Are you going to watch the season premier of “My Five Wives” on TLC?
That was the question I was asked the other day. To be honest, I had never even heard of the show. I had heard of “Sister Wives” – the Mormon family with one husband, four wives, and a troop of kids. It seems that four wives wasn’t chaotic enough for TLC – they had to up their game and bring in a family with five.
While I didn’t watch the opening of the show, it did launch a rather interesting discussion about the Bible and polygamy.
Here’s the tough truth – there is no biblical mandate against having multiple wives. The verse that most Christians use against polygamy is where the Apostle Paul instructs that leaders should be husbands of one wife.
On the surface this seems to be a clear indicator of the Christian view of polygamy. Except that polygamy wasn’t rampant in the time and area Paul was writing. It doesn’t make sense that he would be addressing a problem that wasn’t really a problem. There is some merit to the argument that Paul is referring to divorce/remarriage rather than polygamy (but that’s a discussion for another post). Suffice to say, the Bible never comes out and says polygamy is sin.
But Chris, wouldn’t it be considered sinning if you’re having sex outside the bonds of marriage?
The biblical standard for sexual fidelity means within marriage, yes. But it’s not outside marriage if you’re having sex with one of the women you’re married to.
Interestingly, in the OT, polygamy was not about getting more nookie but about preserving the clan/family line and protecting women. With no male child a family line might die out. Multiple wives made possible the preservation of the family line. As for protecting women, in the ancient world there was no possibility for social advancement for women. If you didn’t get married you had a good chance of being destitute. Polygamy allowed for women to be taken into a family and cared for when they might not have been okay otherwise.
Several characters in OT stories have multiple wives. They are never condemned. But here’s the thing – it never ends well and always causes drama and grief. To my knowledge, every character we’re told about that is involved in polygamous families has some serious issues to contend with.
In the end I wouldn’t treat it as a salvation issue – the Bible never says that you’re excluded from eternity with God if you have multiple wives. I don’t judge the polygamists in that regard (the families from the shows are Mormons, and I do hold to a clear belief that Mormonism is NOT the Christian faith), but THEORETICALLY it would be possible for a Christian to be a polygamist and still be saved.
But overall I DO think it’s definitely on the “pretty dumb idea” list. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a polygamy advocate.
If I tried to marry another woman my wife would kill me – she doesn’t believe in divorce!
I believe the Bible calls us to live in mutually submissive and mutually controlling relationships. I am not my own, but I belong to my wife. She belongs to me. I need to submit to my wife’s needs, wants, and desires. She needs to submit to mine. I believe the God calls us to this kind of mutuality.
My wife and I teach a 9 week marriage-enrichment class at our church. In our marriage class we split the men and women into gender breakout groups to discuss questions and issues. Yesterday I shared about asking the women to identify 8 things their husbands do that they greatly appreciate. We also asked the men to identify 8 things their wives do that they greatly appreciate.
**Keep in mind that this is simply a list of things that the men in our class appreciated about their spouses. This is not a “MUST-DO if you want to be a Godly wife” kind of article! Please pack away your guns and your feminism and enjoy what these men appreciate about their spouses.
1. She is organized – Not all men are a mess. Some guys are fastidious. But others of us rely on the organization of our spouses to keep us from being a heaping mess. Wives, if your husband is the kind of guy who needs you to be organized don’t fight it. Embrace it. And know that we really do appreciate the fact that one of us has it together. Men, don’t use this as an excuse to be a slob. She’s not your momma, she’s your wife.
2. Takes good care of the kids – I hate to play into gender stereotypes…but here I go. Obviously it’s not true for all couples, but in my marriage (and for other couples I know) the wife is a better nurturer and caretaker than the husband. For example, let’s talk about puke. When my kids are feeling crummy and start to vomit my wife will be in the thick of it (pun definitely intended). I’ve seen her throw out her hand to catch barf before it can hit other stuff. That is SO not me. Men appreciate the kind of care our wives provide for the kids.
3. Takes care of me when I’m sick – Similar to above, we appreciate it when our wives care for us in our sickness. Honestly, when I’m sick I’m a bigger baby than my kids are. The whole world shuts down when I get the flu. And there she is, bringing me toast, hot tea, medicine, whatever I need.
4. Puts me and the kids first – I’m sure there are plenty of women who are total jerks, but I daily see wives and moms put their families first. It’s an incredible trait that more of us should have. We appreciate it.
5. Gives me space and freedom with my friends – Some of the men in our group felt the need to spend “time with the guys” and appreciated it when their spouses gave them space to do that.
6. Cooks good meals – I’m reminded of the Carl’s Jr./Hardees commercial:
7. Thinks of others before herself – This is nearly identical to number 4, but someone wanted to reiterate it 😉
8. She’s a great cleaner – Last but not least, one of our guys wanted to share how much he appreciated his wife cleaning the house. While this is an admirable trait, this is not excuse for us to be slobs, men!
Well, there you have it. It’s what our class came up with. You want a healthy and happy marriage? Put in the work to make it that way.
How about you? What else would you add to this list?
Permit me to get out my soap box. I waited a couple days, debating whether or not I should even bring this up again. But the firestorm that I caused in my circles only solidifies in my head that we need to be talking about this…
If you had told me a year ago that I’d be arguing against Evangelical Christians in support of civil rights for same-sex couples I would’ve told you that you were nuts. Yet here we are.
A couple of days ago I wrote a post revolving around the wedding photographers in New Mexico that refused to provide services for a same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled that the photographers had violated the couple’s civil rights – and Evangelical Christendom roared.
After a lot of thought about it and an eventual change in my own position, I publicly stated that I think the photographers were wrong to discriminate against the couple and that all Christians should think twice about refusing service to same-sex couples (I’ll post the link to my full post below).
I know that my position would clash with mainstream Evangelical thought, but I never expected the backlash I saw. And, not being one to back down from a verbal sparring, I’m going to write about it some more. I’m convinced more than ever that the Church has got to make some changes in how it approaches the LGBT community – for Christ’s sake. So…here we go.
I am a conservative Evangelical Christian (at least I thought so). I believe that God designed sexuality to be between one man and one woman who are married to each other. This means that adulterous relationships, fornication, and same-sex relationships are not part of God’s intended design. I believe that the Bible makes this case. I believe that nature and human physiology itself bears this out.
At the same time I believe that the Church should not be party to mistreating and discriminating against people – any people. I believe that the Church has been complicit in such discrimination. In my last post I compared the photographers’ behavior to establishments in the south that used to post “Whites Only” signs out front. I received criticism from Christians who told me that I cannot compare the racially charged civil rights movement with same-sex issues. I was told that the gay marriage issue is different from REAL civil rights.
To me it’s not an issue of gay marriage, racial equality, or any other issue. The topic at hand is about businesses refusing to serve certain elements of the public because of a personal disagreement with that element. Who gets to decide who is worthy of service or not? If conservative Christians can refuse to serve the LGBT community, who’s to say that racist business owners can’t refuse to serve other races?
I know, I know. “Racism is different.” That’s what I was told by other pastors. “You can’t compare racism with LGBT discrimination because racists distort the Bible for their own ends while we understand that the Bible is clearly against homosexuality.”
Do you understand what was just said? “It’s wrong for racists to discriminate because they believe the wrong thing. It’s okay for us to discriminate because we believe correctly.” This infuriates me. The whole idea of freedom of religion is that we don’t hold another person’s private beliefs against him. You can believe anything you want and I can believe anything I want and we still come together as citizens in the same nation.
You can’t claim that your discrimination is okay because you read the Bible correctly and say another person’s discrimination is wrong because they misread it. So the civil rights laws step in and say, “We’re going to make sure that all people are treated the same no matter what their status or what your personal beliefs may be.”
If you have a business that serves the public you are not allowed to say, “Well…I won’t serve THOSE people.” I was told by other Christians that vendors ought to be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples because a gay marriage might violate the vendor’s idea of marriage as a covenant between the couple and God. I agree that marriage is designed to be a covenant between the husband and wife and between the couple and God. Being a vendor does not endorse the views of the couple.
A baker can bake a wedding cake without endorsing the couple. The florist can arrange flowers without endorsing the couple. A Christian waiter can’t refuse to wait tables if it were an engagement party for a gay couple.
A Christian owner of a candle store doesn’t vet her customers to make sure that no Wiccans buy candles. “Excuse me, are you Wiccan? Because I won’t sell these candles to you if you’re going to go conjure up spirits with them.”
In all honesty, I sincerely doubt that Christian wedding vendors are performing background checks to make sure that every couple they serve fits the biblical model of marriage. Would the vendor refuse to provide services for a man who divorced his wife so that he could marry his mistress? They never even ask that question. At least I was never asked about my relationship background when my fiancée and I visited vendors. No one double-checked to make sure it wasn’t an adulterous relationship.
Rather than pretending that we care about God’s ideal for marriage, we should simply admit that we’re picking a particular segment of society to discriminate against. It’s the thing to do. Gay relationships offend our sensibilities more than an adulterous relationship. It’s become socially acceptable within the Church to single out the LGBT community for condemnation.
The natural follow-up question I received: “If you believe this way would you marry a same-sex couple?” And without hesitation I answer all who ask, “No, I would not.” As I said, I believe that God’s design for sexuality is for one man and one woman who are married to each other. It was at this point that I was called a hypocrite, putting myself and other pastors up on a pedestal while calling out non-clergy Christians.
I don’t see it as hypocritical. I genuinely see a difference between a wedding vendor and a pastor. I was told by one Christian that there is no difference between a pastor and any other vendor or justice of the peace. Am I not obligated being licensed by the state to perform same-sex marriages?
Let me clarify in case you did not know: pastors are not licensed by the state. I have never been nor will I ever be licensed by the state. I am ordained by the church. The state merely recognizes the church’s endorsement of the clergy. I am not a vendor – I am a pastor and spiritual care-giver. I do not claim to serve the public through my service. Pastors are not the same as vendors. We’re not the same as a justice of the peace. When I marry a couple it is more than a ceremony. I pastor them – talk to them about what marriage looks like from a biblical point of view. I talk to them about God’s ideal for healthy relationships. I read Scripture to them. I’m not a vendor, I’m a pastor. That might not make a difference to you – it makes a difference to me.
A friend commented to me that any issue combining civil issues and moral issues is messy. It is messy. There is no easy solution or answer to this stuff. But I do see too many Christians behaving poorly. We’re not acting like Jesus.
There were several times in Jesus’ public life that he encountered “sinners”. In these encounters we see him acting the same way. He talks to them. He touches them. He cares for them. He loves them. THEN he tells them to go and stop sinning. Not so much the Church today. Our attitude is often, “Go and stop sinning. Then come back so we can love you.”
I’m ready for the Church to lead the way in loving people. Too many Christians think that loving people means encouraging and allowing sin. I’m not for a soft-sell faith. I’m not for white-washing Jesus. I still believe in the Jesus of the Gospels who proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But we forget that he loved first, called for change second. And, honestly, I think most people in the LGBT community know my position as an Evangelical pastor. I don’t have to beat people over the head with my view of the Bible. I can love them in spite of our differences.
So…call me hypocrite. Quote Proverbs to me. Tell me you think I’m going against sound judgment. Tell me that you can’t believe I’ve fallen away.
Me? I can’t believe the Church has become so coldhearted. We don’t have to stop preaching righteousness. We don’t have to stop talking about Jesus, the cross, and forgiveness of sin. But we don’t have to discriminate, no matter what our differences may be.
We can still love people, no matter who they are or their type of sin. At least – I think that’s what Jesus would do.
So I’m off my soap box. Please feel free to send this to CNN. Or Oprah. It would be kind of cool to be on the air as the Evangelical pastor who is against gay marriage but for civil rights. But keep it away from Fox News – I don’t want to be crucified… 😉
I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!
I teach a 9-week course on developing and maintaining healthy relationships. In the class we regularly do breakout groups of men and women to discuss a certain question or issue. In one of our classes we asked the men and women to split up and, as gender groups, identify their top 5 areas of marriage conflict. Like a couple other issues, both groups came up with the exact same list of conflict areas.
Any guess as to what they came up with?
In no particular order:
1. In-laws. Not everyone is blessed with wonderful, supportive, and caring in-laws the way I am. Some people have real conflict with their in-laws – conflict that results in fights, hurtful words, and even hurtful actions. One of the problems in dealing with difficult in-laws is that there is only so much you can do when it comes to other people’s behavior. In fact, you can’t do anything about their behavior. But you and your spouse don’t have to do anything with their behavior. What you CAN do is work on your responses to their behavior.
The Bible tells us that the marriage relationship is the beginning of a new family unity. While there are still ties to the old family, we are told that the man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife and the two become one. Simply put, your spouse becomes an extension of you! Now extend the logic – if your parents have a problem with your spouse then you should see it as though they have a problem with you (and vice versa). We need to be supportive of our spouses and “have their backs” even if it means coming against our own parents. If we take the Bible seriously about the unity within the marriage bond, then taking our spouse’s side against family is imperative. Too many “support” until conflict with the family occurs, then we quickly throw our spouses under the bus. Don’t fall into that trap.
Get your partner’s back.
2. Money Issues. Always a biggie, isn’t it? One word: BUDGET! It’s important for couples to sit down and work out a family budget together. Each one should have a voice and give input for what the budget should look like. This should happen every month. The more you do it together the easier it gets. Also, it is important that spouses do not keep financial secrets from each other. It’s not “my money” and “your money” but “our money.” Remember, the Bible prioritizes marriage as unity.
How we be united if we’re keeping parts of our lives from each other?
3. The Ex. Yikes. It seems that many people have a lot of problems with an ex. I’ve seen exes do some pretty crummy things. I’ve seen exes intentionally goad the new partner, pushing buttons and being an all-around jerk. My advice? Treat exes like online trolls (people who search for ways to stir up trouble) – all you can do is ignore them. If you engage then you take the bait and get caught in the trap. There is no good way to deal with a troll. They can’t be reasoned with. You can’t convince them of logic or fact. So ignore and walk away.
On a relational level think of the ex in a similar way to the in-laws. The new marriage is what is important. You ought to be supporting your partner above your ex. That person is not part of the unity any more. There might be kids involved. There might be shared property involved. It doesn’t matter. Marital unity is what matters.
Get each other’s backs, and leave the ex out of it.
4. Child Discipline. This one can bring up a lot of difficulties whether the kids are part of a two-parent household or if you’re in a blended family. The difficulty lies in the fact that we’re trying to get two adults to agree on the best course of action on how to raise and discipline other human beings. There’s no easy way to help to people come to agreement on the best way to raise kids. There are many different theories on the “best” ways. What I can say is that it’s possible for parents to find compromise. Each partner can up with a list of “non-negotiables” and a list of “preferables.” The preferable is where we strive to compromise (yes, that might mean giving in and letting your spouse win the day). This is not going to be a quick discussion, and there might be lots of give and take over the course of years of parenting. Don’t throw your hands up in the air and quit. No matter what, even in disagreement, always show a united front before the kids.
Stick with it and work together.
5. Score Keeping. This is sometimes called quid pro quo which means “this for that.” It really comes down to keeping a tally of who did what and using that tally to try to motivate our spouses to do something for us. Healthiest relationships don’t keep score (I did it this time – it’s your turn to do it now). In biblical marriages, each spouse seeks to serve the other no matter who did what or how many times he did it. If I really love my wife I should strive to meet her needs, whatever those needs may be. That means that sometimes I will be the one cleaning the bathroom several weeks in a row (even though I REALLY don’t like cleaning bathrooms). It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it. I will do my best to serve her. And she ought to have the same attitude towards meeting my needs and serving me. It’s mutual.
When this happens we can drop the score keeping and be confident in the fact that our spouses will do whatever they can to love and support us.
What do you think? Have you had personal experience in these areas of marital conflict? Would you add anything to the list?
It seems that there is a general disregard for the power of marriage in our culture. With the divorce rate near 60% couples have a greater chance of splitting than they do going the distance. It absolutely breaks my heart when I see couples split. Of course there are a couple of legitimate reasons for couples splitting, but it’s still heartbreaking. God didn’t design us to be in temporary relationships. We were created to be part of a deep covenant; connected to our spouses in relationships that go far beyond any other relationship. But we don’t talk that way much. Certainly Hollywood doesn’t teach us about committed and enduring relationships. There must be a better way of doing things. I think God has set us up for success if we would just pay attention to what he tells us and learn to live it.
Here are five elements on the Bible’s perspective on the powerful bond we call marriage:
1. There’s no such thing as cheap sex. God says in the Old Testament, “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife.” (Exodus 22:16) Wow! One night stands? No such-a-thing in God’s community. Can you imagine if we lived by this principle in our country? The bars would be empty every weekend. Your wingman wouldn’t be the guy who helps you land the girl – he would be the guy to remind you, “You take her home tonight you’re stuck with her EVERY night.” Cheap sex hurts people and does not breed lasting, intimate relationships. Cheap sex does not promote family and thus weakens the nation (I believe strong nations are built on strong families, but that’s a post for another day). Cheap sex is looking for the positive elements of relationship without the commitment and struggle all genuine relationships must endure. In short – it’s not God’s ideal.
2. Marriage is designed to be a lifelong commitment. The Apostle Paul writes, “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 wished….” (1 Corinthians 7:39) I do believe that Jesus and Paul do talk about some exceptions whereby they permit divorce, but God’s IDEAL is still clear – marriage is supposed to be an enduring commitment between a man and a woman.
3. Your spouse influences your life (whether or not you realize it!). I once read that we are a composite of the five people we spend the most time with. That’s simultaneously an interesting and scary thought. But the people we “do life” with end up being who we are like. It’s no wonder that the Bible cautions us to choosing spouses that will bring us closer to God rather than drive us away from God. “Shall we then…act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?” (Nehemiah 13:27). Or Paul: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers….” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Contrary to what some proclaim, these verses are not about racial purity. Even ancient Israel allowed foreigners to be part of the their community and God commanded justice towards them. No, the issue is about the gods that foreign people serve. People who serve different gods and have different spiritualities tend to pull us away from the One True God, Yahweh. This was Solomon’s downfall. The Bible actually doesn’t condemn his multiple wives. It condemns his choice of foreign women that led to worshipping false gods. The person we marry will end up influencing us, so choose wisely.
4. Marriage ought to be respected and honored and not taken too lightly. It’s a commitment and not something to fool around with. God tells us in the New Testament, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Hebrews 13:4) That certainly goes against the attitude of our day.
5. Marriage is not the same as merely cohabitating. Though there is no direct command regarding cohabitating, there is a story in the Gospel According to John in which Jesus encounters a women outside of a little town. She begins talking to him and tells Jesus that she has no husband. Jesus answers, “What you’ve said is true. You’ve had multiple husbands and the man you’re with now is not your husband. Yes, what you’ve said is true.” Jesus doesn’t see cohabitating on the same level as a committed, covenantal relationship established by marriage.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us with an incredibly high ideal. God’s ways set the standard for us, and we have fallen short. We need a radical change in our perspective – we need to align our behavior with God’s ideals. It can start today. It can start with you. Are you married? Start looking at your marriage through the God’s perspective. Are you single? Start looking at your dates and relationships from God’s point of view. Do you have kids? Start teaching them what God’s ideal is so that they grow up grounded with a biblical foundation for what they desire in marriage. We can change our perspective. The question is – do we want to?
How about you? What do you think about God’s ideal for marriage?
If you’ve read any of my blogs about marriage and relationships you will know that I believe the Bible calls us to live in mutually submissive and mutually controlling relationships. I am not my own, but I belong to my wife. She belongs to me. I need to submit to my wife’s needs, wants, and desires. She needs to submit to mine. I believe the God calls us to this kind of mutuality. Understanding that groundwork, some of my posts on marriage and relationships will cover biblical principles without expressly quoting the Bible chapter and verse. Like today’s post.
In the 9-week marriage class I teach we split the men and women into gender breakout groups to discuss questions and issues. In one session I asked the women to identify 8 things their husbands do that they greatly appreciate. Here is there list:
He pitches in around the house and with the kids– it seems that women don’t want to be the only caregiver and maid in the house. Men, this is our chance to step up and take ownership of the household. Stop passing the buck and figure out how you can be an active participant in running the family. One good method is to list out every task common to households (there are probably about 30-40 regular tasks) and split them up. Volunteer and say, “These 15 that you are already doing I will take off your hands.”
He takes good care of me when I am sick – it is a great feeling to be cared for when you are under the weather. And let’s face it: women tend to be better care-givers than men. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Next time your woman is sick don’t complain about how you have to pick up the slack. Force her to go lie down and volunteer to make dinner, bathe the kids, read bedtime stories, and whatever else she normally does ALL THE TIME anyway.
He takes care of the kids without complaining– whether you fathered them or are a blended family, BE A FATHER to the kids in the house.
He asks what I need to be content and happy– I’ve heard it jokingly said that “Happy wife = Happy life” but IT’S TRUE! Your life will never be happier as when your spouse is happy. Care for her. Nurture her. Find out what her happiness requires and then pursue it diligently. When she knows that you care about her happiness it frees her to think about yours (you both win!).
He helps me with my job/career – your wife has dreams, ambitions, and goals in her life. Don’t think that she’s a bump on a log. Assist (as much as you are able) in helping her realize success in her career.
He does things without me having to ask him to– seriously, take initiative. She doesn’t want to be your momma. She wants to be your partner.
He helps get the kids off to school– SEE NUMBER 3
He has a good sense of humor– Everyone loves to laugh. We bond with people over laughter. If you and your wife find ways to laugh together it will help cement your relationship.
Well, there you have it. It’s what our class came up with. You want a healthy and happy marriage? Put in the work to make it that way.
How about you? What else would you add to this list?
In the past I wrote about the 9-week marriage class I lead at our church and the breakout group questions. Once we had the men came up with their top 3 fears about being part of the class or participating in marriage counseling. It was a good question for them because EVERY SINGLE ONE of them had been brought to the class by his wife. Clearly it was important to the women.
So we asked the women: what are your top 3 hopes or desires from attending a marriage class?
Any guess as to what they said?
~ We hope this class helps us improve marital communication. This is the perennial issue in marriages. Everyone wants to communicate better. Everyone wants to communicate more. Our society has perpetuated the myth that talking more equals a stronger relationship. It’s simply not true. If a husband and a wife talk more and more yet the way they talk to each other is demeaning and belittling then the communication is going to damage the relationship – not improve it. So we don’t want more communication. We want BETTER communication.
When it comes to communication and prayer even Jesus wants better instead of more. Don’t babble on and on. Instead, simply talk to God in a natural way. Praise him. Thank him. Tell him what you need. Seek his will. Badda bing, badda boom.
Kinda makes all guys feel good to hear Jesus say, “Better, not more.” I’ve heard people give statistics about women needing to speak 20,000 words a day and men only 10,000 (I don’t remember the exact number, but it was ridiculously lopsided). I’m not so sure that’s a valid stat. Men, if we did our part to make communication BETTER then women wouldn’t have to try to compensate with MORE. As couples, let’s take steps to improve the quality of marital communication.
~ We hope this class helps us resolve conflict better. Resolving conflict is a two way street. Fortunately, it’s something we CAN get better at through practice and hard work. I always begin conflict resolution by looking at what Jesus said. If someone wrongs you, take it privately to the person and talk it out calmly. If the other person repents, then bring in a neutral party who can help evaluate. Then if it still doesn’t resolve escalate by adding others.
While Jesus’ words are not specifically geared towards married couples there is a principle we can learn. When we are hurt by someone the best course of action is to handle it personally and calmly with the person face to face. The goal is not to make the other person feel bad. The goal is always to restore relationship and repair the bond between people. This is especially important in marriages. Rather than talking to your buddies or girlfriends about what your spouse did; instead of taking it out on her or mistreating him, approach your partner calmly and lovingly to discuss the offense. Remember that the goal is always restoration and relationship repair. If we could learn to do this then our conflict resolution would be a lot healthier!
~ We hope this class helps strengthen the marriage bond. I hope and pray that this is a goal for all married couples no matter how long you’ve been married. There is always room to grow; always room to improve. Marriage cannot be passive. Things don’t get good by chance. It requires hard work to make relationships flourish. Keep at it. Make communication better. Make conflict resolution better. Read books. Seek a good pastor or counselor. But keep working at it.
God designed us to thrive in relationships – particularly the intimacy of the marriage relationship. Fight for it. Hold on to it. Work at it however you can. Men, last time I told the women that it was their job to help alleviate our fears of marriage counseling. Now it’s our turn. It is our job to help make their hopes a reality. You cannot sit on your butt and hope your marriage turns out ok. As a husband you need to do your part to improve communication and conflict resolution. Don’t settle for “okay” – work for THRIVING!
Ladies, how about you? What else would you hope to get out of marriage counseling or a marriage class?
I teach a 9-week class designed to give couples some tools and resources for strengthening their relationship and to grow closer together. At the beginning of each week I have the men and women split into breakout groups to discuss questions from their gender’s point of view. In the very first class of the last cycle I asked the men’s breakout group to identify their top 3 fears about being part of a marriage class or marriage counseling.
Can you guess what they came up with?
~ I’m afraid that this will bring up even MORE issues between us. Yup, that’s the number one fear my guys had. They were willing to admit that tensions and issues already existed in their marriages. The fear was that intentionally working on the marriage would reveal additional issues.
What would you tell them? I told them that there was a very real possibility that working on a relationship would bring up additional issues. Knowing that more issues might arise is not a reason to avoid counseling or a marriage class. In fact – it’s a good reason to START counseling or attending a class! Every relationship has issues – things to work through. It is better to find a way to address those issues rather than let them fester. Eventually festering problems cause horrible sickness and require amputation. Not a pretty sight.
Man up. Yes, there will be tensions and issues in your relationship. Don’t run from them. Deal with them appropriately.
~ I’m afraid that we’ll realize that we’re not really compatible. As long as they keep their heads in the sand a lot of guys figure that they’ll be able to keep on truckin’ in the marriage. I was lucky enough to snag her, now I just gotta keep a low profile and pretend that everything is okay. She’ll never know we’re not compatible if we simply never work on the marriage.
I’m not sure but I think a lot of this fear stems from the fear of loneliness. We so often desire to be part of an intimate relationship that we alter behavior, change our appearance, or do all sorts of other zany things to attract and woo a partner. If she finds out the real me, if we’re forced to talk and be open, maybe she will not really be compatible with me and we’ll split up.
Here are two things to remember: 1) there are lots of different types of compatibility, just ask EHarmony. While some happily married couples are compatible in areas X, Y, and Z, others might not be and instead are compatible in areas A, B, and C. This leads to number 2) You HAVE to be compatible in some way, shape, or form or you never would have become a couple in the first place. Quit focusing on the negative and start to emphasize the positive that already exists.
~ I’m afraid that I’ll have to talk about my feelings and emotions. As much of a stereotype as that is, it was the men in the class that said it about themselves. Seems men realize that women are much more naturally suited for talking…and talking…and talking about emotions. The fear was that they would be forced to do it as well.
Unfortunately this one is true. You cannot build a relationship without connecting to your spouse on a deeper level. There will be some elements of your emotions and feelings that will need to be discussed. It doesn’t mean you have to turn into a Chatty Cathy (I’m apologize to everyone named Cathy. It’s nothing personal, just the expression). It does mean that you will need to practice expressing what you think and feel.
God reveals to us through the Bible that the marriage relationship is built on mutuality. Husband and wife mutually control the other. They mutually submit to the other. They mutually respect each other. It’s not about one person who dominates and one who yields.
So, women, as a partner you need to do everything within your power to help alleviate these fears that we men have. When issues come up we need to know that you will help address the issue in a calm and loving way (no berating, belittling, or combative maneuvers please). We need you to reaffirm the connection and compatibility between us. And we need you to be sensitive to our insensitivity – the fact that many of us HATE sharing our emotions and feelings.
Married couples can work together to build strong relationships. Men, we will have to overcome our fears. Women, you will have to lovingly work with us to overcome our fears. But together we can do it.
How about you? What fears do you have about getting into relationship counseling or a class?
Today I was contacted by a woman who had some pretty heavy questions regarding the LGBT lifestyle (unless you have your head stuck in the sand or are stuck at home raising multiple children you will know about the Supreme Court’s decisions today…). She had a question about an appropriate response and felt like and “outsider” because she didn’t feel contempt for the gay community or have a strong desire to convert them to heterosexuals. The following is the letter I wrote her back. I understand that you may differ in your take, but this is coming through my lenses on how I see the world and how I read the Bible – which I believe should set the standard for actions and belief.
From my reading the Bible is pretty clear that God’s design is that sex be restricted to one man and one woman who are married to each other. Do people break God’s design? ALL THE TIME! You are right that God’s design is also for marriage to be a life-long commitment without divorce, yet that happens as well. We live in a broken world in which people act in broken ways.
In that sense we’re all messed up, loved by a gracious God in spite of ourselves. There are probably several reasons why the church focuses so much intensity and anger towards the LGBT community, but that is our error. We are called to love people no matter what their personal sin is. Some drink to excess – yet the Bible says that drunkenness is a sin. We love them still. The Bible says not to divorce, but Christians do. We love them still.
I believe that God designed male and female to be compatible. Same-sex sexuality goes against the natural order. But let’s differentiate between sexual behavior and sexual inclination/attraction. I do know people who have same-sex attraction as a result of life circumstances (bad parenting situation, sexual abuse, etc.). There is also a cultural push to see same-sex friendships as gay because we are uncomfortable with the idea of a deep friendship between two men. I have heard some people interpreting the intimate friendship between David and Jonathan in the Bible as being a homosexual relation. While they were closer than brothers there is no indication that they were gay. But we are often uncomfortable with same-sex intimacy. How can you experience intimacy with someone of the same sex unless it is sexual? This is more of a Western point of view than an Eastern one. My wife, who has a degree in missions and has traveled quite a bit in southeast Asia, tells me that it’s not uncommon in foreign countries to see two men walking down the street holding hands as a sign of camaraderie and intimacy, even though they are both happily married to women.
Even still, some people claim same-sex attraction with no childhood trauma. I am not a scientist, so I will not deny that it may be possible that there is a same-sex attraction born in some people. To my understanding this has not been proven. But even if it were proven, I believe that God’s Word remains unchanged about same-sex behavior and that God loves them no matter what (if our behavior determined God’s love we’d ALL be in trouble).
To the person who claims attraction I would differentiate between attraction and sexual activity. Some see this as a cop out, but I believe it to be a valid way of maintaining a sense of truth to oneself and to God’s design. Just because you might find yourself attracted to the same sex does not mean you have to act upon it. Humanity has a marvelous capacity to exercise self-control if we want to – sadly, much of our society laughs at the idea of self-control (and not just in regards to our sexuality, but to every other area of life).
At the end of the day you are right that God calls us to love and embrace all people regardless of their choices. People go against God’s design all the time – we love them anyway. Ultimately God is judge and we are not. As a pastor I will tell people what I believe God’s design is. It’s up to them and God as to whether or not they act on it. I still love them no matter what they choose.
And I do believe that, at the end of time, there will be people in heaven that will surprise us – and people in hell that we never expected to be there!
There’s really nothing funny about divorce. No humorous little anecdotes can ease into this conversation. I’ve never met a divorced couple that was untouched – unscathed. The truth is that divorce hurts. As a pastor I wrestle with helping people discover God’s ideal and standard regarding marriage and divorce on one hand and then trying to find a Christian way to live after the divorce is final.
Truth be told, I find that the biblical perspective on divorce is really unpopular. People don’t want to hear what God has to say if he conflicts with what they want to do. I recently preached on divorce in my church. I have a habit of letting my church know in advance what the messages will be about (it helps get people in a mindset to receive the word for that day). I know of at least one person who intentionally skipped church because, as a divorced person, he didn’t want to listen to God’s perspective. This saddens me – that he felt we couldn’t have an honest discussion about God’s ideals without feeling judgment and condemnation. No one is perfect, and divorce is merely another sad reality of broken people living in a broken world. But we should still know what God’s ideals are. So here’s my take on what the Bible says:
First – divorce is NEVER God’s ideal. His preference is for a lifetime commitment, a covenant, between one man and one woman. In the Gospel of Mark Jesus says:
And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
But even the Bible has some “exception clauses” that recognizes that broken people live in a broken world and end up breaking relationships. One of the divorce exceptions is, in the event of infidelity, the victimized spouse has permission to divorce and start life over. The Apostle Paul notes that if one partner abandons the other then the abandoned spouse is no longer bound.
All said and done, while divorce is NEVER God’s ideal – God recognizes that it happens. So you’re divorced. Now what?
As much as possible, reconcile with your ex. WHAT?!? Not my words, but the Apostle Paul’s. The Christian life is about forgiveness and grace, so as much as you can try to reconcile.
Ask God to help resist hatred, resentment, and bitterness towards your ex. You may be hurt and your ex might have acted in horrible, villainous ways. You can’t change the past, but you can work on your present attitude.
Forgive and ask forgiveness for your role in the divorce. Sometimes a spouse is a real dirtbag and does damage to you. Sometimes there are two sides to the story. In all honesty, ask yourself what role you played in the divorce. You may need to seek forgiveness for your part.
Continue to behave in kind, Christian ways. This one is HUGE. I’ve seen so many people forget how to behave decently when it comes to an ex. Mean talk, back-biting, and hurtful words come easily. Swallow them. Don’t do it. Keep your mouth shut. Behave in kindness and do nothing out of anger or hate. It’s about your behavior before God, regardless of what she did (or what he did). Here’s your model – follow Jesus’ example as he still behaved decently and sought forgiveness to the people who terribly wronged him.
Though divorce is a serious matter in God’s opinion, it’s not an unforgivable sin. God shows a lot more grace to people and their brokenness than we show to each other. If you have found yourself in a divorced status I hurt for you. It is not God’s desire for people to hurt each other and split. If you are divorced please know that you are not a “second-class citizen” in the church. You matter to God just like everyone else.
Through it all remember that God desires us to live in strong, healthy, and committed relationships. If you’re married and struggling, God can mend broken hearts and restore relationships. If you’re divorced and hurting, God can renew you from this point on and you can begin living in God’s grace, building healthy relationships from here on out.