Foundations of Marriage
To help us understand the foundational elements that strong healthy growing relationships including marriages should be based on.
Eph 5, Rom 15:5-7, Isa 43:25, Rom 4:7-8, James 1, John 1:14, Col 3:13
“The Marriage Builder”, by Larry Crabb
Excerpt from “A Question of Grace” by Norm Wakefield .. attached as Appendix A
“The Pain of Grace”, by Dave Klem .. attached as Appendix B.
Discuss the following questions -
A buildings foundation is the basis for stability and longevity of what is constructed on top of it. If it is strong, what is built above can last. If it is weak then what is built above will deteriorate quickly when any kind of stress is applied to the building. As Jesus records, the house build on a rock will last but those built on sand will fall when the storms come, and so it is with relationships. The foundation of a relationship, just like a building, is also rarely seen by others but it supports every part of the relationship and it is what keeps the relationship from falling apart when the storms of life come. A good foundation is critical to a healthy marriage, a healthy partnership or any love relationship. When marriages crumble you can be sure that some element of that relationships foundation is weak.
Ask if anyone knows what building foundations made from today ? They are typically made from 3 ingredients, rock, cement and steel. What does this have to do with relationships ? Well there are also 3 parts to the foundation of healthy biblical relationships. They are;
1. An Attitude of Grace
2. Complete Acceptance & Forgiveness
3. Properly Motivated Commitment
Lets take a look at each .
Read Ephesians chapter 5.
Now most Christians see verses 26 & 27 as marriage oriented but is it possible that the whole chapter is about relationships?
Read “A Question on Grace” .. attached as Appendix A.
I think that every marriage causes life changes but is yours characterized by positive life changes? If not, consider the element of grace.
Lets look a few statements that characterize grace in a relationship
Now today it is more common to build relationships on rules and contracts than on grace. Here is a contrast in the two different perspectives. Discuss each – do you agree or disagree with the results.
Two Different Perspectives on Marriage Relationships
Contract / Rules Centered
Read Appendix A – The Pain of Grace
· Ask - Does being gracious cost you something? Discuss
I think it does because initially giving grace is hard and often painful. It is human nature to want people to pay the consequences of their sins. Every day you hear people who have been victims of a crime interviewed on the news and they often speak of how they will benefit once the person who has hurt them has been caught, convicted and punished for what they have done. Their consequences are spoken of as being what releases the offended person from the pain of their injury or loss. Even King David cried out to the Lord begging God to punish his enemies. The OT Mosiac law is even an example of a conditional contract between man and God yet the Bible does not stop here but explains that this contract was given reluctantly by God because of repeated offense and goes beyond this contract to make clear that it is by grace and forgiveness that the relationship between God and man is healed and the cost of this grace was the death of Christ on the cross.
· Have someone give a personal testimony of how offering someone grace has been difficult yet ultimately was beneficial for them.
Ask, the following questions, allow time for self reflection on each.
An attitude of grace is basic to good relationships among sinful men and women. It was basic to Christ’s character when he became man. (See John 1:14) and it is a pre-requisite to a healthy biblical relationship. Those who live in DevotionLand have it.
Read Rom. 15:5-7
Acceptance is a basis of unity and unity is the environment that breeds joy and happiness in relationships. Repeat this statement . Do you believe it?
Lets turn to Mark 12:28-34 Review it. Now most of us have heard this and focus on the portion of the text which commands is to love the Lord in Vs 30, yet just preceding the command is an interesting statement about God but what about vs 29. Here we find a statement about the unity of God. . It says the “Lord is one”. then it gives the two greatest commandments. Is is possible that the goal of love is union? Could it be that God desires union with his created beings just as Christ is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit?
When you have no one to be intimate and close too there is a completeness that is missing. I believe that intimacy and union are almost synonymous and when union occurs at any level the result is fulfillment, joy, and happiness follow. I also believe that union begins with acceptance and acceptance has 2 faces, valuing and forgiveness.
Valuing: At the core of acceptance is seeing the other as valuable because God has provided that person to “complete” you. It is based on the assumption that all of us have strengths and weaknesses and your spouse has been given strengths that you have not. If you don’t recognize this, it will be impossible to show value to the other.
Consider the following statements of value:
· You are my help meet provided by God. Therefore what you know completes me. Because of this I can value your insights and your ways (Gen 1)
· You have a connection to the Holy Spirit too, therefore God can be speaking to you too especially when I am not listening to Him.
· You have gifts from the Holy Spirit I do not have, therefore I am willing to consider your way of doing things. (1 Cor 12)
· I enter discussions with the view that your perspective is better than mine and through listening and prayer come to conclusions about how to approach issues. James 1:19, Phil 2:3-4.
· I do not have to teach you but rather we can learn from God together.
Discuss these together. Is this how you consider your spouse ?
If most of us were honest we would have to say no, for we all strive in one way or another to form our spouses into copies of ourselves. We assume that our ways are better than the others. Solomon records in Eccl that 2 are better than one yet if we were successful in forming our spouse into a copy of ourselves we would defeat the very strength that God has created in the unity of people with different gifts and insights.
The way we show each other value and tie into each other strengths determines the “strength” of the relationship. This is true in all relationships, doubly important in marriages and triply important in late in life marriages or blended families.
Forgiveness: The other half of acceptance is associated not with handling our spouses strengths but with handling our spouse weaknesses.
Read Eph. 4:32 - 5:1
Forgive as Christ Did? Be imitators of God? What does that mean? Well Lets look at God’s Model of Forgiveness
Read Jer. 31:34 and Heb 8:12 …. These verses show the new covenant of forgiveness described in the OT and fulfilled in the new.
Col. 1:21-23 further shows how with forgivness one can be found faultless
Isa 43:25 gives us the reason for forgiveness .. Sins are remembered no more for whose sake? For the forgivers!
Rom 4:7-8 shows us the benefit of forgiveness .. the Sins are “covered” and will no longer cause pain to the forgiver and the forgiven.
Col 3:13 says we should forgive as Christ did.
Wow! Does that mean to forgive like Christ I must offer the absence of consequences and that I shouldn’t even remember the offense?
Well lets look at three possible interpretations of how humans can imitate Christ’s model of forgiveness.
3. Like God, I cancel the debt and choose not to hold it against the person. The event is then “judged irrelevant” to the relationship. Once in this state, there is no longer a need to “practice forgiveness” for the event is no longer “judged significant” to the relationship. It has been cancelled as if it never happened.
Now this 3rd method of forgiveness requires a willingness to release the offending party from all punishing behavior and consequences that seek to extract payment for the offense. It is not designed to eliminate consequences that can help the offending party avoid sin in the future (ie. protect them or others) but rather seeks to help the person grow while recognizing that we as the offended are not any better than the offender in God’s eyes. This is important because incomplete forgiveness usually occurs when;
Have you noticed that people who sin “big” a lot tend for forgive more easily than others. Why is that ? Is it because they know the need for forgiveness more than others or because they know how bad they really are. Perhaps it is both.
Lets look at 2 different Methods of handling a displeasing or offending event
The first is the typical human model
Emotional Response is to Stuff or Dwell
Attitude is often, I was injured and I deserve better. They are bad.
Long Term View is, That was horrible. I have to take care of myself. (Bitterness)
Decision is, There will be consequences and I will see to it. I am the judge.
The second is a NT
Emotional Response is to Express & Release
Attitude is, I am injured but Christ can heal me. I know am a sinner too.
Long Term View is, That was disappointing but not relevant to my actions or relationship
Decision is, I will minister to the other and not give punishing consequences, I will build the other up, Christ is the judge.
Do you punish your spouse? Have group brainstorm punishing behaviors common in marital relationships. --
Typical Punishing Behavior in Relationships
Key Message: Next time you find it hard to choose Gods path Consider that God was so holy and we so filthy that He could not even look upon us. Yet He became human and even joined himself to us. Get a grasp on the size of the gap He crossed and then consider the gap between you and your offender. Comparatively it’s insignificant.
Here are three statements that have been used to define commitment in difficult marriage situations. Which ones are Biblical? … Discuss .
Do you feel a deep desire to be committed or is commitment just part of living in DutyLand. I submit the three definitions of commitment above are not based on the correct motive for commitment. Scripture teaches another motive.
Read Crabb’s “Marriage Builder” pgs. 116-117. if you have it.
The proper motive for commitment is not duty but rather the Goodness of God. Turn to James and read chapter1 .. In the midst of James teaching on facing testing and trials, he makes a very interesting statement .. he says - “Every good and perfect gifts is from above” (James 1:17) . Now why is this written here right in the middle of discussing perseverance in the midst of trials?
2 Pet 1:3 says we get everything for life from His power because of his goodness
Scripture teaches that All good things are from God and this is true with relationships as well. If this is true, then commitment is like perseverance and should be motivated by the expectation and awareness of God being good to us. With this motive, commitment can become a desire of joy and expectation of goodness rather than one of duty.
Now that we understand the proper motive for commitment, lets look at who and what Marriage is a Commitment to .
But if Eph 5 can be applied to marriage it says that marriage is also … the following. See if you can find the verses that go with each.
Grace, Acceptance and Commitment, these three correctly applied form the foundations of marriage in DevotionLand. Without them no one can live there. Without these, marriages will crumble when the storms of life come in. I challenge you this week to evaluate your own relationships relative to grace. The following questions will help. When you are done share your insights with your spouse or if single a close friend.
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Appendix A: Extract from “A Question of Grace” by Norm Wakefield
For many years I’ve had the gnawing feeling that we are missing something of vital importance when we talk about marriage. We’re good a quoting scripture and instructing husbands and wives in what they ought to do, yet I have the uneasy feeling that the heart of marriage is missing. I get uncomfortable when I hear of commitment or husband –wife submission identified as a crucial issue to a happy relationship and even have come to think the statement “Just make Christ the center of your marriage” even misses the point. Now it is not that I don’t believe in the concepts of submission, Christ centered relationships and commitment for I do. But I am concerned that these have become cop-outs enabling people them to avoid deciding exactly what kind of relationship they intend to pursue with their spouse.
So what ingredient is so critical to the success and health of a marriage that without it the concepts of commitment submission and Christ centeredness become weak? I say grace. The unconditional love of someone demanding nothing in return. Why ? Because as I have studied and grappled with the fact of God grace being extended to us I have come to see that it is a critical foundational element to any love relationship. Without grace, love will never transform a life. What troubles me about my own marriage and the marriages I observe is that the lack of grace, the unwillingness to release others from controlling strings in a relationship. God intended marriage to be an agape relationship, not a business contract.
Scripture shows us that grace transforms lives. For just as our relationship with Christ begins at the cross and our live grows from it so in a marriage it is the grace relationship has the most profound and lasting impact on it growth. For it is the very nature of grace to transform a person from deep within. I am convinced that the reason our Lord approaches us in grace in because he knows that grace nurturers a positive life changing relationship.
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Appendix B: The Pain of Grace
When you see a marriage fail what do you attribute it too? For most of my life when I watched a marriage fail from a distance, I would generally blame someone for having a lack of commitment. I figured that when all was said and done it all came down to a broken commitment. Perhaps this is true but I have since learned that there is an element more fundamental to relationship than commitment and that is the element of grace.
Having attended many marriage “workshops” and counseling , I have found that the marital topics I like best are Biblical roles, headship , keeping Christ at the center of your marriage, meeting needs, intimacy and of course commitment. After all I’m a man. All these aspects of marriage I didn’t mind embracing and discussing. The one I didn’t like to discuss was grace and let me tell you why.
Marriage to me was a contract. A kind of deal in which two people agree to scratch each others back. They sign up for life to work together to care for each other, raise children, build a home and make each others life enjoyable and in doing so they agree to share intimacy, assets, work, finances, and dreams.
Now seeing marriage this way had a side effect. For you see, when things went “worse” rather than “better”, the first thing that occurs to you is that the contract has been violated. There must be a problem that needs to be corrected and that problem is ultimately rooted in one party’s commitment to the contract. For if both were keeping the contract, we wouldn’t have a “worse”, now would we.
I also love solving problems. To leave one unsolved is unthinkable. An that is why I have not liked to talk about grace much for I felt that in grace the problems or marriage could remain unsolved and that meant that the contract was not going to be upheld and that meant I was going to lose something, something I valued.
For me grace equaled loss because grace releases a person to live their life in freedom from a contract yet it also guarantees that person unlimited love and acceptance. In a relationship of grace I would be vulnerable, my desires would be at risk, my life would be open to pain and danger. It’s no wonder I didn’t like grace. Do you?
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