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by Rev Jack Sin

Introduction

The Strait Times in July 2004 and September 2003 revealed a serious malady of our Singaporean society. Families are breaking down and divorce rates are on the increase. Almost one out of four marriages will end up in a divorce annually. Marriages and families are under siege by the evil one today.  The STREATS tabloid also reported that some spouses have been unfaithful, including both young wives and husbands who are newly married as well. Violence and spousal abuse are also alarmingly high with recalcitrant children on the increase. As Christians, we need a fresh appreciation of the biblical perspective on the sanctity and the preservation of a God centered marriage and covenant home.  

Concept of a Covenant Marriage

Marriage is the principal building block in society, and it has a pivotal role to play in human life. Marriage is not only a social or civil contract but also a solemn covenant of a monogamous relationship between two heterogeneous individuals. It is a faithful land loving relationship as 2 persons commit themselves to God and each other for life. There is no greater bond on earth between two mortals except for the marital vow and covenant. It is so intimate that it surpasses our relationship with our beloved parents. That is what is spoken of marriage in Gen 2:22–24 by God Himself. Man and woman in matrimony are to leave father and mother and then to cleave to each other for life and become one in both spirit and the flesh. Mal 2:14 speaks of a covenant marriage witnessed by the Almighty God Himself.

We need to be reminded that God is a solemn witness at every wedding ceremony, witnessing our covenantal marriage vows to each other. But despite all these important emphases on keeping the marriage vows, in real life, the vows may be broken by either party. And that constitutes a breach of trust and a violation of the marriage vow. How can we keep the marriage and tighten the knot after tying it? We shall discuss together the characteristics of a Christian marriage.

A Christian Marriage has the following characteristics:-

     a.  is a divinely-ordained institution between a male and a female,

     b.  is the first and most fundamental institution found in the book of Genesis,

     c.  is covenantal and binding in this life,

     d.  is a covenant of sacred companionship and stewardship,

     e.  is the place of true intimacy in the Lord,

     f.   is to conform to the model of Christ and His church.

7 Aspects of a Happy Marriage

  1. Commitment to holiness and to ethical purity
  2. Correct communication patterns
  3. Caring concern and love for each other
  4. Control of emotions and our excesses (ie Temperance)
  5. Constant prayer and study of the Word
  6. Christ-centred family life and Ministry
  7. Consecration to God at a personal and corporate level

Wrong Reason for Marriage

  1. To escape the unhappy home environment
  2. To overcome personal loneliness and boredom
  3. Physical attraction to someone of the opposite sex
  4. Guilt and pity for someone who likes you
  5. Caught in a long standing historical relationship with someone
  6. For financial gain or other benefits
  7. Pressure from parents and friends
  8. To remove the “stigma” of singlehood
  9. Because one is pregnant and hence obligated to marry

Right Reasons for Marriage

Procreation - Mal 2:14

Provision - 1 Tim 5:8

Partnership – Gen 2:24,25

Purity - 2 Cor 7:1

Picture – Eph 5:23-27

Elements of the Christian Home (ie acrostic HOME)

Holiness before God and men

Openness in Communication

Meekness in relationships

Empathy and love for each other

WHY MARRIAGES FAIL? Consider the following

1.                  Breakdown in communication

2.                  Infidelity

3.                  Financial problems

4.                  “Incompatibility reasons”

5.                  Problems with In-laws

6.                  Expectations not met

What about divorce then? Note also that Divorce

     a.  is never in God’s original blueprint for marriage (Matt 19: 7)

     b.  always stems from sin, from either one party (Deut 24:1.2)

     c.  has the potential to break a marriage and have averse consequences (1 Cor 7:1-14)

     d.  is never necessary among believers (1 Cor 7:14)

Pitfalls of a Broken Marriage

It has been researched that 20% of all marital woes are related to the interpersonal communication process between the spouses. This is a serious problem that we must not neglect (as indicated by The Straits Times, Oct 2003). It is important longsuffering, fidelity, honesty, humility, endurance and forgiveness should exist in a Christian marital relationships.

Mutual respect and regard is important in a relationship. Willingness to forgive and to apologise is important to preserving a marital bond .The three most important words are “I am sorry”, “I do not mean it” and if you are on the receiving end of these words, your response should be “that is ok, dear, I forgive you”. The golden rule in relationships is honest and clear communication and a willingness to forgive and forget in the Lord (Remember the Lord’s prayer and forgive, as God has forgiven us).

One cannot discount the vital importance of honest and edifying communication between the spouses.

Consider the following Practical Pointers below for your Marriage:

   1. Be a ready listener and do not interrupt (even if you are tempted to) until the other person has finished talking. Be swift to hear and slow to speak and anger (Jas 1:19). Remember God gives us two ears and one mouth. We ought to listen twice as much as we speak (Prov 18:13; Jas 1:19).  _____________

   2. Be slow to speak. Think first. Don’t be hasty in your words. Pray twice first and then speak. Speak in such a way that the other person can understand and accept what you say (Prov 15:23, 28; 29:20; Jas 1:19).  _____________

   3. Don’t go to bed angry! Resolve all conflicts by the end of the day. Those who go to bed wit h anger has the devil for a strange bedfellow Speak the truth always, but do it in love (Eph 4:15, 25; Col 3:8; Matt 6:34).  _____________

   4. Do not use silence to frustrate the other person. It is a weapon that cuts both ways. No one has the monopoly of it Explain why you are hesitant to talk at this time and make a point to share it later when you a re ready (Prov 15:28; 16:21, 23; 10:19; 18:2; Col 4:6; Prov 20:15).  _____________

   5. Do not become involved in quarrels unnecessarily or have a quarrelsome spirit. It is possible to disagree without quarrelling and be willing to see another point of view that may be different from yours. Remember that there may be three sides to an argument your side, his or her side and the right side  (Prov 17:14; 20:3; Rom 13:13; Eph 4:31).  _____________

   6. Do not respond in uncontrolled anger. Wait for a while and when you are ready, the respond. Use a gentle and kind response and tone of voice. It matters not just what you say but how and when you say it as well (Prov 14:29; 15:1; 25:15; 29:11; Eph 4:26, 31).  _____________

   7. When you are in the wrong, admit it and ask for forgiveness and ask how you can change or improve your self hiding a wrong will make it two immediately (Jas 5:16; Prov 12:15; 16:2; 21:2, 29; 20:6; Matt 5:23–25; Luke 17:3).  _____________

   8. When someone confesses to you, tell him / her you forgive him / her. Be sure it is forgiven and not brought up to the person, to others, or to yourself! To forgive someone is to release a prisoner free and discover hi m t o be your self (Prov 17:9; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13; 1 Pet 4:8).  _____________

   9. Avoid nagging or repetitive statements that may lose its meaning over time (Prov 10:19; 17:9; 16:21, 23; 18:6, 7; 27:15; 21:19). Do not wear out goodness by excessive use   _____________

10. Do not blame or criticise the other person destructively. Instead, restore . . . encourage . . . edify and build up the saints  (Rom 14:13; Gal 6:1; 1 Thess 5:11). Be courteous and tactful and respect others and it will be reciprocated.  _____________

11. If someone verbally attacks, criticises, or blames you, do not respond in the same manner. If not, you are no better than the person (Rom 12:17, 21; 1 Pet 2:23; 3:9).  Do not get even with others, go beyond that, forgive them Remember critics are unpaid guardian of your soul. Than k God for them _____________

12. Try to understand the other person’s opinion. We are not right all the time. Make allowances for differences, which are non-essential. You do not have to win all the time. Agree to disagree if necessary without being disagreeable (Prov 18:2, 13, 15; Phil 3:15, 16).  _____________

13. Be concerned about the interests of your spouse and others and the response from others will be constructive and humble. Remember the acronym JOY, Jesus first Others and then Yourself (Phil 2:3; Eph 4:2; Rom 12:15).  _____________

Expectations in Marriage

All of us have expectations of one person or another (ie the school teacher, the policemen, the elder, our parents). It is not wrong to have expectations but it is unhelpful if we have the wrong or unrealistic expectations of our spouses. Two persons who are spending life together need to understand and accept each other well and not have improper and unattainable expectations of each other that may cause conflict or displeasure unnecessarily.

Consider the following expectations of husbands and wives. The husband is expected to

1  Lead

2. Love

3. Listen

4. Labour

5. Learn

The wife is also expected to

1. Submit

2. Support

3. Stablise

4. Suggest

5. Supplicate

Do not set high and unrealistic expectations (ie cook for me every day with out fail or send me to work every day with out fail) of each other and if you do have any, communicate that to your spouse and let this be mutually agreed upon and accepted by the other party

Financial Problems

When the economy is down there is a corresponding increase in cases in the family courts .The monetary issue is one of the grave problems in any family set up (accounts for 10% of the marital problems). The issue is one of contentment (or discontentment) and mutual understanding in the management of our limited financial resources.

The Devil has many traps and temptation to undermine the unity of the family (Eph 6:10-12).  The parents are the prime targets. Vigilance and watchfulness is required if we are to survive these onslaughts. These wiles of the evil one are manifold and below is some of the potential dangers that a Christian family should beware of:

Pride

One of the common pitfalls for spouses is that of arrogance, self-confidence or a self centred spirit. Prov 11:12 says “when pride cometh, so cometh shame, but with the lowly is wisdom.”  Pride brings a person down and humility exalts him. (Prov10:17) God gives grace to the humble and it is easy for a successful manager to be caught in this trap and fall like when the arrogant king David in 1 Samuel 30 who counted Israel when he ought not to and God punished him severely. James and Peter remind us who are stewards to be humble and God will raise us up in his own time and will. (Jas 5:5 and 1 Pet 4:6). One of the facets of the Holy Spirit is meekness and we need to cultivate that even the more as husbands and wives and set a good example for or children. Consider the good example of Moses (Num 12:3).

Insensitivity

Inconsiderateness affects the intimacy of a relationship. It is important that the husbands and wives be mindful and sensitive to the needs and expectations of each other (ie habits, activities, children, work etc).  Be willing to listen, change, improve and evaluate the ministry from time to time. Be ready to pray and discuss with your spouse and see how he can help to meet each other’s needs and show understanding in a sincere desire to reach out to each other. Be careful not to be unnecessarily offensive or harsh to your spouse or there will be repercussions. Remember that anger is a choice and it is possible fore redeemed soul to keep his anger under control by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:16, 22, 23).

Indolence

The members of Christian family are to be diligent to labour and provide for the family and he has to be a disciplined self (or rather God-motivated worker. An indolent and indifferent husband or wife is a liability to the family and children. Our life long motto should be as in Rom 12:11, "Not slothful in business fervent in spirit serving the Lord." This should be our family directive as well. Remember you set the pace and example for the family for better for worst. If you are not diligent in serving the Lord, do not expect your family members to be. An ill-disciplined and slothful husband is a misnomer and there should be no such person in the Christian family at all. The success of the family is 99% diligence and 1% intelligence, 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Laziness is a prelude to failure In the family as well.

Covetousness

Another greater danger for spouses is the greedy or avaricious spirit (1 Tim 6:6-10; Josh 7:21). This is a great evil that has plagued many families. Remember that covetousness is compared to idolatry by the apostle Paul in Col 3:5. It has troubled Achan, (Josh 7:21) Gehazi, Ananias and Sapphira. Let it not destroy you as well. Let contentment rule your heart and be thankful whatever God has given you. The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10). Do not covet your neighbour’s home, spouse, children or car or his fame or his abilities or his salary. Be content and gives thanks for all things that you have and do not have. Cultivate a grateful spirit and live a corporate life of thanksgiving. Do not compare with others or it will lead to despair and a covetous spirit in the end with serious consequences.

Moral Temptation

King David and Samson fell prey to this form of temptation when the devil tripped us with our fleshly lusts and all of us are vulnerable today (2 Sam 11:1-6). Even Samson was not spared and he lost his eyes in the process (Jud 16). Joseph lead the way in combating this for m of temptation in Gen 39:9 and said how could I do this great evil against my God”. Accountability to God and men is necessary. Let us be on our guard al the time and be vigilant against the wiles of the devil which has tricked many into a marital disaster.

Uncontrolled Outburst of Emotions

We are all susceptible to an occasional expression of anger, jealousy, malice, sarcasm hatred and even physical assault. Remember that anger is a choice and we can manage it. Anger is one letter short of Danger. The important thing is to recognise it and be willing to ask for forgiveness if we have offended someone with it (and forgive others with grace if you are on the other side). Pray for strength and temperance to manage and control our emotions that we d o not sin easily with it again (Eph 4:23 -26).

Personal Relationship with God

Both husband and wife need to maintain a consistent walk and regular devotion with your God who is the source of your strength and wisdom (Prov 9:10). Ecc 12:13,14 say, "Fear God and keep his commandments for this the whole duty of man."  Have good habits of daily reading of the Word, worship, prayer (Ps 5:3) and regular fellowship with other believers. Remember the example of Christ in Mk 1:35. Your faithful walk with God is the foundation and formula for an effective and vibrant ministerial life in the local church. Backsliding can happen even to pastors, elders and deacons in the midst of serving God. Beware. Do not go to the bible only to get a message prepared or a BS or SS lesson done. Read the Bible, memorise and meditate upon it daily for your personal edification too (Ps 119:105).

The Headship of Husband / Father

The biblical teaching on the family is a hierarchy of God-sanctioned authority. Hierarchy in the family means, first of all, that the husband and father is the accountable head for what happens, and the one who is finally responsible for seeing that essential matters are happening in a family. Calvin had written, “Let the husband so rule as to be the head . . . of his wife and let the woman . . . yield modestly to his demands.” Luther had stated that “a wife is indeed to live according to the direction of her husband; what he bids and commands is to be done.” And Katherine von Bora lived up to that expectation, and Idelette, a capable woman, was a great helpmeet and blessing to John Calvin. If we reverse the order, we court trouble in the home.

Modelled on Christ’s Headship of the Church, the husband’s headship is not a ticket to privilege or to tyranny but a charge to responsibility based on love for his wife and submission to God (Col 3:22–25). Every husband is to be responsible to guide and lead the family in the right direction. But it must be said here also that while the husband is the head of the home, the wife is the heart of the house. She is the God-ordained partnership in the management of a Christian home. The support of a godly spouse is a favour from God and blesses all those around them (Prov 31).

The Word of God and Prayer

The marriage is not without divine directions. The Bible, the only Book authored by God, is to be pivotal to the Christian home, Your sufficient and authoritative and providentially preserved standard for the directions and management of the home is the excellent and most pure and needful manual authored by the Lord Himself. Meditate and apply and practice the precepts given therein  carefully and watch it transformed your marriage and family . This will solve many problems, and  ensure a God-centred joyful home in the Lord. Let the Bible be a guiding light and most often referred to marital guide and read it aloud and put into practice the divine instructions and internalise them into your life and do not forget regular prayer and fellowship and worship with the saints as well (Mal 3:16). Have a good network of fellowship partner that can encourage and exhort one another when we are done or need help (Heb 10:24,25).

The church and Christian family are perplexed with difficult marital situations that defy easy answers. Sociological, psychological and worldly considerations cannot be allowed to take the place of the infallible rule of faith, which is the holy Bible. The dictates of Scriptures coupled with godly discretion and the prayerful application of the Word will be helpful in each circumstance. Pray and ask the Lord to guide us in every delicate situation of family and matrimonial life and let godly patience, forgiveness and prudence rule our lives at all times.

Consider this pertinent poem,

Let each Christian couple takes care 
To maintain and preserve purity and harmony.
Many never any spouse violently dare 
Destroy the peace and sanctity of matrimony.

If danger or impurity threaten the home, 
Let both seek God in prayer together and alone, 
That sin is purged and wrong recanted 
In the spirit of truth, love and repentance.

As you look up to God in tying the nuptial knot,
May you remember it is Him who gave you what you’ve got,
The blessing of a godly spouse
And the joy of living in a new house.

In the coming days of marital life together,
Always thank God and be ready to ponder,
The grace of God thru’ all trials and tribulations
The blessings and rewards of all joys and jubilations.

Now what’s ahead is a corporate life of service,
To offer to Him in any humble office
To give, help, serve or teach,
To pray, visit, sing or preach.

So it is with every Christian couple,

With God the strength of Love is doubled.

Conclusion

Jesus Christ is the only Guarantor of the covenant home that will last. The wife is the responsible partner in the building of a blessed family. It is not impossible with God. All things are possible but it takes doing our part also in prayer, discipline, diligence, hard work and heart work. Start on the right track from the beginning. So it is with every couple married in this sanctuary or those intending to marry. Do not be self-centred or worldly wise but Christ-centred and always remember to honour God first and love and respect your spouse as well. This is the only sure way of eternal happiness and joy during all the vicissitudes of life. May the Lord richly bless and prosper this marriage and the family to come to the honour and glory of His name. 

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

November 19 & 26 - The End of the World

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10