LESSON 4: EMBRACING Healthy RELATIONSHIPS IN MARRIAGE

Lesson Aim

To help the learners understand the importance of marriage and the need to uphold divine relationships within the marriage institution.
Lesson ObjectivesBy the end of the lesson the participant should:

• Understand God’s purpose for marriage and family

• Appreciate the biblical principles that should guide marital relationships

• Commit to uphold and practice biblical principles and values in marital relationship

Introduction

The idea of the marriage institution originated from God. This may explain why marriage and family is universal to all mankind. Although different cultures have given this institution different variations in practice, God has in His word given us the blue print on how it should work..
1. The nature of marriageDiscussion QuestionWhen does marriage begin and what practices do you think could jeopardize relationships in marriage?

i. Marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Marriage that is approved by God is strictly between one male and one female.
Genesis 2:24For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
ii.Marriage is a covenant.The relationship between a man and his wife is described as a covenant. In this covenant both God and fellow human beings are witnesses. A covenant is irrevocable.

Malachi 2:14 “You ask why? It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.”
iii Marriage is a permanent union. God intended the marriage union to be a permanent contract.Note: When one’s life is in danger separation would be advisable although divorce and remarriage are not Biblically advised. Therefore, divorce should not be an option to be easily embraced by Christians.
Matthew 19:4-64

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ a   5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ b? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
1 Corinthians 7:10-1110 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

Malachi 2:1616 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. iv. Marriage should be between people of the same faith.God expects a believer to marry a believer.  Whereas many believers consider this biblical advice carefully, others have challenged it. Some of such marriage may work but many more can only be equated to an ox yoked with a donkey.

2 Corinthians 6:14-15

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”Though this important message is many times overlooked in the process of courtship, it usually comes back to haunt the couple after the marriage has been established.

2. The purpose of marriage God created the marriage institution for the following reasons:Companionship and comfort God charged Adam to name all the animals. But none of the animals could make a suitable companion for him. As a result Adam was a lonely man until God created Eve for him.
Genesis 2:20
So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.  Genesis 24:67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

b) Helpmate Eve came as a helpmate to Adam. Marriage is a privilege that brings together two unique personalities to complement and make each other better.
Genesis 2:18
18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” There are roles that are unique to men and to women. As a helpmate, Eve would complement Adam’s effort in ruling over the earth.   Ecclesiastes 4:9-109 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
c) IntimacyMarriage should bring sexual pleasure to the couple.

1 Corinthians 7:5

Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  Sexual intimacy is permitted within a marriage relationship apart from seasons of prayer and fasting which must also be by mutual agreement and even then, only for a short time.

Ecclesiastes 4:11

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Lengthy sexual deprivation except for understandable reasons is a recipe for sexual temptations and the sin of adultery.  d) Procreation and nurture of godly offspring.The marriage union is also the method by which God primarily uses to populate His world. However, a marriage remains valid and valuable in the eyes of God even when a couple has not been blessed with children.

Genesis 1:28

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”   But siring children is not enough. Bringing up a godly generation is the ultimate goal of procreation. Malachi 2:15 Has not [the Lord] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one?  Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.
Discussion QuestionFrom a Biblical perspective discuss the issue of the ever growing number of single women by choice in church who deliberately prefer raising children without ever intending to marry.”
Parental input and upbringing greatly influences their future.
3. Order in the marriage relationship Both husband and the wife have unique roles that make the marriage union a blessing to one another.

The roles of the husband

i. Leadership of the family God made man the head of his family. This headship is the same as leadership.

Ephesians 5:2323

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.

The practice of leadership or headship in many cultures and human experiences depicts it as a privileged position to which some women resent or struggle to topple. The converse of this is men who abdicate this role This leaves a leadership vacuum that puts women in an awkward position. The leadership that Jesus had in mind was different. He equated the leadership of the man to His own leadership of the Church which involved sacrificing his place in heaven, dying at the cross, and continuously serving the Church.
ii. Unconditional love for his wife

The husband is also called to love his wife sacrificially.  The test of this love is the love that the man has for his own body. This love also involves taking care of his wife.

Ephesians 5:28-30

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church
1 Peter 3:7

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. iii. Man is the priest of his family The man is the spiritual leader of his wife and family, ensuring his household is spiritually fed and guided in the ways of God.  However, some have relegated this role to their wives.

Ephesians 5:25-27
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.
iv. Man is the provider for his familyMan is charged with the primary role of providing for his family. 1 Timothy 5:8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. However, this should not be a reason for strife, conflict and separation in a case where a man has lost his source of income.  It is a warning to the husband who is not making effort to provide for his family and has left this heavy burden to his wife.

The roles of the wife  

Just like the husband, the wife has unique roles in the marital relationship.

I) Submit to her husband

Whereas the Bible calls the husband and the wife to submit to each other, the wife is specifically asked to submit to the husband as the head of the family.
Ephesians 5:22

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. This submission must not be mistaken for subordination. It is rather recognition that God has established an order for the marriage to function well.

ii) Honor and respect your husband

The wife is also called to honor or respect her husband.This becomes even more critical before the children and the community. When women disparage with their husbands before their children and the community, they rob them the ability to lead the family. Ephesians 5:33b …and the wife must respect her husband.
Titus 2:4-5 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
4. Relationships according to marital statusThe marriedThe marriage union is to be regarded with honour and upheld with permanence.The believing spouse with an unbelieving husband or wife is encouraged not to separate or divorce. If the unbelieving wife or husband is not willing to stay but leaves the marriage union, they are encouraged to do so. 1 Corinthians 10-14“ ..A wife must not separate from her husband… and a husband must not divorce his wife…for the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through the believing husband…”

The single

Paul says that it would be alright for the single person to stay single but not act with impropriety towards other single persons especially ladies.1 Corinthians 7:8“To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good to remain single as I am”.1 Corinthians 7:36“If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along with years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married.”
Widows and widowers

Whereas there is no reference to widowers in the Bible, Widows are to be given the right recognition. Older widows are to be taken care of and provided for, while the younger widows are encouraged to marry and continue on with their family lives.1 Timothy 3: 1-16“Give proper recognition to those widows to those who are really in need…No widow may be put in the list of widows unless she is over sixty…so I counsel younger widows to be married…” 1 Corinthians 7:39“A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”

5.Challenges facing Christian marriages and their formation today. The marriage institution is faced with many challenges today. These include same sex relationships, marital violence both physical and verbal, marital infidelity, economic and social pressure, the impact of social media that depicts some unrealistic expectations in the marriage, and very loose marriage ties that can be revoked on very flimsy reasons. But some of the major ones are as follows:
i. The influence of the Western culture and post modernism practices

Since Christianity came to Africa through missionaries from the west, a lot of practices from the western culture have influenced practices and procedures to a Christian marriage today.

Some of these practices include:

• Beautiful and expensive white wedding gown for the bride and expensive suit for the groom.

• A detailed bridal team.

• Expensive and big wedding cake.

• A long guest list.

• An expensive honeymoon, etc.

Note: Youths are shying away from getting into serious marriage due to the huge financial demand weddings come with. As a result, come-we-stays, secret marriage arrangements; multiple marriage partner arrangements are on the rise. The church could adopt mass weddings, sensitization of the dangers, education to young adultsand spontaneous marriage teachings from the pulpit

Romans 12:2″Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”These are unnecessary burdens. They are not conditions necessary for the formation of a Christian marriage. No wonder we have so many couples today opting for “comewe- stay” arrangement.

ii. Cultural differences Some cultural demands like the payment of dowry and the practices that accompany it may also cause conflict and strain which may put a believer at loggerheads with the extended family. Concerning these the believers must seek spiritual guidance from God.Mark 12:1717 Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.

iii. Prevalent rates of divorce and separationMany today literary evade the path of conflict resolution but rush for separation and eventually divorce. A refusal to forgive a partner of wrong doing has also led to the high rates of this menace. In the contemporary society a fashionable reason for divorce has become “irreconcilable differences.”1 Corinthians 7:10-1110 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

 

iv. Adultery and polygamyThese are great threats and challenges to the marriage institution as God intended it to be.Hebrews 13:4″Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”Proverbs 6:32″But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself.

v. Failure by either husband or wife to play their God-given roles This produces a lot of conflicts in the relationships. Therefore, husband and wife are each advised to carry out their God-given roles effectively without abdication.1 Corinthians 7:3-4″The husband should fulfil his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The Wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields yo his wife”James 4:17″Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

vi. The interference of third parties
We should not allow third parties which may include siblings, extended family members or in-laws to interfere with your marriage relationship.Matthew 19:4-6″Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ a 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ b? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”Extended single-hood should not be viewed as a problem area and those who desire to marry should go ahead and do so. The young widows should also be encouraged to be married and not be bound by our cultural expectations.’

Conclusion

In his wisdom, God created the institution of marriage for happiness and fulfilment which are very necessary for the wellbeing of human beings. Many people report the value that marriage brings to their lives. The place and importance of the marriage institution cannot be reduced or replaced in any functional society. Both the Church and state derive their energy from this vital institution. Believing that it is God’s will for marriage to work, all believers must work at making it work, challenges notwithstanding..