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Thursday, 17 June 2010

Marriage - still an honourable institution!

This morning's Today programme, on Radio 4, had an interesting item on marriage. The couple who were "interviewed" have been together for an amazing seventy years (makes my wife's and my forthcoming Ruby Wedding Anniversary seem quite ordinary!). However, getting the 'secret' of such a long marriage out of the Pressmans, was a task beyond even an experienced radio journalist!

For me, the basis of a solid marriage is not only the relationship that the couple have with each other, but the relationship that they have with God. Certainly, in a Christian marriage, the couple enter in to a covenant relationship. This means that God is at the centre; He is the One Who holds the marriage together, even when there are difficulties.

However, a lasting marriage is also hard work. I used to give a book to couples I had married. It was entitled After the Wedding comes the Marriage - an indication that all the glamour of the wedding day may be exactly that; but that marriage isn't all special clothes, a reception, a cake, and a holiday/honeymoon. There is, more for some couples than for others, a 'getting used to each other' phase (I'm working on the old-fashioned, but Christian, basis that the couple haven't been 'living together' for a period prior to the wedding!). Especially for those who have already left the parental home, there is the adjustment of having to share - everything from the bathroom to the television remote control. We may discover habits, and personality quirks that we hadn't noticed even throughout a lengthy period of engagement.

My late dad used to tell me that the first seven years of a marriage were the difficult ones. After that, he would say, you discover that you've already argued over anything worth arguing about - so you just live in peace! I reckon that there was more than a little truth in that piece of 'homespun philosophy'!

However, for the couple who share a living faith in the Lord Jesus, there is that additional 'glue' that helps to see them through the early problems. There will be a clear understanding of the different roles within a marriage - not that one person is 'better', or 'more important' than the other; but that each has his/her complementary part to play. A Christian couple will be aware of the counsel provided through the writings of Paul: "... submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the Head of the church. He is the Saviour of His body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God's word. He did this to present her to Himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of His body.

As the Scriptures say, "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." (Eph 5:21-33; NLT)

A friend of mine used to say that a husband who treated his wife in the way that Paul exhorts, would find that she is more than willing to submit to his headship! Maybe that's the real secret of a long and happy marriage!

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