Posts Tagged 'marriage'

The Days of Our Lives, Part 1

days

In America today, the largest demographic group is the Millennials – people born between 1980 and 2000.  As near as we can tell, there are upwards of 80 million of them, and not all of them are living in their parent’s basement, although many are.

In addition to that curious characteristic, here are a few things that characterize Millennials:

  • They are the most educated demographic in Western history;
  • They are technologically savvy, with mobile tech their passion;
  • They are civics oriented;
  • They are “conscious capitalists;”
  • They are less patriotic and more global in their thinking;
  • They are entrepreneurial;
  • They “pragmatic idealists,” believing in making their “dreams come true.”
  • They are socially liberal;
  • They are team players;
  • They are waiting much longer to get married;
  • They are non-religious but spiritual.

When we “baby boomers” understand how Millennials think and how they view their world, the things they say on YouTube and Twitter, how they vote, and why they don’t go to church make all the sense in the world.  As Christians, we need to understand something else:  The Bible speaks to the needs of Millennials, as it does to every other demographic.

Millennials, marriage, divorce, and the single life

Jesus’ disciples then said to him, “If that is how it is, it is better not to marry!”  “Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps.  Some are born without the ability to marry, and some are disabled by men, and some refuse to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone who can, accept my statement.”  (Matthew 19:10 – 12  | TLB) 

Jesus had been talking to some Pharisees about marriage and divorce.  As was their style, these religious types had asked Jesus some tricky questions in order to trip Him up.  But they were not prepared for this Jesus’ full-throttled endorsement of marriage.  It came about like this:

Some Pharisees came to interview him and tried to trap him into saying something that would ruin him. “Do you permit divorce?” they asked.  “Don’t you read the Scriptures?” he replied. “In them it is written that at the beginning God created man and woman, and that a man should leave his father and mother, and be forever united to his wife. The two shall become one – no longer two, but one! And no man may divorce what God has joined together.”   (Matthew 19:3 – 5 | TLB) 

The Pharisees belied their view of marriage in the question they asked Jesus.  To them, marriage and divorce were a matter of legislation; to them it was about the law of the land.  But Jesus set them straight by taking them to the origin of marriage:  the Bible, and in particular, He went back to the very beginning, the book of Genesis.  While the Pharisees expected Jesus to talk about Deuteronomy and the law of Moses,  Jesus’ view of marriage predated Moses and was connected to the creation of man by God.  By our Lord’s reckoning, marriage is not the product of a particular culture or of a society’s evolution, but a creation of God Himself for man. 

And this is what Millennials, and in particular Christian Millennials, need to understand.  Marriage is based on the fact the God created “them” male and female, and “on that account” (KJV) of that, a man leaves his parents and shall become literally “glued” to his wife.  That’s a truth so subtle, most Bible readers miss it.  A man leaves home primarily to become forever (in life, anyway) attached to and identified with a woman!

But Jesus goes even further by indicating that no human being can break the bond between a man and woman that God Himself has created.  The implication of verse 5 is that any man who divides what God has, by His own creation joined together,  not only divides up two people, but he separates those two people from God’s will.  And that’s a serious thing!

Marriage is serious, but the Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t think so.  They, not the Americans, were the first to make divorce easy.  Originally, God’s concession to His people was that a divorce was permitted only on account of adultery.  But by now, a man could get a divorce for just about any reason.  Jesus, now talking to His disciples, said this:

Jesus replied, “Moses did that in recognition of your hard and evil hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.  And I tell you this, that anyone who divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery.”  (Matthew 19:8, 9 |TLB) 

Jesus isn’t teaching His disciples about divorce, but about the serious, spiritual nature of marriage.  The disciple’s view of marriage, like that of Millennials of today, was shaped by their society.  They couldn’t get their minds wrapped around what the Bible really said about the issue.  What they said to Jesus proved that they didn’t yet have a Biblical worldview, but a secular worldview.  Essentially, their argument to Jesus was this:  If adultery is the only charge a husband can bring against his wife, isn’t it better to just stay single?  Making a statement like that shows that the disciples still thought that their societal norms carried more weight than the Bible and God’s will.  It wasn’t that the disciples were against marriage, but that they were reluctant to give up the Jewish ease of getting rid of a wife.  This whole exchange gave Jesus the chance to exalt marriage in order to show the seriousness of it.  Being in a committed marriage relationship is God’s plan for most people since the days of Creation, and the only way that happens is with the help of God:  “Only those whom God helps…”

Millennials and purity 

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins people commit are outside their bodies, but those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies.  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.  (1 Corinthians 6:18 – 20 | TNIV) 

This is good advice for people of almost any age, but especially for Millennials.  In Paul’s day, Corinth had the deserved reputation of having a very immoral culture.  It was full of prostitutes and sex was a part of the local religious worship services.  Paul had become known as the preacher of the Gospel of freedom, and here’s how that sounded to the Corinthians:

You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  (1 Corinthians 6:13 |TNIV) 

Paul was the master at theological tight rope walking.  He had written to another congregation this:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1 | TNIV) 

But that freedom FROM sin didn’t mean freedom TO sin.  To the Corinthians who were concerned about what kinds of food to eat, freedom in matters of what to have for supper did not equal freedom to pursue immorality.  Which, apparently, was happening.  In verse 13, Paul quoted a saying that was popular in Corinth:  “Food for the stomach and stomach for the food, and God will destroy them both.”   Even though God is mentioned, this saying is about as far from Biblical reality as you can get.  That saying equates something temporal – food – with something permanent – the body.  The body is permanent in that at some point in the future, it will be resurrected.  The Corinthians had a misunderstanding of the resurrection, which the apostle addresses in depth in chapter 15.  But for now, he barely hints at it by linking their ignorance of Christian resurrection to their treatment of the human body.  The body, contrary to what the Corinthian Christians thought, is just as eternal as the spirit and the soul, and therefore it should be treated as something of infinite value. 

Unfortunately, the secular view of the body prominent in Corinth found a home in the church.  That tendency to view the body as unimportant was behind three separate issues Paul addressed in this letter:

  • A immoral member of their congregation involved in a heinous sexual sin, 5:1 – 13;
  • Lawsuits among believers, 6:1 – 11;
  • Sexual relations with prostitutes, 6:12 – 20.

Paul’s overriding point in these three separate issues is that a Christian can’t do what he wants with his body.  Each of the three issues he dealt with involved serious immorality.  The Christian was set free, but that freedom had nothing to do with getting involved with any kind of immorality, sexual or otherwise. 

Millennials tend to think a lot like the Corinthian Christians.  They are not in church and a lot of them have never been exposed to the teachings of Scripture and are therefore unaware of what it really says about issues, in this case, the issue of the human body as it relates to  moral purity.  “It’s my body, it’s my choice,” is the rallying cry of the Millennials.  And yet it isn’t.  Verse 15 drives home a point:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!  (1 Corinthians 6:15 | TNIV) 

In the context of this chapter, this verse makes it clear that union with a prostitute incompatible with the unity that exists between the Christian and Christ.  Immorality has a dreadful, real effect on the Christian that it doesn’t have on the non-Christian because the Christian has been united to Christ, but having sexual relations with a prostitute unites that Christian to her!

Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”  (1 Corinthians 6:16 | TNIV) 

The Corinthians and Millennials, and indeed Christians from all age groups, need to understand that the unity achieved by any immoral sexual union is greater than they imagine.  It’s not just a physical union but a spiritual one.

But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.  (1 Corinthians 6:17 | TNIV) 

A born again Christian is in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ – it’s a comprehensive union of both spirit and body.  The material and spiritual are one in this relationship, which is why immorality is a sin against the body and against God because the body is the temple of the Spirit and has been bought by the blood of Christ.  Therefore, nobody – no Corinthian and no Millennial – is free to do what he wants to with his body.

The ultimate purpose of the body is to manifest the character and person of God, not one’s own lusts.

 

 

 

The origin of marriage

Genesis 2:18—25

In 1970, over 70% of the population in the United States was married.  In 2002, that number had dropped to under 60%, and in fact, it had slipped 3% between 2000 and 2002 alone.  Almost 50% of custodial mothers and over 50% of custodial fathers are either separated or divorced.  Marriages that end in divorce do so in less than eight years, and second marriages don’t last that long.

Only 63% of children are raised by both of their biological parents in America.  63% of all youth suicides, 90% of all homeless/runaway children, 85% of children with behavioral problems, 71% of high school dropouts, 85% of incarcerated youth, and well over 50% of all unwed mothers come from fatherless homes. (Source:  The Evangelical Sunday School Commentary)

What in the world is happening to the family in America?   Clearly Americans have a problem with commitment.  This is reflected not only in marriage statistics.  Bankruptcies, repossessions, and foreclosures all point that the undeniable fact that unlike their forefathers, when the going gets tough, Americans bail.  Let’s face it; it’s easier to just walk away than to deal with bad situations.

However, what’s easy is not always what’s right.  In the area of marriage and relationships, it’s far easier to consider marriage a “social option,” rather than a “sacred institution.”

Perhaps one of the reasons Americans struggle with marriage commitment is because we have largely forgotten where marriage came from and that a good marriage takes not only commitment and dedication, but also work.

Marriage is as old as creation itself.  So to understand it, we have to go back the very beginnings:  to the book of beginnings, Genesis, to see where marriage started.

(a)  The woman God built, verses 18—20

During the Creative Week, time and again God remarked, “It is good” (or a variation of that) each time He created something.  There was only one aspect of His creation that God was not totally satisfied with.  The man He created in His image was alone, and God did not like that.

“It is not good for the man to be alone.”  (verse 18a)

Most of us are aware that isolation is rarely a good thing; it is not natural and is unwholesome if prolonged.  The implication is that fellowship is a good thing, and so God built a woman.

“I will make a helper suitable for him.”  (verse 18b)

In what sense was the woman to be a “helper?”  Augustine believed the woman’s task as a helper was in the bearing and rearing of children.  Keil and Delitzsch write that the woman was created to help the man till the ground and groom the Garden.  Most scholars see the woman as man’s helper in the broadest sense, including but not limited to bringing children into the world in fulfillment of the Divine decree.  However, it seems to me that something much deeper and more profound is indicated by the Creator’s concern for man’s lonely condition.

The forthcoming “helper” or “help meet” (KJV), was to be similar to the man, sharing his essential nature, yet providing a supplement to that nature.  The man without the woman was incomplete, which is why when God created the man, He was not satisfied; something about the man was not right.  There was something else needed.   Everything that the man’s nature needed for completion—physically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially—was to be found in his altera ego, who would soon be standing by his side (Farrar).

To say that God made a helper for the man simply to help him keep the garden and produce children is to miss the point that the man was created in God’s image, but that man without the woman by his side didn’t look right.  Man is complete and in God’s image when he has his helper by his side.

Sandwiched in-between God’s declaration that man needed a helper and the formation of that helper is an account of the creation of the land animals and the birds of the air.   Of these creatures, we told—

He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.  (verse 19b)

In Hebrew, there are not tense forms, so it is an assumption that God formed the animals after He had formed the man, as some translations seem to suggest.  It is just as easily assumed that after man was created and placed in the Garden God brought to him the animals He had previously created.

The intellect of Adam in his pre-Fall state must have been astounding!  Imagine one man being able to name every single animal and bird.  What’s more, the man had authority over all those animals!   Here is an excellent example of the image of God in man.  Adam had the capabilities to think, reason, imagine, and discern the nature of each and every animal brought to him, and give them all suitable names.  In the Hebrew, name and character go hand-in-hand.  Somehow, never having seen a lion or butterfly in his life, the newly created man gave them names perfectly suited to their innate characters!

It wasn’t until after he had named every living creature that it became obvious something was lacking in the man’s life.  This was one of the reasons why God had Adam engaged in this task:  to reveal his loneliness.  God already knew the man would end up lonely; that his work would not fill all of his needs, but the man needed to discover this for himself.

(b)  Bone of my bones, verses 21—23

Before God made a partner for Adam, He caused the man to fall into a deep sleep.  This was not a sleep caused by the work of naming all the animals.  It was a supernatural sleep brought on by God.  It is interesting to note trends in the Bible, and this is one of many.  When God communicated or initiated a new relationship with a man, the recipient of this divine provision slept while God acted (for example, the covenant with Abraham in 15:12 and the covenant with Jacob in 28:11).   The purpose of these divinely-induced naps is to illustrate man’s passivity when God acts.  The best thing for a person to do when God is moving in their life is stay out of His way and let Him work.  For most human beings, this is a hard thing to do; so taking a nap is a good solution.

As to why the woman was created from one of man’s ribs is not known, although theories abound.   At first glance, the mention of a rib seems superfluous, but upon closer examination there is likely a lesson God wants man to understand.   This lesson is expressed beautifully Cassuto:  “Just as the rib is found at the side of the man and is attached to him, even so a good wife, the rib of her husband, stands at his side to be his helper-counterpart, and her soul is bound up with his.”

Verse 22 is one of the most touching verses in all of Scripture:

Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

To show just how unique the woman was, she was not “created,” she was “made.”  A completely different verb is used, yiben, which literally means, built.  God built a woman for the man and then God did a most amazing thing:  He brought the woman to the man for his approval and his appraisal.  Man had to name the animals, but had to approve of the woman.  God wanted the man’s opinion of the helper He made for him.

But the most interesting part of the story is Adam’s jubilant response to seeing Eve:

“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”  (verse 23)

No wonder man was happy; here was a perfectly suited friend for him, created from the same stuff he was created from.  The woman was not made from an inferior substance; she was and is man’s equal in every meaningful way since she was taken out of him.  No man, with an ounce of intelligence, can conclude that women are in any way inferior to him; she is him in another form.  This Adam recognized immediately by describing her as “bone of his bone” and “flesh of his flesh.”  She was part of himself and completely suitable for him in every way.

(c)  One flesh, verses 24—25

In effect, these verses describe the institution of marriage and the nature of marriage.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. (verse 24)

This verse is frequently quoted in the marriage ceremony, yet it is never explained.  From its inception, God intended that marriage should be exclusive and intimate.  It’s hard to be exclusively devoted to your spouse  and almost impossible to be intimate with your spouse if you are still living with mom and dad, and sleeping in the bedroom right next door!  It’s virtually impossible for a husband to please his wife when he has to please his mother by virtue of never having “left” her, either physically or emotionally.

To “cleave” to his wife is full of meaning.  Leaving mom and dad means that the man will sacrifice the safety of home for the freedom of creating his own home.  Such an admonition is not given to the woman.  At home, she lived in security with her parents, and when she marries, she has every right to expect that same security from her husband.

Furthermore, the suggestion is that when a man leaves his parents, he is no longer answerable to them; he does not live in subjection to them.  The intimation is that at marriage, the man’s obligations are now directed toward his wife.  He is now responsible for her.  He now answers to her, in the sense that he owes her what he used to owe his parents.

This is the essence of marriage.  Leaving and cleaving are essential.  A new couple must learn how to make it own their own, through their commitment and dedication to each other.  There should be NO divided loyalties in a marriage, and it is unfair of parents to put their married son or daughter in the position having to choose between their spouse and them.

Another interesting part of this verse is the use of the word “wife.”  Where did that word come from?  Who made it up?  Since Adam named all the animals, it is likely that he came up with the word “wife” to describe his helper.

Finally, with verse 25 we read another factoid about the first couple—

The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.  (verse 25)

Since the challenge of modern Christians is to find a reasonable application for every verse or teaching in Scripture, what is the application we may glean from this verse?  Obviously, it’s not a good idea to be naked all the time, so there is probably another lesson to be learned here.

Marriage is all about commitment to each other; mutual commitment is essential.  Neither Adam nor Eve was ashamed of their own nakedness, or the nakedness of their spouse.   They were dedicated to each other and they were not ashamed of the other person.  This is what a good marriage should look like; not physical nakedness, but emotional and spiritual nakedness, where each spouse sees the other in a way nobody else does.  The needs of each should be obvious to the other and should be met within the bounds of marriage.

Talk about commitment and dedication!  Each partner looking out for the other one, knowing exactly what they need because they are that intimate with each other; this is what marriage is supposed to be.  If couples lived in this kind nakedness, they would never feel the need to look elsewhere to have their supposed needs met.

Happy and satisfied is the man who has a wife that knows him better than he knows himself.   (that would be me, by the way…)

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

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