Posted by David
Part 3 – Love, relationships, and marriage
As a single young man, on a number of occasions, older men warned me to never get married, and peer-aged women explained to me that marriage always ends up being a compromise, and I was told that I should certainly live with a woman before I got married to make sure they were the right one. Ahhh, modern wisdom, laced with truth mixed with poison. All this great advice brought great suffering to me and to others.
Those who provided me this sagely advice understood very little about why God brings people into the bondage of marriage and what deep purpose it fulfills. I no longer blame them for my troubles. I chose the easy route, the wide road on my own.
An act of faith and courage
As a Protestant, I am told that there are only two sacraments in our faith: baptism and the Lord’s supper. Other Christian traditions believe in additional sacraments. Roman Catholics, for example, believe marriage is one of five. In Christian theology sacraments are direct actions chosen by the will that prepare the way for Jesus’ permanent residence in our heart and our permanent dwelling in him. I fall probably closer in line with the Eastern Orthodox teaching on sacraments, that many different acts of faith may be sacraments and lead us into relationship with Christ. But sacraments aside and no matter what religion or non-religion you choose, marriage is unquestionably an act of blind faith.
For many, marriage has become a quid pro quo contract that bonds the two parties together. The contract becomes the ruling party and both individuals become slaves to the contract. Well before the marriage, the contract is written, misinformation is developed to disguise agendas, truth is hidden from the other’s view, and contradictory evidence is dismissed. This occurs mostly at the subconscious level, but sometimes it happens right out in the open. When it all seems good and fair enough, the contract is signed and sealed with an oath and a kiss on the wedding day.
For others, the couple floats atop the wave of romance and affection to the wedding altar. As naïve as it may sound, this is probably the best-case scenario. Under this condition only brief contracts are written, which still must also be worked out later.
This is how marriages begin.
Breach of contract
The contract is devised because both the man and woman want power and the comforts of the flesh. A small kingdom is desired by both. The woman wants to be queen and have her accoutrements. The man wants to be king and have the fulfillments of the flesh. Both parties expect to not get a raw deal.
However, it is the nature of contracts to be unfulfilled. This is why Jesus commands us to stay away from oaths, but instead to make our yes, yes and our no, no. All contracts promise something for the future—a time and place to which we are not privy. We cannot know what tomorrow brings, so we cannot be 100% certains of the promises we make. If we do not fulfill our promises, we become debt-slaves and enter a ‘prison’ until the debts are paid.
So, as time progresses, various aspects of the contract become irresolvable and the battle wages. This might happen as soon as the wedding night or before! As debt-slaves, each seek revenge and restitution. But both parties are to blame. This battle extends into our communities and is waged on many fronts and may very well be the only battle that has ever existed on the planet. Every war, every battle that has ever occurred between men may be an outward manifestation of the battle between man and woman. But I may be taking things a bit too far!
As dire as this may sound, God does give us marriage for our joy and so there is a silver-lining for those who choose it.
Freedom to love
Can agape love happen within the confines of a contract-based marriage? Yes, at times when the contract is out of sight. But we must be free of contractual debt in order to provide that agape love regularly. The solution to releasing the chains of the contractual agreement, however logical and simple it may seem, is not by canceling the contract or breaking the chains. Oaths spoken from the will cannot be so easily dismissed, especially ones spoken with God as the mediator. These are chains that are unbreakable, no matter how far one may run.
God provides the bondage of marriage for our salvation. In marriage, God forces us to see our sin in our relationship to another. We may learn to blame the other or we may blame ourselves. When we learn that it is 100% my fault, it is due my sin, and I am to blame, then we begin to walk the free road and agape love begins to sprout in our marriages. In God’s grace, repentance always precedes the path of freedom from sin. God does not barter with us. It’s only through grace that we can find love and that goes for our marriage and all relationships for that matter.
There are cases when individuals engage in a wallowing of self-pity, but this is not true repentance. This is a form of self-indulgence, a destructive form of self-love.
Most only see the sin of the other. We are usually blind to our sin, because our pride will not allow it. Pride, like any other beast, will seek food and prevent death to itself. But our selfish pride must die for love to succeed. God gives us our spouse as a mirror. Holy matrimony binds us in front of a mirror, so we can get a good, long look at ourselves.
When we finally see and repent, then the true joy of marriage begins, however painful that road has become at that time. For some, marriage may be a melancholy joy that comes with suffering deeply among the wretched for God’s purpose. Under the best circumstances, both parties learn the lesson and repent. When this happens, they both become free to love the other in the most perfect way: fellowship, friendship, agape love.
My only recommendation for those who plan on getting married is that they abstain from writing the contract as much as is humanly possible; that they marry in pure faith under the witness of God. The longer the courtship, the more of the contract is written. The deeper they enter into fleshly contact, the more of the contract is written. In fleshly contact, the contract is written at a deeply subconscious level. This is why sex produces the fruit of agape love only within the bounds of marriage, otherwise powerlust is its fruit and indebtedness builds and controls both parties.
I have discovered that my spouse is a God-given sibling in Christ. I have discovered a true friend. Little else is of value if you make it to your deathbed on the cusp of heaven with a best friend at your side.
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.