My husband and I love marriage. In fact, we cannot even explain how much we enjoy learning and teaching the various topics that we explore within this subject. However, it seems that the more teaching and counseling we do, the more we meet people who are disinclined to honor what we refer to as the first relationship. In the past year we noticed a reoccurring theme with the couples we came in contact with and decided to ask a very important question. What exactly is a marriage covenant to you? The expressions and answers were surprising. After some chatting and pillow talk, we decided this would be our next training course. And here's why.
In conducting a bit of research among fellow Christians, we discovered that there are many ideas about this important and yet very misconstrued biblical concept. We classify this as a biblical concept because the church, meaning Christians worldwide, conveys this message in various methods in their congregations at some point or another. But we freely admit it is not a universal viewpoint.
As we begin to discuss this topic, we want to make sure that readers understand our perspective is based on the Bible and the Bible only. However, it is our hope that as we discuss this particular covenant as it pertains to the people of God, readers will recognize our goal to define the marriage covenant in a way where it really makes people dig deep into the meaning, and believers will understand that the secular definition of a contract is not synonymous with the covenant God has demonstrated for us.
In our research efforts, we decided to pose the question to our focus group. We asked the following questions:
“Truth be told I've only really started hearing about marriage covenant over the last 10 years of my life on a consistent basis. Prior to the last 10 years or so of my life I really can't tell you because I really don't even know the words but what it means right now to me is regardless of what we go through, what happens, how it happens, we still work it out and walk through this life together because we are stronger together than what we are apart."
Covenant: normally a lifelong binding agreement that is sealed in blood. During biblical days marriage with something that was sealed in blood.”
“It’s ineffective because it’s more than permanence. It’s work. Just like any covenant we make with God. There’s always some level of work involved in the “promise” that we made. People think all it takes is love for one another (in any relationship) and everything will be fine when the truth of the matter is it takes work.”
“Covenant is something that is permanent you can't just go looking at the person that you are in Covenant with, you first have to check yourself to make sure that you are doing everything that you're supposed to do.”
“Hmm… covenant?? I’m pretty sure one of my first encounters with the word was from some gangster movie or something (who knows). The second reference I have is in the communion prayer I heard growing up. A covenant in both situations described an agreement/contract or promise of sort.”
“A community of persons devoted to religious life under God”
“Covenant for marriage is a promise to God that I will choose to love my spouse despite his imperfections. The promise is to keep my eyes on Him throughout the union.”
“How was a marriage covenant explained to me? What would I like to know about marriage covenant? Hmmmm... questions that need answers.”
As one can see, there are various understandings (or none at all) of something that is considered the standard with God’s children. This is what pains us in ministry. We watch good people who truly love the Lord struggle with difficult life decisions in hopes that they are in compliance with a standard that is simply… unclear in most cases. What is even more hurtful is to watch someone slowly break down and their life deteriorates as they knowingly continue trying to make a poor covenant a godly one. Yes, I said a deficient or inadequate covenant into a godly covenant. There is no need to wonder why a divorce rate exist at all in the church. We need to deal with the fact that we have one.
Sometimes the writing is on the wall. According to Mark Gungor, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” I love this comment because it’s something that I would love to stand up and say at every church meeting over the next few years. The truth of the matter is abuse and dysfunctional families are as rampant in the church as they are in the world, and it is still a growing problem. We as the body of Christ should take a deeper look at the fruit of what we, as the church, are producing.
We as the church must begin to check the type of seeds we have sown when it comes to marriage. It is not effective to continue to place all accountability on Christian couples alone when the church has not done its due diligence in teaching exactly what God demonstrated for us when it comes to marriage. Some of us have been victims of the brief 4-hour minimum premarital counseling. What about the worksheet marriage ministry? Anyone been given a book and came in for a rudimentary discussion every week? Who sat in an actual class, but was unable to discuss matters that really concerned you? Anyone had a counselor that was unable to recognize your needs? Where are the couples who have been counseled to marry as an end game to fornication, premarital pregnancy, or that voice of God that everyone heard about your getting married except for you?
I can tell you from experience that the third time seeking pre-marital counseling was a charm for Fish and me. We continued to seek counsel until we found exactly what we needed to walk into our marriage covenant. Needless to say, this helped us to accept the call we feel God has given us; to help the church examine, dig up, and replant or reestablish the standard of covenant in marriage. We hope that as you follow and support this effort alongside us, together we will be able to produce the fruit that God intended to be life giving to His children and throughout His creation. Until the next blog, may your unions remain blessed with God's favor.
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Just a little birdy and fish about the Father's business. Helping to better the world one blog at a time.