Ideas bombard us like rain. Which are good? Which are useless? We need to have some standard for comparison, a final authority. For many people that is the Bible. So let’s take a few moments to understand a biblical model for marriage.
Some of the principles that follow are directly stated in the Bible; others are deductions I make from my understanding of the Bible. But when you put them together they paint a beautiful and appealing picture of what a marriage can really be.
Marriage is Designed by God. This is The Principle of Origin. You can find it stated in Genesis 2:24:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Taking this biblical idea as stated, marriage is much more than a sociological necessity that has developed through an evolutionary process. Marriage was instituted by God when He created the first man and woman.
If you are Asian, you might be worried about what it means to leave father and mother. I can tell you this: it does not mean that you have to abandon your parents or ignore them. The Asian idea of filial devotion and honor is not replaced by the Bible. It is upheld by the Bible.
Marriage is Designed for Covenant Intimacy. That is The Principle of Connection. One rather graphic reference to that is in Genesis 2:25:
“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
The nakedness described in these words is much more than a prelude to sex. It describes a marriage that is so secure that the man and woman could be completely uncovered, totally open, without embarrassment or fear.
In other words, they experienced covenant intimacy. For Adam and Eve that was easy, because they had never sinned. For us it is not easy. We have sinned and received wounds by other people’s sins. So, instead of opening up, we cover up. But a healthy marriage should give us a safe place to be known without fear of rejection or harshness.
We enter marriage with the hope of developing the same intimacy that Adam and Eve experienced automatically. Sure, it’s a struggle, but it is attainable and worth the effort. No matter how many SAD stories you’ve heard or broken marriages you have seen, you can develop a marriage that makes both of you glad you have it, all the time.
Marriage is Designed to Make Both Partners Better People. That is The Principle of Development. One place the Bible speaks about that is in I Thessalonians 5:11-
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
You probably know some people who have become bitter, not better because of their marriages. It’s the result of too much criticism and too little appreciation and encouragement. It does not have to be that way. We really can help each other become better people.
Healthy marriages build healthy people who are more likely to fulfill their God-given purpose. As the Bible says, in Proverbs 27:17, New Living Translation:
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”
Marriage is Designed for Joy! That is The Principle of Cheerfulness. You can see more about that here: You Can Have a Delightful Marriage.
Proverbs 15:15, in the Message translation of the Bible, expresses that joy as it applies to human relationships:
“A miserable heart means a miserable life; a cheerful heart fills the day with song.”
Every marriage will face challenges. In good marriages couples develop a deep joy that is part appreciation, part affection, and part commitment. That joy is like an underground spring that is always with them, sometimes in quiet contentment, sometimes in laughter.
When marriage is joyful, men and women do not look elsewhere for exhilaration. They find it in their life-long covenant relationship, their marriage. When they have children the kids catch the joy of their parents’ experience.
Marriage is designed to have a positive effect on the world. That is The Principle of Influence. Look at the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:14-16:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Some marriages spread darkness, like a cold, evil fog. Who would want that? God’s design is to fill two people with his light and truth (they always go together) and make their marriage like a lighthouse on a dangerous coast. That is not just poetic language. Many marriages shine, including ours.
Marriage is designed to last a lifetime. That is The Principle of Permanence. Here are the words of Christ from Matthew 19:6:
“And He said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
In virtually all developed and developing countries, divorce is on the rise. It has become so common that some authors feel the need to make it seem like a reasonable decision without any painful consequences.
We know couples who have divorced. Even when it seemed that there was no other route open to them, it still introduced pain into their lives that lingers till now. As Margaret Atwood said:
“A divorce is like an amputation; you survive, but there’s less of you.”
This is not the place to discuss whether divorce is right or wrong. But it is the time for you to decide that you will marry for life. If you plan for lifelong success you’ll get it. But if you keep the idea of divorce as an option, that may undermine your efforts to succeed.
Marriage is designed for child-bearing. That is The Principle of Reproduction. Here is just one biblical expression of that idea from Psalm 127:3:
“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a real blessing.”
Children grow well in a secure family with a loving mom and a dad. That means that we need to develop the areas of our lives that will make us good parents.
In the early years of our marriage, I did not want to be a dad. The idea scared me. But even though I could not see myself as a father, my wife did. She knew I would make a good dad. I do not know if I have been a great dad, but by God’s grace I have joyfully loved my two sons all of their lives.
Some couples find they cannot have children for medical reasons. If conditions exist that might make having children impossible, remember that there are thousands of children who need parents who will adopt them and love them.
Adoption, for some, seems to be a thing to avoid, not a thing to embrace. But adoption is very near the heart of God, who calls us to love the outcast and the unwanted. Personally, I would love to know that you and your spouse had taken an unwanted child into your heart, as God takes us into His heart.
As you think about the points I have just shared with you, keep in mind that nearly all of them are vigorously opposed by contemporary ideas and cultural concepts. Throughout your life– in your single years, your courtship, and your marriage– you will have to decide which ideas will rule your life. I highly recommend the Bible and its Author as the source of ideas that will never disappoint you.