Christian Character Part 5

Marriage (Valentine’s Day)

Yes, today is Valentine’s Day. A day to celebrate love, especially the love we share in marriage, and so today, at the risk of some meddling, I am led to share with you about marriage. And while Valentine’s Day is a good day to celebrate marriage and family, it is also a good day to study marriage and family and see how to make them stronger and stronger. Marriage is strengthened by the yieldedness of both spouses to the Cross of Christ, but also by the principles of Cross-sowing and Cross-reaping.

God gives us the principles of marriage, and puts them in context, in Genesis 1: 26-28; Genesis 2; 7-8, 18, 21-25; Genesis 3: 12-18:

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps in the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created them male and female He created them. … 

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted (principle of sowing and reaping) a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man He had formed. … 

“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper companion to him.… 

“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said, ‘this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.… 

“Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’ And the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field, on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life, and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.’ To the woman He said: I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’ And to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’; Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life, both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field, in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread til you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken, for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.'”

Thus we are now charged with knowledge of the Scriptural history, foundations, and operating principles of marriage, and these operating principles of marriage are the following:

  1. Man was created in God’s image, the image of the Trinity, and for God’s purposes.
  2. And God knew man’s loneliness, and so created Eve from Adam’s rib, and presented him to Adam in the first marriage we have recorded: Man and Wife.
  3. And we know that God ordained that in marriage priorities changed from those of child to natural parents, to those of husband and wife.
  4. And we know that God ordained marriage as the vehicle for procreation, for making more people to populate the earth, to replace those dying and to increase those here.
  5. And with the fall, we see that God ordained the work and pain and warfare consequences of that original sin, and explained them in part as a life of hard work, and with women to be submitted to their husbands.

In this passage from Genesis, we discern several important things about how marriage should be formed and how it needs to operate:

  1. Let God choose your spouse for you (the odds of God making a mistake are considerably less than the odds of you making mistakes).
  2. It takes maturity to sustain a marriage, but not to start one, because you have to grown up, be grown up enough, to stand away from your parents emotionally, in provision of food and other material essentials of life, and in the commitment of love. A three year-old should not marry in part because a toddler cannot meet its own needs, and must await sufficient maturity. Immaturity is selfishness, not service. It is “I want, I want; Mine, mine, mine.”
  3. Intimacy with one’s spouse fills up that emptiness that is the result of loneliness; the intimacy that overcomes loneliness by definition promotes fidelity, which stabilizes marriages and the future of children and grandchildren. Hiddenness of honesty (which is a polite reference to dishonesty) and hiddenness of pure, deep communications prevents intimacy, without which trust is never fully built or is weakened and, from time to time, destroyed.
  4. Marriage is the intended source and home for children, so that they may be trained up in the way they should go.
  5. Marriage requires a work ethic, a serious one!
  6. Marriage, to be most effective, requires Christian Character, with the planting of the seeds of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the harvesting of the fruit of those seeds planted by one spouse, each in the other, and in their children and grandchildren.

In our culture, like all those past us, people are busy working, eating, drinking, making merry, marrying and giving in marriage. And we say, “What is the problem?” The problem is that marriage and the family is under such great attack. Statistically, according to Jim Dobson’s Focus on the Family, the divorce rate among Christians is about the same as among non-Christians in America. That is one effective measure of how well Christian marriages are not doing, and a measure of the failure of the church to teach of the church and the family in holding loved ones accountable in their marriages.

There are only three things that really threaten a marriage: Satan, the flesh of the man and the flesh of the woman. Satan uses our flesh, in marriage, as in everything else, to tempt us to violate the Ten Commandments, and every other structure of obedience God has ordained for our lives. That disobedience is sin, and creates more sin. And sin is the cancer of life, spiritually and emotionally, and is the cancer that attacks marriage. At the root of almost every divorce is some combination of too much me and not enough you, too much Satan and not enough God, and the resulting destruction of intimacy, honesty and commitment.

In marriage, there is the Godly principle of agriculture, of sowing and reaping: A farmer keeps on planting his crops year after year, because the fruit of those plantings brings forth a harvest of nourishing fruit, and few farmers prefer starvation, but rather prefer nourishment. And so with marriage, the more we sow, the more we reap, in both earthly and heavenly treasure, though not measured in money or stocks or land or gold. In marriage, as Sripture says, it is more blessed to give than to receive, but it is also blessed to receive that nourishment from your spouse!

I think the most insightful thing in the Genesis passage about marriage is the revelation of the future of spiritual warfare, and its direct impact on families: Genesis 3: 15 (God speaking to the Serpent): “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed” (referring to her lineage through Jesus the man); “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” We don’t get through life without dealing with Satan, and no marriage gets through live without spiritual warfare with Satan either. In fact, in areas where a spouse is weak in some aspect of spiritual warfare, some area of sin or temptation to sin, the marriage is weakened in that aspect and intimacy is impaired. Whenever intimacy is impaired, loneliness is increased, and infidelity abounds in a sinful and futile attempt to overcome loneliness.

So, to strengthen marriage, we, as husbands and wives, need to strengthen personal Christian Character, need to walk about fully protected in the armor of God, and we need to use our defensive shield of faith, and the offensive weapon of the Sword of the Spirit, til we have done all we can do, and then we need to stand in faith, trusting God, beseeching Him in prayer, praying in the Spirit that God’s perfect will be accomplished. The battle in each spouse, each child, each marriage is all the Lord’s.

There can be, like the song says, seasons in a marriage, even rarely whole marriages, where “it is Summer time and the living is easy,” but that is not the normal, and I figure you can handle that pretty well. Where you need help and guidance is when the living together ain’t so easy, and for you who are unmarried, you need to know how to handle the rough times, the times when it may seem your spouse is part of the problem instead of being part of the solution.

Sometimes, a spouse is in a difficult place in his or her personal walk with the Lord Jesus, maybe in a season of questioning the foundations of faith, maybe in dealing with unresolved generational curses or stubborn strongholds of sin, embarrassment of sin, maybe in withholding honesty; maybe in fighting addictions, maybe even in a season of offense-taking and un-forgiveness. These are the most difficult times in which to continue to plant the seeds of love, the seeds of the fruit of the Holy Spirit+.

But like the farmer who continues to sow, to plant, to weed, to water, to nourish, so it is in a Christian marriage: it takes Christian Character to walk out the hard times, to sow, to plant, to weed, to water, to nourish. And it takes patience: when the soil is bad, the growing is slower. And it takes intercession, and it takes a full administration of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, in favor of the spouse who is in a rocky place, while the Holy Spirit battles for the Lord’s victory over sin.

But the burden is not just on the one spouse to pour into the life of the spouse in a rocky or mean or dangerous space. God is insistent that even the spouse in a difficult place must bear up against the temptation to sin, must continue to sow, weed, water, nuture the seeds of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the other spouse. Weaknesses, trials, temptations, addictions, confusions, double-mindedness – all may explain, but none really confuse: We have this insight into God’s view, from Malachi 2: 13-16, “And this is the second thing” (after spiritual adultery, Malachi 2: 10-12) “you do: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks Godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed of your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”

Conclusion: On this Valentine’s Day, take heed that you do not deal treacherously with your spouse. Invest (that is what “Cross-sowing is) the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your spouse at all times, in all circumstances, do what you can do, and fight for your marriage, your children, your family, for obedience to God and for the keeping of the covenant of marriage. Keep yourself in repentance at the foot of the Cross of Christ, and continue to Cross-sow into your spouse, so you may Cross-reap the fruit of your Cross-sowing and your marriage strengthened and strengthened and strengthened!! If you are not married, take heed, and wise counsel, and be prepared for the day of marriage, should God present you a spouse, that your eyes will be wide open, and so will your heart, not to deal treacherously with each other, but to deal graciously with each other, in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-discipline! (Galations 5: 22-23) By this, they will know that we are His, because we love one another, and we together can resist the enemy’s attack on Christian marriages and families!