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Friday, June 19, 2009

Marriage Battleground or Marriage Building? (Part 1)

Marriage and its meaning and definition have been the subject of much case law and legislation around America, particularly in the past decade. Americans, however, seem to not be able to understand how to make a marriage work. With rising divorce rates, the casualness of cohabitation, and the rarity of lifetime marriages, America’s relationships appear to be in some chaos. Yet, marriage is nevertheless an American ideal. We are the only Western nation that actually spends government money to support it. The 2005 federal Healthy Marriage Initiative is still allocating $100 million a year to promote marriage. It doesn’t seem to be working; marriage rates are declining precipitously, though most Americans are still expected to marry. Andrew J. Cherlin recently published The Marriage-Go-Round, noting the paradoxical state of marriage and the family in America today. To read this provocative account is to think that Marriage is a battleground – and particularly a spiritual battleground.

What a paradox. We idealize marriage, yet we’re so bad at it. God’s Word has so much to say about marriage, and sets out a foundation for beating this paradox, and winning this spiritual battle. Indeed, the Apostle Paul devoted a large portion of his first letter to the Corinthians to the difficulties and challenges of marriage in I Corinthians 7. We should not be surprised that marriage is a spiritual battleground. The key is to understand the objectives of marriage as part of God’s great design.

The central goal of marriage is oneness. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24. Our need for relational intimacy is at the heart of all Scripture. Christ’s prayer for oneness is clear in John 17:21, that the body of Christ may be one as Jesus and God the Father are one. Intimacy begins with God. Marriage provides a convincing demonstration of the power of Christ’s love to enable people to experience true relational oneness. Additionally, our significance and security are in Christ, rather than in a spouse. Hebrews 13:5 assures us that God will never leave us or forsake us. An individual’s security must be in Christ to lay a solid foundation of personal maturity for marriage. These truths are discussed at length in Dr. Larry Crabb’s book entitled, The Marriage Builder: A Blueprint for Couples.

Some important points of action for married couples:

1. Who Meets Your Needs? Soul Oneness. Ask yourself, “Who am I expecting to meet my needs - God or my spouse? Crabb writes, “[t]he goal of oneness can become almost frightening when we realize that God does not intend that my [spouse] and I find our personal needs met in our marriage.” Rather, God meets your needs, not your spouse. Your marriage relationship should validate the claims of Christianity to a watching world as an example of the power of Christ’s redeeming love to overcome the divisive effects of sin. True relationship with God leads to authentic marital oneness, and that type of living witnesses to a watching world. (Phil 2: 12-16). This is soul oneness.

Part II will continue with the second and third points of action for experiencing marital oneness.

~ Professor Lynne Marie Kohm, Regent University School of Law

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