Marriage and Our Culture
February 1, 2008 - What has happened in the Body of Christ? Our divorce rate is equal with the world’s. According to “The Barna Update,” Americans in general have unconditional self-love. We are a society greatly governed by our feelings. We want to avoid pain, conflict and sacrifice. That hardly contributes to a lasting marriage. In addition, discipline is not at the top of our priorities, and neither are absolutes.
by Kay Arthur
Could Barna’s assessment of our culture give us any clues as to why marriages are falling apart and more children are living with a single parent than with both?
Our radical individualism has what Barna describes as a “designer faith” with “rootless values.” To put that another way, our beliefs are not shaped and governed by the whole counsel of God’s Word.
We must change that. Our hearts are to heed the final charge of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:1-5. Read and mark that Scripture in your Bible.
While Paul warned us of a time when people will avoid sound doctrine, wanting their ears merely tickled, remember God always has a faithful remnant.
So what do you and I need to do in respect to broken marriages? First, let’s understand for ourselves what God’s Word says and then teach it to others, who in turn, we hope, will live it and teach others. It’s a multiplication process. So let’s get started. Then I’ll share how you can put all this to work in our culture.
The very strongest of teachings on God’s will for the relationship of husband and wife is found in Ephesians, the epistle on the body life of the church. Body is a key word in Ephesians. Remember, a key word is an important word that helps unlock the meaning of the text. When you have the time, read through Ephesians and mark every occurrence of body, along with its pronouns, with a symbol or color. I simply draw a red body—red because it’s a blood-bought body!
Let’s look at Ephesians 5:22-33. It begins with that dreaded verse so many women hate to hear. However, that’s because it’s not always taught or studied in its context. Context is the setting in which something is written or said, and it rules over interpretation. Read the text below and mark or color every reference to wife in pink or a circle. Then read it again and mark the references to husband in blue or with an underline.
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
30 because we are members of His body.
31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
Now, on a piece of paper list everything you observe from marking the words. Write down the facts. Don’t argue with them, just get them down accurately. It’s not yet time for interpretation, and application at this point is premature.
As you read the text, who else is mentioned in this passage? Remember, when you study inductively you are slowing down and observing the text to see exactly what it says—not what you think, want, or wish to hear or believe. No designer faith here! As you observe, remember, ask the 5 W’s and an H: who, what, when, where, why and how. You begin with the easiest to see—people. As you find out about the people, you begin to see the content of the passage.
So far we’ve looked at the wife and the husband. Did you notice Christ? Read the text again. This time color or mark the references to Christ: use yellow or a cross. Include the pronouns He, Him and Himself. Then list what you learn from marking these references to Christ.
Finally, as you made your list, did you notice the terms of comparison: as, so also, just as, even as? These are important; God is showing the husband how he is to love his wife! And did you notice how often love is used in these verses? Love is another key word. Mark it with a heart. (symbol)
Now digest all you have learned. Does this sound like “self-love” or like sacrificial love on the husband’s part? Do you know what every woman desires above all else? To be loved. And do you know what a man’s two greatest fears are? To be ruled over by a woman and to be found inadequate. God knows this; He created us male and female. So if a woman submits to her husband and respects him, his fears are covered. If a man loves his wife the way Jesus loves us, then it’s not hard to submit!
Try applying this and watch what happens in a marriage. I have heard story upon story of restored marriages because a husband or wife took God seriously and obeyed these verses. Understanding truth could greatly reduce the divorce rate among Christians and make marriage a joy. What a testimony that would be to the world.
Now, what can you do with all this? Do this study with others just as I have done with you. After they mark and list, discuss with them what they’ve observed. Read the information in the shaded column on the opposite page and do one of the various studies with others. Start with the 40-Minute Study “Building a Marriage That Lasts.” We have a culture to penetrate with God’s precious life-changing Word—truth which sets us free and makes us holy, and makes marriage what God wants it to be.