For many, getting married is a long-held dream and goal. Others enter marriage hesitantly and laden with concerns. Will it work out? Will we stick it out for the long haul? Will we be happy? These are natural questions to ask, especially when we look at the statistics of how many marriages flounder on the rocks and don’t make it. What can we do to have a meaningful marriage relationship that can weathers the storms? This is where biblical marriage advice comes in.
Biblical marriage advice.Turning to God’s Word for biblical marriage advice may seem like a natural choice or a weird one, depending on where you are on your Spiritual journey. After all, what could a two-thousand-year-old book possibly have to say about marriage in the 21st century? It turns out the Bible has quite a lot to say, and the reason is that human beings haven’t changed much in the last few thousand years.
We all still yearn for companionship, we want to be understood and loved, and our hearts can be fickle. We may have social media now, but that’s simply a new way for us to connect with people – how we manage these new forms of communication is a challenge, but much of the basic wisdom in how to relate well with other people is still the same.
We can continue to glean much wisdom from the Bible about relationships in general, and about marriage in particular. After all, God invented marriage.
Leave and cleave.
One of the first things the Bible says about marriage is that when two people get married, they are forming a new family unit. Genesis 2:24 says “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave (hold fast) to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
There’s a lot to unpack in this short verse. For one thing, it’s pointing out how the two people in the marriage set some distance between themselves and their family of origin to form their new family. This doesn’t mean abandoning your parents, but it implies a certain level of independence and taking responsibility for yourselves and your new family.
As you form your new family unit, it’s different from the old one. That has massive implications for a new or even an older marriage. For example, we all bring a certain way of doing things into a marriage – how we cook, clean, maintain, decorate, parent children, etc.These are things we learned from our parents and caregivers. Many of them may be good. Others may be questionable. When you enter marriage, those things may have to be renegotiated as you create a home together, and what you do as a new family unit may differ significantly from what happened when you were a child in your parents’ home.
Another piece of wisdom we find here would be the idea that marriage profoundly unifies two people, such that they can be spoken of as one flesh. This doesn’t mean they become the same person, but what it does point to is how invested in each other’s lives and how intertwined their lives become.
If you’re in a relationship, when your spouse isn’t feeling well, that affects you both – plans are altered, and steps are taken to care for the ill spouse. You share your joys, sorrows, misfortunes, and blessings in common. A married couple shares a common life.
Becoming “one flesh” also has implications for sexual intimacy, which we’ll dig into a little later.
Love one another.
In all relationships, we are called to love others as we love ourselves. This applies even more to spouses.
In the same way (that Jesus loved us and was willing to die for us) husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. – Ephesians 5:28-29
For any relationship to flourish, a willingness to serve others by looking out for their well-being is needed. In marriage, where two people live together for years and years, this aspect becomes even more integral to making the relationship work. Without love, it’s easy to get tired and frustrated with one another to the point of walking away from the marriage.
Be faithful to each other.Being one flesh means many things for a couple, but at a minimum, it means being faithful to one another. According to the American Psychological Association, in the United States, 20-40% of divorces are the result of infidelity.
Sexual intimacy is a visual and physical expression of the unity marriage produces. Introducing someone else into that picture violates something profound in the relationship, so much so that it is one of the exceptions Jesus made to divorce (Matthew 19:9).
The call for married couples is to enjoy sexual (and emotional) intimacy exclusively with one another.
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?” – Proverbs 5:15-20
What this passage says to sons can also be said to daughters. Don’t step outside of marriage to meet your emotional and sexual needs. Enjoy each other’s company and keep sex exclusive. It says a lot that whenever we read about a polygamous marriage or infidelity anywhere in the Bible, the story doesn’t end well.
Be gentle with one another.
In each marriage, a couple brings strengths and gifts, along with areas of weakness, into the relationship. For a marriage to flourish, the couple must treat one another in an understanding way, showing honor to each other (1 Peter 3:1-7). As you both have strengths and weaknesses, use those strengths and gifts to serve each other, and be gentle and gracious with one another’s weaknesses.
Forgive one another.
Part of being gentle with one another is learning to forgive one another. No one is perfect, and in marriage, there will be disappointments and failings, large and small. Without forgiveness, resentment will build up, jeopardizing the relationship.
Showing one another forgiveness and grace is a key element to making a long-term relationship work. Without them, our hurts, frustrations, disappointments, and unmet expectations will take root as bitterness, choking off a deep and meaningful relationship marked with love and respect.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:31-32
When you forgive, remember that forgiveness is a choice, though it may not be easy. It is a conscious decision to release your feelings of anger and the desire for revenge toward the person that has wronged you. Sometimes the choice to forgive is one you must make daily. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you think what they did is okay, nor that there are no consequences for their action.
It’s simply choosing to let go of your desire to get back at them, releasing yourself from those feelings. Thus, forgiveness is more about you than it is about the other person, but it affects the relationship because it affects how you participate in it and treat the other person.
Draw near to the Lord together.
The adage “the family that prays together, stays together” may not be a quote from the Bible, but it has a great deal of relevance and application. The Bible does remind us of the importance of a couple pulling together in one direction, and it uses the language of farming to make the point.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14), warns us of the possible results if we join in common cause with those who don’t love God. Solomon – one of the wisest people who ever lived – was disobedient and strayed from God’s covenant due to the influence of his many wives who didn’t know or follow the Lord.
To walk in love, gentleness, and forgiveness, keeping fervent love for the Lord, a couple needs to draw near to the Lord together through the spiritual disciplines of prayer, scripture reading, and gathering with God’s people. As they do so, their values, outlook, passions, and lives are warmed by the same sun, or more adequately represented “Son” and drawn from the same source.
“Loving Couple”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Nappy.co, Public Domain; “Interlocked Hearts”, Courtesy of PIRO4D. Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Just Married”, Courtesy of Jakob Owens, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sunset on the Beach”, Courtesy of Travis Rupert, Pexels.com, CC0 License
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