Marriage Should Be a Permanent Bond
JUDGING by the conclusion of many movies, marriage is a desirable goal. Often, the man and the woman finally get together, get married, and live “happily ever after.” In films, that is usually the end of the story.
In reality, the wedding is, not the end, but the beginning of a new life together. And hopefully, as Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, “better is the end afterward of a matter than its beginning.”
A Permanent Bond
Farsightedness is needed. A marriage must have solid foundations if it is to last and be satisfying. Otherwise, the stress experienced after the wedding can be much greater than the stress before it. A Christian cannot enter marriage thinking: ‘If it doesn’t work out, I can always divorce.’ Marriage is to be viewed as a permanent bond.
Jesus made clear that marriage was to be permanent when he answered a question put to him about the propriety of divorce. He stated: “Did you not read that [God] who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’? So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.”—Matthew 19:4-6.
After the Wedding Day
It has rightly been said that in the life of a Christian, marriage is second in importance only to his or her dedication to God. The latter binds one to the Creator forever, and baptism makes that publicly manifest. Marriage is the public declaration of commitment to another person—forever. It is unthinkable either to dedicate oneself to God or to forge a marriage bond while having serious reservations. Therefore, those contemplating marriage do well to examine carefully the prospective mate’s beliefs, goals, attitudes, and disposition.
In preparing for the wedding, kindness, thoughtfulness, and the spirit of cooperation are important. Such qualities are even more important afterward in making the marriage a success. The newlyweds are in love, but after marriage it has to be remembered that on a daily basis, love “does not look for its own interests.” When applied consistently year after year, “love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:5, 8) With an abiding love, such qualities as long-suffering, kindness, goodness, mildness, and self-control—fruitage of God’s spirit—will be easier to demonstrate. These qualities are necessary for a successful marriage.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
The difficult part is continuing to manifest such qualities after the wedding day. However, the secret to success in manifesting such good qualities is this: Love the person you married, and be willing to make sacrifices.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment for humans is to love Jehovah, and he said that the second-greatest commandment is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) A married person’s closest neighbor is his or her marriage partner, for nothing on earth can unite two individuals as marriage can.
However, a mere physical union in itself cannot guarantee emotional harmony. The union of two bodies is not always the union of two minds. For the sexual union to give maximum satisfaction, there also has to be the second—the union of hearts and of intentions. More often than not, making sacrifices for the other person is the price that needs to be paid to make marriage a success. Who should make the sacrifices? The husband? The wife?
Showing Love and Honor
God’s Word commands: “In showing honor to one another take the lead.” (Romans 12:10) If you can, make the sacrifice before your mate asks it of you. After all, something obtained after repeated requests has already lost part of its value. Instead, each partner in a marriage should cultivate the habit of taking the initiative in showing honor to the other.
For instance, husbands are commanded to be “assigning [the wife] honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one, . . . in order for [their] prayers not to be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7) If a husband does not give his wife honor, even his prayers to God will be adversely affected. What, though, is meant by honoring one’s wife? It means taking her into consideration at all times, listening to her opinions, giving her first choice in various matters much of the time. And the wife can honor the husband in the same way, by working to be a cooperative helpmate.—Genesis 21:12; Proverbs 31:10-31.
God’s Word says: “Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it, as the Christ also does the congregation.” How much love did Christ have for his followers? He was willing to die for them. The Bible also states: “Let each one of you [husbands] individually so love his wife as he does himself.” (Ephesians 5:28-33) And God’s Word tells wives “to love their husbands, . . . subjecting themselves to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.”—Titus 2:4, 5.
Allow for Mistakes
Since all people are born imperfect, they will make mistakes. (Romans 3:23; 5:12; 1 John 1:8-10) But rather than magnifying mistakes, heed the Bible counsel: “Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) Minor mistakes are best handled by putting them behind us, overlooking them. That can be true of more serious ones too. Colossians 3:12-14 states: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”
How often should we forgive the ordinary mistakes and flaws of our marriage mate? Peter asked Jesus: “‘Lord, how many times is my brother to sin against me and am I to forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him: ‘I say to you, not, Up to seven times, but, Up to seventy-seven times.’” (Matthew 18:21, 22) Since Jesus was saying this about those outside the marriage bond, how much more is forgiveness needed between marriage partners!
Although the institution of marriage has suffered attack in recent years, in the long run, marriage will survive because it was instituted by God and everything he ordains is “very good.” (Genesis 1:31) It will not become outdated. And it can be successful, especially among those who respect and uphold God’s commandments. But the challenge is: Will the two individuals hold true to the promise they made on the wedding day to love and to cherish each other? That can certainly be a challenge, and you may have to struggle to come off victorious. But the results will be worth the effort!
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DIVORCE AND SEPARATION
God, the Originator of marriage, designed it to be a permanent union. But is there any Scriptural reason for a person to divorce his or her mate—and one that would allow for the possibility of remarrying? Jesus addressed this matter by declaring: “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9) Sexual infidelity by a mate is the only ground for a divorce that will allow the innocent mate to remarry.
In addition, the Bible’s words at 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, while encouraging marriage mates to stay together, allow for separation. Some, after trying very hard to preserve their marriage, feel they have no choice but to separate. What can be acceptable Scriptural grounds for such a step?
One is willful nonsupport. When getting married, a husband assumes the responsibility of providing for his wife and children. The man who willfully fails to provide the material necessities of life “has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Timothy 5:8) So separation is possible.
Another is extreme physical abuse. So then, if a mate physically abuses his wife, the victim may separate. (Galatians 5:19-21; Titus 1:7) “Anyone loving violence [God’s] soul certainly hates.”—Psalm 11:5.
Another ground for separation is the absolute endangerment of a believer’s spirituality—one’s relationship with God. When a mate’s opposition, perhaps including physical restraint, has made it impossible to pursue true worship and has imperiled the believer’s spirituality, then some believers have found it necessary to separate. *—Matthew 22:37; Acts 5:27-32.
However, if divorce is pursued under such circumstances, one would not be free to enter a new marriage. According to the Bible, the only legitimate ground for divorce that permits remarriage is adultery or “fornication.”—Matthew 5:32.
^ par. 27 See The Watchtower of November 1, 1988, pages 22-3, for a discussion of separation.
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Marriage should be viewed as a permanent arrangement
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Jesus said that we should forgive “seventy-seven times”