Sunday, August 7, 2016

Making A Christian Marriage #5

 by Betty Jackson

Making Choices


Joshua challenged the Israelites to make a choice. After urging the people to put away their idols and serve Jehovah in sincerity and truth, he said, “...choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served ...” (Joshua 24:14-15). 

Today, we have the same challenge. We can choose to serve those things we make into idols, or we can choose to serve God with all sincerity and truth. Jesus gave us the great commandments to love the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, strengths and minds. Then, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. (cf. Matthew 22:37-39; Luke 10:27.) It is in our power to love as Christ commands.

One of our most important decisions is choosing who we will marry. We need to realize that the Bible has something to say about choosing a mate. In the Old Testament the Israelites were taught to marry Israelites, and not pagans. The New Testament likewise teaches that Christians are to marry “in the Lord.”  In 1 Corinthians 7:39, Paul wrote the words of God concerning a widow’s privilege to remarry, but “only in the Lord.” Some suggest this doesn’t apply to a young person. Is that logical? If a widowed woman, who has gained some wisdom by the experience of marriage, is to marry only a Christian, certainly a young, inexperienced person ought to choose a Christian to marry. 

Christian parents must begin from the earliest days to teach their children the Lord’s will about marriage. Choosing to marry a non-Christian is a failure to put the Lord first (Matthew 6:33). Who we marry just may influence where we spend eternity!

Peter acknowledges that some Christians will find themselves married to unbelievers. (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-6.) Perhaps they were converted to Christ after marrying. Others may never have been taught, or simply ignored the scriptures about marrying in the Lord. Whether married to a non-Christian or a Christian, there are choices to be made after the wedding day.

Likely you have met people who seem to float along in life. Life just happens to them. They have no direction, no goals, no real ambition. They appear stunted in their growth. We can be that way within our marriages if we are not careful. What is the goal for your marriage?

Early on in marriage, most of us are of the mindset that this spouse of mine is going to “make” me happy. He will fulfill all my needs. In reality, that is typical of youthful thinking. Yet, it is in relationships, especially marriage, that we grow and mature. The fact is no human being is capable of “making” another happy. Only the Lord is able to provide real needs and happiness. The beatitudes in Matthew 5 explain how to be happy. Nothing there is about a spouse being the “happy-maker.”

Do not misunderstand. I know it is possible to have emotional sadness. We have met people who are living in difficult circumstances, who seek relief from the burdens of cruelty or the sadness of failed or troubled marriage. If we are honest, we will admit that all of us cross the lines of making our spouses unhappy at times. We are sinners. At times we misinterpret our mate’s actions and act foolish.

In every marriage there are choices to be made. We can react or we can respond. None of us will become perfectly skilled at not over-reacting at times, but we can grow. How?

Foremost, we must know how God wants us to be. It is one thing to not react with the same bitterness someone may throw at us, and another to be without bitterness in the heart. Hard? Most certainly.

We must grow each day by studying God’s word. Then we will be able to overlook “the small stuff.” Only then will we learn how to deal with the more difficult issues that may arise. Herein we see the importance of making choices.

No one makes us act in a bad way. We choose to react. Now, all of us have a bad day now and then, and act ugly! However, if it is habitual, there are serious heart problems.

We must learn to make choices that are not self-centered. There are some women whose homes are their idols. Their husbands cannot relax there for fear they will be nagged. Money (or the lack of it) may become a serious issue that rules out God as first. Most anything can become an idol.

There are choices to be made when a mate is not spiritually minded. Decisions must be made about attending worship on the Lord’s day. Since the real purpose of our relationship is to help our mate go to heaven, we need to stand firm, instead of giving in to the “don’t you want to be with me” arguments, or “let’s go somewhere together this morning.” Other choices in such a relationship have to do with the kind of entertainment to see or do. Peter’s admonition tells us how to be the example before that spouse for a greater possibility of converting him (1 Peter 3:1-6).

I would like to recommend a book titled How to Act Right, When Your Spouse Acts Wrong by Leslie Vernick, a marriage counselor. Her book was written for men and women. It addresses this basic problem of how to make right choices for the situations that come up between marriage partners. She stresses the diligence we must have in making choices that are not from a self-absorbed frame of mind. Though a member of some denomination, she gives some good biblical advice. Biblical principles applied will even improve the lives of non-Christians. They won’t get to heaven without obeying the gospel, but there are effective, timeless principles in the Lord’s Word.

While the Lord did not make each of us choose the mate we married, we can surely use the experiences of married life to help us grow, and be more like Jesus. His patience for our wrong doing is exemplary. (cf. Lamentations 3:22-23.) Let us do our best to follow the Lord; realizing we need to help our mates, our children, and grandchildren to love God. 

Choose today to be like Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Perhaps you can’t at this moment speak for anyone besides yourself. But choosing the goal of doing everything you can to lead by example. Then you may eventually be able to include other family members. But it most likely won't happen if you don't choose the Lord over everyone and everything (Matthew 6:33).  

Try this:

Evaluate yourself:
Have you really made the choice to put the Lord first each and every day?
Honestly consider if you are a reactionary most of the time. Or, do you wait, think, then respond?

Look up some of the verses from the book of Psalms and Proverbs listed in the section of this article titled Divine Happiness.

Memorize this: 

Luke 10:27 “And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’”

Questions

1. What are some things that can become idols?
2. Define react.
3. Define respond.
4. What is the most important purpose of marriage?

Recommended Reading

Jackson, Wayne. Should A Christian Marry Outside the Faith? 
Jackson, Jason. Is a Loveless Marriage Scriptural Grounds For Divorce? 

2 comments:

  1. Thought provoking study! Thanks for helping me grow Sister Betty.

    ReplyDelete