December 18, 2017

With This Ring

Ben Strohbehn

A fellow and a girl who wed
Begin to live as one ‘tis said,
But many couples can’t agree
Which one of them they wish to be

“It’s not that they fight or anything,” Sally tried to explain to her pastor, “It’s just that whenever I’m in the same room with them I feel surrounded by static. We live in a cold house where everyone just fakes smiles. My parents haven’t said anything about getting a divorce, but it seems like they already have one.”

What Sally experienced in her home is the tragedy of countless families. The word “divorce” might never be voiced, but it might as well be stamped on the marriage. Yet the disease of Sally’s home and many homes like it could have been prevented or can be healed by the application of certain Biblical principles. The Bible is the best source of help, not only for a couple involved in the preparatory steps toward marriage but also for the couple whose marriage has become dull and unstable. Thus, when the Bible says “only by pride cometh contention” (Proverbs 13:10), it sets forth instruction for those who “a courting go” and for those who are thinking about going to court.

As couples prepare for marriage, they must avoid a too-romantic conception of love and marriage and allow for divine direction from the Word of God, Remember, God is more interested in the happiness of each couple than even they are themselves.

Strange, isn’t it, that young heroes of the Faith consulted God about everything except the choice of a girlfriend? Solomon and Samson both illustrate this. Solomon gave good advice: “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids” (Proverbs 6:25). He did not follow his own advice: “King Solomon loved many strange women. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart” (I Kings 11:1, 3). Samson subdued kingdoms through faith, but he married on sight.

The Basis for Marriage

As one guide to happiness in marriage, couples need to ponder the institution of marriage, recorded in Genesis 2:18-24. Verse 18 states: “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” Note that before God made the woman, He instructed Adam to name the beasts and the fowls. After this was done, the Bible says “but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him” (verse 20). In other words, at that time there was no other created being just like Adam; he literally was “all alone.” Then God made the woman “and brought her unto the man” (verse 22). As each couple stands before the minister during the wedding ceremony to say “with this ring I thee wed,” they would do well to remember that “God made us, God matched us, and God married us!”

To add even more meaning and happiness to marriage, couples need to understand three important factors affecting their day-by-day relationship: the pattern, problems, and promises of marital adjustment.

The Patterns of Adjustment

Everyone responds to differences of opinion in the marriage relationship in one of three ways. (All are related to the principle of Proverbs 13:10: “Only by pride cometh contention.”) Obviously, the most sensible pattern is that of agreement. Of course, in any given situation, the initial response may be disagreement. Then, depending upon the degree of personal pride involved, followed by a mature discussion of the problem at hand, the couple may reach a decision which considers the best interests of all involved-a compromise.

It is not as difficult to agree as some people like to imagine, nor is it a sign of weakness to accept another’s solution to a problem when it produces a harmonious relationship. After all, this is what the Bible suggests in Romans 12:10: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.” Or consider 1 Corinthians 1:10: “Now I beseech you that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

Because of the importance of maintaining a marriage free of contention, differences in every area of life should be reconciled before marriage. Any difference that is not resolved then will be a potential source of friction after marriage, for “can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).

Unfortunately, many couples cannot find the middle ground of agreement. They resort, therefore, to the use of one of the other two patterns in marital adjustment- accommodation or argument. To accommodate is to merely tolerate the desires or demands of one’s mate, not trying to understand them. The accommodating partner is likely to develop a “martyr’s complex,” saying begrudgingly, “I’ll do it your way, but I’m not going to like it,” and he or she may sulk because “I didn’t get my way.” At the root of accommodation is wounded pride, which leads to action contrary to the principles of Scripture: “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (I Peter 4:9). “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Philippians 2:14).

Regrettably, some couples try to solve their differences by arguing, forgetting that “he who is soon angry dealeth foolishly” (Proverbs 14:17). Of course, some couples say the only reason they argue is because they enjoy making up! But that is pure rationalization. The reason people argue is that their pride has been hurt, and an argument furnishes them defense or cover-up.

Have you ever noticed the different ways people argue? Some resort to yelling and hitting — actual violence, Others argue by “the silent treatment” — they refuse to discuss the problem. Still others express their anger through childish actions- stomping out of the room, slamming doors, or “peeling rubber” as their car roars out the driveway!

But to argue is to forget that “a soft answer tumeth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). One couple told me that in more than 60 years of wedded bliss they had never spoken the first unkind word to each other. How could this be? They simply agreed before their marriage to utilize the “soft answer” rather than “grievous words.” It worked for them; it can work for any couple willing to follow the teaching of Scripture.

When you say “with this ring I thee wed,” you are committing yourself to follow that pattern of adjustment in your relationship that always results in harmony and happiness. Remember: “only by pride cometh contention.”

The Problems of Adjustment

In every marriage relationship there are seven major problem areas that need to be understood to guard against contention. Every couple interested in complete happiness in their relationship needs to consider carefully these seven areas before and after they recite the marriage vows.

From both counseling and pastoral experience, I believe that the problem of roles is the most serious and difficult area. This seems to present the greatest opportunity for pride to produce contention.

Someone may ask: “Isn’t sex the number one problem?” No! Sex is simply the sensitive indicator that a problem exists in one of the other areas. This is not to minimize the sexual relationship in marriage, but rather to see it in proper perspective. When there has been an argument about some particular matter, until that problem is resolved, at least one partner will not be interested in showing affection. Why? Because pride has been wounded. No, sex is not one of the seven major problems.

The Word of God clearly sets forth the roles for husbands and wives. To the wives God says, “Submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (Ephesians 5:22-24). The role of the wife, therefore, is subjection. It is a God-given, God-assigned role, the only role in which the Lord will truly bless the wife.

To be in subjection does not mean to lose your identity or individuality; it does not mean that the wife becomes a slave. Subjection is a position of obedience. To be in subjection is to recognize that God has a chain of command for the family. To be in subjection is for the wife to “reverence her husband.” The rendering of Ephesians 5:33 by The Amplified Bible is especially helpful: “Let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband- that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.”

The subjection of the wife is always made easier if her husband is faithful to his God-given role of affection. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). What an exhortation! What an example! And what blessings result when the husband is obedient-not only in loving his wife, but also in his own subjection to the Lord in accordance with I Corinthians 11:3: “But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ.”

The role of the husband is further emphasized by two distinct warnings. The Apostle Paul warns against bitterness: “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Colossians 3:19). The Apostle Peter warns about unanswered prayer: “Ye husbands, dwell, with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered” (I Peter 3:7).

Many young couples mistakenly think that the problem of finances is primarily one of “too little money,” rather than one of too little planning. Couples need to decide before marriage who will handle the family finances and how to handle them. Such decisions will avoid prideful contention and competitiveness in spending.

A budget is essential to the proper control of most families’ finances. Keeping financial records in a simple filing system will alleviate the tension of “never knowing how much money we have.” Saving part of each paycheck is another vital matter which many couples ignore, and later wish they hadn’t. The money saved, however, should not be used for the wrong priorities in buying, or for “easy-credit” items.

The Christian couple can also insulate themselves against a potential financial problem by instituting the Scriptural plan of regularly giving to the Lord’s work. Countless thousands of couples can testify to the blessing of giving to the Lord and then receiving in return from Him “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38).

Have you ever heard someone talk in a derogatory manner about their in-laws? If you can answer, “yes,” then you have met someone who, in all probability, has some contention in their home because they have failed to see this relationship in proper perspective. Again, this is simply a matter of Scriptural obedience: “Honor thy father and mother, that it may be well with thee” (Ephesians 6:2-3). Is not this honor due your in-laws as well as your own parents?

Although couples are not immediately faced with the problem of rearing children, it warrants consideration early in their relationship. To keep the responsibility of rearing children in proper perspective and to avoid the friction so often encountered over differences in discipline, couples are given help from the Scripture: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalm 127:3). Children are supposed to be, and can be raised to be blessings, not burdens. Young couples need to remember to live for each other; their lives are not to be centered around their children, but rather around their own relationship and companionship, The joy of sharing the responsibility in the training of their children will add much to the happiness of their home, enabling them to avoid the pride that brings contention.

While it is true that “families that pray together stay together,” it can also be said that “families that play together stay together.” Couples need to recognize that leisure time activities are essential for strengthening their own relationship. They should schedule and allow for times of regular relaxation, times of just being together, whether this involves working together on a family project, taking a stroll together around the block, or sitting together on the sofa in front of a cozy fire in the fireplace.

What about ridiculosities? Someone else has called them “tremendous trifles.” These are the “molehills” out of which we try to make mountains when we concentrate on the minor irritations they sometimes cause. This problem can best be illustrated by “the toothpaste tube trauma”-finding the toothpaste squeezed from the top instead of the bottom of the tube! Some people actually get irritated over such insignificant things, and in many cases such ridiculosities sow seeds of contention.

Although designed to be a help towards marital happiness, many couples fail to realize that religion is a means of strengthening the marriage relationship. In addition to the necessity of personal salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is the importance of each person walking daily with the Lord in the light of His Word, a daily family devotional time, and regular involvement in the ministry of a local Bible-believing church.

Failure to maintain a consistent interest in spiritual things is sure to offer contention an open door into your home and marital relationship. Most marital problems among Christians can be traced directly to the time when interest in the things of the Lord began to diminish.

The Promises of Adjustment

For those couples who understand the patterns of adjustment and who carefully guard their homes against contention in the seven major problem areas, the Lord’s promises are abundant and sure. For example, read Psalm 128:1-4: “Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord, that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labor of thine hands; happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house; thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed who feareth the Lord.” When you are adequately prepared to say “with this ring I thee wed,” you can be assured that your home will not suffer contention but will radiate Christian contentment.

This article first appeared in Faith for the Family, May/June 1974. It is reprinted here by permission.

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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