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EQUAL PARTNERS: Marriage Through a Biblical Lens

Christians are instructed in the New Testament in specific behaviors that their "new life" in Christ will produce.  These 'gifts of the Holy Spirit' were to be seen in the believers.  Repeatedly the Christians in the various New Testament churches are urged to avoid one group of actions and develop another group of actions.  This was to be done through the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believing Christian and the growing self-discipline created by the adoption of new values and standards of conduct and morality. The behavioral expectations of followers of Christ was being clearly framed. 

Behaviors to Be Developed and as Results of Spiritual Transformation and Formation:
Love  (Rom.13.9; Matt.19.19; Eph. 5.22)
Kindness (1 Cor. 13.4; Eph. 4.32; 1 Th 5.15)
Forgiveness (Eph 4.32; Col. 3.13)
Patience (Gal. 5.22)
Caring (1 Th 2:7; 1 Peter 5.2)
Self-control (1 Th 5.8; 5.13)
Good (1 Peter 2.12)
Submission, Mutual and to God (Eph. 5:21)
Respect (Eph 5.33;1 Peter 2.17; 1 Peter 3.16)
Sacrifice (Rom.12.1)
Unity (Phil.2.2.)

Behaviors to be Avoided and Overcome through Spiritual Transformation and Formation (Gal.5.20):
Sexual impurity
Fits of rage
Selfish ambitions
Dissention & factions
and anything that was the opposite of the first list.

It will be noticed that in very few places is there any emphasis on control or power and it is specifically linked to the behaviors to be avoided (selfish ambition, lack of respect, lack of  unity, lack of mutual submission to God, etc.)

Anyone who argues that the verses that say a man is the head of a woman, should be very careful and very clear as to the context of that source of authority.  The rest of the setting clearly says as Christ is head of the Church.
Does Christ limit a person from service or voice in the Church?
Does Christ control the Church?
Does Christ make his Church to suffer?
Does Christ make his Church to feel inferior?
Does Christ make his Church second class?
Does Christ make his Church ...

Go back to the list of behaviors to be demonstrated in the believers among themselves and as they interacted with the world around them.  This is important, because all that they did was a witness to the validity of the message of the Gospel.

A careful and honest look at the model of Christ and the Church applied to the marriage relationship reveals how far astray we have often gone.

In the marriage vows, women were once required to "obey" their husband?  Where did that come from?  Where is there a Biblical instruction for such...



A recent book follows hard on the heels of the return to an unhealthy and fundamentally unbiblical idea of 'Biblical womanhood and manhood'.  It is a firm belief that the great ill of society is 'feminism' and men who do not control their homes.  One book and blog attempts to define just what a 'true woman' is and how to become one. Others continue to value and interpret woman as an after thought to the more important issue of Biblical manhood.  Other books present a course of self-negation, abasement, and masochism for women while affirming arrogance, control and power for men.
The basic concept of most of these competing agencies is that once men and women return to a Victorian social structure of men working and women staying home, having children and pampering the man when he comes home, all social ills will be gone.  Others fondly think back to an Ozzie and Harriet family structure.  Yet both of these bred relationships based on struggles for power and the circumvention of the power allotment through manipulation, lies, and physical, emotional and mental abuse.  Some of the highest rates of sexual disease have emerged from times when, theoretically all was in balance with men working and women staying home.  Why did the men stray? You can't blame feminism but one can point a finger at the essentially dissatisfying nature of the unnatural and un scriptural structure of such power based relationships.
As is the case in so many of these issues, it is important to return to scriptures for guidance and balance all of scripture against the few proof texts so beloved of those who argue a 'true woman'  or Biblical manhood position.  Since so much of the argument takes place with in the framework of marriage, let us start there since the Bible itself uses the relationship of husband and wife to illustrate the relationship of God to His people or Christ to the Church. 
It is clear when looking at the expectations of the Christians in the New Testament that issues of power and control are subsumed into a mutual love and sacrifice.  Why should the marriage be any different?  Why the emphasis on who is in charge or in control or calls the shots?  The following principles are derived from scripture as working rules of conduct for individuals in what we will call a "Christian Marriage":
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will tend and care for one another in love. For Jesus said the greatest commandment was that you love one another.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will go out of their way to help one another. 
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will build up and edify one another.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will mutually respect one another.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will share one another's burdens.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will joyfully sacrifice for one another.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will pray for one another and live peacefully with one another.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will  be members of one another and be as one body and, as much as possible, they will be of one mind.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will be humble and not think more highly of themselves than they should.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will be tolerant, longsuffering, kind and forgiving of one another.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will sow into great love, goodness, compassion and commitment so that they will harvest those in the relationship.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will seek love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness and faith.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will seek to avoid vanities, envying or provoking one another.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will be subject, in love, to one another with respect and honor.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will love one another as they love themselves and as Christ has loved us to the point of giving his own life for our good.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will live a life of good works, willing to communicate and keeping the faith.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage will be swift to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry.
  • Those in a Christian Marriage may grow angry but will not let the sun set on unresolved issues but will seek to make peace, ask and receive forgiveness, and work to improve.
I chose not to cite any particular scriptures because of the many times these concepts are presented.  Scanning through Romans, the Gospels, Ephesians and other books, it is clear how the nature of the Christian community was expected to evolve in its relationship with God and with each other. Since the Bible uses several verses to indicate that the marriage relationship was an earth-bound reflection of a spiritual truth, it is clear these are far more critical to understanding how people in a marriage or a family should relate than almost anything else ever written. 
We have to explore and self-critique why we have been so "hung up" on the misalignment of the structure of marriage into a greater and lesser paradigm that often leads to abuse and negation.  Want scriptures in specific? Search the Bible, all of the Bible, balancing one part against another to see the balance that is there and the threads of love, freedom, mutuality and forgiveness running through its pages.


New Year, New Life

Through out the Bible the passage of time is always marked by festivals, rituals, celebrations, and times of sacred fellowship. The underlying cycle is one that is seen throughout God's creation. We are born, we live, we reproduce, and we die :plant, animal or man it is all the same.

This cycle throbs with purpose, with forward movement, and with change and new life. 

Change is the constant companion of growth and it is our ability to accept and enjoy each new phase of life that brings personal satisfaction. 

Change is an opportunity to make course corrections, expand knowledge and gain useful experience.

Yes, each year we add a year.  Look at a tree silently adding rings, branches, stretching toward the sun and deep inside all the secrets of the universe, the events of the passing years, and the flexibility that insured survival, all wait to be learned in their own time.

It is New Year...a new life awaits for those with the courage to begin anew.


Noel Brooks: A Life Shining and Burning, 1914-2006



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