Husband & Wife for Life: God's Laws (Part 2)
God's laws for marriage consist of all of the passages that explicitly mention the marriage relationship and also every passage that deals with how the Christian is to treat his fellow man. We should not have an inferior set of rules for how we treat our spouse in comparison with how we treat others. Admittedly, it is typically easier to be more tolerant and patient with others than it is our mate, but it ought not to be that way! In the privacy of our homes and when we are alone with our husband or wife, our true nature shines through more clearly than it does when we are in public with all eyes upon us. We desire to be respected and liked by others, and thus, most of us behave in a more godly fashion in public than in private. Consequently, our behavior toward our mate is sometimes far below the Biblical ideal. We should strive, however, to treat our spouses better than others, not worse.

Does Philippians 2:3,4 apply to marriage? "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others." Although the word marriage is not anywhere to be found in these verses, these inspired words are most relevant to the marriage relationship. It is unfortunate that verses such as these do not immediately come to mind when we reflect upon how we should treat our mate. Generally, we think of those outside the home when we consider the scope of this verse's application. But, I maintain that these verses should cause each Christian husband or wife to ask: Have I behaved selfishly toward my mate this week? Am I looking out for the needs and interests of my spouse or just my own? Do I consider my spouse as better than myself?

Consider also Ephesians 4:31,32 - "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." These verses apply to marriage too! Are you kind to your wife, sir? Are you forgiving of your husband, ma'am? When these rules for relationships are brought into the home, so many marriages would improve drastically overnight. These are foundational building blocks--laws of marriage, if you will.

Many who will calmly receive unfair criticism from others will not accept it from their spouse without retaliating. Something is not right when we have more compassion, patience, forgiveness, and tenderness toward others than we do our very spouse--the one whom we belong to! Now, I'm not recommending we start treating others more harshly, but I am recommending that we apply the Christian principles of relationships faithfully both inside and outside of the home! In other words, don't think that the principles of Christianity stop at your front door.

The framework for successful marriage (or any good relationship) is connected to obeying these laws from God. Obeying the Lord's laws on relationships must come first and then joy will naturally follow. The joy of marriage is attached to respecting those laws (like the ones we have just read from Phil. 2 and Eph. 4)! If you don't keep the Lord's laws on relationships, the framework of your marriage will be weak and the marriage will fall apart in time like a poorly constructed home.

There are certainly other general passages that deal with relationships and how we should treat others (including our mate). Let us briefly mention three passages that deal explicitly with the marriage relationship. These contexts should be studied in detail by each couple.

I Corinthians 7:1-9 emphasizes the danger of husband and wife being separated for any length of time. When you choose to be apart from your spouse, Satan will do his best to tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Colossians 3:18,19 teaches - "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them." Submission and love are bedrock principles or laws of marriage. Ephesians 5:25 - "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." How much did Jesus love the church? He loved her enough to die for her. How does your love for your mate measure up to the love of the Christ? We will have more to say about all of these points in future lessons.