Contrary to what the religious mind might think marriage is not a Christian thing, it’s a humanity thing. Marriage was not instituted after Jesus rose from the dead it was instituted in the Garden of Eden. Because marriage is a humanity thing God recognises marriages that are not conducted in church. The marriage ceremony is culture based. And that’s not saying don’t marry in church. If in your culture drinking a cup of cold water is how you get married, God will recognise it. And if it’s climbing a tree God will recognise it. The conjugal ceremony is culture based. The church ceremony is a cultural expression. All that wearing of white is cultural. Up till mid-19th century brides didn’t wear white. The first person to do so was Queen Victoria. That was on 10th February 1840,179 years ago. There are two clear implications from the foregoing:
a. A non-Christian couple can have a wonderful marriage.
b. A Christian couple can have a horrible marriage.
The link between Christianity and marriage lies in the fact God adopted the principle of oneness and headship embedded in it as the protocol to spiritually fuse Christ and the church.
What is generating distortions in many Christian marriages is incomplete theology. In the Bible three dimensions of marriage are enumerated. We eliminated two. The first dimension of marriage is friendship and romance. The second dimension is sensuality and sexuality. The third dimension is dutifulness and responsibility. Here’s where we miss it: we major on scriptures that are focused on dutifulness and responsibility to the detriment of scriptures on sensuality and sexuality, as well as scriptures on friendship and romance. In other words we don’t have a balanced theology of marriage. In fact we view sensuality, sexuality and romance as carnal. So much so some couples pray before having sex. And some insist sex is only for procreation.
For men the sensuality and sexuality cluster is critical. Sensuality is why men like models in bikini, girls in lingerie and so on. It’s why Play Boy magazine sells. But for the women friendship and romance is what’s critical. It’s why ambient setting and foreplay is important to women. It’s why words, gifts, pecks, the clasping of necklace, zipping of blouses are important. She was doing her zipper before she met you! Make sure there’s an atmosphere of love in your home. It’s why you don’t keep grudges. Kiss her before you depart for work, don’t complain about doing zippers, commend her look, be gentle on her. Remove harshness and criticism from your home. Proscribe accusations. These are negative energies. It’s important you’re sexually attracted to your spouse. He or she must be someone you can sleep with, want to sleep with, not someone you tolerate. Or you’ll both suffer in the marriage.
Our theology of marriage is mainly centered on a few verses of scripture – Ephesians 5:22-33 – the “wives be submitted to your husband” passage; even though the first thing the passage says is that both husband and wife should be submitted to one another.
Truth is, the passage is mainly focused on dutifulness and obligations of marriage. It enumerates the degree and quality of care. It’s NOT God’s total instruction on marriage. The passage doesn’t deal with sex for example. Neither is it concerned with attractiveness or romance.
When it comes to sex we have to go to another one of Paul’s letters – his first letter to the Corinthians. That letter even resolves the issue of sex positions. It says in essence all positions are okay, it depends on the couple. This is based on the principle of mutuality: “The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality – the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out.” 1 Corinthians 7:2-6 MSG. Paul tells us that sexual drive is incredibly strong, but marriage serves as containment mechanism: “Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder.” 1 Corinthians 7:2-6 MSG.
You’re not going to find information about romance in Paul’s writing. Paul was not a romantic kind of guy. He thought that kind of stuff was an inefficient use of his time. He preached celibacy. 1 Corinthians 7:1. All that trying to please a woman thing, Paul thought it was all a distraction. All the man wanted to do was preach the gospel and get into trouble. And he already told us marriage was not his thing, that he didn’t have the gift. 1 Corinthians 7:7. The first major mention of romance in scriptures was Isaac petting Rebekah. King Abimelech was a peeping Tom in that incident. Genesis 26:8. But the authority on sensuality, sexuality and romance in the Bible is Solomon. He had 700 wives, 300 concubines. No wonder he died young. He died at the age of 58 or 59.
Solomon wrote Song of Songs. It’s R-rated stuff but God deliberately included it in scriptures, possibly to give the “spiritual” guys headache. We like to spiritualise everything and we soon run into absurdities over-spiritualising Song of Songs. “You’re so beautiful, my darling, so beautiful, and your dove eyes are veiled by your hair as it flows and shimmers, like a flock of goats in the distance streaming down a hillside in the sunshine. Your smile is generous and full – expressive, strong and clean, Your lips are jewel red, your mouth elegant and inviting, your veiled cheeks soft and radiant. The smooth, lithe lines of your neck command notice – all heads turn in awe and admiration! Your breasts are like fawns, twins of a gazelle, grazing among the first spring flowers.” (Song of Songs 4:1-5). If you’re a man and don’t know how to toast that’s a template right there. Solomon says focus on anatomical specifics – her eyes, her hair, her lips, her cheeks, her neck. Ladies take a deconstructivist approach to the question of beauty. They deconstruct human anatomy, they don’t do wholism: “She’s so beautiful. Look at those eyeballs. They’re big!” “Her hair is so long!” “Her skin just glows!”
Now, Solomon drew his analogy from an agrarian economy. It’s why he talks about gazelles grazing. In 21st century language the babe Solomon wrote about in Song of Songs would be called a Victoria’s Secret model. And he’s not finished. He dives into the architecture of her anatomy: “The sweet, fragrant curves of your body, the soft, spiced contours of your flesh invite me, and I come. I stay until dawn breathes its light and night slips away. You’re beautiful from head to toe, my dear love, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless.” (Song of Solomon 4:6-7 MSG) A smart man knows his wife is beautiful beyond compare! Notice Solomon spoke about skin tone. Skin tone matters to women. But it doesn’t come cheap! Financing your wife’s beauty regimen is one more reason you need to be successful. There’s something called supplementary budget in marriage.
Solomon buys her first class ticket, invites her to Israel: “Come with me from Lebanon, my bride. Leave Lebanon behind, and come… You’ve captured my heart, dear friend. You looked at me, and I fell in love. One look my way and I was hopelessly in love! How beautiful your love, dear, dear friend – far more pleasing than a fine, rare wine, your fragrance more exotic than select spices. The kisses of your lips are honey, my love, every syllable you speak a delicacy to savour. Your clothes smell like the wild outdoors, the ozone scent of high mountains. Dear lover and friend, you’re a secret garden, a private and pure fountain. Body and soul, you are paradise, a whole orchard of succulent fruits. Ripe apricots and peaches, oranges and pears; nut trees and cinnamon, and all scented woods; mint and lavender, and all herbs aromatic; a garden fountain, sparkling and splashing, fed by spring waters from the Lebanon mountains.” (Song of Solomon 4:8-15 MSG).
Four things to note:
a. Solomon called his wife his friend. Your spouse must be your friend, your best friend. Friendship occupies a large swath of space in marriage. You won’t always have sex, you won’t always have opportunity for romance… What’s left is friendship.
b. The lady is culturally exposed. Solomon wrote about her cultural taste. From Solomon we learn cultural exposure increases worth and value. Develop yourself culturally. Read, travel, go to museums, go to the theatre, read fashion magazines, window shop… Read wide, not just motivational books. It’s how you develop cultural taste.
c. We’re also introduced to her perfumes and body scents. Every woman has a pheromonal signature. It’s unique. When you add the right body spray to the mix you have a heady stuff with a capacity to mess up a man’s head. Men have a range of what they respond to individually. Mrs. Solomon apparently likes fruity flavours, as well as mint and flowery notes. You’ve got to understand perfumery – know what to wear for different occasions. There are perfumes appropriate for office and there are perfumes appropriate for socials. You ought to know the difference, know what suits you.
d. Solomon tells us how she got him. It’s called “The Look” – “You’ve captured my heart, dear friend. You looked at me, and I fell in love.” Song of Songs 4:9. In fact the NLT translation uses the word, “hostage” instead of “capture.” Do you know what the look is? It’s when a lady looks at a man, makes it plain she wants him and wants him to know she’s looking at him. That’s the look. Not many men can survive it. Song of Songs 4:9.
Do these things apply to boyfriend/girlfriend relationship? Can they be adapted? First you have to note the Bible has no protocol for boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. The Bible has a protocol for marriage not boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Even the concept of engagement in modern society is radically different from what obtained in Bible times. The betrothal of Joseph to Mary is not the same as engagement in modern society. In Jewish society betrothal is more or less marriage. The Bible didn’t say Joseph and Mary broke up. It says he wanted to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1:19 AMP. All we can do therefore is extrapolate principles from extant writing and follow the omnibus Bible recommendation that wisdom is profitable.
So here’s some wisdom:
The starting point of successful marriage is the right choice of partner. A right choice of partner will factor in those three clusters – friendship and romance, dutifulness and responsibility, sensuality and sexuality. You must ask yourself pertinent questions on each cluster:
a. Sensuality and sexuality cluster: Do I like how she looks, do I like how he looks? Am I attracted to him (or her) physically? Can I imagine sleeping with him (or her)?
This vitiates the theology God can tell you to marry anybody, even people you’re not attracted to. Why would God do that! Is he a sadist? If you want to know the danger in that philosophy read the story of Leah and Jacob.
b. Friendship and romance cluster: Can we be friends… Go out together, gist, feel comfortable with each other?… Can I go to socials with him or her?
c. Dutifulness and responsibility cluster: Can he take care of me and the children? Will she take care of me? Does he have a job? Is he responsible? Is he using me? How well does he handle money? Can I trust him? Does he care about me?
These are pertinent questions. If you don’t ask them you will meet the answers in marriage.
Friendship and romance is personality based. Personality matters. Sensuality and sexuality is culture based. Cultural alignment matters. Dutifulness and responsibility is character based. Character matters.
Don’t use wrong parameters for marital choices, and don’t abdicate responsibility for marital choice to a spiritual authority. She’s a wonderful church worker… He’s a good usher… She’s in children’s church… She can sing! These are not marriage qualifications, they’re church volunteer qualifications. You can’t abdicate responsibility for marital choice to your pastor. How can your pastor know you more than you know you? How can he know the secret longings of your heart, your fantasies?
That’s not saying don’t ask for advice from your pastor but don’t put the responsibility of choice on him. Take responsibility.
There’s not one instance of marriage divination in the New Testament. None in the Old Testament either.
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org.
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