Tag Archives: Marriage


When you are in the doghouse, there’s no use pretending.  A busted love relationship brings down everything else.  You may not be sure what went wrong (especially if you are a guy!), but there’s no denying that the tension needs fixing.  Papering over conflict with smiles and nice talk doesn’t work.  Caving in, going along to get along is worse.  Both attempts are temporary at best and lead to sullen, resentment.  But when someone initiates real repair by doing whatever is necessary to truly reconcile the broken relationship, the results can be exhilarating.

It was God Who took the initiative to repair our broken relationship with Him.  Paul described it like this:

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him (Jesus – See: Seeing the Invisible),  and through him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. –  (Colossians 1:19-20 – with my comment)

Carefully note that it was God Who took the initiative.  And, He did not give in and say, “Let’s just pretend everything is OK now.”  He did everything necessary to truly repair the break.  The sobering, necessary cost was the blood payment for our sin.

Notice also that His act reconciled “all things” to Himself, not the other way around.  When you reconcile your bank statement, in almost every case it is your figures that must be adjusted to match the bank’s record; you change to reconcile to the bank.  God did not lower Himself to adjust to our sinfulness, but reached down through Jesus to lift us up to Himself.

The end result is peace.  Peace is not pretending to get along, it is the absolute, settled, restoration of the way things between us were always meant to be.  Peace wipes out all tension.  God, through Jesus, made this peace.  He took the initiative and He accomplished it.

You know, because you have been there, when your partner makes the first move to reconcile your relationship, it requires a certain humility to receive that act of love.  But if you are willing, you exchange brittle tension for peace and joy.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ … God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation…We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – excerpts)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


Affair Protection

Is your marriage vulnerable?  Might one of you have an affair?  There is a very simple and yet powerful way to protect it.  It’s found in just one verse in the Book of James.  If you actually do what this says, you could “affair-proof” your marriage.  This verse is easy to understand but hard to remember to do because it runs contrary to human nature.

Here it is:

” My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (James 1:19)

When you are in a conversation that is even slightly adversarial, while your partner is speaking, isn’t it true that you seem to listen, but are really thinking through how you are going to respond?  Coming up with some killer logic, so you can win the argument and emerge the victor?  That is what most people do. It’s human nature.

But if, instead, you put aside your own thoughts and rebuttals and actively try to understand what your partner really means and also how they really feel, you will be amazed at how it changes things.  If, before you respond with your own thoughts, you take a moment to make sure you really have understood your partner, understood him or her to their satisfaction, that one little move will really calm the storm.

But it gets better than that, especially in a marriage.  When people “fall in love” they spend a lot of time listening to one another and really trying to understand one another.  It’s a key ingredient in romance.  Think back to your first dates if you don’t believe me.  When a marriage goes stale, if one partner begins to listen – really listen – in an active and interested way, it’s amazing how quickly that one simple thing can begin to restore the lost romance.  It’s like maple syrup on pancakes.

Listening to really understand your partner is an effective way to “affair-proof” your marriage.  Most affairs do not begin with sex.  They begin with listening.  When someone seems really interested in you.  You know the old line: “My spouse doesn’t understand me…”  And it goes from there…

Marriage counselors charge $100 an hour – maybe more.  Apply James 1:19 and you can save a bunch of money.  Probably save your marriage, too.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Divorce: Yeah, But…

Nobody goes through divorce without getting hurt.  If you have been hurt that way, it is understandable if you feel judged by Jesus’ blunt teaching about divorce (See: Handle with Care).  If you want to argue with Him, if you want to say, “Yeah, but…” you are not alone.

““Why then,” they [the Pharisees] asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”” (Matthew 19:7-9)

Moses didn’t command people to divorce, but permitted it as an accommodation to their hardheartedness.  And, once again, Jesus points us back to the original design of God for marriage: a lifelong oneness between a man and woman, formed by God, and protected by a mutual covenant of faithfulness.

Right after “You shall not murder,” the seventh commandment is “You shall not commit adultery.”  Although we tend to equate adultery with a sexual act, adultery, at its root, is any act that violates the marriage covenant of faithfulness.  Adultery goes against this solemn command:

“…Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”” (Matthew 19:6b)

Divorce is an act of adultery, Jesus taught, because it breaks the covenant of faithfulness, that is, unless it has already been broken.  Jesus wasn’t being judgmental.  He was teaching an important truth to help people stop hurting themselves.  He showed the same attitude when He spoke to the woman who had been caught in adultery:

“Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”” (John 8:10-11)

Think of marriage as a fertilized egg.  The shell is part of the egg, the part that protects the living and growing part and holds it together.  If you break the shell, you destroy the egg and it stops growing.  The mutual covenant of faithfulness pertains to much more than sexual behavior.  And faithfulness, like the shell of the egg, protects the living and growing part of a marriage.  If you break faithfulness, you damage and likely destroy the marriage.  Divorce certainly breaks it.

In effect, Jesus said, “Don’t do that to yourself; don’t break faithfulness with your spouse.”  I am convinced Jesus understands why people choose divorce.  He certainly knows the pain of betrayal.  But He does not back away from advocating the importance of living by God’s original design in marriage.  He knows it’s better.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


You can’t take a marriage apart; you can only break it apart. It’s not like a clock, where you can disassemble the gears and levers. It is more like epoxy, in that once it has been mixed together and made, it is no longer possible to “unmix” it. That is why divorce hurts – hurts everybody involved and even some who aren’t involved. That’s why God said He “hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16), because he hates it when we hurt ourselves. If you don’t believe those blunt statements, I would invite you to talk with thildren, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, co-workers and bosses who have shared with me their gaping wounds from divorce. Divorce is not how God designed it to be.

In Jesus’ day, divorce was considered to be okay, provided the husband gave his wife a certificate, which would allow her to remarry. In the conditions of that culture, a divorcee almost had to remarry – it was either that, move in with her parents or starve. Jesus challenged that understanding with this:

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32)

If you define “adultery” as the act of sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse, these teachings don’t make sense. But if you define “adultery” as breaking the covenant of oneness that God established in marriage, then they do. A divorced woman is (in that culture) forced to remarry, which forces her to do something that violates her covenant of oneness with her (former) husband. Once again, Jesus teaches that righteousness is not achieved by drawing a line and then not stepping over it. Righteousness is found in wholeheartedly pursuing the rhythm and flow of how God designed life to be lived.

It is ironic that many have used this teaching to justify divorce, saying “Since my spouse was unfaithful, if I divorce him or her I haven’t stepped over the line and sinned.” Jesus meant “Don’t force your wife to break her covenant of oneness – that is, unless she has already done so.”


“I did not have sex with that woman!”  Bill Clinton’s approach to morality was the ordinary one: Draw a line that defines what is going too far, and then you can tiptoe up to the line, as long as you do not step over it.  Sex, in his mind, was defined by the act of intercourse; as long as he did not cross that line, in his mind, he was not guilty.

Jesus’ view of morality is extraordinary.  Doing the right thing is not about staying on the good side of some arbitrary line; it’s about pursuing the heartbeat of God with all your heart.  It’s. about devoting oneself to the greater purpose behind a line or a law.

Jesus knew that a central component in God’s design for humanity was a covenant marriage relationship between a man and woman, established and maintained by faithfulness.  Not faithfulness as defined by Bill Clinton but faithfulness of the heart.  So He said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”. (Matthew 5:27-28)

Jesus taught that God’s intent was not to prevent adultery, as narrowly defined by a sexual act, but to foster marriage, as defined by a heart oneness between the husband and wife.  Any act that breaks that oneness, even an unfulfilled lustful longing of the heart, is an act of adultery, since it damages the oneness of marriage.  If that seems extreme to you, think about how damaging even the suspicion of unfaithfulness is to the harmony of a marriage. 

That teaching was so radically different from the commonly held Bill Clinton approach, that Jesus shook them up with this:

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”  (Matthew 5:29 – Jesus continues this thought in verse 30)

Jesus was not advocating self-mutilation.  As you know, the eye only follows instructions from the heart…   Jesus was startling people with hyperbole in order to underlline how seriously flawed their understanding of morality in marriage was. 

2000 years later, human attitudes toward faithfulness and marriage have not improved.  But Jesus wasn’t joking and God’s design for how things work hasn’t changed.