The Book of Genesis provides us foundational studies on the institution of marriage. It is the conceptual framework of the most fundamental institution on earth today. Marriage is.
However, the MECHANICS of the marital institution and its elucidation are found in the writings of Apostle Paul. Paul wrote so much about love and marriage. Only Solomon wrote more and that’s in the Old Testament. And that’s just because he wrote an entire romance novel called the Song of Songs written as a musical. He was able to access revelation on marriage through revelation of the Christ and his bride, the church. Our earthly marriage is built on the conceptual framework of the union between the Christ and his church.
In 1 Corinthians 7:7 (MSG), Paul wrote as follows: “Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me – a simpler life in many ways.” And so we see Paul suggest there are certain “complications” that come from the binary union that is marriage. In verse 9 of that same chapter – 1 Corinthians 7 – he talks about the “difficulties of marriage.” But what are these “difficulties”? What difficulties attend marriage?
It turns out Paul defines the “difficulties” of marriage from the perspective of a committed celibate. In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (MSG) he wrote: “I want you to live free of complications as possible. When you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master. Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to more so many more demands on your attention.” Then he goes further: “The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God. (1 Corinthains 7:32-35 MSG). And so we see that what Paul defines as “difficulties of marriage” is rather “bothersomeness”, not emotional affliction.
The man or woman approaching marriage must be prepared for the demands of responsibilities of marriage. We tend to only think of the sex, the companionship, love and desire for children when we think of marriage. In exchange for all those desires there are the responsibilities of marriage. And there’s an exchange rate. But what are the responsibilities of marriage as enumerated by Paul? First, there are the “nuts and the bolts of domestic life” – the mechanical componentry of marriage. The mechanical componentry is how the gears work and mesh together to produce love, peace and happiness. There has to be a basis for love, peace and happiness in a marriage.
Then Paul talks about the “wanting to please your spouse”. That requires a lot of emotional commitment. It involves getting to know each other – your likes and dislikes. It involves going out of the way. It requires effort. Marriage takes effort. But many times couples are not willing to put in the effort required to produce happiness. They assume attraction is enough to sustain a marriage, and it’s not! Attraction is the magnetic quality that brings two people together. But the relationship itself requires work and effort. It is for this that sexual congress alone cannot sustain a marriage. There has to be more – friendship, love, commitment. But here’s the rub: the more you seek to please your spouse the more the demand for attention. That’s what Paul said. What the pleasing of spouse therefore does is, create mutual dependency in a marriage. Thus spouses are continually in need of each other, and the more they need each other the stronger the bond. And so a major factor in the bonding of a couple is the desire to please one another.
You can’t be independent in marriage. It is an unworkable formula, a conceptual incongruity. The supply of attention to the demand for attention is one of the key responsibilities in marriage. Paul further tells us that married people spend time on “caring and nurturing each other”. There must be conscious caring and nurturing in marriage by both parties. This goes to love and happiness. Caring and nurturing also produce a sense of wellbeing in marriage. And so the man or woman who seeks to go into marriage must not just think of what he or she will receive; the person going into marriage must think of what to give. Marriage is the giving of self. You can’t care for and nurture someone without the giving of self. And so we see that it is the giving in marriage that produces the happiness and the wholeness we desire.
Selfishness has never produced happiness and wellbeing in marriage. The very concept of marriage negates selfishness. Marriage is a two-part equation. Selfishness is about “Me”. But then Paul explains to us that marriage is not for everyone, though we tend to assume otherwise. Indeed Paul tells us that the marital orientation is a gift from God, just as celibacy is a gift. “Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me – a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives THE GIFT of the single life to some, the gift of married life to others.” (1 Corinthians 7:7 MSG). It follows therefore that our marriage is a gift from God. It’s why we must treasure it, and value it.
Paul also tells us there are people ill-suited for marriage. Like Paul, these people have no desire for marriage whatsoever. Such tend to give their lives to causes, become totally sold out to causes, like Paul. They cannot abide the emotional construct required to sustain marriage, or the emotions that accompany marriage. They are so independent minded they lack capacity for the emotional dependency of marriage. Such people find the IDEA of marriage bothersome, even irritable. They will rather pursue their life interests than be tethered to a partner, or tied down in domestic situations. In preaching about marriage, we ignore preaching about non-marriage. Both are real. If on the other hand you do have a strong desire for marriage, or you FEEL incomplete without a spouse… If you have the emotional capacity for co-existence and co-dependency… If you’re the caring and nurturing type, one who relishes settling down into a domestic situation… then marriage is for you.
What you should then pray for is a partner who’ll care for you and nurture you. The biggest take away from this message is that marriage is a gift from God. Cherish the love you have.
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org