We need to be disciples before God – and focusing on marriage.
God calls us to be disciples before God. Not only do we trust Christ as our Savior, but we are to move forward as disciples before God, And, as a disciple, we are to do a series of things:
We bow before God – submit to God versus submission to ourselves.
We try to obey God’s instructions.
One of our pursuits as a “disciple” is pursuing oneness in marriage.
Our marriages can be difficult. When we are engaged, we normally are in love with each other and excited about a wedding. But then, being married, we begin to see the difficulties of our relationships. We are different peoples, having different attitudes, and we are both sinners. And so sometimes we divorce despite that God calls us not to divorce. Or, perhaps we do not divorce, but we do have some separations in marriage – lacking oneness.
And God is calling us for oneness in our marriage. Genesis 2:24-25 and Hebrews 13:4 are good biblical focuses for us:
Genesis 2:24-25 (NAS)
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife;
and they shall become one flesh.
25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Hebrews 13:4 (NAS)
Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled;
for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
As a teacher to couples on marriage I have asked a series of questions:
“Do you all believe in God?” And they say “Yes! We believe in God.”
- “Do you obey God?” And they say “Yes! We obey God.”
- “So, do you sacrifice yourselves to the oneness in marriage?” And they turn their faces down and say, “No . . . this is one of our difficulties.”
- So I go back to the question, “Do you believe in God?”
The point is that if we believe in God we are willing to obey God. And an element of obeying God is pursuing oneness in marriage, despite the difficulties we have.
Here are two thoughts – “sacrifice” and “love” – for us to pursue in our obedience before God.
1. Sacrifice: A husband and wife each have a calling toward the other. Two helpful verses can be Ephesians 5:25 and 1 Peter 3:1-2.
Ephesians 5:25 (NAS)
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
1 Peter 3:1-3 (NAS)
1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,
2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
So a husband and wife are to “sacrifice” self before a spouse. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loves us. And what Christ did for us was a self-sacrifice. He died before us to pay a debt that we could not pay. So, are we willing to have a “sacrifice” to our wives?
And a wife is to love her husband even if he is not doing things well. So she submits to him as the male-leader, and that can lead him in a right direction toward God.
So a series of other verses are things like Ephesians 5:21-33, Colossians 3:18-19, 1 Peter 2:18-3:7, and 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. These passages are focusing on thoughts toward husband and wife roles, and it will be good for each of us to focus on these.
The second thought:
2. Love: We need to understand that love is not our feelings. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 is something that helps us to see this. There are 2 basic words of “love” in the New Testament – 2 different Greek words in the NT, plus a 3rd word for us to see:
Phileo – Friendship Love (in the NT)
Eros – Romantic Love (not in the NT, but a Greek word)
Agape – A New Testament word on God’s idea of love
The idea here is that there are different attitudes in our heart toward love. The phileo is a NT idea of love and it is a way that we might have a loving relationship with a friend. The eros is the felling of love that we have when we date each other and get engaged.
But the biblical idea of God’s calling is agape. That word is not a sense of our feelings. It is God’s calling for us to pursue God’s instructions in marriage.
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 we see that we might be doing things, but not “loving” people (or a spouse). So we are not bowing before God even though we think we are doing good works.
Then in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 there is a list of words that are forms of agape. These are not feelings, but choices of obedience before God.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NAS)
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails . . . .
The point here is that if we believe in God and obey God, we are not to rely on our feelings of love. We are to pursue God’s design of love. As He loves us despite our sin, we are to love a spouse despite the others disagreements or things that bother us.
Can we pursue oneness in marriage?
So our point here is that we have a calling from God. There are biblical descriptions and callings for us as a husband and a wife: We are to “sacrifice” to each other and to “love” each other, and not to focus on our feelings. We are to focus on God’s design of behaviors of love. These are things that lead us to toward God’s calling of “oneness” in marriage. And a genuine oneness in marriage is one way that we display God.
Tom Clark is a Family Life Ambassador with the Family Life Ministry and on the Advisory Board of the Virginia Christian Alliance.