The key to building a strong Christian marriage is to keep the union Christ-centered. Couples whose marital relationships are firmly based on a strong belief system are more likely to last. While divorce statistics indicate nearly 50 percent of first-time unions will end in divorce before reaching the ten-year mark, marriages based on biblically-sound principles have greater longevity. Couples who make a conscientious effort to please God and their mates can weather the storms of life far better than those who exclude spirituality. Other than a believers devotion to God, there is no other person more deserving of love than one's husband or wife. The Lord is well pleased when we love the neighbor with whom we share our bed and our life. "And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:29-31).
Men and women intent on building a strong Christian marriage must first understand God's purpose for wedlock. A divinely-ordained institution, holy matrimony was originally intended as a means of procreation and pleasure for the male and female. God ordained the act of marrying as a means of joining a godly man and woman in a monogamous union that would produce children "after His kind." The Creator sought to replenish the earth with generations of men who would seek and serve Him without sin. But because of one man's transgression, the first Adam, sin fell upon all mankind. Since the Fall of Adam and Eve, male and female have struggled to live harmoniously with increasingly ill-favored results. In the last two decades, the divorce rate amongst Christians and non-Christians has risen sharply, threatening the sanctity of holy wedlock and thwarting the plan of God. One solution to restore that plan involves born-again believers willing to focus on building a strong Christian marriage by adhering to God's original principles of fidelity and love. In the last days, it will be true believers who can turn the tide of divorce and reestablish the holy ordinance of marriage between godly men and women.
Similar to constructing a house, building a strong Christian marriage requires a firm foundation of genuine love. The Greek word for intimate love is "eros," from which the word erotic is derived. But a good marriage is not built on erotic or sexual intimacy alone. The Greeks also term another type of affection as "agape," the unconditional God kind of love. Another kind of love, the affection shared by friends, is called, "phileo." Couples intent on building a strong Christian marriage must therefore incorporate each type of love: eros, agape, and phileo into the union if it is to succeed. A man and his wife must share a monogamous sexual union, love one another unconditionally, and form a strong bond as the best of friends. A threefold marital bond incorporating each facet of love cannot fail. Over time, eroticism may fail; but affection that is not based solely on sexual attraction can endure. Husbands and wives who place a high value on developing a lasting friendship may discover that being bosom buddies and chief confidantes can supersede sexual intimacy, especially as couples grow older and may be unable to perform. "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17).
Christians who develop intimate relationships as individuals with the Lord Jesus Christ may be better equipped to share intimacy with a husband or wife. As devoted believers, they will have learned how to seek God, to be led by His Spirit, and to obey His Word. The process of developing spiritual intimacy is crucial because a husband or wife who is devoted to Christ will likely be devoted to the marriage. The vow to love, cherish, honor, obey, and reverence is taken seriously and becomes a lifelong mantra for those who are submissive to God and to one another. Marital fidelity is a byproduct of building a strong Christian marriage, as couples engage in eros, agape, and phileo love.
When couples love unconditionally, wedlock is not easily broken by poverty or by wealth; sickness or health; or feast or famine. The loss of a job or chronic illness has no lasting adverse affect on husbands and wives determined to make their relationship last. They not only treasure the union; but they also value the relationship forged from two consecrated lives continually governed by the Holy Spirit. Couples who seek God for guidance and direction in natural, spiritual, emotional and marital matters will find peace, joy, and fulfillment and avoid the pitfalls of discord and divorce. Believers should set aside specific prayer times to come before the presence of the Lord and bring every care to Him, especially in the midst of a family crisis. "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
As Bible-believing couples turn their attention toward building a strong Christian marriage, the outcome can have a positive impact on the viability of the Church-at-large. What is the Church? It is not a four-walled structure, but it a living organism consisting of a single body of believers from every denomination, socio-economic group, color and creed. A strong church is built upon strong families; and strong families are made from strong marriages. Christian couples, therefore, have a moral obligation to uphold the sanctity of matrimony and the traditional family unit. By refusing to join the masses who view wedlock as a long-term casual relationship meant to be inevitably broken, believers can demonstrate to the world that building a strong Christian marriage that endures is possible with God.
Boundaries In A Christian MarriageBy establishing certain boundaries in a Christian marriage, couples can avoid misconceptions that often lead to marital mayhem. While non-Christians, especially celebrities, prefer being governed by prenuptial and post nuptial agreements, believers are governed by a different set of rules: the Holy Bible. Following biblical guidelines for holy matrimony will likely to lead to lasting fulfillment. Engaged couples must realize that as they become one, life as a single ends; and both must learn how to walk together in agreement with mutual respect and accountability. Marriage is a covenant partnership whereby each spouse agrees to uphold certain principles to help make the union a lasting one. Setting guidelines early enables partners to successfully fulfill that covenant.
The best time to discuss boundaries in a Christian marriage is prior to scheduling premarital counseling with the pastor who will perform the ceremony. Potential partners should set aside time to candidly talk about what each party wants and expects from the relationship. Certain expectations will naturally come as a result of upbringing. Men and women tend to emulate their parents; and those who grew up with negative experiences will likely pattern them. The husband-to-be who witnessed his dad drinking and carousing on weekends with the guys will perceive this behavior as acceptable. But is it? Similarly, a young lady with a domineering mother who kept a tight hold on the family purse strings and her husband also has a misconception about what marriage is all about. Therefore, expectations, concepts, and misconceptions must all be dealt with prior to coming to the altar.
The best marriage manual available to man is the Bible. Several books address the role of husbands and wives; boundaries in a Christian marriage for intimacy; wisdom for managing finances; and almost any other topic relevant to today's families. Throughout the Word of God, the male is recognized as the stronger vessel and one ordained to dominate--ruling over the wife and his own household. The eleventh chapter of I Corinthians establishes boundaries in a Christian marriage for familial authority: "But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God" (I Corinthians 11:3). Thus, in the eyes of God, the husband is the chief authority in the home, and ideally, his head should be Christ. That God-given authority does not give husbands permission to exert a tyrannical rule with the wife cowering in fearful submission; but to entreat her in love as the weaker vessel. The husband whose head is Christ will allow the Holy Spirit to teach him how to be a godly man, gently leading the wife and children into a saving knowledge of Jesus. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;" (Ephesians 5:25).
While some may find it difficult to accept, the Word of God also establishes boundaries in a Christian marriage for wives which require submission: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord" (Ephesians 5:22). This scripture does not mean women have no voice or that they must dutifully follow two paces behind their husbands. But submission is easy when a wife loves her husband and trusts him to assume an authoritative role while acting supportively. In I Corinthians, Chapter 7, the Apostle Paul shares suggests boundaries in a Christian marriage pertaining to sexual intimacy. God ordained sex to be shared solely between a husband and his wife in a lifelong monogamous relationship. Couples who are willing to forsake all others and adhere to biblical principles will likely avoid the temptation to have extramarital affairs.
"Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency" (I Corinthians 7:1-5).
Family finance is another area where couples should set boundaries in a Christian marriage. The Holy Bible is full of scriptures that teach believers how to manage money, particularly by giving a tenth part of one's income back to God. Many modern day Christians follow the Old Testament practice of giving a tenth or tithe: "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Malachi 3:8-10). Setting boundaries in a Christian marriage that include tithing or regularly giving to the church enables many families experience financial blessings and debt freedom. Following biblical guidelines for governing the home, sexual intimacy and money management can all contribute to a long lasting marriage without the pain of disunity and divorce.