God created paradise on earth and put man and woman there expecting them to behave like good angelic beings but sin made them lose out on both.
In most of the Christian marriages during the sermon the parents and the bride feel troubled about the two aspects of the Biblical teaching- “Therefore a man forsakes his father and mother and clings to his wife” (Genesis 2:24). And the bride with an independent mind resents the command “Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands” (Ephesians 5:22). Is marriage really about abandoning your independent identity and old relationships or something more than that?
Man, woman and God – Hebrew word for man is ‘ish’ having three letters, Aleph-Yod-Shin and for woman ‘isha’ with Aleph-Shin-Hey as the three letters. The two letters Yod and Hey are part of God’s name YHWH and God’s presence is there in an equal marriage relationship but once these two letters are removed the left over two are Aleph-Shin which means fire. Thus unless God is and remains in the middle of a marriage it will always become a strong destroyer of the two- their lives, relationships, finances, social and professional status. This is the Divine law of marriage- have God in the middle in an exalted state or be prepared to live in fire. After retirement from the army I was employed as Chief Administrator of a hospital and the owner of the hospital had faced tremendous odds in his life to reach that stage. The experiences of life had made him adept at handling every difficult situation in a way different from others. After a while I started thinking about his way of handling the same situation that I was faced with. As a result I learnt a lot about crisis management and handling inter-personal disputes. The implication of this for us is to attempt to meditate upon the way Lord Jesus would handle the situation facing us in our life and then take a decision as led by the Spirit.
Husband – wife relationship – This relationship has been defined by Joseph and Mary in the New Testament where Joseph firstly decides to quietly divorce Mary after coming to know of her pregnancy. Then, after learning the truth through a dream and probably also confirmed by Mary, takes her as his wife. Both were aware of the Divine status of their Son yet lived a simple life committed to each other and Mary “pondered over these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). Both had four more sons- James, Joseph, Simon and Jude/Judas and more than one daughter (Matthew 13:55-56).
At the time of creation the relationship of husband and wife was revealed by God to mean “Therefore a man forsakes his father and mother and clings to his wife” (Genesis 2:24). The opening word “Therefore” carries a connection with the previous verse/situation where woman was created by God after taking out a part of Adam. She is then called by him “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” and he realizes that she is the ideal and equal partner for him as provided by God. The Hebrew word “al-ken” translated as ‘therefore’ also implies “for this reason” or “hence” and leads from one revealed truth to another insight to obey or act upon the same in conjunction with each other. Adam is believed to have the union of man and woman in himself before the separation and marriage is coming together of the two to become “one flesh” again.
What is oneness of husband and wife? – A human being is a spirit with a soul residing in an earthly body and thus has three elements conjoined together as one. The relationship of husband and wife relates to the union of these three entities into one. The union of the two bodies is in fulfillment of the blessing of God to Adam and Eve “Be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28). This oneness of husband and wife is generally believed to be a physical or sexual union only but the fact is about union of body, soul and spirit. The two are called ‘soul mates’ implying the bringing in of unity in desires, feelings and emotions by giving priority to the feelings, desires and emotions of the partner. It is only in this manner that each one can then understand and anticipate the needs of the partner and be supportive in every situation. The relationship is of two equals where each joins this covenant relationship to benefit the other and thus receive benefits and blessings in love.
How does man leave his parents for wife? – This again is a most misunderstood concept about a marriage. Husband is declared as “head of woman” as Christ is head of the church and a wife is urged to subject herself to her own husband as church is subject to Christ (Ephesians 5:23-24). This relationship of Lord Jesus and the church is of love, forgiveness and support without condemnation and the same is expected of a husband and his wife toward each other. Hebrew word ‘azav’ has been used for man to leave his father and mother in Genesis 2: and it means to ‘leave, forsake or abandon’. After marriage a man assumes the role of head of another family and I this new role he is also the priest to lead his wife and children in worship and prayer to develop a personal relationship with God as a family and individually also. Lord Jesus declared “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
The issue of leaving father and mother has to be understood in this sense that the man having taken over a new role and responsibility must develop his own relationship with God, his wife and children and with the society in general. He, as head of his family, is now responsible for every aspect of growth of his family and his wife has an equal responsibility in this and the two are required to work together towards this. Man would thus be required to let go of the customs and traditions prevalent in his father’s house but develop a new set of ways in consultation with his wife. He has thus abandoned the ways of his parents to modify and develop his own procedures for his life according to the prevailing circumstances in the society.
This, however, does not mean that the man or woman must break all ties with their parents and their ways and customs but is an evolution of sorts like a pupa coming out of its cocoon to take wings and become a butterfly to chart its own course in the sky. Man and woman are directed to “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12) and Apostle Paul exhorts all believers to follow this command in Ephesians 6:2. In the same manner parents are also advised to handle their children in love and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
What is the union of husband and wife? – This is generally taken to mean physical union through sexual relations to produce children in conformity to Genesis 1:28. The Hebrew word used here is ‘devaq’ which is translated as join to be one. Hebrew words have pictorial symbols also and thus words are depicted with pictographs or pictures and the same for ‘devaq’ is ‘a door to a house behind’. Thus the two words used to define husband wife relationship, ‘azav’ for leaving parents and ‘devaq’ for joining to be one, have the same meaning by implication- cut off from one house and leading into a new one to be one there. Actually the Hebrew word for joining someone in love is ‘hashaq’ while the word used in Genesis 2:24 is ‘devaq’ which has another additional connotation- to be glued together as one in a relationship. This joining is for good and bad times both and the relationship of Ruth and Naomi is described as such in the Old Testament.
This union is not based on physical, social or financial position of either party but is a deliberate commitment to stick together. Man’s relationship with God is also expected to be on the same lines “For as a belt is bound (devaq) around the waist, so I bound (devaq) all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 13:11). Marriage was thus considered to be the joining of two families along with the two individuals and parents would fix the match without the bride and the groom ever meeting each other before marriage. The marriage of Joseph and Mary is this union and initially Joseph on learning about Mary’s pregnancy decides to give her a quiet divorce to avoid a scandal but on getting the clarification from God through a dream decides to bring her home as his wife (Matthew 1:19 & 24). They later have four more sons and more than one daughters (Matthew 13:55-56).
For this union to be godly the Scripture clarifies the status of a wife “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). Thus a wife is a favor from God and the oneness of the two is a blessing. This union involves sharing and taking responsibility for each other and a husband is responsible for any vows that the wife has made before the Lord (Numbers 30:8). Ish and isha becoming one is a relationship approved by God for His glory. Both make a commitment to each other and each surrenders to the other in love to uplift the other and in this even spiritual issues including fellowship with God is with mutual consent (1 Corinthians 7:5). Adam and Eve were together “naked but felt no shame” (Genesis 2:25) for they had nothing to hide from each other, and that is expected in marriage.
Being equal what is the wife’s submission to her husband? – Apostle Paul’s command to the church is different for different persons and members of the church are required to “Submit to one another in the fear of God”. The Greek word used here for submit is “hgupotasso” meaning- hupo- under and tasso to arrange in an orderly manner or to be under to lift up the other to a higher personal level. On the other hand “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:21-22) and in this case the word used is “idiois” translated as “one’s own or peculiar or particular to a specific person”. Thus this is to become committed to her own husband in body, soul and spirit and this is a covenant relationship of two equals in love. This “submission” is not of subjugation or surrender but Christ like submission to the Father God.
The relationship is further clarified when Apostle Paul defines the responsibility of the husband in this relationship. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water through the Word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). The common denominator in all relationships is the Lord Jesus, the Living Word, and husbands are advised to, firstly, love their own wives; secondly, in a way that Christ has uplifted the Church through self sacrifice. The relationship is of uplifting each other without focusing on shortcomings for in Lord Jesus there is no condemnation but a God, who desiring to bless His disciples’ stepped down to the level of a servant.
Lord Jesus was well aware of the emotional state of Simon Peter due to his weakness of denying the Lord to save himself. It is to exhort him that the Lord enquired of Peter “Do you love Me?” and the third time Peter feels ‘grieved’ that the question was asked the third time (John 21:15-17). The general perception is that Peter’s guilty conscience surfaced and he was remorseful but the words used in the conversation reveal something different. The first two times our Lord uses the word ‘agape’ – meaning a relationship of love by placing the other over self and everything else while Peter used the word ‘phileo/philo’ meaning love of a companionship, friendship and affection. The third time Lord Jesus also uses the same word ‘phileo’ and Peter realizes that since he has not been able to come up to the expected standard, the Lord has lowered the bar for him and feels grieved at his inability. Lord Jesus, however, reassured him that whatever level you can achieve on your own can never match God’s standard but that He accepts that and is ever willing to help us rise to a higher plane.
A husband wife relationship must be based on such love where either partner places self under the other to help him/her to rise up to a higher level. The word used is not ‘hupkoe’ which means obedience but ‘idiois’ to be with a particular one only. Before a marriage each partner has great expectations from the other with big dreams but the covenant of marriage demands accepting and uplifting the other while placing self under. It is a liaison of two equals where both permanently keep adjusting to elevate the other to a higher level through love, exhortation and motivation to help evolve in to a better partner for the benefit of both. A wife is defined as a “companion” (Malachi 2:14) moving on the same journey where the two are to walk together and not in different directions or zones.
Marital relationship of partners from different faiths – Marriage partners are ‘soul-mates’ and the two join together out of love for each other despite being different physically, socially and many times even culturally. In a marriage the deficiency of one is overcome by the other to encourage mutual progression. “The unbelieving husband is sanctified through his believing wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy” (1 Coerinthians 7:14). When the husband is from a different faith, the pressure is on the wife to join him in his religious worship and follow their customs. I was from the Sikh religion and my wife, the daughter of a senior Pastor, kept earnestly praying for me while joining me in every area of my religious life.
It is the duty of the believing partner to keep praying to the Lord since there is nothing impossible for Him and with love and affection perform all duties expected of a loving partner. Our conduct should be such that the unbelieving partner is “won over by the chaste conversation (conduct)” (1 Peter 3:1-2). A believer is branded a Christian for being Christ like in thought, word and deed to influence the other partner by personal conduct. A relationship lacking in love and consideration for each other is one where ‘ish’ and ‘isha’ do not have Jehovah God and only fire is left to destroy the two. And in such marriage even “the prayers will be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7) for where God is not present who will hear and answer the prayers.
A marriage is solemnized in the heart of the two when they decide to deny their individuality to become one in body, soul and spirit to love regardless of circumstances and that too again and again day after day. This is only possible when both reverently surrender their self to God and seek Divine blessings on their relationship to enable them thus to surrender to each other. Such marriage will not only prosper spiritually but socially and financially too, bringing great joy to both partners.