THE MARRIAGE ABCS
Copyright © Ufuomaee
In the first part of this series, I established that marriage is a gift that we ought to be grateful for. We looked at why we must not only appreciate our gift, but appreciate our spouse too. I also shared five things we should be doing to show our appreciation to our spouse, which will result in a better marriage experience for both.
Today, we are looking more at the purpose of marriage, being a blessing by which we are to bless others. I’d first like to establish that both singleness and marriage are gifts (1 Cor 7:7)…but they are different, like the gift of teaching and the gift of prophecy. If they are fully appreciated, if we understand why we have been so gifted, then we can use our gifts rightly in ministering to others, in obedience to God.
Marriage is a holy union (Heb 13:4), it is not a compromise. By deciding to marry, you didn’t settle for a lesser gift, but you did take on a greater responsibility (not least by the care you promised to another soul). In a similar way, it could be said that the prophet has greater responsibility over every word he utters (seeing as he is speaking as by the Spirit) than the teacher, who has opportunity to explain his choice of words. Marriage requires careful handling, so that it will endure all of life’s tests, and bear the fruit that it was ordained to produce.
It remains that the purpose of every venture must be established at the beginning, if we are to be successful in attaining our goals. Jesus also said we need to consider the costs involved and whether we are able to go all the way, before we set sail on a mission (Luke 14:28), otherwise, we will come out as defeated fools in the end. So we need to first appreciate the sacredness of marriage, and decide if we have what it takes to make it work. We also need to understand how the union of marriage is already blessed, and how we can use this gift to be a blessing to each other, our offspring, our community and society in general, to the glory of God.
1. The Union Is Already Blessed
When times are hard in marriage, when it seems the love is gone, it may be hard to believe that you are blessed…that your union is blessed. It is good to remember that it is. You are blessed, being a child of God. Your marriage union is both blessed and is a blessing to you and your spouse.
It is also good to remember that when God is involved in a thing, success is guaranteed! Despite the stormy waves you will encounter, you will surely make it safely across to the other side, if you trust in God (the Authour and Finisher of your Faith (Heb 12:2)) and do not fear (Luke 8:22-26). If you set sail apart from God, you have the strength of two humans on a divine mission. You do not have much chance of success against the inevitable storms of the sea called Marriage. However, when your union is entered with the wisdom and blessing of God, you are as a “three-fold cord” that isn’t easily broken (Eccl 4:12).
Even still, Christian or not, every legal marriage is recognised in Heaven, and it is God’s will that it will produce the right fruits in your life, and bring glory to Him. Jesus also attested to this when He acknowledged the FIVE marriages of the woman at the well, while recognising that her present circumstance was not a legal marriage (John 4:17-18). We are told that if one becomes a Believer after they enter their union, God can use him or her to deliver their spouse, who doesn’t yet believe (1 Cor 7:12-16). We also know that God’s will is that all may be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth (1 Tim 2:4), so even in marriages that were not ordained by God, He recognises their union, and through their marriage, He is able to teach them about His enduring love. And we know that marriage between a man and a woman is really a mystery about the Oneness of Christ and His Church (also called Bride (Eph 5:22-33)).
It is written that for a lack of vision, the people perish (Prov 29:18). Marriages fail, not because one or both parties are cursed, or because the union is not blessed, but because the gift is mishandled. If a wealthy father leaves an inheritance for a child who doesn’t appreciate the value of what he has been given, and is not trained in how to rightly handle this endowment, it is very likely that he will not only lose his gift, but the opportunity that the gift presented to be a blessing unto others! So wisdom is profitable in all things.
2. Be A Blessing To Each Other
There is a principle we need to understand about God’s blessings. They flow. They are not stagnant, poured on you to make you fat and complacent, but given that you may pay it forward, and thereby bless others. A light does not burn for itself, but that it might enlighten the path of others, and that other candles may be lit by its singular flame. Like Jesus said, nobody lights a candle and puts it under a bushel (Luke 11:33)… Likewise, God didn’t give you this gift for yourself only.
Any candle that doesn’t wish to illuminate others will find that its flame will be puffed out by the slightest wind. A single candle that burns to the ground without lighting others is a disgrace and a waste. They have made no impact in their world, only consumed air and all their strength in vain. But the one that lights another and then another until a thousand more are lit, is wise and profitable, and his legacy lives on forever through the candles that have been lit by him.
So we are blessed that we may be a blessing to others (Gen 12:2). We are forgiven that we may forgive. We are loved, so that we may love. We are taught so that we may teach and so on. In marriage, the duty to bless is tied to the success of your union. You are already blessed, but you must decide to bless your spouse, knowing how greatly God has blessed you. And you should continue to bless them, and strive to be a blessing (a gift) unto them, and not a burden, never tiring of doing this good thing you have been blessed (called and ordained) to do (Gal 6:9).
Jesus said He came not to be served, but to serve (Matt 20:28). We too must have a mind that we did not enter marriage to be served, but to serve! The Lord also said, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Yes, you have been blessed and you are blessed, but when you obey the call God placed in your life with the gift He bestowed on you, by paying it forward, then you are more greatly blessed. You will be like the wise and profitable servant, who did not waste his talent (Matt 25:14-30). But if you do not rightly use your gift, then even your blessing will be taken away! So if you do not actively bless your spouse, do not expect to enjoy or keep your marriage.
3. Children Are An Added Blessing, Not A Validation
There is a grave error in many cultures that teach that children validate marriages, and so there is great pressure put on newly weds to become fruitful in child bearing as soon as possible. If they do not conceive within an expected period of time, there is an assumption that the marriage is cursed, or that one of them (usually the wife) is cursed. And those with this mentality seek to put asunder what God has acknowledged and blessed. The damage this does to marriages, men, women and children cannot be over-emphasised.
Though children are a gift from God (Psa 127:3), they are an added blessing to a marriage that is already blessed! They are not the “fruit” that determines that your marriage is good! Look, two idiots can have a baby, and they need not be married to succeed at conceiving. Children are also not the only way that marriages can contribute to society and thereby be a blessing to the world. Child-bearing was never the primary purpose of marriage. After God made both Adam and Eve, recognising that “it is not good for man to be alone“ (Gen 2:18), He gave them the command to be fruitful and replenish the Earth (Genesis 1:27-28). And we can all see that the world is REPLENISHED and even over-populated, so the burden to bear children in marriage should be MUCH reduced for couples!
The burden to bear children have made so many miserable with the gift they already have. Husbands and wives frustrate each other, because they are not content, and do not realise how much they are already blessed, and are not even using their blessing to bless each other. Even those with one or two are desperate for more. However, we know that godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6), yes, even in this regard. Don’t be deceived by supposed men of God who quote Scripture and tell you that God has promised to bless your marriage with children, and you shouldn’t be content until He does. We are in a different dispensation with a different focus from the Israelites.
Paul’s counsel is relevant here for us to get some perspective: “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none” (1 Cor 7:29). Paul’s counsel in 1 Corinthians 7 was consistently that it is better for Christians to be as he was, unmarried, because of the times of tribulation, our expectation of the return of Jesus, with the belief that soon we will be called Home, so our minds should be set on things above, and not on earthly things (1 Cor 7: 32-34, Col 3:1-3). We should not desire marriage and children as though we are of this world and seek to populate it, but we should rather desire that those who are already born in the flesh are born again in the Spirit, that ALL may be saved! I wrote more on this in my study of this chapter.
4. Bless Your Children and Community
As a couple, a unit that is blessed of God, you ought to actively bless others, first your children (if you have them), then your immediate family (including your family of God – the Church), and then your community (your neighbourhood, county and country). It is said that the family is the basic unit of society, and so we are to be in our smaller units, what we hope to see in the larger body of society. The home is the place where we begin to exercise the gifts of God, and bear the fruit of righteousness, teach and model holiness and so live in the world as a light unto others.
In order to do this, the couple needs to be tightly knit, of one mind and not divided (Mark 10:8-9). When you are divided, you are not even blessing each other, and cannot begin to work together to bless your children and the community. Rather, the chaos that is in you is what will be evidenced in the wider society that is made up of others like you! It is perhaps for this reason that Paul taught that leaders in the Church must be exemplary in the way they manage their homes (1 Tim 3:12). If you want your home and your children to be blessed, then you must realise that children are not:
- Super Glue – you shouldn’t have children with the expectation that their arrival will fix the issues in your marriage, by making you or your spouse happy. That is wickedness! Your problems are not because you don’t have children but because you lack love and wisdom!
- Trophies – children are not a prize to show off to your friends and family, as though they were an accomplishment. They are a GIFT and a great responsibility, and if you desire to have them, you need to prepare for their addition to your home, so that you do not abuse them with your ignorance or negligence.
- Weapons – children should not be used as weapons in an argument to hurt or control your spouse. They too are human and have their own rights.
- Bait – children should not be used to compel people to enter a covenant of marriage! That would be ignoring godly counsel, which requires that you count the cost before entering the marriage and know that you have what it takes to endure for better or for worse! Remember, two wrongs never made a right.
- Mediators – children should not be burdened with mediating arguments between their parents. That is cruel.
You must bless your children by providing them with a safe, child-friendly and homely environment. Nurture peace, love and understanding in your home. Practice charity and forgiveness, and thereby set an example for your children. Chastise, discipline and train up your child in the way he or she should go (Prov 22:6)… Then your children will be able to pass on the gift of your training to others they come across, and will be a blessing to the world, a legacy to your name, and will also bring honour to God.
5. Be A Light To The World
The duty to make your marriage work is not simply for your enjoyment of your marriage. Your faithfulness is not merely for the salvation of your spouse. Your endurance is not only for the nurturing of your children. And your labouring is not just to contribute to society’s preservation. You are to abide in marriage for all of these reasons and more.
Your marriage stands as a testament of God’s love! Remember the great mystery that is marriage, being Christ and His Church. A successful marriage is a divine accomplishment, because it is only a divine love that “suffereth long, and is kind; envieth not; vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Cor 13:4-7). This is the love we are called to.
Your marriage is your ministry to the world that God is real and that God is love. You know that without God you can do nothing (John 15:5). Without Him you cannot forgive continually, you cannot be gracious and kind to those who are unloving and cruel, and you cannot be long-suffering, unless you know the great reward God has for His faithful servants. So, your continuance in your marriage is an exercise of your faith in God and obedience to Him. Like I said to one sister, “this is your Christianity”! If you forsake your marriage, it is as though you have forsaken your Cross. But God is gracious, and He will not let us be tempted above what we can bear (1 Cor 10:13).
When the world sees you and sees the love you share with your spouse, they should want to know about your God, and about your faith in Jesus. Because emotion is common to all, you can relate to unbelievers in this regard, showing them the great solution you have to a problem we all share – the need to be loved unconditionally. When they see that your love truly conquers all, they will want it for themselves. You can preach the Gospel simply by having a marriage that reflects the love Christ has for His Church! This is the greatest fruit (or blessing) that your marriage can and should produce.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).
Many thanks to my husband, Toritseju Ashogbon, who helped me settle on today’s topic and think through the main points.
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