By Candice Lucey, Crosswalk.com
Biblical marriage is a beautiful representation of the marriage of Christ to his Church. “My soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest” (Isaiah 61:10).
Revelation 19:7 echoes this Old Testament verse with its joyous tone: “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.”
Christian churches typically encourage a man and a woman not to live together before they get married, and not to forgo the ceremony. A wedding doesn’t have to be expensive, but declaring vows in front of other people provides accountability to everyone.
Husband and wife are now accountable to each other and to the Body of Christ. If one party openly engages in sins and a member of the church witnesses the activity, that member has the responsibility of declaring the truth and leading this person back to the cross.
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).
Married couples can also become mentors to younger brides and grooms. Their relationship is designed to be an expression of the relationship between a person and his or her Savior, one in which there is grace, forgiveness, mercy, gentleness, loyalty, humility, generosity, trustworthiness, and so on.
Marriage is a great friendship, and the Bible has a lot to say about it, but much of what is written is taken out of context or overlooked in the modern world, leading to the proliferation of damaging lies. Here are five myths about biblical marriage.
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1. My Spouse Completes Me
"A 'soul mate' is not a Christian idea,” biblical counselor June Hunt told The Christian Post. This idea comes from an ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, who “taught that men and women were made in one body, but separated by the gods.”
Hunt wrote in The Christian Post that men and women seem to behave as though they are just half-people looking for the second half that makes them whole.
Marshal Segal expounds on this idea, saying that God did not create marriage as a means of enduring the burdens of life. Instead, the ultimate reason for marriage is “a means of experiencing and expressing a far greater union.”
Every person is a complete entity whether a partner comes into his or her life or not. We are not more or less valuable to God based on our relationship status. Moreover, relying on someone else to be the other 50% puts a lot of pressure on that individual to supply all of one’s needs.
In an ideal partnership, husbands and wives encourage each other to look to Christ to supply every need, rather than turning each other into idols that they cannot live without.
Certainly, the loss of a spouse will cause terrible grief, but “ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:10, KJV). Put another way, we are “filled in him” (ESV). No one makes us complete except Jesus in us.
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2. When I’m Married, I’ll Deal with My Sin
The idea of being incomplete until marriage contributes to the notion that we are permitted to get sin out of our systems before marriage and invited to save righteous behavior for life with a future spouse.
“One excuse for procrastination in our pursuit of holiness is that single Christians are not yet accountable in the same ways as married Christians, as if we’re somehow less
human.” If one is not whole as a single person, he or she has no incentive to withstand temptation.
But habits established when single carry into marriage. Rutledge Everidge III commented that “marriage tends to amplify, not alleviate, besetting sin.” Moreover, every person is accountable firstly to God. “Against you, you only, have I sinned,” David confessed in Psalm 51:4.
Healthy sexual desire is redeemed by marriage: if men and women “cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9).
But unhealthy desires or, as Everidge describes them, “sin’s parasitic perversion of them,” bring pain and cause damage.
He says that only the Lord is able to rehabilitate a person; this is not the responsibility of a spouse. If you deal with a chronic sin issue such as an addictive behavior (drinking, binge eating, or pornography), be open about this with your potential spouse.
And if such a sin emerges during marriage, spouses are helpers. “One of marriage’s most beautiful blessings is the mutual help spouses are for one another’s sanctification” (Ibid.). Not a cure — continual help.
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3. Husbands Rule Over Wives
Paul tells Ephesian women to “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Ephesians 6:22-24).
Before male readers get excited and think this gives them free rein to do whatever they like, they should read the next part of that verse. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her [....]. Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 6:25, 28).
Men frequently take Ephesians 6 out of context to justify neglectful, domineering, abusive relationships with their wives. God said their wives should do what they wanted, right? The correct way to read this verse, however, is through the lens of the entire Bible.
Consider Jesus’ whole life and what he had told his disciples about mutual care and encouragement. In Matthew 20:28, we read his surprising statement to the disciples: he came to serve, not to be served.
Read what Paul wrote to the church at Philippi: “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 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” (Philippians 2:2-4).
This sounds nothing like “husband, go ahead and exploit your wife.”
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4. Nothing Can Tear a Christian Marriage Apart
Scripture has made provisions for individuals whose marriages are scarred by abuse and neglect because he knows that broken people commit sins against each other.
It is not a sin to leave a marriage in which one party continually puts his needs ahead of the other spouse’s needs; manipulates; ignores; gaslights; and hits.
While a powerful faith can move mountains, and there should be support for spouses who want to stick it out in a troubled marriage, there should also be support for the individual who is being chronically, repeatedly neglected, or abused whether physically, spiritually, emotionally, or all three.
Pam Gannon cited Romans 13 where she finds Paul telling his readers, “We are free to use the government authorities God has established to help us. Abuse is not only sinful, it’s also illegal.”
If an abuser repents, seeks counseling, and shows the fruit of a transformed heart, a spouse might want to stay in the marriage. The choice will be influenced by the severity of the situation and the level of fear inculcated into the abused party.
Gannon refers to several passages where Jesus encouraged his disciples to avoid persecution. We are not being asked by God to walk knowingly into a trap — the Lord expects us to be sensible (Isaiah 1:18).
Tolerating abuse enables the abuser and does nothing to help him or her face the sin that keeps the Lord at arm’s length, not to mention the family devastation abuse causes.
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5. Marital Sex Is Just for Procreation
Far from being a killjoy, the Lord loves to lavish gifts on his people. The pleasure and intimacy of sex is just one of them. “God’s Word does not frown on the sexual union of man and woman or view it as a necessary evil merely for the sake of procreation,” wrote one biblical scholar.
In fact, the Bible says, “That sex is good and even holy when it takes place in the proper context, the one-flesh relationship of husband and wife.” Sex can and should be pleasurable and beautiful when it is reserved exclusively for a husband and wife.
Paul had much to say about marriage, including his teaching about sex. “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:3-4).
Like the passage from Ephesians, this is another one that must be read fully in context. Paul’s exhortation is for both parties. Each of them should enjoy exclusive intimacy with one another.
It is wrong to deny these conjugal rights as a means of punishment for a perceived wrong, like giving the silent treatment or controlling the other person.
If sex is a frightening part of marital life, the abused spouse must remember that he or she is not subject to the other person’s whims. When one behaves as a disciple of Christ, serving others guides actions and intentions.
And as with the other characteristics of biblical marriage, Scripture refers to any couple of any age, at any stage.
You could be a newly married pair of 20-somethings or celebrating your golden wedding anniversary (or an older pair of newlyweds). There will be time to forget, but also to remember, the beautiful truths about a marriage united in Christ.
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