This is the Marriage Missions article for this week. I hope that it challenges you and encourages you in your marriage relationship.
For the next two weeks we will be concentrating on ten principles that we believe will help strengthen your marriage if you embrace and use them. They are titled "The Ten Commandments for Marriage" and were originally put together by Elisabeth Elliot, who is a former missionary, writer, radio broadcaster, and most importantly, a woman of God. We will be adding comments of our own contained within [brackets]. We pray you will find them inspiring and helpful. TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR MARRIAGE:
1. RESPECT THE IMAGE OF GOD IN THE OTHER PERSON. [This other person Elisabeth was referring to, is of course, your spouse. Your spouse may not always allow God’s image to shine and bless your marital relationship, but he or she was originally created that way (see Genesis 1:26), and deep within, there are at least remnants in there somewhere. If you can’t immediately see God’s image within your spouse, ask God to help you to see with His eyes, rather than yours, and then search for them as if looking for gold.
As author Gary Smalley said, "How would you treat your spouse if you saw them as being autographed by God?" Would you value them more? Would you try harder to understand and help them? Respect the image of God in your spouse and see what God can do in and through the efforts you put forth. You will be blessed for it by God Himself.
"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing" (1 Peter 3:8-9).]
2. REMEMBER THAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU A GIFT IN YOUR SPOUSE. [Some gifts bring immediate joy and others enrich our lives in ways that we don’t immediately see or appreciate — others bring both immediate and eventual benefits. This can be true of your spouse.Â You may love him or her right from the start, which brings you immediate joy, yet once the honeymoon stage is over you wonder what good you could ever enjoy in your relationship again. But God can use even those times to move us to grow stronger in character, which will bring eventual benefits.
"Marriage is not a lifeless institution! Nor does it simply contain the lives of the male and female who enter into it. Marriage is a vehicle, fueled by the life of God. It has a driver — the Holy Spirit. It has a destination — the character of Jesus Christ" (Dr Tony and Kim Moore, from the book, "Your Spouse is not Your Problem"). "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).]
3. LOVE ALWAYS MEANS SACRIFICE. [Jesus Himself set the example for us all in laying down His life for us. "Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1-2). "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). Ask yourself how you you can apply these verses in your marriage.]
4. RELINQUISH YOUR RIGHTS. [That’s a really tough one, especially in today’s "me first" world, because we can get lured into thinking that our "rights" and our happiness is what’s most important. But Jesus Christ also lived in a tough world and still, He gave up His rights for the betterment of others, including you and your spouse. It is an example for us all to follow.
Read Philippians 2:5-8 and in it you can see where Christ Himself, who had every right there ever could be to put Himself first, emptied Himself of all that would stand in the way of showing His love for us, to the glory of God. We’re told to have this same attitude. In doing so, others around will notice that the love you show isn’t like that which the "world" gives.
"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:12).]
5. LET EACH ESTEEM THE OTHER BETTER THAN HIM OR HERSELF. [This is an area that we really see lacking in most married couples. Philippians 2:3-4 says to "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should not look only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
That’s a tough thing to do. It comes natural to want to put my (Cindy’s) interests above my husband Steve’s. But it goes back to remembering that God has entrusted me to be His colleague in showing love to my husband. That doesn’t mean that I’m to erase my own opinions or interests. But it does mean that I’m not to let my own selfish ambitions take over and erase or downplay the importance of Steve’s. In God’s economy, I’m to value my spouse’s needs over my own.]
Every one of these "commandments" are difficult to carry out. But they are worth the results if you take them seriously. It’s like what John Burke said in the Foreword of the book, "Just How Married Do Your Want to be?" He said, "Marriage is easy… if you’re a perfect person married to another perfect person! For the rest of us imperfect people, marriage feels a lot more like God’s Gym. We all want health and fitness and loving strength, but as we soon realized after getting married nineteen years ago, this doesn’t come without training and hard work. Most couples today put more effort into staying in shape physically than training to be a partner that can make love last."
We pray you will put forth more effort in making your marriage as healthy as it can be than in anything else that could distract you from this noble cause. Because marriage is a living picture of Christ’s love for the church to a world that needs to know His resurrection power, it is worth every effort you put into it to show your faith and love in action. In doing so you are communicating the Word with and without words.
"Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:5-8).
Blessings in Christ,