Marriage is often described as an institution, even a great institution, ordained by God. Poppycock. An institution is somewhere they send you once the straight jacket is on. That statement itself might strike a chord with some, especially the straight jacket bit, as that is how many people view marriage. As soon as they get that ring on your finger, they’ll have you in a straight jacket, you son’s be able to move without permission.
Well I have news, marriage is not an institution, it is a relationship. Admittedly, it not always easy, sometimes it needs working at, often it is quite difficult. But at the end of the day, it is a relationship. It is not a place for control, ego or selfishness, especially if a Christian marriage, it is not even about give and take. It is about give, give and give some more.
But, what does the bible have to say on the subject?
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 7) starts us off well by saying: “A man does well not to marry.” and some would agree, but he was not saying it for that reason. He believed that Christ should be central to our being and that marriage might be a diversion. He went on to say in the next few verses “2 But because there is so much immorality, every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband. 3 A man should fulfil his duty as a husband, and a woman should fulfil her duty as a wife, and each should satisfy the other’s needs. 4 A wife is not the master of her own body, but her husband is; in the same way a husband is not the master of his own body, but his wife is.” – Men, please take note of the second part of the last verse!
Now there are some interesting statements which show relationship. Firstly, every one should have their own spouse and not someone else’s. But more interesting is the equality that Paul suggests in the following verses, no suggestion of the man lauding it over the woman, or vice versa I might add. Men often seem to cling on to the “head of the household” notion when they talk of marriage. But Paul is not suggesting this. Even in his letter to the Ephesians where there is the much misquoted verses 22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. The word “submit” is not there in the original Greek. As for being head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church, that too is misread to man’s advantage. We omit the next bit! 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Read and reflect. Love your wife as Christ loved you, and that meant dying for you. Would you lay down your life for your wife? Note however, the favour is not returned, no where does it say wives love your husbands enough to die for them. Later in the same section we get 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Again the emphasis is on the husband doing the running and doing the loving, what do we get in return? Respect!
Christ is God, God is Spirit, in heaven there is no pecking order, God is not in charge of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is not the third part of the trinity in rank. God the father is not Colonel in chief and Christ his lieutenant. They are in an equal relationship because there is only one God. Jesus does not have his own agenda, the Spirit does not go and do his or her own thing, they are one and the same and beyond our comprehension. This is how it should be in marriage, the bible says that when a man marries a woman they also become one. Equal partners? No, not at all, a partnership is still made up of more than one, The Trinity is not a partnership. Marriage is not a partnership. It is a however a relationship where each delight in the other person. Expectancy rather than expectations, which is different from expecting something from the other. God does not have any expectations from us, only the excitement of expectancy. Marriage is very much like our relationship with God. We are often told to put God first, above all other things. Well I do not believe that is the way our Father sees it at all. God wants to be at the centre of our lives, not on top of us like a big boss, remote and frightening. He does not want to be the first amongst a list of values, but the centre of everything. It is the same with a marriage. It should be a central facet of our joint existence, not a hierarchical system. Then it will work.
But what if it doesn’t?
Paul says, “10 For married people I have a command which is not my own but the Lord’s: a wife must not leave her husband; 11 but if she does, she must remain single or else be reconciled to her husband; and a husband must not divorce his wife.” (Corinthians 7:10,11: see also Matthew 5:32 ; 19:9 ; Mark 10:11 , 12 ; Luke 16:18 .)
Jesus is especially blunt on the subject in Mark Ch10, where he says “He said to them, “A man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against his wife. 12 In the same way, a woman who divorces her husband and marries another man commits adultery.”” Now there is a couple of verses and a subject you don’t hear preached on. But that might be a subject for another time……
Remember: 21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21