God’s recipe for a healthy marriage

Although God has put it on my heart to write this blog, I have been avoiding it for at least a week because the subject of what makes a healthy marriage is a controversial one.

However, I believe that the Lord has put this article on my mind so, with apologies to my wife, Rachael, for being more effective in theory than in practice, I shall make a start.

1 Peter 1:1 says: Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives.’

The unambiguous nature of this instruction may not sit very well with many people in today’s world, especially when read in conjunction with Ephesians 5: 22-23, which state: ‘Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour.’

However, God’s Word is also quick to point out that marriage is a two-way street.  In 1 Peter 3:7: men are told: ‘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.’

Ephesians 5:25 adds: ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.’

How do these commands work themselves out in practice?  I believe that God is asking male spouse to provide leadership and direction within individual families.  A husband called to be the final decision-maker within the home and the person who must activate the ruling, taking on himself any consequences of it.  A wife is asked to respect that decision and support it within a wider family context. 

From my reading of the Word, the key to making a marriage work is for both people within the marriage to show each other genuine respect and love as it is defined in the Biblical sense.

In 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, we are told that: ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’

In short, everything within a marital relationship must take place in at atmosphere of humility, selflessness, patience, repentance, when it is required and genuine forgiveness.

For me, the man who sits in his fireside armchair dictating to his wife and spent years riding roughshod over her opinions and emotions is not behaving acceptably.  Yes, a husband must make the final ruling but, his love for his wife demands that he will listen to his wife’s views and, often, he will base his decisions on what his good lady wants simply because of his love and adoration for her.

Equally, a good wife will honour her husband’s judgement, defending him from negative feedback given by others outside the relationship and being gentle with her partner if his decision is one, she disagrees with, or when something goes wrong as a result of it.

The question about whether divorce is acceptable is a blog on its own. I will just touch on it here.

In Malachi 2:16 we discover that ‘God hates divorce’.  However, there are certain circumstances in which the Bible allows it.  For example, if a husband or wife comes to faith in God during the marriage and the unsaved partner cannot except this, the unsaved spouse may leave and should be ‘let go’, leaving the Christian in the marriage free from guilt and able to remarry. (1 Corinthians 7:15)

Matthew’s gospel also cites ‘unfaithfulness’ as grounds for divorce.  I believe that God is a God of compassion.  My understanding of his character is that He is not pleased when any aspect of the marriage vows gets broken.  The husband or wife who is physically, emotionally, financially or sexually abusive to their spouse is guilty of failing to ‘love, honour and cherish’ them.  I would argue that, as a result, the wronged partner may seek a divorce.

However, true Biblical love is a wonderful thing When it is given freely and sincerely on both sides it will be a life-enhancing and enriching experience which will be enjoyed by two people for a lifetime.

Joe Boyd (Author of ‘Trading Places’)