If you are married, did you have a pre-marital course to prepare you for marriage? Jenny and I are just under 5 months shy of been married for 50 years. Before we were married, we arranged to meet with the pastor. He saw us for about 30 minutes and then married us a few months later. Were we prepared for marriage? No! Yes, we were in love. Yes, we wanted to get married. Yet, the reality is that in no way were we sufficiently ready to marry.
The pastor did not provide any marriage counseling. Our parents gave us no tips, hints or advise about marriage. Everyone seemed to be happy we were marrying, but there was absolutely no guidance about marriage. We were not aware of the pitfalls and emotional differences between us. We knew little or nothing about problem solving, working with finances or how the roles of the wife or husband need to be fulfilled. All we knew was what we saw in our parents, and often that was to be avoided.
What we did have as examples in marriage was Jenny’s memory of her mother’s parents. Her grandfather and mother were always hand in hand, arm in arm … “lovey dovey” … grandfather would serenade grandmother with the mandolin. They were happy. Another was her mom’s one sister. She and her husband were extremely in love and demonstrated this even though their children were adults and married. In a nutshell, that’s about all we had in preparation for marriage.
Although I thought our marriage was a good one, we only became Christians after around eight or nine years, Only then did we start to understand the gravity of the marital union in Christ. God knew He predestined to save us, and in His mercy He protected us through those days of lost-ness. Slowly over the years of pastoral ministry, I built up a pre-marital course that I also used as a marriage enrichment course. Presenting the course regularly in either shape (Jenny was there for the ‘enrichment’ courses) helped us understand something deeper about marriage. We also understood that although Christian, we were saved sinners … meaning that we still sinned and sin is often used by the devil to disrupt or corrupt a marriage. I will be taking a couple through a pre-marital course soon. I often wonder who gets the most benefit of the course … the couple intending to get married or myself!
Irrespective of who takes the course, I start with “Living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ”. I have come to believe that if Jesus Christ is not Lord of the marriage, the marriage has every likelihood of failure. Naturally, for Him to be Lord, both husband and wife to be need to be true Christians, born by God’s Spirit and participants in His Kingdom. Then, we progress to consider what God’s blueprint for marriage is. There are a variety of doors people might go through towards marriage. It could be a stolen marriage or an arranged marriage or a get out of prison card … but God has only one door to go through:
Ge 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Understanding this Scripture helps the couple get a Biblical handle on what God expects from their marital union. Before considering the roles, we ask pertinent questions about love. We actually consider the basic six tests for love, and ‘sex’ in not one of them. By now, we have set a platform for looking at the roles … and to be gentlemanly, we look at the wife first. The wife is to complete and complement her husband. The question is, how does she do this? Through Biblical submission. Too many women (and men) have a worldly view of the concept of ‘submission’.
Eph 5:22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Understanding Biblical submission is a great help to the wife and the husband because it sets the platform for the role of the husband. His function is largely to be the leader and lover in the home. (By lover, I am not referring to intimacy.)
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Did you observe the huge different between the teaching of the wife and the husband? The wife is not told to love! Yes, it is implied in submission … but the husband is told to love … sacrificially! How sacrificially? The way Christ loved … He gave Himself in death. The husband gives up his life for the wife. She becomes everything to him. She is his focus and purpose because he needs to present her to God as “a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” … and that is a lifelong task. Once she sees sacrificial love in action, Biblical submission will be a pleasure!
But we’re not done and dusted yet! Even Christians need to learn the art of communication and problem solving, and how to put a workable financial plan and budget together and how to enjoy the blessing of intimacy. These last three things are the terrible triplets … communication, finances and intimacy. Often, when the points mentioned before fail, the terrible triplets stick their necks out and create havoc in marriage. We briefly rap the course by considering the family and how each part fits together to make the little church (for that is what a Christian family is) work well together so that God is glorified and the little church reaps His protection and blessing.
I am not saying this course will protect and prevent marital problems and divorce, but when both parties love Jesus and fulfil their specific roles and honour their marriage vows, the marriage will go a long way to enjoy God’s smile, blessings, protection and love … resulting in “until death us do part”!
Dear Loving, Gracious and Merciful Father, thank You for the blessing of Biblical Marriage. Bless and protect those who are married and guide those intending to marry to honour You in their marriage for Christ’s sake. Amen.