Category Archives: Marriage
Few things test a marriage like money. To be clear, money isn’t the root problem, but it does expose relational deficiencies and priorities. How a couple manages money will reveal what they really treasure and love. It will ultimately reveal the affection(s) of their hearts.
Here are five questions married couples can ask to evaluate whether or not they are honoring God and each other with their money and possessions.
(These questions are mostly applicable to single people, but the impetus for writing this blog is a session I always do on money for those who seek premarital counseling.)
- Do we think biblically about God’s money? The money you possess is really God’s money. “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains; the world and those who dwell in it.” (Ps. 24:1) Seeking to build your own kingdom and security by your own power instead of being rich toward God is foolish (Luke 12:13-21). If God is not first place, then something else is, and how you think about God and money will show it. If you don’t see your money in a God-centered way, then money and what it affords will become to you a god and savior.
- Do we practice joyful generosity toward God’s people? The discussion about how much is one worth having, but what is biblically clear is that God wants those who belong to Christ to be generous in giving and He wants them to be cheerful about it (2 Corinthians 6:9-12). God is concerned with both the quantity and quality of your giving. It really is quite simple; God wants us to supply the needs of the saints for their well-being and the work of ministry (2 Corinthians 9:12 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18), and so He asks all who belong to Christ to be generous. God is most glorified when we do this joyfully and not under compulsion. Our giving should be gospel-driven and motivated by God giving the greatest gift of all; His only begotten Son, Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:9). This is one of the primary ways to answer the first question: “Are we rich toward God?”
- Do money and possessions produce ongoing conflict and tension in our marriage or other relationships? If there is constantly conflict over money, then there is likely one of two reasons. First, there is no reasonable expectation by which the couple can communicate about spending. This is why a budget is so important. The budget is a visible and agreed upon expectation that both people seek to honor. With a budget, both people know what is coming in, and they both have agreed to a plan by which the money is spent and goes out. The expectation of a budget provides the opportunity for accountability and a shared cause. Second, there is a lack of communication about the shared expectation. Someone has to take the primary responsibility to track expenses and communicate the budget reality in a considerate, clear and kind way. Both people should agree who the point person will be, and then they have to be willing to communicate and agree upon how the money should be spent. When there is no reasonable expectation for expenses and little or no communication, then trust is eroded, and conflict is inevitable.
- Do we have excessive and perpetual debt? Look, with the exception of Dave Ramsey, few people are going to fault you for having a mortgage and reasonable car loan. But if debt causes you to take on more debt when the need for normal expenditures arise like car maintenance and vacations, then you have too much debt. If debt keeps you from being generous toward God and His people, then you have a debt problem. If debt is a constant source of conflict, then you might need to revisit number three. Sure, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control and we have to take steps that might create debt. But the truth is this: A lot of debt, if not most, is avoidable. No debt is best, but debt that steals joy, kills relationships and destroys opportunities is nothing less than a slave (Proverbs 22:7).
- Are we trapped by materialism? Again, look at questions one, two and four to get started answering this question. From there ask: Do we have more than we can take care of in time and money? Is our greatest joy found in the stuff that we claim to own? How do we respond when it gets old, dinged, damaged or destroyed? Do we worry about our stuff more than we worry about eternal matters like the souls of people and those who have almost nothing presently? Do we own our stuff or does our stuff own us? Does our stuff cause strife with others that we love and care about? When we look back on our lives, will we have given our best energy and time to the acquisition of possessions that will not last? Are we going into debt to have stuff that we actually can’t afford? Are we able to live within a budget and have delayed gratification if there is something we really want? Will we ever have enough? When will enough be enough? If you can’t be happy without money and possessions, then you will likely never be happy with them – at least not for long.
Money is not bad. As a matter of fact, God can use it for all sorts of good in the life of our marriage and other relationships. But we have to be willing to ask some tough questions and be honest about the place of money in our lives. Get a-hold of your money, or it will have hold of you.
Recently I received an email from a former church member who asked whether there are biblical grounds for a Christian to divorce their spouse. If Jesus tells us we are not to separate (Matthew 19:6) what God has joined in a life-long covenant (Genesis 2:24), then are there biblical reasons for getting a divorce?
I turned this into a public post for several reasons: First, to answer the question. Second, to help others who know professing Christians who may be considering divorce. Third, to serve as a warning about pursuing divorces that go against God and His word. Finally, I want to remind each reader that divorce is not defining. The gospel of Jesus is greater than divorce. God’s grace is greater than all our sin.
The following answer is not exhaustive, but it is a beginning attempt to answer a very challenging question. Here is what I wrote in response to the aforementioned question.
(If you read any part of this, please read the next to last paragraph too. Also, please understand that while I am very firm on some of what I write below, my thinking is still evolving as I try to learn from others who may hold different convictions than my own. Also, consider watching the video below.)
To begin with, this is a very difficult topic because so many have been divorced. Also it is very emotional for people and that makes it a hard topic to address. People may feel strongly that they are justified in divorcing because of any number of reasons that makes keeping their commitment to their spouse undesirable. Maybe they just are not happy. Maybe they believe they chose the wrong “soulmate.” Maybe all trust was lost because of money. In a no-fault divorce culture, the reasons are many and varied. Very often people will steer clear of talking about divorce to avoid confrontation or causing further hurt, but the Bible has something to say about it. Are we to ignore God’s word and say nothing?
First, let’s reestablish what marriage is and what God has to do with it. The idea from the beginning is that marriage was intended to be a life-long, covenant commitment between one man and one woman (Gen. 1:27; 2:24 and Matthew 19:1-6). That is God’s beautiful design for the lives of those who would make this covenant that produces a one-flesh union. Jesus said in Matthew 19:6, “What God has brought together, let no man separate.” So when someone pursues a divorce, you can be sure of one thing: There is hardness of heart (Mark 10:5), and that means sin is flourishing instead of God’s original and perfect design. Divorce is ALWAYS the result of sin, and what is sin? Sin is the rejection of God’s goodness and God’s way, which results in trusting the way of the world and our way, and this leads to disobedience. Obedience is what we do when we trust God’s goodness toward us and others. When a divorce happens it means that at least one person chose not to trust God and His goodness. At least one person, and maybe both, chose to rebel against God and His will for their marriage.
Second, a divorce that is unsanctioned by the Bible leads to adultery. “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18) Why is this so? Because the person who declares and acts like they have ended the existing marriage, then goes to another person and engages in a second marriage when the first marriage has not ended. They are committing adultery against the first union, which no one should separate. God brought the first union together, and the person who did the divorcing is acting like God and pretending they can dissolve the union. They can’t. It still exists, and they are going on to another relationship and living like they are unmarried. Biblically, they are still married, and, therefore, they are committing adultery.
However, there are biblical reasons for divorce. There are exceptions. But before we explore the exceptions, keep in mind that even if there are legitimate reasons for divorce, the sin that flows from a hard heart that is set against God is still the root problem. Sin always confuses, distorts, destroys, hurts, scars, etc. Divorce is never a good thing. Having said that, the first biblical exception that allows for divorce, resulting in termination of the covenant that God created, is physical adultery (Matthew 5:31-32). So if a man or woman commits physical adultery, that infidelity would be grounds for divorce. However, my hope would be that the one who was sinned against would grant forgiveness if the offending partner repented. Sometimes people make terrible decisions, but that doesn’t always mean they are not a believer who desires to trust and obey Jesus. If they repent, that is a good sign that the Holy Spirit lives within them, and has convicted them of their sin. The consequences will not soon be forgotten, but there is hope for that marriage if repentance happens. If adultery becomes a pattern, I don’t see how a person could do anything but get a divorce since the faithful partner would be forced to live as though they were in a loving covenant. It takes two faithful people to be married and stay married.
The second exception that allows divorce is that of abandonment – particularly by an unbelieving spouse. The fact is that someone who is really a follower of Christ would not abandon their spouse permanently. And even if they did temporarily move out, we should expect them to show signs of listening to Godly counsel and moving toward repentance and restoration. In 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes that if a believing spouse has an unbelieving spouse, the believing spouse is not to divorce the unbeliever. However, if the unbelieving spouse abandons the believing spouse, Paul says to let them go (1 Cor. 7:15). The situation for this passages seems to be that either a husband or wife has become a new believer, and their spouse did not convert or get saved. The natural question would then be: “Should a new believer stay married to an unbeliever?” Paul says as long as the unbeliever consents to continue the covenant, stay with them, and work for peace in the relationship. The covenant should be honored, and the believer should not leave the unbeliever, but the opposite may indeed happen. I also want to suggest that any abandonment must be a physical abandonment. Many men, and sometimes women, are emotionally and spiritually absent. Still, it seems to me the context is one in which the unbeliever says I don’t want to stay together, and decides to move on literally (1 Cor. 7:12). These are the only two straightforward exceptions I see in scripture to Jesus’ command, “What God has brought together, let not man separate.”
There is at least one more option when it comes to biblical persmission for divorce. Some have suggested that abuse is a legitimate biblical grounds for divorce. In my opinion, this argument is not as straigtforward, and requires deductive reasoning, whereas the other two permissions are definitively stated as such. Those who advocate for divorce because of abuse do so by claiming that the abuser has abandoned his/her spouse. For instance, suppose a man is abusing his wife physically. Those who hold to this position might claim that the husband has abandoned his responsibility to the covenant as one who is to provide and protect (Genesis 2:15) and love his wife sacrificially (Ephesians 5:25). By abusing his wife, the man has broken the covenant he once made to fulfill the duties of marriage. I can appreciate why this argument is persuasive to many and deserves full consideration. I am still contemplating this as a biblical option and would be open to further explanation from those who are convinced of their position.
I want to be emphatically clear about something; I do not believe any woman or man should be foreced to endure abuse. If a woman is being abused, she should immediately find a safe place that she can stay. She should remove herself from the abusive situation so as to escape the harm from the abuser. As to whether or not the marriage can be saved and reconciliation can happen must be addressed on a case by case basis. I can’t begin to imagine how traumatizing abuse is, but just like the case of physical adultery, I would hope that all efforts would be made by the offended to pursue repentance and forgivness in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I would also hope for restoration, but only after it is absolutely certain that the threat of abuse is no more.
A couple of other thoughts might be helpful regarding this very difficult topic. When I have encountered this, it is always very messy and very confusing to those who are divorcing and to those who are trying to help the divorcing couple save their marriage. When the word divorce starts getting tossed around, it usually is the result of many years of hurt and pain that often leads to a really bad decision like adultery. I say this not to make an excuse for adultery, abandonment or divorce, but to point out that these twisted webs that have been woven, often take a lot of challenging work to untangle. Sometimes it will take many, many meetings and many years for relational health to flourish. There are often no quick fixes, and repentance often is a process of many decisions and many ups and downs, not just a one-time decision.
Perhaps an illustration will help us see this in a more vivid way. Imagine that every bad decision in a marriage is like a person digging a hole that they are standing in. As the years go on and more dirt gets shoveled out, the hole gets bigger and deeper. At some point both the man and the woman may see no way out, and so they desperately seek help. There is no pill for years of hurt. This relational hole won’t be repaired in a day or even weeks. The couple will have to fill the hole in over period of time shovel by shovel. There will have to be hundredds of acts of kindness that build trust to get the marriage back to ground level and out the hole. It will take hard work, but the marriage can be saved. I have seen it happen for people who really want to honor the marriage covenant of Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:6.
So what if someone has divorced their spouse but did not have a legitimate biblical reason, and after many years of living in sin, they realize that they were wrong? The good news is this: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are a new creation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 and 1 Corinthians 5:17). Be careful though, no one should continue to sin that grace may abound or increase (Romans 6:1). But if you are just now realizing, “Oh No! I was wrong!” – that is good news. That means you are sensitive to the work of God’s Spirit through the Word of God. One of the most certain marks of a true believer in Christ is that of conviction of sin (John 16:8-11). What then can be done? Especially since there are those who likely can’t undo what they have undone with divorce? Begin with repentence. Trust in God’s forgiving grace and boldly confess to Him the wrong that has been done (1 John 1:9). Then seek forgiveness from those you hurt, as much as it depends on you. This may mean contacting by phone or letter a former spouse, children or anyone who was hurt in the process. If you can change course in the short term, then do that before too much time goes by. The good news of the gospel is that when Jesus saves us and transforms us, we have a righteous standing before the Holy God of the universe. We are righteous in Christ by faith alone in Christ alone. God’s grace through Jesus Christ is greater than all our sins. A divorce that is not biblically sanctioned may seem like a special sin that can’t be forgiven, but God can forgive, and despite the hurt there is something to rejoice about. The person that I am most concerned about is the person who claims to be a Christian, and runs headlong into sin thinking: “Well, I will just ask for forgiveness later. After all, God wants me to be happy.” Yes, God wants you to be happy. But the kind of happiness God has for you is not the kind of happiness the world promises. Eternal and lasting happiness is the kind that comes from pursuing holiness and obeying God’s commands. Any happiness that comes from opposing God’s clear and written word will not last.
Divorce is never good. It tears apart what God has done. It comes from a hard heart toward God and is not loving toward others. It produces a lot of damage and can even lead to spiritual death. But keep in mind that God can rescue and restore. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I pray the Lord uses Bible-trusting Christians for the good of others and His glory. There is lasting joy in trusting and obeying God’s word and loving others with it.
I hope this helps far more than it hurts. But sometimes things have to hurt before there can help and heal. If you made it this far, the following video is well worth the watch:
15 years ago today, at the building that Stillwater First Baptist Church meets in, Lacey and I made a “for better or worse, until death do us part” covenant. A covenant of God’s own sovereign and perfect making (Matthew 19:6).
When I do premarital counseling with couples I tell them: “I have never regretted marrying Lacey.” And I sincerely mean it. I have never had covenant remorse.
That’s not to say it has always been easy. We are two saved sinners who are in constant process of being sanctified of our selfishness by the power of the transforming Holy Spirit through the plan of marriage. One of the first things I realized after we publicly committed to each other was this: “I am a me-centered person. I am really selfish. I like things my way.” And by the way, I still can be very selfish, but Lacey has helped me see that, and by God’s grace He has used her to expose some of my blind spots and to help me be more like Christ. When we got married, I had little idea that God would use His plan of marriage to be so good to me (and hopefully her) in conforming me to the image of His son. In hindsight, it is surprising that this surprises me, because when we submit ourselves to God and each other – and they go together – then God uses marriage to make much of the gospel and make us more like Christ (Ephesians 5:21-33). If we miss the true purpose of marriage, we will make it about our happiness and we will be self-centered and there will be no joy in it. But when we give ourselves to God and another, it is in giving that we receive true and lasting joy. Yes, even when we give ourselves to very imperfect, often self-centered people, God uses it for His glory and our good.
But Lacey isn’t self-centered. She is giving and caring. That’s why the last 15 years have been so good. Lacey has submitted herself to her God and to her husband. I have tried to do likewise (Eph. 5:21). Here are some ways we have submitted to each other for the good of each other:
- We have always tried to make Christ the center of our marriage, which means He is the boss of both of us. So when we have made a decision, we have always tried to do it in a way that submits to Christ and His word. So ultimately, we are trusting Christ and not each other for our greatest joy.
- We have always tried to set clear expectations for partnership and ownership. For instance, we have a budget that helps us communicate on how our money will be spent. A budget is nothing more than a communication piece for expectations. Even if something seems obvious, it is good to say it so the other person can know what to expect.
- We value each other’s strengths. Lacey is wonderfully hospitable and good at organizing to serve others. She is good at picking colors and helping me to be color-coordinated when I dress. She is much better than me at being optimistic and having faith. She is a better listener than I am. She has a sensitivity to worldly dangers that I don’t have. She helps me to be aware when I am insensitive to others.
- We are intentional about liking each other and being friends. We still say please and thank you. We ask questions instead of making demands. We try to value each other’s likes – meaning she gladly lets me watch football and I try to gladly let her watch Hallmark Movies (which are all the same). She likes to shop and I shop only out of necessity. I like to burn wood in SE Oklahoma. Lacey – not so much.
- We have become good at admitting we are wrong and apologizing in a healthy way. I have had a lot of practice at this. We don’t go to bed angry, and when we apologize, we make a full apology. “Is being sorry enough?”
- We trust each other. I don’t ever wonder about whether Lacey will forget the kids or spend more money than she should. I trust her fully to say and do the right things for our children, our family and our ministry together.
- We support each other in dry seasons. There have been a few seasons in which both of us have been in life-funks. We trust each other enough to express it, and then we pray for each other and support each other with extra patience, even when it is hard.
- We have goals that we are working on together. Discipling our children is our greatest joy and responsibility. We have financial goals we want to achieve. To do these things requires sacrifice for the greater good. Teamwork makes the dream work.
- We pray together almost every night before we go to bed.
- We know what marriage is and we love and trust God enough to adhere to His beautiful design. From the beginning marriage was God’s idea for one man and one woman to be committed to each other for a lifetime (Genesis 1:27 and 2:24; Mark 10:1-12). It’s not always easy, but it is, and will be worth it because God said so.
I like my wife and I have made the commitment to love her (do what is best for her according to God’s word) every single day. We are not perfect at marriage and it is not always easy, but because of God’s goodness to us through it, how can I regret any of it – for better or for worse?
It’s been a good 15 years, and if the Lord wills it, I hope for 15 more years of growth in marriage. Happy anniversary Lacey Prentice!
Did sin cause God to abandon His original design for relationships between male and female?
In Genesis 2:15-18, God gives bachelor Adam a work (job), His word, a warning and a woman. Man is created first and he is given responsibility and then finally a complementing companion who is female. She is equal in dignity (1:27) but distinct in function. This woman was meant to come alongside the man and work with him to honor God and fill the earth with image-bearers. And it was perfect and harmonious for an unspecified amount of time according to God’s design.
But paradise and unobstructed communion with God did not last because the woman and the man chose the way of the serpent instead of God’s way. The believed the lie that they could be their own God and provide a greater goodness than the LORD God could give.
And this came about not only because they chose not to believe God’s word, but also because they did not adhere to God’s design. The man was passive when God’s word was questioned and twisted, despite having received God’s word before the woman was created. The woman took on the role of leader, and the rest is sinful history.
So again I ask: Did sin cause God to abandon His original design for relationships between male and female? Or does God expect us to honor His perfect design? I believe the answer is one-hundred percent, yes. Yes, God expects us to trust and obey the original design of equality (Gen. 1:26-28) with role distinction (2:15-18).
Here are two reasons I hold this position:
First, after the fall and God’s judgment on sin, the Spirit-inspired text continues to affirm roles and gender distinction. Genesis 3:20-21 says:
Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
The fact that Adam named his wife indicates that he is lovingly exercising authority over her as the head of the family. Also Eve’s role as a child-bearer is upheld. The judgment on her sin (3:16) does not nullify the blessing of Genesis 1:28. Additionally, the marriage of 2:23-24 is not annulled or separated. Sin doesn’t undo God’s design, it just makes it very difficult to for us to abide according to God’s gracious plan.
Second, when the Bible addresses gender and roles, it grounds that teaching in the creation and fall accounts. For instance, in Ephesians 5:21-33 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15, when Paul discusses gender roles and marriage, he references Genesis 1-3. He goes back to the beginning. Peter also affirms roles in 1 Peter 3, and when Jesus talks about Marriage (Matthew 19 and Mark 10), he references Genesis 1 and 2 as the basis for His teaching.
Which means, if we are going to honor God’s design – that which is for our greatest and lasting joy – we must understand the intended message of the narrative in Genesis 1-3. Also keep in mind that the very gospel itself is grounded in this account (Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15). So Genesis 1-3 is critically important to our understanding of the whole Bible.
Check yourself. If you have trusted Christ with your salvation, then won’t you trust the LORD God with your gender?
If in fact the original creation was the perfect and holy work of the LORD God, crafted with infinite and intricate detail, then is there any possibility that the fine-tuned design and order is irrelevant today? What does it say about you if you don’t like the design? What does it say about your trust in God’s word and His goodness? You will either embrace the goodness of the design, or you will reject it and the Bible. The organization of the text that speaks of the design of God for our lives is no accident. It is a fine-tuned message about the way God meant us to live according to our gender. Ultimately, we trust God’s word and goodness, or we don’t. You can’t have it both ways. There’s only one perfect way and that is God’s way, and God’s way should be your way.
Sin didn’t change God’s perfect, beginning plan, it just changed our nature. That’s the real problem and our submission to God through Christ is the only solution.
I hope that being gospel-centered is more than a catch-phrase. However, I fear for a great many “Christians” it is nothing more than that.
So what does it mean to be gospel-centered? Here is an insightful article by Dane Ortland that addresses that very question: What’s All This Gospel-Centered Talk About?
Below is an excerpt from the article that uses dating as an example of what it looks like to be gospel-centered. I hope you read it and in doing so, you are enticed to read the rest.
Example: Gospel-Centered Dating
Given this context, what might be meant by “gospel-centered dating”?
Such an approach to dating remembers the fierce works-righteousness orientation of the human heart and the way we tend to build our identity on anything other than Jesus.
Gospel-centered dating wouldn’t be dating that tries to share the gospel with as many dates as possible. It would be dating that refuses to build a sense of worth on whom we’re dating, what they think of us, and the happiness they can provide if the relationship works out long-term. It would be letting Jesus be the one who saves us—not only from judgment before God in the future, but judgment before our dates in the present.
Dating can be truly enjoyed if we go into every evening out with a heart-sense of the gospel. If we know we are accepted and approved in Jesus, acceptance and approval by the person sitting across the table loses its ominous significance. If we know God delights in us with invincible favor and love, dates that go poorly will disappoint but not crush us. If we know that no matter what happens in a relationship we will always have Christ, and he is everything, then we are freed from having our mood dictated by dating success. And even if dates go well with someone early on, it’s only a matter of time before a boyfriend or girlfriend (or spouse) will disappoint us and let us down. There’s only one who never lets us down.
A gospel-centered life, in other words, is the only life that can truly be enjoyed, no matter your circumstances. Nothing can threaten our sense of worth and identity. Christ himself is our mighty and radiant friend.
From Twitter on June 26th, 2013:
- #BREAKING: SCOTUS strikes down DOMA, the ban on federal benefits for same-sex married couples, on a 5-4 vote. Via Politico
- “This is a sweeping decision, redefining marriage, regardless of the Prop 8 decision.” Dr. Russell Moore, President of Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention
- “I honestly disagree with marriage defenders who try to minimize the impact of Kennedy’s opinion in the DOMA case. It’s theory is sweeping.” Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary
- “Today’s DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for #MarriageEquality. #LoveIsLove” President Barack Obama
Many supporters of marriage between one man and one woman have probably hit the panic button, and the tweets above should be evidence enough that things have changed, are changing and will continue to change rapidly. The moral landscape of the United States may never be the same.
So I don’t think we should diminish what has happened and pretend that it doesn’t matter. It matters. It says something about our society and the Church in the United States. The kind of fundamental change that we are experiencing can’t be flippantly dismissed.
But when life falls a part, there is often an opportunity to pick up the pieces and be a part of redeeming something broken, even when the outlook appears bleak. This might be the case with the current marriage crisis and legal rulings over same-sex marriage. There may be something to be gained, when so much seems lost. Here are five possibilities:
- This marriage crisis might serve as a wake-up call to acknowledge gospel realities. If a biblical worldview means anything, then this is a stark reminder that we are living in a post-Christian country. We shouldn’t expect people who don’t believe the Bible to accept and practice what the Bible says about marriage. Neither should we expect them to affirm it, since they can’t fully understand spiritual things (2 Cor. 2:14). So for those of us who believe the Bible and desire to obey all that Jesus commanded for the glory of God and the good of others, we need to first and foremost love people by proclaiming the truth that we are all in need of forgiveness and a transformed nature that can only come from trusting in the gospel of Christ. People need to be made new (2 Cor. 5:17) so that God can then change them and keep changing them. We are reaping the consequences of a be good, moralistic, behavioral modification religion, instead of a robust, gospel-driven theology. We must prioritize the proclamation of the whole gospel that is received by repentance and faith. Really, what we need is a true, gospel revival. Our failure to understand, articulate and apply these truths, maybe one of the biggest reasons for the current situation.
- This marriage crisis might increase clarity and conviction about biblical sexuality. Controversy often results in a more thorough understanding. As the debate over marriage has heated up, and has at times swarmed the news cycle and social media, it has been eye-opening to see how little Christians know and understand about what the Bible prescribes and describes regarding marriage. It is one thing when someone who isn’t a Christian denies the clarity of what the Bible says about sexuality, and it is quite another when someone who claims to be a Christian, condones what the Bible clearly condemns. If Christians are to take a loving and biblical stand, they will have to know what they believe and why they believe it. And by the way, one of the reasons we are where we are is because Christians don’t know the “why” of biblical marriage. Local churches have to be brave, more intentional and better at teaching and equipping with regards to marriage.
- This marriage crisis might help us to see and acknowledge our mistakes and correct them. For instance, there is little doubt that many Christians have treated homosexuality different than other sins, as though this particular sexual sin were more evil than idolatry, fornication, adultery, lust, etc. Many have not treated others the way that they would want to be treated when standing for the truth (Matt. 7:12). Standing for the truth does not a hate-monger make, but how it is done might be very hateful. All people should be treated with dignity and respect, even people we disagree with. Whether it is our tone, trusting in government instead of God or a lack of humility, we have to acknowledge that we can improve the way we talk about the issue and how we engage others.
- This marriage crisis might help us to understand and rightly define what love means. President Obama says that “marriage equality” is the right thing to do because “love is love.” That sounds and feels very caring, but what does he mean by the word love? When I read the Bible, especially the book of 2 John, I find that love is defined by the truth. They go together and truth dictates what love can and can’t be, not fuzzy feelings or a whatever floats your boat attitude. If any action is contrary to the truth of God’s word, it is not love and it is not loving to affirm it as such. Rather, it is dangerous and potentially damning. We must have a biblical definition of love, or love becomes an excuse to let people do what is right in their own eyes.
- This marriage crisis might further clarify who truly belongs to Christ. What’s next? No one knows for certain what will happen, but it doesn’t seem too unrealistic to think that those who hold to the traditional view of marriage (the biblical view of marriage) will soon be persecuted and penalized by the law for being hateful and intolerant. I don’t want this to happen, but it might be good. If and when this happens, people will be forced to make a stand of conviction, or they will shrink from the truth and be silent to protect themselves from trouble. This may not happen, but it’s hard to ignore history.
We are where we are and it may not be the place we wish it to be, but the worst thing we can do is nothing. We can’t stay where we are. May God give us the strength to move and change so that we are used to bring about something that is good for others and glorifies God.
Our standards have changed, I think, in a way that’s not for the better. We are very lax about enforcing professional standards and demanding professional competence. Yet somehow, we have become very insistent about judging people’s private, consenting relations with other adults. Link to the whole interview.
When I heard this I immediately wondered: “Does he really believe what he just said?”
It may be true that professional military standards have fallen. Truthfully, I don’t know since I am no expert on the topic. I doubt, however, that people care more now about people’s private lives than they used too. If it seems that way, it most likely is the result of an unending and vicious appetite to fill a never-ending news and social media cycle. So I am not really sure people are more insistent about judging people’s private business, I just think there is more access to everything celebrity and scandalous.
This information age makes me glad that I am no a celebrity.
What’s troubling about Ricks’ comment, though, is that he seems to imply that what is done in one area of life has nothing to do with what is done in another. He seems to be suggesting that we should be able to live life in isolated categories that would allow for a person to cheat, lie and break promises to a person or persons, and then expect us to believe that actions over here, have nothing to do with what goes on over there. If a person isn’t honest with their spouse, a person they made a public covenant with before God, why should a different result be expected professionally? I have a hard time seeing a clean divide.
I have been a General Petraeus admirer for a while, but his unfaithfulness to the covenant he made with his wife causes me doubt the commitment he made to do what is right to defend our country against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. He may have still been able to be a fine CIA leader, but it does cause me to doubt. It is inevitable that his private life casts a shadow on his public life, and the same could be said the other way around.
Is this fair? No less than cheating on his wife is fair. We all will reap what we sow – whether now or later.
Here are a couple of other thoughts:
- Ricks comments: “We have become very insistent about judging people’s private, consenting relations with other adults.” This makes adultery sound very harmless, but I can tell you who didn’t consent – Holly Petraeus. By the way, it’s not private. The commitment to covenant faithfulness is a public one and God is watching. If a person wants to pretend like God isn’t there, well, they will have to take that up with God.
- We humans intrinsically want others to be committed and honest. We have a sense of justice about us that expects honesty from others. We have an internal moral compass – especially with what we expect of others. I think this is why the unbelieving world hasn’t yet completely discarded marriage. Humans have an innate belief that commitment and honesty are virtuous things. If not, why then would anyone make a pledge to a lifetime of monogamous commitment? It doesn’t take a contract to procreate. Put yourself in Holly Petraeus’ shoes and ask whether her husband’s actions were just a consenting relationship among adults. No one that I know wants to be betrayed.
- We humans are fallible creatures. As I said, I admired and thought highly of General Petraeus for his service to our country, but his fall is another stark reminder that we all are unrighteous and, therefore, we all need Jesus. We simply must not make idols of broken people. But neither should we assume that we all are destined to fail miserably. We are saved by faith in the gospel and not by works, so that no person may boast. But we are saved for good works of righteousness (Matt. 5:48). We have to navigate the tension without running into a ditch on either side.
- We should pray for General Petraeus, his wife and our leaders. We would want that for ourselves (Matt. 7:12).
The 3rd Annual Relationship Weekend (Day) is set for Saturday, September 8th from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. In the past we have also met on Friday Night, but to make things less complicated for those who have children and can’t get childcare on Friday Night we are only meeting on Saturday. I am convinced our time will be just as helpful in this format. Also, there won’t be any breakout sessions this year. The reason I chose not to do them was for the sake of time, but more importantly, in the past some of our own members have led breakouts and I wanted them to be able to enjoy the weekend without additional responsibilities.
I hope and pray that you will seriously consider coming to this time. Not only will it be a great time of learning and encouragement, but it will also be fun and a time of fellowship. This is something you could invite anyone to because we all need help in this area – All of us – and I am confident the six-and-a-half hour investment will be worth it.
You might be thinking: “Do I really need to come to Relationship Weekend?”
To help you, here are some things to think about and an overview of the day.
There is no such thing as a perfect marriage or relationship on this side of heaven. We all are relationally broken and in constant need of repair and improvement. Conflict is inevitable and you will either become a master conflict resolution or conflict will master you. Struggling relationships do not get better by ignoring problems or trying the same thing over and over again with the same results.
- Do you know where conflict comes from?
- Do you recognize your conflict style and that of your spouse?
- Do you know why you do conflict the way you do?
- Do you know how to converse in a way that resolves conflict or do you only escalate conflict? Worse still, are you an avoider?
- Do you know how to make relationship repair?
- Do you know how to end a conflict in a healthy way?
- Do you resolve conflict in such a way that you trust the other person more or less?
Because we are a committed community and committed to disciple-making, we want to help you honor Christ in all of your relationships. We hope that you value your marriage (future marriage) enough to take the time to learn and change with us.
Main Sessions: The first session will help us see where conflicts come from and help us to diagnose how much trouble our relationships are in based on how we do conflict. The second session will help us to formulate a plan to resolve conflict and help us to end the conflict well.
Gender Specific Sessions: Julie Kellogg, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, will spend time with the women discussing the attitudes of a woman that help and hurt conflict resolution. Jeremy Freeman, Pastor of First Baptist Church Newcastle, will be with the men, persuading them to act like men instead of running like boys from conflict. There will also be time for Q & A in these sessions.
Panel Discussion/Q&A: By this time you will have heard a lot of information and suggestions that will hopefully lead to many questions. This is a time for you to ask those questions to a group of people who are resolving conflict in a healthy way.
Planning To Act: The weekend would be a waste if we didn’t actually do something with what we have heard. In this time we will identify some action steps that need to be implemented in our relationships.
I had a dream last night about my wife – the details are unnecessary – but it was the kind of dream that gave cause for pause and contemplation.
After some thought this morning the result was one of thankfulness and joy. Why? Because the dream helped me to see how much I trust my wife and that the trust we share is worth more to me than the treasure of Warren Buffet. I mean that because I realize it is so rare.
Now it is true that we have our moments and that I can be a bit overbearing about a thing or two, but that has more to do with me than her. I have some deficiencies and believe it or not, so does she – though few. But I trust her more than any human on the face of planet earth.
So you might be reading this and be thinking something like: “I wished I could trust my spouse.” Or: “I wished I had a spouse to trust.”
But one of the main questions each of us should be asking is: “Am I trustworthy?” Are you the kind of person that is worth Warren Buffet’s treasure?
Introspection is the starting place for all relational improvement. But consider this. Suppose you look inward and then you think: “It’s not me, it’s him/her.” – Which is never entirely true – Have you done the hard work of loving that person and treating them the way you would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12)? Have you sought to help them be the person Christ wants them to be and the person you need them to be?
Contemplate this also. If you decide to hit the eject button because you are on empty in the trust tank, what makes you think that the next person you pick to trust will be more trustworthy? And furthermore why don’t you trust that God has given you to each other to help each other for better or for worse (Matthew 19:6)? God is the author of marriage and to abandon the covenant of marriage is to abandon trusting God and what He has done.
One final thought. Just in case someone missed this important truth; No one is perfect except Jesus. That’s why we look to Him in all things and for all things. That’s why when it comes to marriage Paul tells both the woman and the man to make Christ their example and ideal for how to interact with each other. The woman is to submit to her husband as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22). The man is to give His life up just as Christ did for the church (Eph. 5:25). We are to forgive each other as God has forgiven us in Christ (Eph. 4:32). You can’t control the other person and their decisions, but you can decide what you are going to do, and until you have fully done what Christ has modeled and asked, can you in good conscience give up?
- If you have a marriage that is full of trust, be thankful and keep working at it.
- If you aren’t married, are you a person someone can trust and are you looking for someone you can trust?
- If you are low on trust and struggling, be brave and examine yourself first. But also realize that it is better to work with a person you know than to think it is going to be better with a person you don’t know.
- But then count the cost of your actions and what your actions will say about trusting God. Loving people and loving God are not mutually exclusive (Matthew 22:36-40).
- And most importantly, look to Jesus and emulate Him. He is trustworthy and your chief desire should be to trust Him and live for others for better or for worse. That’s what He did for God’s glory and your good.
Some time ago Lacey and I fielded questions as members of a panel discussion for the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) weekly large group gathering. The questions that we were asked to answer were about dating, love and marriage. As I had anticipated, the question was asked and even addressed to me, “How do I know when I have found the perfect person to marry?” Or “Is there a perfect person for me to marry?”
Save Jesus, there are no perfect people, but the perfect person for you is the person you make a covenant with before God as witness.
The “perfect one” for you is the person whose name is with yours on the marriage license – the one you made a covenant with that results in a one-flesh union.
Why? Because God has done it. “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” Matthew 19:6
You are not perfect and neither is anyone else in the world. So have confidence in God’s sovereign, marriage-making hand and choose your spouse with great prayer and care, working as a hard as you can not to tear a part what God has done, because God is perfect.