Now that we have a working definition, let’s move on to being and staying married.
First of all, marriage is built on commitment. In the case of Christian Disciples, that commitment first belongs to God and His Kingdom (rule or purpose if you prefer). Then the commitment to each other and the ‘enterprise’ of becoming a family comes in second and third. Of course, for those who are married outside of the faith, only the second and third commitments remain. Putting the supernatural aside, from a purely practical standpoint, the Disciples should have some advantage in that they are committed to an ideal and an ethic, not just a human relationship. However, for that to actually have an effect, your commitment to the spiritual must be built on faith and action, hence the failure of so many marriages within the church. The truth is, however, our expected commitment as followers of Christ runs before marriage, it is expected of all believers, so I won’t spend more time on it here.
The commitment to each other and to the marriage and family itself we do want to get into. It is commonly believed that marriage is about compromise and while compromise is part of the equation it carries with it a 50-50 concept of partnership that just won’t work. Marriage is not capitalism, it is not driven to better performance by selfishness. The concept of compromise means that you are giving and getting but not getting what you want all the time and there is an expectation of the other person pulling their weight. In a compromising, contractual relationship you broker deals to get what you want but seldom get exactly what you want. It has been said that compromise makes no one happy. And the truth is? At some point in a marriage one of the partners will not be pulling their weight! This is not an answer for a permanent marriage.
The answer is in a covenant based, sacrificial relationship; that is a marriage based on giving yourself away for your partner with no expectation of reciprocation or ending the relationship if the contract is broken.
Now I can already hear some of you shouting me down in your own minds. Calm down. There are legitimate reasons for ending a marriage but I’m not going to talk about those here and I believe they are very few. I will talk about them in a later post.
Sacrificial giving of yourself is the answer. Many of you have heard this before but I thought it would bear repeating. The fifty-fifty split in a compromise based relationship doesn’t achieve much in a long-term relationship. Bargaining and contracts can keep a wounded marriage alive but only for a short time. The correct split in marriage is 100-100; two people giving everything to the other person, actually living out Christ’s rule of thumb for relationships, what we call the Golden Rule:
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.-The Gospel of Luke 6:27-31
Now let’s do some spiritual math! Two-Hundred Percent is the goal. It is the necessary total to make a marriage work long-term. The closer you are to that number, the better your chances. One-Hundred Percent is the number for normal human endeavors, but good marriage is a miracle and requires miraculous effort. Sometimes one person committed one hundred percent to the marriage can hold it together for a long time without help from the other side, but for it to be a real, solid, miraculous marriage? Two-hundred is the magic number.
If one of you is down or broken or ill, the other partner gives One-Hundred Percent or more and pulls you through! No one expects us to be perfect so sometimes we carry our partner with our sacrifice until they can regain their balance and strength. We are never disappointed (ideally) and never take anything for granted because when we live sacrificially for another we have no expectations. Every service and gift becomes a surprise and a delight! Every failure becomes just another challenge to love through! Not live, LOVE! And when we eliminate our escape clauses we learn to make it work with what we have. This principle will hold us up in all aspects of marriage. I give, expecting nothing, I receive with gratitude because I expected nothing. I choose to love my spouse no matter the circumstance.