It is a known fact that a strong, happy marriage is a great blessing. It is also a sad fact that many marriages nowadays are neither strong nor happy. A strong marriage is not one that never experiences problems or disagreements, but one that comes out victorious as it successfully handles such situations. What makes a marriage secure in spite of facing difficulties? The answer is in having the right foundation. A marriage to be successful must be built on strong pillars. Every good marriage is built on three pillars, but the Christian marriage also has a fourth one. First Pillar: Mutual Commitment The marriage vows should be taken very seriously. The Word of God teaches us the seriousness of making a vow. According to Cruden’s Complete Concordance, “The performance of solemn vows is strictly enjoined upon us.” In Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 we learn that it is better not to vow than to vow and not fulfill. Marriage is ordained by God and not merely a human invention as some are trying to tell us these days. Jesus said, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. Consequently they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mt. 19:5-6 NASB). The Lord Jesus taught clearly that divorce is permitted only in case of immorality because it breaks the bond of marriage (Mt. 19:9).
Second Pillar: Mutual Love
The Bible emphasizes the importance of love, and the Lord Jesus taught us to love even our enemies. Love is an essential characteristic of Christianity. First Corinthians 13 stresses the superiority of love over the exercise of other spiritual gifts and Christian activities. A home without love is not a home, but merely a house where life may even be intolerable. In relation to the family we have a very important exhortation: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). While God wants husbands and wives to love each other, the emphasis here is on the husband’s love to his wife. The reason is that the woman’s nature makes her in greater need to feel loved. Unfortunately, wicked men take advantage of this and pretend to love in order to satisfy their lusts, thus deceiving a woman and causing her misery. True love is unselfish love, as Christ loved the Church and gave His own life for her.
Another reason for reminding men of the importance of love is that a man, though he loves his wife, may get so busy in his work that he may forget his wife’s need for his love. She needs that more than anything else. It is good to remember the words of Solomon: “If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, it would be utterly despised” (Song 8:7). Love makes the whole family happy and without it life is unbearable. Love is a deliberate act of the will and needs to be continually nourished.
That love is an act of the will is obvious from the fact that we are frequently commanded to love. This explains why many arranged marriages in different parts of the world are successful and happy. An example of this is the case of Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 24:67. Though Isaac had never seen her before, it is written that he “took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her.” It is good to marry someone you love, but it is more important, even mandatory, to love the one you marry. The more a man loves his wife the happier he will be. “He who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph. 5:28).
Third Pillar: Mutual Respect
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the Church, He Himself being the Savior of the body … and let the wife see to it that she respects her husband” (Eph. 5:22-23,33).
Christians must get their instructions from the Word of God and not from the current trends of the society. The Word of God teaches us clearly that wives should be submissive to their own husbands. Does this mean that the husband should act in a dictatorial manner? Absolutely not! Does the headship of Christ mean a harsh treatment of believers by Christ, the Head? As the head He is the “Savior of the body.” The human head directs the activities of the body, yet always protects it and seeks its welfare. This puts a great responsibility on the husband.
We also have the clear commandment that “the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” The Word of God teaches us to prefer one another in honor (Rom. 12:10). Why then is the emphasis on the wife respecting her husband? There are at least two reasons. Just as the woman needs to feel her husband’s love, the man needs to feel his wife’s respect. He functions best at home and at work when he feels respected. In my medical practice I have personally known of cases where the husband’s problems were a direct result of feeling inferior because of lack of respect by his wife, or because she always took the leading role. This occurred even though there was no lack of love between them. In one special case that I remember very vividly, the young man and his wife came in and she started to speak of his deficiency. He agreed to everything she said. In other words, he was convinced that she was right. Whenever I asked him a question, she answered and he nodded with approval.
I took him in the examining room and I found no obvious reason for his physical complaint. He was a healthy young man. I asked him if she contributed to his problem and he said, “No, she is right. It is all my fault.” I let him stay in the examining room and went back to speak with the wife. I assured her that my only goal was to help, and that I had no intention of hurting her feelings. Then I asked her if she felt that she had been demanding and domineering. I was able to speak frankly with her because I had known her for a number of years. She bowed her head and blushed and said, “Yes.” I advised her to change and for two weeks to praise her husband for whatever he did, even if he did it poorly. If the problem did not disappear after two weeks she was to call me and I would schedule him for some tests. Two weeks later she called and said, “Doctor, I didn’t know my husband could be this great. I thank you very much.” Several months later I saw this lady again; she waved to me and said everything was great. The conclusion is that the Bible is the best book for counseling, because its Author is the God who made us and knows everything about us.
Fourth Pillar: Christ’s Lordship
The above three pillars of mutual commitment, love, and respect apply to every marriage. But a Christian marriage has a fourth – the most blessed pillar of Christ’s lordship. This means that Christ is the master of the home. He is to be obeyed and honored in every plan or decision. This is accomplished through individual and family prayers, and frequent meditating on the Word of God. Concerns and problems that arise are to be settled according to the Word of God. This is the secret of stability in the home in these troubled times.
A preacher once said to a couple after their marriage ceremony: “Now young people, when the three of you go home …” They interrupted him saying that none of their family members was moving in with them. He then told them, “Listen young people, whether you like it or not there will be three in your home – the two of you and either the Lord or the devil. Make the Lord the head of your home!”
By Anise Behnam
Christ is the Head of this house,
the unseen Guest at every meal,
the silent Listener to every conversation.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org