In my first posting of Till Death Do Us Part I shared from the book of Matthew that when a couple becomes married they become one flesh. "The two shall become one flesh." I believe that when both the man and the woman truly discover in their heart what it means to become one flesh then they are better equipped to keep the marriage in tact. Divorce rates are staggering in this country. 50% of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.
In this post on marriage God has laid on my heart a little different topic regarding our relationship as husband and wife. It goes hand in hand with what Paul shares in Ephesians chapter 5, Eph 5:21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. In the world the idea of mutual submission appears to be quite foreign. Go to any bookstore and you will find on the shelves book after book instructing couples how to have a successful marriage. The list of ten do's and don't's, books about how to fulfill each other's needs, and even books on how to have sex for dummies. Don't get me wrong, there is a need for good Bible based information to help us maintain a healthy and fruitful marriage, but they should never take first place over what God's Word tells us.
1Co 7:1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 1Co 7:2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 1Co 7:3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 1Co 7:4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (nasb)
In the book of 1Corinthians Paul explains to us that each man is first and foremost to have his own wife. This concept is becoming foreign these days. To have one wife doesn't only mean don't be a polygamist, it means that our devotion is to be to one woman or one man. When things aren't going so well in the relationship (and at times things will not be well) we are to remember that we are committed to one person and one person only. Next, he instructs the husband to fulfill his duty to his wife and each woman to fulfill the duty to her husband. Mutual submission. Marriage is a state of mutual obligations and we must, as husband and wife, yield to what those obligations require. I don't find it coincidental that Paul instructs the man to fulfill his duty to his wife first. As the husband we are called to lead our family and the best kind of leadership comes from our example to our family. We can tell our wife or children how to be, but, living out our life in the ways of God is far more effective than just barking out orders. Giving ourselves to our spouse out of mutual obligation is not only Biblical but it allows us to bless each other with unselfish intentions.
The next verse (1Cor 7:4) I found quite perplexing. To be told that we don't have authority over our own body goes against everything we are taught in today's pop-culture psychology. Nobody can tell me to give of myself if I don't want to! Well, Paul instructs married couples that our body no longer belongs exclusively to ourselves. We make a covenant to one another at the alter and part of that covenant is that we shall become one flesh. As one flesh we are mutually submitting to the authority over our bodies for sexual pleasure one to another. Of course there are those who take things out of context and use such verses as a way to demand that their needs be met. Paul understands this and that is why verse 3 comes first. If we are unselfishly fulfilling the needs of each other in the marriage then verse four is simply an expression of this. (Disclaimer:There are so many things that could be said about this verse. The very first thing I feel that should be cleared up is that when a marriage isn't going well or lines of trust have been broken, it might not be a good idea to jump right into the "your body is mine" mode... this verse is not intended for one member of a marriage to get his or her needs met in spite of the difficulties that may be occurring. When a couple is mutually submitting one to another and trust has not been broken then what Paul is saying to us makes sense)
Marriage is for a lifetime. When we make our covenant with God to each other it is understood that it is forever. Mat 19:6 "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." For we are no longer two, but one flesh. We have common goals, common desires, and we are joined together by God. We shall not separate but by His doing. Every trivial thing that comes our way should be used to strengthen the marriage rather than tear it down. When the wind blows through the mighty oak tree, branches may twist and break but the tree becomes stronger. Eventually there will be new branches growing and scars from where the old ones broke off. Our marriages should be a collection of broken branches and twisted gnarly limbs. When we weather the storms, people can look to our marriage and see the glory of God manifested through them. This gives hope.
Where are you today in your marriage? Have the winds come and blown over the tree or are you getting stronger? Sometimes we need someone to help us trim some loose branches and I encourage you today to cry out to Jesus and ask Him where you need to be pruned so that your marriage can be as fruitful as He intended it to be.
Thank you Lord for the gift of marriage. You knew it was not good for man to be alone so you created a help mate suitable for him. I know that you gave me my wife because she fits all of my needs and I fit hers. Thank you for the struggles that we have gone through and will go through. I know that they will make us stronger and when we look back on them we will see how you have used them for our good. Please continue to strengthen us. In Christ, Amen