The healthiness of good functional marriage relationships has a huge impact upon the spiritual health of both the family, and ultimately the church.
If we are married, or thinking of getting married, marriage is intended to be part of our calling in the Lord. Since most people (deep in their heart) don’t know what a calling is anymore, they think marriage is like modern-day church organizations. You pick and choose which one best suits you, and for what you want in life. God’s purpose and calling, in actual practice, is secondary.
Serving God is supposed to be according to his calling, his time, and his purpose. But since most people don’t have a sense of answering a call, (a call that might cross their personal perception of a good purpose): they also don’t have a sense of devotion in marriage, when it may cross their personal preferences. The marriage between Jesus Christ and his church is according to those who answer his calling: to fulfill obedience to his Word, and to bring forth new faithful spiritual children. And Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice for that relationship to exist. So why would we think of a Christian marriage as being different?
According to the Bible, true love is a long-term commitment to God’s calling. But, according to human fleshly thinking, marriage is a mutual benefit agreement and evaluation-decision process. And when most of society follows the human fleshly method, it is actually a clear sign of an impending judgment coming from the Lord. This is what the Lord said, prior to his announcement to Noah of the final destruction of the world by a flood. God was grieved and very disappointed in being left out of relationship decisions.
“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” ~ Genesis 6:2-3
It is clear that God was deeply offended by being left out of the marriage decision. Consequently, his Spirit would withdraw from mankind because he was not wanted in their relationships. The spiritual integrity of relationships means everything to God! And it starts with the integrity of the relationship with God himself.
True Christianity is all about true relationships that start with a true relationship with Almighty God. Then God wants us to seek and inquire with Him for our lives direction and purpose, including our marriage. We know that the first marriage that ever was, was completely ordered by almighty God, according to his calling. The relationship between Adam and Eve was modeled according to, and as an extension to, the original spiritual relationship between God and mankind. (Remember, God is a spirit, and he created mankind in his own spiritual image. So the spiritual life of Adam came when God: “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” God is true life, and he created that life in mankind, from a part of himself.)
So we read in Genesis 2:15-24
 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. 18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
(Note: “help meet” means in the original – a helper comparable to him. Notice that God’s plan was completely according to his calling and purpose for this relationship. First mankind was an extension of God by the spirit. Next he had a calling for Adam in the Earth, to take care of the garden of Eden: the place where God would commune with man. And Eve was being called to that same purpose, as Adam’s helper.)
 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.  And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.  And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;  And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
(Notice that the Lord makes the distinction that the animals came from the ground, but Eve came from the side of Adam. Also notice that Eve was created from out of the side of Adam, just as the church was created out of the side of Jesus Christ: when the soldier pierced his side and his blood spilled upon the earth. The same blood that would cleanse and purchase the church for Jesus Christ.)
 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
And so God made mankind originally in his own image, by breathing the breath of life from his very self into mankind. Showing that they started out with the same spirit, consequently they were of the same spiritual body. So notice that Eve was not only of the same spirit, but also of the same flesh and blood. That is why the description of cleaving to one another is used. Because it is to reflect also what needs to happen in the spiritual life of mankind with God, and among one another in the family of God.
If you feel that this language, and the thought I’m using seems strange to you, it actually comes from the New Testament also. Let me read it to you in Ephesians the 5th chapter.
 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
(Remember how God presented Eve to Adam, so Christ is presenting the church to himself.)
 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.  For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
(Note: the description of the bride of Christ, and the body of Christ, are không phải two different spiritual analogies. They are actually the same one! Because the bride of Christ, in the spirit, is of the same body, flesh, and bones. And that is why the Apostle Paul uses both descriptions of this relationship through Christ, in this one scripture in Ephesians. This is why it states that the husband should love the wife as his own body, because they are supposed to be one.)
 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
(Note: that many family problems are a result of not following this teaching of leaving one family to be joined to their companion. It is a mistake to try to make your marriage companion, and children, become like the family that you came from. Additionally, there needs to be healthy boundaries of responsibility and purpose between the family they came from, and the new family they are forming together. The new family is a completely new family. Formulated from the husband and the wife, and the children that they bring forth. And the old family needs to respect those differences.)
 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
(Just because you can intellectually conceptualize this thought, doesn’t mean that you spiritually understand it. Therefore the Apostle Paul gives the following instruction: to truly spiritually understand something, you do that by putting it to practice in your life, by faith.)
 Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
The problem is that Satan gets people to get their eyes off of their calling, and to start focusing on a mutual benefits vision for their life. And the problem is that too many, right around the church, tend to also have this mutual benefits vision for their relationships: both with their companion, and with the rest of the church. And so with this mutual benefits vision, they make decisions about where they will live, where they work, where they go to church, and who they want to marry, and stay married to.
If we are truly the church, we are supposed to be married to the calling of Jesus Christ. What was Jesus’ calling? It was to labor for, and be a sacrifice for the lost to be saved. Are we answering our husband’s call? Are we the help mate of Jesus Christ? Or has our vision for the church become a mutual benefits program?
Because of what mankind did in their bad relationship decisions before the great flood, Abraham was careful about the companion that his son Isaac would have. He wanted his son’s marriage relationship to be according to the call of Almighty God. And for them to cleave together as one, according to that call.
“And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:… …And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.” ~ Genesis 24: 3 and 6
Abraham gave directions to his servant, both times, according to the calling of God:
- Select a woman with a godly vision for her life.
- Keep my son where God has called him.
And Abraham’s servant did exactly what he was instructed to do.
“And he said O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master…” ~ Genesis 24:12-14
So we see that everything about this relationship and marriage, was determined to be ordered by God’s calling.
But as time would go on, we would see often that mankind would go back to making decisions for their relationships based on a mutual benefit vision, instead of a calling.
Important note: The mutual benefit vision is essentially the “hireling” vision. Or the way that an employee makes a decision about working for someone else. It is for the benefits that both the employee and the employer receives. But the relationship is not considered permanent. When times get difficult, either can break that relationship if they perceive the value of the benefits are not worth it.
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” ~ John 10:11-13
The hireling has no ownership in the long-term calling and purpose of Almighty God in their decision making. Thank God Jesus took full ownership of the responsibility for our salvation’s need. In fact, as it says in Ephesians, he gave his life for his marriage to us!
Do we have the same kind of complete commitment to Jesus Christ, and to his church in the Earth: the body of Christ and the Bride of Christ? Do we treat every true congregation in the Lord as “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”? Do we treat every member of the local congregation as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”? If that truly is our calling and our commitment, it will have a huge impact on the unity of the church, and the common love and care for everyone in the body of Christ.
But I’m afraid that for too many, fellowship across congregations has become a mutual benefit evaluation, causing certain ones to have favorite congregations, and favorite fellowships. And then this also gets reflected by the clicks of people who prefer to fellowship one another even within a local congregation. May God help us to get our vision clear! And treat the whole body of Christ as: “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh!” And when the wolf comes to try to tear us apart, may we have the bold courage to stand up for our brother and our sister!
So a calling is based on a long-term ownership in the relationship.
- I belong to the Lord’s Church
- I belong to my companion
- These children are mine forever
- This calling is mine from Almighty God above
- I have left my previous family to form a new family, according to God’s call
Based on the calling, we will go about our relationships with a very different vision and purpose at their very foundational start, And we will stay with them until the end.
Even though we may have come out of a family that seems to be held together in a functional way, most families have come together, and attempt to continue to operate, based on the mutual benefits vision. And consequently they have built into them more “calling dysfunction” then they recognize in themselves. And because the family is not focused on their calling, the Lord is not closely involved with the family.
And so we have to re-orient our vision to the calling of the Lord. Otherwise we continue to operate with too much dysfunctional fruit in our relationships and our lives. Because we lack the vision of sacrificial love, in our mutual benefits vision.
And so, the apostle Paul recognized that most relationships do not come together by calling. And even if they do, they have trouble staying focused on their calling. Therefore he said:
“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let everyone of you in particular so love his wife even as himself, and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” ~ Ephesians 5:32-33
When Adam and Eve were created, their eyes of their desire was on God, and towards each other. They had no one else to compare each other to. And they had no other “family ways” to try to bring into their new marriage. But then Satan came along to try to get them to change the focus of their desire, to comparing to something else. And the rest of what happened is now history.
The reality is that most couples start out only having eyes for one another. But then if their vision is a mutual benefits vision, they start comparing each other to someone else, or some other family. And one thing is for certain when they do this, that their desire is also not looking towards God at that time.
Characteristics of a “mutual benefits vision” creating a dysfunctional family (and a dysfunctional church):
- Problem resolution passes through the process of the “blame game” – which in reality does not ever really resolve.
- Authority and control in the home often is established through fear and bullying tactics (which can be masked in a variety of techniques). Instead of respect being earned through sacrificial love, and sincere consideration.
- The family is often trying to “fit in” with other perceived “functional families”, so that the pain of their own dysfunction, is hidden from everyone else.
- Without respected boundaries of responsibility, a co-dependence formulates within the dysfunctional family, blurring boundaries of responsibility. And people on the outside often mistaken this for a close family. When in reality, it is a family that will suddenly fall apart when a real tragedy affects them. The imbalance of co-dependence actually creates weak individuals and a weak family. Because they have lost their ability and faith to depend upon God, and to take on personal responsibility!
In 1 Corinthians chapter 7 the Apostle Paul recognized that many families coming to the Lord had a lot of dysfunctional practices and ways of relating to one another. And some of this was even worse when one part of the family was not saved, further complicating the relationship.
“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases : but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.” ~1 Corinthians 7:10-17
So notice here what he says: “as the Lord has called everyone.” So, it does not matter how we may have come into a marriage: when we have been saved, we are to work to reflect the heavenly vision that God has for his family. It can be difficult. And often one member of the relationship may not be saved. Nevertheless, we take responsibility before God, and his calling, how we personally behave in that relationship.
Note: There is much more to be said about the full subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage: covered in 1st Corinthians the 7th chapter. I have covered that in detail already in another article published at: https://truebibledoctrine.org/2020/02/14/marriage-divorce-and-remarriage-scripture-study/
So in addition to the advice above, the scriptures also give a lot of other advice of how to work together in relationships, including family relationships:
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” ~ James 1:19-20
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” ~ Luke 9:23
Long-suffering and forbearing:
“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” ~ Ephesians 4:2
“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” ~ Colossians 3:12-14
Considering one another’s weaknesses:
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” ~ 1 Peter 3:7-9
“Deprive ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” ~ 1 Corinthians 7:5
Not controlling one another:
“Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.” ~ 1 Peter 5:3
“But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:” ~ Matthew 20:26-27
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another” ~ Romans 12:10
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” ~ Proverbs 31:26
“Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” ~ Proverbs 31:28
Both very active in the raising of children:
“And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” ~ Deuteronomy 11:19
“That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” ~ Titus 2:4-5
Both providing for the home:
“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” 1 Timothey 5:8
“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” ~ Proverbs 31:27
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” ~ Matthew 18:21-22
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” ~ Ephesians 4:31-32