God & Marriage

God’s View of Marriage

Even for those not interested in marriage,
this webpage will provide significant,
rarely taught insight into the heart of God
and his expectations for us all.

By Grantley Morris

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Without even considering parenthood, marriage is a thrilling and undeserved privilege, coupled with mind-boggling responsibilities. No matter how much we downplay those responsibilities, we will each face the God who cares so deeply that our every idle word will be considered on Judgment Day (Matthew 12:36).

I agonize over the tragic reality that those in the most desperate need of this webpage are the very ones who are sure they don’t need to read it. They are sailing blissfully to disaster and I am clueless as to how to entice them to see enough of the danger even to bother reading this. Nevertheless, God seems to be insisting that this webpage be written.

I am forced to conclude that when looking back on life from eternity, one of the bitterest regrets the average person will have is that he took his marriage too casually. No matter how much that seems like a crackpot claim, I challenge you to disagree after reading the facts below.

This webpage is crafted to be most easily understood by people like me – men. If you are a woman, please go to the women’s version: God’s Heart & Marriage. Make no mistake about it: humanity’s Judge is flawlessly impartial (Scriptures) and holds women equally accountable. So both versions are similar but even substituting the word “husband” for “wife,” and vice versa, helps us do what is essential: to focus on our own obligations before God, not what God expects of our partner.

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The Unexpected Consequence of Marriage

The reward for slaying Goliath included being granted the hand of the King’s daughter in marriage (1 Samuel 17:25-27). Note David’s reaction:

    1 Samuel 18:18-19 David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my life, or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” But at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite as wife.

Later, love provided David with a second opportunity to marry a daughter of the king but again the mighty giant-killer and anointed king-to-be showed great reluctance to take upon himself such honor and responsibility:

    1 Samuel 18:20-23 Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David; and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.
          . . . Therefore Saul said to David, “You shall today be my son-in-law a second time.”
          Saul commanded his servants, “Talk with David secretly, and say, ‘Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now therefore be the king’s son-in-law.’ ”
          Saul’s servants spoke those words in the ears of David. David said, “Does it seems to you a light thing to be the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed?”

Husband, you had the audacity to marry not just a king’s daughter but a cherished daughter of the Almighty King of kings. Like it or not, your wife has a fearsome Avenger who is acutely interested in every detail of how you treat his darling. Despite the Almighty’s extreme graciousness and patience, it might be safer dating the thirteen-year-old virgin daughter of an insanely jealous Mafia boss than to marry God’s daughter. Yes, that seems exaggerated, but I have not yet begun to unpack the facts.

First, some general biblical background:

    Without rival, the most exquisitely beautiful thing in the entire cosmos is the heart of God. He is breathtakingly loving, good, kind, patient and understanding. This most astounding Person is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) exploded to infinite extremes. He who told us to forgive seventy times seven is the living embodiment of what he preaches. I cannot overestimate how much God is devoted to you and longs to forgive your vilest acts over and over and over.

    The Infinite Lord’s mind-boggling love for you provokes him to mind-boggling wrath against anyone who hurts you or lets you suffer through their greed, selfishness, neglect or whatever:

      2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay affliction to those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted with us . . .

    Why haven’t you seen God doing this? The rest of the quote explains:

      2 Thessalonians 1:7 . . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire

    Likewise Peter says:

      2 Peter 3:7 But the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

    He then proceeds to explain why that cataclysmic day has not yet arrived:

      2 Peter 3:9-10 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief . . .

    The truth of God’s explosive desire to vindicate his beloved is much bigger than just you, however. When pure, selfless, passionate love takes on divine proportions, there are inescapable ramifications that we must one day face – and the sooner we realize it the better. You can revel in the glorious truth that infinite love means that God loves every part of you in mindboggling detail and with incomprehensible intensity. God’s unlimited love also means, however, that he loves with that same unfathomable intensity each and every person on this planet as if he or she were the only person in God’s universe. Yes, God feels your pain as if it were his own. When you hurt, he hurts. But likewise if you hurt someone, you hurt someone of infinite importance to God. In other words: to hurt anyone, is to hurt God.

    In short, if love is so fundamental to God that Scripture declares “God is love,” then he passionately loves and yearns to defend not just you, but everyone you have ever hurt by your sin, selfishness or neglect.

    A perfect judge must be utterly impartial, and there is no limit to our Judge’s love – i.e. he loves those we despise with the same “insane” abandonment that he loves us. So unless we genuinely repent of hurting others, he is compelled to focus on us that same wrath and yearning to execute justice that he longs to pour out on those who have mistreated us. This is foundational to much of Jesus’ teaching (examples).

    When citing Peter above, I cut him off midstream because you will now better understand the highly practical conclusion he was barreling down to:

      2 Peter 3:10-12 . . . The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. . . . (NIV, Emphasis mine.)

    God’s entire purpose for our lives is that we become like his Son (Biblical Confirmation), whose love for God and for humanity compelled him to sacrifice all. If everything about humanity’s Judge is driven by sacrificial love, then he will judge us by that standard – i.e. by how much we have acted in sacrificial love (Scriptures).

The purpose of this background is to highlight one critical point: if this grave matter applies to how we treat everyone, it applies even more to how we treat our marriage partners. Let me explain why:

    A pastor, who was spearheading a significant breakthrough in an ethnic community, confided to me that his marriage was floundering. Overcome by the need in the community, he would have a guilt attack whenever he took the slightest break from his ministry to spend time with his wife and family.

    This man of God knew that God’s rock-solid dependability can be relied upon more than the sun that rises without fail every single day. Loyalty and faithfulness is so much a part of God’s nature that divorce is totally contrary to who God is. The God of endless love literally hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). It turns his stomach. This pastor needed no reminder of such basics, so I zeroed in on the heart of the matter. “With millions of Christians at God’s disposal,” I said, “the Lord has only to whisper, and suddenly your community would be the focus of more evangelistic effort than you could ever equal. No evangelist is indispensable. Your marriage role, however, is far more serious. God cannot give your wife another husband – unless he kills you.”

God is love, and love is all about relationships. So relationships, no matter how casual, are of extreme importance to God. Even to our enemies we have love responsibilities that we dare not neglect. Nevertheless, God’s commitment to the permanence of marriage raises the stakes even higher. If, as in the parable of the Good Samaritan, you bypass someone in need, you will be held responsible but God might send someone else to meet that need. God treats marriage as so sacred, however, that your wife has needs that not even God will let himself meet.

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True Love Versus Ugly Imitations

A disturbingly common trap that sends vast numbers of people hurtling to devastating heartbreak is to expect a human relationship to meet needs that are so deep that only God can meet them. It is vital that you discover that your desires for perfection in a partner are actually not cravings for marriage but a deep craving for God himself and that you need to have these yearnings met by him before you are ready for marriage. Otherwise, you will be like a parasite sucking the life out of your marriage by trying to leech from your partner self-esteem, emotional fulfillment, security and other intense needs that can only be fully met by daily intimacy with Almighty God, the Perfect One.

Study the following as if eternity depended upon it; conscious that you will one day stand before God to give account, not for how your partner compares, but for how you measured up.

Romantic love – better called self-centered infatuation – is the short-lived exhilaration of vainly supposing you have at last found someone who will make you happy. If “all is fair in love and war” then that type of “love” is as dangerous as war. It is cruel and intoxicatingly deceptive. Its pillows are perfumed to hide the stench of death.

There is an enormous difference between being intoxicated by romantic feelings and being loving. In fact, they are polar opposites.

As wonderful as the fleeting euphoria of falling in love is, there is something infinity superior. I’m not a skeptic, a cynic, nor a wet blanket; I’m just affirming a fact of life that we all must understand if we are to side-step heartbreak and tragedy and soar to the pinnacle of human experience.

To be in love is a fluke: by a freak of nature someone just happens to stimulate chemical reactions within you that, according to experts, might last thirty months if you are exceptionally lucky. To be loving, however, is another world. It is to be Christlike. It is not a fluke; it is a virtue, an achievement, a deliberate, praiseworthy act. Being in love is fleeting; being loving is eternal.

Being in love is like having a baby. Babies are adorable. We can enjoy them and praise God for them but babies do not last. They grow. Likewise, being in love does not last and if that is all that is holding two people together they will grow apart.

Falling in love is like being given a shiny new car: you did not do a thing to make it shiny or run well, but if you continue not doing a thing to maintain it and just let nature take its course, it will gradually fade and eventually grind to a halt.

Whether it be measured in terms of romantic love, visual attraction or sex, the initial excitement fades with any relationship. This is perfectly normal and nothing negative – except to hollowed-out junkies ensnared by an addiction to the excitement of the new. This devastating addiction not only steals one’s peace and contentment; it gnaws away at the soul and white-ants one’s ability to have a lasting marriage.

If we understood, we would flee such an addiction with the terror of someone fleeing a bomb set to explode and rip one’s life apart. This addiction reduces its hapless victims to jackasses exhausting themselves chasing a plastic carrot dangled in front of them; to someone dying of thirst in a desert pathetically stumbling after a mirage.

Real love is not a whim that spurts and splutters at the fickle mercy of hormones and circumstances. It does not fizzle when hot-blooded leaps of imagination hit cold reality. It is unfazed by sagging beauty, declining abilities and changes of fortune. This unstoppable force powers on regardless. It is fueled not by the beloved but by daily dying to self and coming alive to the God of gods who sacrificed everything and became the highest by becoming the lowest. Yes, for love that never dies you must die daily. To find such love you must lose self.

This love is noble, making you worthy of never-ending honor. Like an exquisite garden, it does not magically arrive; it is carefully nurtured. It is a virtue; a perpetual choice; a way of life for which you will literally be eternally grateful.

Love thinks the highest of a person; forever viewing the beloved in the best possible light; always giving the beloved the benefit of the doubt. It sees beauties and finds treasures in the beloved that others miss.

Love longs to know and understand everything about the beloved so that it can best serve the person.

This love is forever grateful. It keeps on appreciating; never taking the beloved for granted; continually singing the beloved’s praises. It always treasures and values the beloved. It keeps no count of wrongs nor of cost. It is hopeless at remembering pain but never forgets when the beloved brought joy.

Love seeks not to get but to give and give; not to be served but to serve. It craves not its own but the achievement and fulfillment of the beloved. It longs to exalt the beloved; not to put down but to lift high; not to control but to empower; not to manipulate but to liberate. In the eyes of love, to win at the expense of the beloved is to lose. It seeks not to win arguments but for the beloved to be proved right. Its happiness rests in the happiness of the beloved. It rejoices in the other’s success more than its own. When the beloved is honored, it feels honored; when the beloved is hurt, it feels pain. It willingly sacrifices everything for the beloved.

Love keeps opening its heart. It is gentle but strong; soft but enduring; pliable but rock-solid. It is faithful and loyal, steadfast and true. It is dependable and pure. It stays as reliable in secret as when it is seen. It never stagnates but grows stronger by the year.

This love is as eternal as God; as selfless as Christ. Empowered by the Spirit, it lets earth glimpse heaven. This love is sacred, its source is divine. It delights in God and is God’s delight.

We are called to be like Jesus, who kept on loving Judas, knowing from the beginning that he would betray him (Scriptures). We are to love like the one who did not wait until his heathen torturers showed any remorse but forgave them while they were in the very act of killing him (Luke 23:33-34). What chance have we of doing this if we cannot even show our marriage partners such love?

People today claim to be horrified about anyone not marrying for love, but marrying for one’s own happiness is marrying for selfishness, not love. If marriage is all about selfishness it is doomed to fail. Or was marriage instituted by the God of selfless love?

In this description of love I have crammed much into a few words. I suggest you print it and read it over and over, while praying this:

    Psalms 139:23-24 Search me, God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.

Despite the importance of love, however, the motive for marrying should soar even higher than sacrificial love for a human. If the goal of marriage is anything less than the glory of God it is spiritually corrupt and as unhealthy as a life-threatening flesh-eating disease.

Years ago the Lord challenged my wife: “Will you live for love or for self?” For her it was a no-brainer. To love as God loves is to truly live. She is appalled, however, at how many modern women have fallen into an arrogant, self-centered “Princess Complex”. That’s an ugly, ungodly blemish. Even the glorious King of kings has a servant heart (Scriptures). No matter what failings your wife may have, however, the God who lavishes you and me with his unconditional love despite our enormous failures and inadequacies, expects you to keep on loving as he does.

Regardless of whatever your wife does, the fact remains set in stone that you dared marry the darling daughter of the all-seeing Lord. If that doesn’t send shivers down your spine, you have confused God biding his time with God not caring. You have got away with nothing; it is just not yet judgment time. Once, through physical union, two become one, it is way too late to back out: how you treat God’s daughter will impact you severely.

In marriage, as in the parable of the talents, the King has left you in charge of his treasure and he seems to have gone so quiet about it that it is as if he has left the country. This treasure, however, is not mere priceless material goods; it is the very daughter of the Almighty King of kings, the apple of his eye. To him, she is royalty; the darling of his heart in whom he sees sensitivities, beauties and perfections that you will never perceive.

Even if your life partner is not a Christian, she is loved with such incomprehensible intensity that, for her, the Exalted One ripped himself away from the majestic perfection of his celestial throne and the adoring throngs clamoring for the honor of serving his every whim. Abandoning the pristine splendor of heaven, he came alone to grubby earth to wade through its moral sewers and be despised, ridiculed and finally tortured to death, just because he could no longer constrain the perpetual volcano of his love for her. To him you must give full account of everything you have ever done to her, including any time you treated her as a common servant rather than the princess of God that she is.

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What Will Come Home to Roost?

With that dangling by a thread above your head, let me seize an already piercing Scripture and polish it with a few words till it glares at you with the terrifying intensity God intends. Note the comments I have added in square brackets:

    Galatians 6:7 Don’t be deceived [its coming could be so slow that we are in grave danger of fooling ourselves into thinking we have got away with it, but it is as unavoidable as death]. God is not mocked [it is divinely guaranteed], for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap [we choose our future and seal our fate: we will end up on the receiving end of whatever we have dished out].

As surely as spitting into the wind, if we treat our wives in a less than Christlike manner it will come hurtling back to us with divine fury.

Could you, by the way you treat your wife, be storing up for yourself curses such as domination, grumpiness, selfishness, impatience, criticism, resentment, or harshness?

Or are you blessing yourself and brightening your future by making it your habit to be loving, cheerful, appreciative, peaceable, patient, kind, gentle, generous and self-controlled, so that these delights may come home to roost as faithfully as homing pigeons?

What we give shall be poured back into our bosom in abundance – “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38). Significantly, Jesus said this not merely in the context of giving money but about loving and forgiving those who hurt us, being kind to the ungrateful, not condemning or judging others, and so on (The Context).

If we reap what we sow, are you, by the way you treat your wife, blessing the garden of your near future with flowers or cursing it with thorns?

Or is it even more serious? We need look no further than when Jesus spoke about separating the sheep from the goats upon his spectacular return to earth as humanity’s Judge (Matthew 25:31-46) to know that how we treat people has not just earthly implications but serious eternal consequences. Moreover, the person on whom we are likely to have the greatest impact for the longest time – and hence the person we will be held especially accountable for – is our marriage partner.

Anyone familiar with my writings will know that I specialize in gentle, inspirational webpages. This time I’m uncomfortable with the message entrusted to me, but obedience to the God of Truth is not about comfort. No matter how much I might long to water down this webpage, I must die to self and faithfully expound God’s Word. The same Jesus who was so tender to those reeling under the awareness of their sin, tore strips off those whose pride or self-righteousness made them hard-hearted (examples). For these blinded by complacency, the Perfect Teacher, who loved them with his own blood, had no alternative but to hit them with the truth to try to shock them back to reality.

Regardless of how we might prefer life to be, God treats you and your wife as one. The conclusion Scripture draws from this is that “husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28). So anything you do that promotes your wife’s happiness, contentment and fulfillment ends up furthering your own; anything you do that oppresses your wife ends up oppressing you.

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God’s Tender Heart

We will later explore the surprising biblical revelation that the Holy Lord exalts physical intimacy above spiritual activities. Before examining this aspect of God’s tender heart, however, let’s ensure we are not so crude or callous as to imagine that our loving Lord sees marital duties as going little further that the satisfying of physical urges. Yes, a torturously strong sex drive can be so all-consuming as to make it difficult to think of anything else but it is vital that we do all we can to see through the haze.

Your wife’s devoted and ever-vigilant Father expects husbands to treat their wives with sensitivity and tenderness:

    1 Peter 3:7 You husbands, in the same way, live with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor to the woman, as to the weaker vessel, as being also joint heirs of the grace of life; that your prayers may not be hindered. (Emphasis mine.)

Sex did not even rate a mention in this Scripture but every husband is expected to treat God’s daughter as the most delicate, priceless and irreplaceable crystal ware. Think of her as a cheap, unbreakable plastic mug, and even on earth you will suffer spiritually. Ride roughshod over her feelings, and God is so much his daughter’s avenger that when he acts, even your prayers for mercy might go unheeded.

The last thing any of us wants is communication problems with God. Want to find yourself cut off from God’s blessings? Want to be in a crisis and have your desperate pleas to the only One who can save you go no further than the ceiling? Suddenly the implications of this Scripture hit hard:

    James 5:16  . . .The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective. (Emphasis mine.)

And suddenly this sends chills down the spine:

    Isaiah 59:2  . . . your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

All because of treating one’s wife a bit too casually . . .

Peter was expounding a spiritual principle so fundamental that although it clearly applies to one’s marital partner, it extends beyond that to every relationship. Here’s the principle in black and white:

    Proverbs 21:13 Whoever stops his ears at the cry of the poor, he will also cry out, but shall not be heard.

    Proverbs 28:9 He who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.

    Isaiah 1:15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you. Yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.

We have seen that the God of love takes how we treat others so personally that it is as if we were doing it to him. Being insensitive to your wife’s feelings goes hand in glove with being insensitive to God’s feelings. Again, one has enormous responsibilities to one’s life partner, but this is so fundamental to the God who has no limits that Scripture applies it to all relationships:

    1 John 4:20 If a man says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

    James 3:9-11 With it [the tongue] we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the image of God. . . . My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send out from the same opening fresh and bitter water?

    Matthew 25:44-46  . . . ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’
          Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

We have been following thoughts generated by what Peter reveals about marriage but before leaving that quote from Peter we should note the context:

    1 Peter 3:7-9 You husbands, in the same way, live with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor to the woman, as to the weaker vessel, as being also joint heirs of the grace of life; that your prayers may not be hindered. Finally, be all like-minded, compassionate, loving as brothers, tender hearted, courteous, not rendering evil for evil, or insult for insult; but instead blessing; knowing that to this were you called, that you may inherit a blessing. (Emphasis mine.)

Note also the context of “don't grieve the Holy Spirit”:

    Ephesians 4:29-32 Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but only what is good for building others up as the need may be, that it may give grace to those who hear. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you. (Emphasis mine.)

Does it surprise you that the Bible links grieving the Spirit not with how we treat the Holy Spirit, but with failing to treat people with kindness, gentleness and respect? This has significant implications for marriage. If wives were the focus of this webpage, I would have to zero in on the tongue-lashings that some women are infamous for:

    Proverbs 19:13  . . . A wife’s quarrels are a continual dripping.

    Proverbs 21:19 It is better to dwell in a desert land, than with a contentious and fretful woman.

State laws are often so crude as to recognize little more than physical hurt but God knows no such limitations. He looks at the heart. To the Holy One, who sees hate as murder and lust as adultery (1 John 3:15; Matthew 5:21-22,28), fighting with one’s lips is just as criminal as fighting with fists. Of course, some men wound with their lips and, more than ever in these days of “sexual equality,” some women resort to physical violence such as pouring boiling water on sleeping husbands. In this webpage, however, the focus is on the marital obligations of husbands.

When asked to rank what they most want in marriage, women typically produce a markedly different list to that of most men. High – often top – on the typical woman’s list is security.

Situations beyond a man’s control can overwhelm any man, preventing him from adequately providing for his family or from protecting them from physical danger. In such circumstances, no matter how tempted he might be to feel a failure, every man should hold his head high. However, when a woman feels insecure, not because of thugs outside the house, but feels threatened or fears her children are endangered, by her own husband, that man has seriously failed. Amazingly, many women who feel this way have husbands who would never, ever harm their wives or children and often these men have no idea of the extent to which they are scaring their wives and thereby threatening their marriages.

You could be excused for presuming that a one second release of anger by harmlessly throwing something unbreakable to the floor, or hitting your fist on the table, would be of no consequence whatsoever. It could be an extremely rare event that you forget almost instantly and yet it could devastate your wife, shattering her trust in you. Though you have genuine reason to see it as harmless, it could shake her to the core and damage your marriage as much as if you had beaten her mercilessly. It might seem incomprehensible that such innocent letting off steam could crush someone so immensely but, sadly, it could leave a wife nervous and on edge indefinitely. Feeling insecure in her own home week after week could eat away at a woman and, often unknown to the husband, dangerously eat away at the marriage, with the tragic possibility that sometime when he least expects it, the marriage falls irretrievably apart.

None of us knows what we are capable of if we were sufficiently provoked at our weakest moment. And just because you and I have convinced ourselves that we would never physically hurt our wives does not mean our actions have always left our wives convinced.

What often makes it deeply disturbing to a woman to witness just a second of seemingly out-of-control rage in her husband is that this is the person she knows is strong enough to kill her with his bare hands and with whom she is alone night after night.

Too many men cannot tell the difference between a submissive partner and a scared wife whose fantasies about leaving him are hurtling toward reality.

You might be so lucky as to have a wife who regards an outburst as being as harmless as you regard it, but it is far too easy for a man to fail to detect how sensitive his wife is. No husband can know exactly how much his wife can take before she suddenly cracks and ends the marriage. Are you aware that most divorces are initiated by women, and their husbands did not even see it coming? This seems impossible, and yet it happens in marriage after marriage, and usually when a woman reaches that point, the marriage is over, no matter how desperate and sincere the husband is in promising to change. It is not impossible to end up so blinded by self-righteousness that not even God could forgive you (because you see no need to seek divine forgiveness), but even if you eventually manage to see the error of your ways and truly repent, few wives, after years of suppressed anger and hidden hurt, are as forgiving as God. Every man either takes to heart this sobering fact while he still thinks his marriage is good, or there is a strong chance that he will end up adding to the statistics, no matter how sure he is that it could never happen to him.

So, although I assume you recognize the obvious importance of not hitting your wife, even anger can be far more damaging than most men realize. We must remember just how vulnerable our extra physical strength can make our wives feel, since they often find themselves alone with us at our weakest, angriest moment.

In this light, consider the importance of these Scriptures:

    Proverbs 12:16 A fool shows his annoyance the same day, but one who overlooks an insult is prudent.

    Proverbs 14:29 He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a quick temper displays folly.

    Proverbs 15:18 A wrathful man stirs up contention, but one who is slow to anger appeases strife.

    Proverbs 16:32 One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; one who rules his spirit, than he who takes a city.

    Proverbs 19:11 The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger. It is his glory to overlook an offense.

    Proverbs 25:28 Like a city that is broken down and without walls is a man whose spirit is without restraint.

    Proverbs 29:11 A fool vents all of his anger, but a wise man brings himself under control.

A man should seriously question how big a failure he is if he cannot make his wife feel secure at times when he is the only potential source of danger.

* * *

Pause for a moment to imagine what it would be like to have had a heart transplant. Consider how you would cherish that precious new part of you. What was once a vital part of another person is now a vital part of you. Your body keeps your new heart alive and that heart keeps your body alive. Your welfare and destinies are one.

The consequences of a man and woman becoming one flesh are as profound as this life-transforming surgery.

The tragic possibility of a heart transplant is that the body might turn against its new organ, attacking it as if it were a disease rather than the essential part of itself that it has become. This is what it is like when a wife and husband fight. Regardless of whether they use lips, fists, threats, silent treatment, finances, withholding sex, trashing treasured objects, or whatever, it is as foolish as attacking your heart with a knife.

Very many people wanted the apostle Paul dead but he was spiritually astute enough to see through the obvious. He realized that his fight was not with flesh and blood but against spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12). One of the foundations of my marriage is that whenever my wife and I have a problem we see beyond the obvious and view it as an external attack. To fight each other would be as ridiculous as a nation choosing the moment it is attacked by another nation as the time to break into civil war. A household divided against itself is doomed (Mark 3:25). Refusing to fight each other, we stand shoulder to shoulder, resolutely uniting to fight the problem as our common enemy.

When a marriage is under pressure there are two options: join forces with your partner and fight the pressure as a common enemy, or turn on each other, blaming and fighting one another.

Joining forces significantly multiplies one’s power to overcome adversity, as indicated in Deuteronomy 32:30. It says that one person shall put a thousand enemies to flight and yet two shall send fleeing not just two thousand but ten thousand.

In the confusion of an ambush, one seldom has the presence of mind to devise the correct strategy. One needs to develop the habit well ahead of time of closing ranks and together fighting a common enemy when even the tiniest issues assail a relationship. The tragedy of not developing this habit is demonstrated several times in Israel’s history, when the nation’s enemies turned on each other in the heat of battle; slaughtering each other instead of attacking Israel (Judges 7:22; 1 Samuel 14:20: 2 Chronicles 20:23). In the words of Jesus, a household divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25).

* * *

Tragic Mistake

Are you aware of what Gary Chapman calls the five languages of love? People vary as to what causes them to feel loved and they usually use this as their basis of expressing love. For example, giving gifts is very important to some people in helping them to feel and express love but for some other people, gift giving is almost as meaningless as a foreign language. For them the pre-eminent way of communicating love might be one of the following:

    * Touch

    * Talking

    * Serving

    * Verbal Encouragement

The key point is that a partner could put enormous effort into expressing love, only for much of it to be wasted because the method used is essentially meaningless to the other person. Often this can continue for years without the couple realizing what is happening. So it is vital to put much prayer and effort into discovering what things are most effective in making your partner feel valued and loved. You might be quite surprised at what you find.

If a wife doesn’t feel loved and can’t interpret her husband’s actions as showing love, then regardless of how deeply he really loves her, as far as she is concerned she might as well not be loved. She would feel completely unfulfilled and a basic need within her that God intended marriage to satisfy is left as a gnawing ache, thus tempting her to look to another man to meet that need.

Whether a wife yields to that temptation is up to her. She will be held accountable by God for how she responds but whether the temptation exists is largely up to her husband, and God will hold him accountable for his role in the existence of the temptation. As Jesus said, temptations will come but woe to him who causes them (Luke 17:1-2). If you don’t do what you can to minimize your wife’s temptation (such as failing to do all you can to make her feel loved) God sees it an equally serious offence as trying to seduce another woman. Just as trying to seduce a married woman is tempting that woman to be unfaithful, so causing your wife to feel unloved is tempting her to be unfaithful.

Let’s not forget that adultery is such a big deal with God that in the Old Testament it incurred the death penalty.

We dare not take risks with temptation. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall” warned Paul (1 Corinthians 10:12). Complacency is deadly.

Remember Simon Peter: so certain he’d never deny his Lord. If we, who live inside our minds and bodies 24/7, can still fail to correctly gauge our own susceptibility to temptation, what chance have we of accurately guessing the danger our partner faces?

We should desperately plead for God to protect us from placing burdens of self-control upon our partners that make us ever so slightly like the Jews condemned by Jesus when he said:

    Luke 11:46  . . . Woe to you lawyers also! For you load men with burdens that are difficult to carry, and you yourselves won’t even lift one finger to help carry those burdens.

* * *

Whether it be God’s love or a wife’s love, to abuse love or a forgiving heart is a hideous act. It is a betrayal of trust on the level of physically torturing one’s best friend. Anyone who thinks he can get away with exploiting love is hurtling headlong into the rudest awakening.

We have seen that there is a frightening side to God’s love: it renders him a fearsome protector of his children. Jesus gave us insight into this when he said:

    Matthew 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea.

And let us not forget:

    Hebrews 4:13 There is no creature that is hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.

    Hebrews 10:30-31 For we know him who said, “Vengeance belongs to me,” says the Lord, “I will repay.” Again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

* * *

More “Godly” than God!

It is disturbingly easy to end up self-deceived and oblivious to spiritual danger; getting things so horribly wrong as to provoke God’s wrath while presuming we are being so very holy and spiritual. One of the most likely ways for us to end up in this catastrophic mess is by letting “spiritual” things take priority over one’s marriage. Few of us realize just how seriously the God of love takes it when we let family slip in our priorities.

We might think that little would impress God more than sacrificially giving him our hard earned cash and yet this very act infuriates him when what you put in the offering does not have the blessing of your family. Is it right to let giving to the Lord take precedence over giving to one’s family? We see Jesus exploding the myth in reference to parents, and the same principle applies to one’s wife.

In the following, we will see Jesus expounding the meaning of “honor your father and mother.” If he says the word “honor” can be stretched so far as to include money, then it has to include a whole range of other things such as respect, support, physical help, and so on.

    Matthew 15:3-9, 12-14 He answered them, “Why do you also disobey the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever may tell his father or his mother, “Whatever help you might otherwise have gotten from me is a gift devoted to God,” he shall not honor his father or mother.’ You have made the commandment of God void because of your tradition. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. And in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine rules made by men.’ ” . . .
          Then the disciples came, and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended, when they heard this saying?”
          But he answered, “Every plant which my heavenly Father didn’t plant will be uprooted. Leave them alone. They are blind guides of the blind. If the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

See how Jesus ripped into them over this issue. He didn’t say this was some minor slip of priorities. He was saying that by neglecting family responsibilities they had totally lost it. They were blind guides. They had not been planted by the Father. They were weeds that would be ripped up by the roots. And what was their grave offense? Advising that it is acceptable to neglect family responsibilities for the sake of serving God.

This is the same Jesus who said, “Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor . . .”

We need to be extremely wary of thinking ourselves more spiritual than our partner. When God means so much to us, we have a strong bias toward self-deception in that we can “spiritualize” our hang-ups and weaknesses. In other words, we can build up a very strong biblical argument supporting our stance and convince ourselves that we have divine approval for our actions when God doesn’t approve at all but we are simply hoping to justify behavior that may be no more correct than our partner’s and might even be totally contrary to God’s ways.

This is why Jesus kept insisting that we must humble ourselves, and not judge others but to focus on our own shortcomings.

If there is any group of people in the Bible that haunts me, it is the Scribes and Pharisees. They seemed to be so theologically correct and so incredibly devout and so certain they were pleasing God and yet they missed it so totally that they ended up murdering the Son of God. What alarms me is that each of us continually teeters on the edge of making spiritual mistakes of the same horrific magnitude.

John tells us that when the Jews were finalizing Jesus’ execution they refused to enter Pilate’s palace to avoid ceremonial uncleanness (John 18:28). That’s how deluded they were – how much they thought they were doing everything exactly as God would have them to act. These were devout Bible scholars. If they can get it so horribly wrong, so can we, if we are not extremely careful. Just as they were so sure they would never make the same mistakes as their ancestors who killed the prophets, we are in danger of arrogantly thinking we will never make the mistakes of the Scribes and Pharisees.

We all know:

    Matthew 7:22-23 Many will tell me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.’

Neglect family responsibilities and all service and sacrifice becomes repulsive to God. Paul takes up this same theme. He says that everyone should “ . . . learn first to show piety toward their own family, and to repay their parents, for this is acceptable in the sight of God” (1 Timothy 5:4, emphasis mine).

Paul continues:

    1 Timothy 5:7-8 Also command these things, that they may be without reproach. But if anyone doesn’t provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Read the last sentence again: “But if anyone doesn’t provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This is astoundingly serious! I know it sounds too extreme. If you are thinking maybe Paul was just having a really bad day at the office when he penned that, I’m glad I’m in good company. The only problem is that, as we have seen, Jesus said almost precisely the same.

We can’t squirm out of this by claiming, “It’s Old Testament,” or some such thing. We’ve quoted Jesus and now Paul is saying the same thing – that anyone neglecting their family life has so strayed from God that he is in danger of the same fate as unbelievers.

I used to be so “godly” that I despised the adage, “Charity begins at home,” but that’s not the first time I have been so stupid as to end up more “godly” than God. Although I am still wary of people using the adage as an excuse for selfishness, there truly is a biblical basis for saying “Charity begins at home.” Charity (the King James Version word for love) most certainly does not end at home but it is the essential starting point and if ever we leave it behind in our pursuit of Christlikeness, we’ve disqualified ourselves.

Would God be impressed if we stole money from the impoverished so that we could put it in the offering? Wouldn’t that infuriate him? So it is when we steal from a wife or some other family member to give to God what he says is rightfully theirs. If family members make the sacrifice of their own accord, they will be rewarded and we will be off the hook, but if we force it upon them, it is entirely different. In marriage, this principle applies not merely to money but equally to time, comfort, respect, companionship, lovemaking and so on.

* * *

Physical Intimacy

Now that we have gained some perspective by gaining insight into the importance of other aspects of marital love, let’s look to the Lord for some divine insight into physical intimacy.

    1 Corinthians 7:5 Don’t deprive one another, unless it is by consent for a season, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and may be together again, that Satan doesn’t tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (Emphasis mine)

That bears careful reading. Ponder the significance of both partners having to feel comfortable about it before God’s Word approves even brief abstinence for the highest motives. This means that if one partner wants to plunge deeply into prayer, and the other wants a bit of sexual fun, God’s Word – I hope you are sitting – says the wishes of the one wanting sex must take priority. That’s staggering! In this case, God requires sexuality to take precedence over what we might call spirituality. This is how absolutely critical it is that husbands and wives do everything within their power to lower their partner’s temptation to look outside of marriage for whatever manifestation of love they crave.

The apostle’s sympathy for the partner for whom it is too much effort to miss sex for a little while for the sake of God, is all the more remarkable when we consider that Paul denied himself sexually – and in so many other ways – year after year after year. Here is a man who repeatedly had his flesh flayed for the sake of Christ. He is so passionate about putting devotion to the Lord above every other consideration that he refused to marry. He is astoundingly tough on himself, and yet, under the Spirit’s sway, see how soft he becomes in what he expects of others.

I was initially staggered to read a survey in which a common response from both husbands and wives was that they would like more sex. I could easily understand one partner having a higher sex drive but if both want more, why do they hold back? This was a secular survey, not of people striving for sainthood by denying themselves. Upon reflection, I have identified three reasons for this survey result:

1. Stress, tiredness and hormones are among the factors that cause one’s desire for sex to fluctuate, and for no couple are these fluctuations likely to perfectly match, even if, over all, their desires are roughly equal. On some occasions the wife will have the greater sexual desire and sometimes this will be reversed.

    So to fully meet the other’s desires, each partner must sometimes get physical when he/she does not particularly feel like it. It is not just in relation to money that one must take by faith that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

    Occasionally circumstances require that the vital Christian principles of selflessness and denying oneself should be applied to denying oneself sex. However, denying oneself sex for the sake of the other is no nobler than making an extra effort to pamper the other sexually. Moreover, if a couple restrict themselves to when both are feeling particularly passionate at the same time, they will end up having far fewer bonding times and an increase in how often they feel sexually deprived and neglected and, possibly, a little resentful. So, despite what we might have expected, the Scripture we have quoted indicates that denying oneself should most often be applied to denying one’s desire to sleep or watch TV or even to pray when one’s partner wants sex.

    For reasons explained in the link I Hate Sex! When Wives Want a Sexless Marriage at the end of this webpage, forcing oneself to do anything sexually that one finds distasteful can end up weakening the marriage bond. So I am not referring to doing anything like that but simply to investing in your marriage by occasionally exerting yourself to pampering your partner when she is feeling more passionate than you are.

    On the other hand, married people who find sex distasteful need to honor their partners by giving high priority to courageously working toward healing, by seeing a doctor or counselor. If you don’t want to do whatever it takes to heal, you should not have married. Like it or not, sex is the heart of marriage. It is what makes marriage unique. If you have chosen to marry, condemning your husband to no moral possibility of sex other than what you give him, then you have morally lost all right to put healing on the backburner.

    Whilst it can be damaging to one’s sex life to engage in any activity one currently finds unpleasant, one should not go to the other extreme of waiting until one moves from feeling neutral to actually desiring it before giving it a go.

    After conducting an extensive, in-depth survey of women willing to keep sex diaries, Bettina Arndt has concluded that for women to maximize their personal marital fulfillment they should not wait until they want sex before engaging in foreplay (Source). It applies to men, too. Often, sessions when my sexual pleasure has soared to extraordinary levels began with me having little or no desire to even bother. I simply decided to push myself – often out of a vague hope of maintaining the bond I feel with my wife. At times, I’ve wondered whether sexual arousal were even possible. Despite my desire being buried somewhere in a deep hole sound asleep, foreplay slowly awakened it and coaxed it out of hiding. Eventually, what I had doubted would be worth the effort and thought would turn into a fizzler, turned into exquisite ecstasy. It has happened often and yet I still find myself amazed at the gradual transformation of no interest into passionate desire.

2. Each partner is not getting as much as he/she wants because, at least occasionally, each prefers something slightly different. For example, one might prefer sex more often, and the other prefer longer lovemaking sessions.

    Each partner should strive for the total satisfaction of the other. If, however, your partner is not displaying that commitment, your obligation to selflessly serve your partner remains as strong as ever.

3. For some people, their sexual advances have only to be gently declined a very few times before they give up – not necessarily give up entirely but give up that particular type of approach.

4. The final possibility is that couples deny themselves sex because neither partner has enough time, due to giving other things – television viewing or whatever – higher priority.

    Despite advances in birth-control, the so-called sexual revolution and the preoccupation with sex in modern entertainment, studies suggest that couples in the 1950s had more sex than today’s couples. There are more distractions in modern society and it is not just in sport that people are more likely than ever to end up spectators rather than participants.

    If this resulted in merely missing a bit of pleasure, it would be of little consequence, but sex is far more than pleasure. As the creator of sex, God is the authority on sexuality and from his perspective, sex is all about bonding. If you examine biblical revelation carefully, you will discover that it is sex, not a marriage license, that makes two people one flesh (meditate, for example on the implications of 1 Corinthians 6:16). And one does not have to be an Einstein to know that for most couples, giving adequate priority to sex helps maintain that sacred bond.

Regardless of whether we see our reward this side of heaven, however, we need to learn from the divinely inspired apostle. No matter how good it might be to be tough on ourselves, we greatly need Paul’s tenderness toward our marriage partner’s vulnerability. Or, looked at another way, we need Paul’s God-given awareness of just how high the stakes are. Who of us is truly aware of the cost of one slip-up?

* * *

God’s View of Sex

My understanding of biblical revelation is that sex makes two people one flesh in God’s eyes and that thereafter this divinely-given gift should be used to nurture this sacred, life-long union. If this is so, it seems logical to conclude that solo sex is a perversion of God’s gift, even though Scripture does not specifically discuss the matter. What happens when one partner’s limitations make intercourse impractical, however? Does God see one partner satisfying the other without any intention of intercourse as lovingly nurturing the marital bond? Some Christians have highly restrictive opinions about what has God’s blessing, even within the exclusive bond of marriage. Some even go to the extreme of believing that any sex, other than for the specific purpose of conception, is wrong. On the other extreme, some see any restrictions within marriage as contrary to God’s heart.

It is certainly not for me to attempt to legislate for anyone. Each couple needs to come together before God and seek his face as to what, if any, attempts to express their physical oneness he wishes them to avoid. For complex psychological and physical reasons, people differ as to their sexual limitations, needs and fears. No doubt our wise Lord will lovingly consider this in what he reveals to individual couples.

When prayerfully determining the scope of their physical expressions of love, couples must be extremely cautious about coming to any conclusion (be it restrictive or liberal) about anything not specifically stated in Scripture that ends up detrimental to their union by causing one person to feel unloved or exposed to the temptation to do something that is clearly forbidden by Scripture.

Being denied what you yearn for and what makes you feel loved can be distressing and a source of temptation but this can equally be the case for being pressured to submit to something that disturbs you.

Rather than sink into resenting your partner for having desires or limitations incompatible with your own, marital love is about prayerfully endeavoring to get to know your partner’s torment so deeply that you end up yearning for her contentment and fulfillment at least as much as she does, and even more than you want your own.

Put another way: a key expression of being one flesh is to keep seeking to attain the point where, as implied by Paul when speaking of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:26), when one part of the body (your partner) suffers, the rest of the body (you) feels it. And this should go beyond mere empathy to action:

    1 John 3:16-18 By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart of compassion against him, how does the love of God remain in him? My little children, let’s not love in word only, or with the tongue only, but in deed and truth.

This is indeed getting highly practical. This principle obviously extends far beyond material goods to any practical way that one Christian might be able to relieve another’s distress. And if this depth of feeling and sacrifice is expected between all Christians, it must certainly be prominent in a Christian marriage, and within that sacred union, practical expressions of love must extend to sex.

Blame – whether it be blaming God, yourself, your partner, or anyone else – must not be tolerated. Blaming yourself, for example, might seem humble but just as condemnation is an insidious spiritual attack, so is self-blame or any other form of blame. Instead, you and your wife must close ranks and seek divine empowering to sacrificially and passionately fight as a common enemy any difference in your desires.

Obviously, one must avoid being influenced by worldly views, but it is equally dangerous to let prudishness or a negative view of God (such as imagining our beautiful Lord is harsh or wants to make us miserable) to distort our ability to hear from God on this critical issue. One must not lose sight of the tender heart of God who delights in our happiness. Ponder for example the implications of these Scriptures:

    Colossians 2:20-23 If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances, “Don’t handle, nor taste, nor touch” (all of which perish with use), according to the precepts and doctrines of men? Which things indeed appear like wisdom in self-imposed worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but aren’t of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.

    1 Timothy 4:1-5 But the Spirit says expressly that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons . . . forbidding marriage and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.

    1 Timothy 6:17  . . . God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy

    Acts 14:17 Yet he didn’t leave himself without witness, in that he did good and gave you rains from the sky and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

    Psalms 145:9, 16 The Lord is good to all. . . .You open your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

    James 1:5  . . . God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach . . .

As I have said, it would be preposterous for me to try to legislate how couples should express their marital union. Since discovering God’s heart on this is the responsibility of every couple, I have crafted a webpage to support couples seeking God’s help in working through the issues as to how God would have them express physical intimacy (see the link to Is it Perverted? at the end of this webpage).

* * *

Ministry Implications

Having seen the importance Scripture gives to caring for one’s family, let’s now look at the scriptural prerequisites for ministry:

    1 Timothy 3:2-5 The overseer therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, modest, hospitable, good at teaching; not a drinker, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having children in subjection with all reverence; (but if a man doesn’t know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the assembly of God?)

    1 Timothy 3:12 Let servants be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

    1 Timothy 3:11 Their wives in the same way must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.

    Titus 1:5-6  . . .Appoint elders . . . blameless, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, who are not accused of loose or unruly behavior. (Emphasis mine.)

In these quotes we have looked at three different ministry positions. I believe the following refers to yet another ministry position – being financially supported by the church for the ministry of intercession (1 Timothy 5:5-6,11-13). Even if you disagree, no one can deny the fundamental importance given to a good marriage:

    1 Timothy 5:9-10 Let no one be enrolled as a widow under sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, being approved by good works, if she has brought up children, if she has been hospitable to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, and if she has diligently followed every good work. (Emphasis mine.)

Did you read the above quotes carefully? These Scriptures are saying that with God, no one is even in contention for consideration for a ministry position if his/her marriage isn’t up to scratch. One’s family life is fundamental to all ministry. It’s like aspiring to be captain of a basketball team. No matter how great a captain you think you’d make, you are not in contention as a captain unless you are good enough to be in the team. You never get to the point where your captaincy is so good that your playing ability is no longer critical. So it is with ministry: your marriage is absolutely critical. Let your marriage slip and you disqualify yourself from ministry, just as surely as if you fell into alcoholism or sexual sin.

Obviously, if you’re unmarried, you can enjoy freedom from marital obligations – and there is much to be said for that (1 Corinthians 7:1,7,8,25-28,32-40) – but once you marry, your marriage is the foundation of your ministry and anything built on any other foundation is a farce.

Remember the pastor mentioned earlier, whose devotion to ministry was driving him to neglect his wife. For God to raise up new ministers would to ease his workload be exciting but to get a new husband for his neglected wife would be sobering indeed.

Husbands who wait until they realize their marriage is in trouble will probably end up divorced.

    Proverbs 1:23-29 Turn at my reproof. Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you. I will make known my words to you. Because I have called, and you have refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no one has paid attention; but you have ignored all my counsel, and wanted none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your disaster. I will mock when calamity overtakes you; when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when your disaster comes on like a whirlwind; when distress and anguish come on you. Then will they call on me, but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me; because they hated knowledge, and didn’t choose the fear of the Lord.

* * *

The Inescapable Conclusion

We have approached this topic from several quite different angles to reach the unavoidable conclusion: irrespective of how we look at it, marriage is not just a wondrous privilege but a terrifying responsibility. God is far too loving for it to be otherwise.

The divine dilemma is that not only is God the extravagant Rewarder who passionately loves you, he is equally the Judge who reels in pain over everyone you mistreat. The Everlasting Father who delights in lavishing good gifts upon you, his treasured son, is also the Defender of the oppressed who loves like a she-bear anyone you hurt.

Even God’s wrath is driven by pure, selfless love.

In goodness, wisdom, love and perfection, God’s ways are infinitely superior to mine. Even my tiny intellect, however, can see compelling reasons why the Lord of all must make so severe the consequences of not acting in sacrificial love. Consider this:

    Was Jesus lacking in compassion when he spoke more about hell than did anyone else in the Bible? Or did compassion drive him to warn us?

    Would it be Heaven if it were populated by selfish people? Or would it be Heaven if its inhabitants yearned to be selfish but for all eternity were forced against their wishes to act in an unselfish way? Forced “love” is not love at all. Or would it be Heaven if its inhabitants were compelled to have some sort of a lobotomy and act like “loving” drones?

    Would you find it satisfying being surrounded by people who only “love” you because of some brain operation or a drug in the drinking water? That would be a hollow fake. And God is into what is real. The passionate Lord, who is nauseated by the lukewarm and wishes his people were either hot or cold (Revelation 3:15-16), would prefer enemies to fake friends. Former human beings reduced to being his mindless playthings are not in the divine plan. The Everlasting Father wants children as royal, pure and love-driven as he is.

    Our time on earth is our sole, rapidly disappearing, opportunity to decide for all eternity whether, in the words God spoke to my wife, we will “live for love or live for self.” How we treat our marriage partner is a strong indicator of our choice.

No matter how grave your other responsibilities are in life, the Almighty Judge, in whose hand rests your eternal fate, holds you more accountable for your wife’s physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being than he is likely to hold you accountable for any other person on this planet.

How you treat your wife has staggeringly extensive consequences, with ramifications ranging from ones as immediate and earthly as if you were loving your own body (Ephesians 5:28), to being as final and eternal as the pronouncements on Judgment Day being based on how you treat people.

The rewards of sacrificial love are just as immense and eternal as the consequences of marital selfishness and neglect are catastrophic.

And this applies equally to wives. Every woman reading this, needs to be alert to the reality that humanity’s Judge is never guilty of favoritism. He sees through the fallacy that men are somehow less easily hurt. God is just as fiercely protective of their feelings as he is of any woman. Everything said in this webpage to husbands can be said with equal force to wives. With eternity hurtling toward us we must each stop pointing at others and attend to the log in our own eye.

Once someone has disregard Paul’s advice of choosing the simpler, more God-focused lifestyle of remaining single and celibate (1 Corinthians 7:1,7,8,25-28,32-40), marital challenges – as frustrating and time-consuming as they can get – become a divinely ordained launching pad to spiritual greatness. What is learned about selfless love in the training ground of marriage, however, must be allowed to grow to the extreme of Christlike love – the love that knows no limits but extends even to strangers and enemies.

To humble yourself is to be exalted. To make yourself everyone’s servant is to rule with the King of kings. To die to selfishness is to come alive to God and the exquisite perfection of his love. To yield to that love, letting it flow through you to all around, is life eternal.

* * *

Related Links

Holy Fire In Your Marriage: Stirring Up Marital Passion

Marital Love at its Best

Husband, Head of a Submissive Wife?

A Second Look at Conjugal Rights

Is it Perverted?

God Loves Everyone: The Terrifying Implications

God’s Heart & Marriage (The women’s version of the page you are currently on.)

© 2011, Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at www.net-burst.net  Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.

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