

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

I'll be taking the last nugget home especially - how you can't be giving yourself to right worship if you're not following the second commandment at home. I'm married with two children, and it's sad how few times I consider deeply singing worship songs, listening intently to the Word on Sunday with strong "Amens", shaking brother/sister's hand and sharing in the loving fellowship when my wife and I are in contention with one-another. Somehow, I think that my just showing up to corporate worship will be enough although I've sinned against my wife/she's sinned against me. Kindof puts Matt 5:23-24 in a greater perspective.

DJP said...

A post devoted to building YOUR marriage, your RIGHT-NOW marriage that YOU have, and 2 of 3 comments not written by me bring up divorce.

I (A) will retire to Bedlam, but (B) first am just going to close comments since I won't be able to monitor as closely as evidently will be needed. So you can read, share, re-tweet, alert the RPBs, think, fume, whatever, and I may open later this afternoon.

DJP said...

All right, I'm back. If you have something on-topic to say, have at it.

Andy Morrison said...

I like the fact that we are commanded to love our wives the way christ loves the church. that our wives, when they think of how christ loves the church, should be able to see that in us.

and that my children, when they think of God as Father, my life should ensure that this is something that kind of resembles the qualities that God perfectly demonstrates.

not that we can ever fully attain this, but it is what we should be aiming for.

SandMan said...

In connection to your point that it matters to The Children, I might add that it matters to future marriages. We are reaping the consequences of decades of throw-away marriages so that many Christians are trying to live out Biblical marriages having never seen one in action. I pray I never leave my children in this predicament, and thank God for His Word, His Spirit, and my parents godly example.

Nash Equilibrium said...

SandMan - great comment. Many never have seen a permanent marriage; I see that all the time with the ~20 year old and under crowd. I never thought about how it affects future marriages but you're right about that. Thanks.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Perhaps the low number of comments has to do with our fear of being struck by lightening after pushing "publish." It's convicting stuff.

My husband's grandparents are almost in their 90's. They met and married in haste, and my father-in-law was 2 before meeting his father for the first time after Grandpa returned from serving in the war. Now, Grandma is in advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease (and has been for years) and she doesn't know Grandpa from a turnip. But he faithfully visits her EVERY SINGLE DAY. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking of this strong and capable man continuing in his faithfulness to his wife despite her inability to return any kind of love or gratitude.

I learned in high school that my parents had biblical grounds to divorce when I was a child, but they never did. There were times when I thought that divorce would be "less sinful" than the ongoing sinful ways they were interacting with one another. (Little did I know then how that ongoing battle with sinful ways never really goes away in this lifetime!)

But instead I have learned from them that it is POSSIBLE to remain in a marriage that anyone with two friends would have been encouraged to throw away. When my own marriage was on the brink of falling apart, I'm thankful that I had God-fearing friends who encouraged me to remain faithful to my Lord (and to my husband) no matter what. I'm thankful for admirable examples and even less-than-admirable-but-still-faithful examples to look to and learn from.

I'm looking forward to more on the subject, Dan. It's a sensitive area, but SO important! I have much to learn.

Bike Bubba said...

One thing to add; marriage matters because it's a picture of God's grace to His people and His relationship to them. Mess up marriage, you mess up the Gospel.

And it's a lot of fun. :^)

JG said...

This deserves a rating. :)