A family is truly sacred or set apart by God when it follows the design and purpose for family according to God's will. In the previous chapter I said that what sets families apart as sacred is that they see themselves as instruments of God's will in building His kingdom and not just families who want to be happy, stable, rich, etc.
I mentioned that the Christian family is a type or preview of what our heavenly existence will be like. This is why we follow God's design for the family, because it is supposed to point to something beyond ourselves.
This is one reason why the Bible forbids homosexuality. It does so not only for the obvious sexual immorality of this activity (it is forbidden, therefore immoral), but also because the gay marriage model does not reflect accurately the ultimate heavenly reality that marriage was designed to do. Gay marriage may be a legal union and entered upon by sincere people who care for each other, but it does not fulfill God's purpose for marriage on a spiritual level.
Finally, I talked about the basic elements necessary to create a marriage based on the model given to us by God in the book of Genesis. These elements were:
- Knowledge of self: You have to know yourself before you can know another.
- Knowledge of your partner: The root of many problems in marriage is that couples do not make the effort to know each other deeply.
- Commitment to unity: Marriages begin when both partners are committed to being one, and they begin to unravel when one or both partners begin to back away from that commitment.
I also laid out the proper sequence in building God's model for a successful marriage:
- Knowledge of self (maturity)
- Knowledge of other (love)
- Commitment to marriage (unity)
- Sexual intimacy (oneness)
When we neglect one or more of these or get them in the wrong sequence, relationships suffer.
The Goal of Biblical Marriage
I have laid down some basic principles concerning biblical marriage. I imagine that many who are reading this book are already married and can look back at their original motives or situations in order to compare their experience to this model. Whatever the results of this comparison, the key question is not how the marriage started but where should it be going. In other words, what is the purpose or goal of marriage here on earth? Some might say that the goal is to raise a family, or provide a secure future for both parents and children. A high-minded person might even say that the main goal is to serve God in some way. These answers are all true, but secondary to the primary goal of any marriage which is to love one another for life.
Without love, raising a family is just work. Without love, there is no motivation to provide for the future. Without love, staying married for life is commendable but joyless. Without love, serving God is a burden or duty at best, and most important, without love, our marriage does not preview heaven's experience.
The biggest misconception when it comes to marriage is that married couples cannot love each other for life. The prevailing notion is that there is some excitement at the beginning of conjugal life, but that quickly fades to a point where you either end up bored and hating each other, or drift apart and divorce. My answer to such skepticism is that if God created marriage to be a lifetime relationship, He then also provided the element to keep people together for life, and that element is love.
If, therefore, the goal of marriage is to love our partner for life we must then examine what must be done in order to continually cultivate and keep that love alive. Of all the elements that contribute to the creation and maintenance of love, the single most important one is the ability to communicate. I say this because almost everything experienced in marriage is done within the context of communication. If we want to have love for life, therefore, the thing to continually work at will be our ability to communicate with our spouse.
Knowledge Through Communication
Marriages are held together by love, and love is built through communication.
Better is open rebuke
Than love that is concealed.
- Proverb 27:5
This proverb says that arguing and disagreeing in a relationship is better for the health of that union than no communication at all; at least there is a sign of life. Uncommunicated love feels the same as no love. In our society many believe that saying, "I love you" is the only way, even the best way, of communicating love. In the digital world (TV, movies, the internet) we place a great emphasis on oral communication. We think that if it is not communicated with words or images (we can hear it, read it, watch it) then for some reason what we are trying to say has not really been effectively communicated.
We need to understand that the language of love can be communicated in many different ways, not just by words and images.
Various Languages of Love
- Words: Expressions of appreciation, loyalty, affection, love, admiration, attraction, etc. (communication that actually uses words of love).
- Gifts: Tokens of love and appreciation. Things you buy, things you make that say I love you or I appreciate you.
- Actions/Service: Actions to please and comfort the other, the home, the family, care of the other's possessions, etc.
- Time: Giving attention, quantity time, listening, observing the other's work, hobby, performance.
- Physical Affection: Touching, holding, sexual intimacy.
Gary Smalley, in his popular book, "The Language of Love" tells us that one of these five is our primary language for love. In other words, one particular language serves as the "hot button" that reassures us that we are truly loved. Usually, when love dies it is because we are no longer sure we love or are loved. We can receive many of these expressions of love but if our "hot button" is not pressed, we will not feel loved, no matter what the other person does or says. The main lesson Smalley teaches in his book is that if you do not talk to me in my language of love, then I will not feel loved.
Examples of the Love Languages in Action
Let us say that the wife's hot button for knowing she is loved is words. Love expressed in poems, love notes, saying sweet things, compliments on her looks, confessions of desire and the repeated words of love. The husband, on the other hand, grew up in a household where his dad was the strong and silent type. No fancy words. The husband has grown up like his dad in this way but has learned to say I love you through generous service: he fixes her car, he takes care of the house, he does a lot of repair work for her elderly parents. What tends to happen here is that she will not feel loved because he is not expressing it in the way she needs it expressed (she needs words, not a new carburetor on her car). She will question his love and he will point out all the things he does for her, but she will not be satisfied because he is not speaking in her language of love. This is how affairs begin, someone else discovers your language of love and begins speaking it, and you let them because it feels good.
An interesting feature about this language of love business is that people tend to receive their love messages in the same way they express their love messages. So let us go back to our couple and see how this works. Remember, she receives love through words, so this is usually the way she gives it; and he expresses love through action/service, so this is usually how he receives or recognizes love as well. In a situation like this, she tells him she loves him and gives him mushy birthday cards and wants to talk about their relationship, but she is not interested in hanging out in the garage with him or working on projects together. He needs to hear, "I love you" by her involvement with him in his interests and things. In the end, he feels smothered by her words and she feels rejected by his silence. Both are trying to love but each is missing the point, and the sad thing is that they do not even realize it.
We have examined the basis for the sacred family which is marriage, and the goal for marriage which is love for life.
Marriage was conceived by God to be a preview of our heavenly existence, and following God's design and sequence for marriage will lead us to this experience here on earth.
The goal we work towards in marriage is to love each other for life, and the way to cultivate this love is to continually improve the communication between the partners.