Excerpted from The No-Nonsense Biblical Man.
Jesus Talks Marriage
Before sin entered the world, God instituted the first marriage. In fact, Jesus goes to great lengths to remind the Pharisees and others of that first marriage (Mark 10:1–11). These Pharisees, like many in Israel, had centered their ideas of marriage on the law, but Jesus longed to take them back to the original marriage in Genesis 1-2. From that original marriage, I believe we can learn some foundational lessons about how to have successful marriages in our day and age.
Be softhearted. “And Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female’” (Mark 10:5–6). Jesus clearly taught that hardheartedness was to blame for the “certificate of divorce” passage in Deuteronomy 24. Had the Pharisees been “softhearted” they would have been more concerned with God’s ideal than pushing the limits on divorce. A softhearted marriage will long for God’s best. A softhearted person longs to know God’s ideal scenario. A softhearted person is willing to work things out with their spouse, opening their hearts to them.
I’ve found the importance of softheartedness in marriage cannot be understated. Marriage is not a magical experience that just works, but instead a relationship that takes time, effort, and commitment. One of the ingredients a healthy marriage will have is true softheartedness toward one another. If you are a married man, you need to be the initiator of this softheartedness. Don’t insecurely wait for your wife to initiate this, but instead humble out and open your heart to her.
Know your roles. “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’” (Mark 10:6). In successful marriages the husband and wife recognize they are different from one another and that those differences lead them to very distinct roles. For everything else each spouse brings to the relationship, the husband understands he is called to provide, protect, lead, and love his wife. The wife understands that she is to follow, support, respect, and love her husband (see Ephesians 5:22-33).
As a godly Christian man, take your role and responsibility seriously. You aren’t a bully or a boss in your home. You are a loving servant leader who is required to prefer your wife and your children above yourself. Your leadership should be gentle, kind, and other-centered. In the same way Jesus loves his church, you love your bride sacrificially by laying down your life for her (Ephesians 5:25). Like Jesus before you, you are not concerned with your own rights and privileges, but concerned with laying down your life for your bride. Your love actually sanctifies and cleanses your bride (Ephesians 5:26). In other words, she is better off by knowing you and actually grows as a person through her relationship with you.
Create a new circle. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife” (Mark 10:7). Many call this the “leave and cleave” principle. This obviously takes maturity on the part of the man, but also an ability to defend the new circle that God has formed with his wife. Unwanted advice, ungodly counsel, and wicked friendships should not be allowed inside that inner circle. It must be protected. Because of their enormously long lifespans, Adam and Eve were likely married for over nine hundred years. Since God created them directly, one advantage they had over modern marriages is they never had to deal with meddling parents. A boy will complain to his mother about his marriage, but a man will protect his inner circle. A boy will complain about his wife to his father, but a man will guard her reputation. Certainly, there are seasons in a marriage where it is good to invite others in for godly counsel and encouragement. Often, the best way for this to occur is through mutual agreement with your spouse about who to talk to and invite in for help, but guard your inner circle.
Cultivate oneness. “And the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mark 10:8). In marriage much of your personal identity is lost and you become one with your spouse. Marriages tend to break down when people behave as two single individuals with distinct and separate goals. Too many women and men are running off attempting to “find themselves,” when all they really need to discover is found inside their relationship with their spouse. When oneness is cultivated physically, emotionally, spiritually, and practically, the marriage has a good chance for great success. When pride rules the day, a spouse hates the idea of being one with their mate, instead choosing to focus on their individuality.
This oneness with your spouse must be cultivated. In addition to being passionate lovers, I believe husbands and wives ought to be best friends. The wife in the Song of Solomon—an intensely romantic book—refers to her husband as her friend (Song of Solomon 5:16). Learn how to be a good friend to your wife. Date her regularly. Listen to her. Take notes about her. Like you, she is an ever-developing creature, so learn about her. Talk about what God is showing you and hear what God is showing her. Be friends. Cultivate your oneness. This oneness is often ruined when we broadcast the failures of our wives or become easily offended because of our insecurities (Proverbs 16:28, 17:9, 27:6). Instead, strive to provide a safe environment for your wife to live in with you.
Be covenantal. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9). Ultimately, even though the church and state are involved in marriage, God is the one who presides over every married couple. In other words, God is the tie that binds us together. Not the state, not the church, but God. This view allows a person to see their marriage as an act of devotion, worship, obedience, and stewardship toward God. A covenantal attitude, rather than a contractual attitude, will lead a person to never give up or never give in on their marriage.
In a day where seemingly everyone has an opinion on how to have a successful marriage, only Jesus Christ is able to truly take us to the very core of the matter. As our designer, He understands exactly what is necessary within marriage. Let’s obey Him in our quest for excellent marriages.