News and Views
ENHANCING & PRESERVING MARRIAGE
Friday, August 31, 2012
A fine Christian gentleman once said, "If a husband and wife treat each other the way the Jesus directs Christians to treat each other, they will have a happy and harmonious life together." He was right.
When we think of Jesus' directions for human interaction and relationships, usually the first which comes to mind is His answer to the question of which is the greatest commandment. He answered, "The most important one is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31 NIV) Loving your neighbour as yourself is, of course, also the basic standard for loving your husband or wife, your children, your other family members. If you have as much concern for the well-being, the contentment and happiness of your family as you have for yourself and work toward this in all practical ways, then you are doing the best you can do to promote a quality home life for your family. Note that a healthy concern for others results from a healthy concern for our selves; grows out of our natural desire to meet our own needs and to be happy. If we think little of ourselves, put ourselves down, think we deserve to be deprived, we lose our sound base for loving others. This love has little to do with emotion, is rather a matter of will and choice.
The more I study the life of Jesus, the more I am impressed by the way He treated and regarded everyone, men and women, equally. This also came out as He said, "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers." (Matt. 23:8 NIV) This passage goes on to speak of servant leadership, as does Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV) when Jesus said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
If each partner in a marriage is as concerned about the other's welfare as their own, considers each other equals, and practices servant leadership, the relationship will be harmonious. In this situation, there will be trust, acceptance, respect, appreciation and affirmation, kindness, patience, gentleness and all the other aspects of 'agape' love. Throw in some romantic love, and you've really got it made!
If, instead, you find yourself in a situation where there are stresses and difficulties in the marriage relationship, remember that you cannot change or control the other person; you can only change and control yourself. Becoming a person with self-control begins with your thought life by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, replacing false ideas with true ones, and giving up unrealistic expectations. As the thought life comes under control, attitudes, actions and responses also come under control, and emotions follow. As you gain self-control, you are able to choose to treat your spouse and family lovingly. You can learn how to better express love in the ways which give them the best feeling of being loved as you give them words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, or physical touch according to which are most meaningful to them. You can strive to make your interactions positive, filling their love tanks.
It is also important to take responsibility for your own words and actions, to be open, honest and vulnerable rather than defensive or silent. Open, honest "truth love" is as important as "tender love" and "task love." Communication is vital, and recognize that often women will make a statement as an invitation to a discussion, while men often make a statement as their final conclusion after careful consideration. It's important to find ways to prevent mistaking one for the other.
Grace, mercy and forgiveness are also important aspects of marriage and family relationships.
This series of articles has tried to consider some valuable things that one person in a marriage can do on his or her own to become a better partner in the marriage and thereby improve the overall quality of the marriage relationship while also becoming more self-controlled and thereby more confident and better able to handle all of life. Where there are deep difficulties in a marriage, there is a need for both spouses to willingly work together with a good professional counsellor.
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