“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” – Philippians 2:14-15
Two articles were brought to my attention this summer. One was an article in The New York Times Magazine titled, “Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?”1 The other was an article in Motto, an online site where the editors of Time express their ideas. It was called “I Have an Open Marriage and My Relationship Is Better Than Ever.”2
Both articles were about marriages where the couples had determined they were never created to be monogamous. Therefore, they would allow their spouses to have a relationship with another person. They claimed to be open and honest with each other about it.
The articles discussed how this is a growing trend in the U.S. It explained how open marriages had saved marriages and saved families. While one writer was more positive about the idea, both agreed that it could definitely be a viable option for many married couples.
I read yet another article over the summer about the website, “Shout Your Abortion.”3 The website states it is “a decentralized network of individuals talking about abortion on our own terms and creating space for others to do the same. SYA is everywhere: on the sides of buildings, in art and outfits and zines and social media. Abortion is normal. Our stories are ours to tell. This is not a debate.”
These articles demonstrate how far away from God’s standard for marriage our society has become. God’s plan begins with what we find when He created marriage. He states in Genesis 2:24: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
As part of His divine plan, God also has always included that children and the family should result from a marriage committed to Him. We read in Genesis 1:27-28a: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’”
Throughout God’s Word–the Bible–there is no other plan. There is no place where sexual relationships outside the commitment of God’s design for marriage is allowed. In fact, this is called adultery, and it is clearly forbidden by God (see Exodus 20:14; Matthew 15:19-20; Hebrews 13:4).
There is also no option to “choose” not to have a child if a woman becomes pregnant. God says in Psalm 127:3: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” One of the purposes of marriage is found in Proverbs 22:6: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
The good news is that as followers of Christ we can shine the light of God’s truth brightly in such a dark world. Paul writes in Philippians 2:14-16: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain” (bold mine).
Our unions can show the world that God’s plan for marriage and families can work. It can be wonderful. It can have great results.
The claim has been made for years that Christians are just as likely to divorce as non-Christians. They say that the divorce rate is around 50 percent, and this is true whether a couple are Christians or not. Harvard educated researcher Shaunti Feldhahn decided to find out of these claims were true.
Feldhahn writes in her book, The Good News About Marriage, that the data actually reveals something different about the divorce rate.4 Her study revealed that the overall divorce rate is actually around 33 percent. She also found that the data about Christians divorcing was incorrect.
She found that studies which made the claim about the Christians divorce rate being the same as non-Christians had placed everyone who did not identify with another religion or as an atheist into the Christian category. So Feldhahn conducted her own study dividing Christians into two categories–nominal and committed.
Nominal Christians were those who simply called themselves Christians but did not actively engage with the faith. She found that people in this group were actually 20 percent more likely to get divorced than the rest of the population.
She identified committed Christians as those who were active in the practice of their faith and in church attendance. Feldhahn’s study found that the divorce rate among these couples was 27 percent lower than the general population. It was almost 50 percent lower than those who were non-church-goers.
Feldhahn’s study also revealed that 72 percent of active Christians were still happily married to their first spouse. She concluded from her findings that Christianity itself cannot insulate us from the stresses that pull at the fabric of our marriages. However, people who keep God at the center of their home and family stay married at far greater rates, and even thrive within those marriages.
The great news is that contrary to what’s been reported for years, the divorce rate is not 50 percent for Christians. It is closer to 30 percent. When we keep God at the center of our marriages and families, we stay married, and even thrive within those marriages.
One reason for this is that when our first commitment is to Jesus, we put fewer expectations on our spouse to meet our needs. Only God can do that. When we put less unrealistic expectations on our spouse and put our trust in Christ, this gives our marriage a stronger foundation upon which to stand, whatever may come.
As Feldhahn concluded: “Highly happy couples tend to put God at the center of their marriage and focus on Him, rather than on their marriage or spouse, for fulfillment and happiness.”5 That’s a good word to all of us. If we follow it, instead of “shouting our abortion”, our marriages will shout God’s truth to the world and glorify Him.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. What things has God taught you through it?
♦ Are you surprised by the actual facts regarding marriages in the United States? Why or why not? If it does surprise you, how does this impact your thoughts about marriage?
♦ Do you view your marriage as a light shining in an ever darkening culture? How can you make sure that your marriage brings God’s truth to those around you? Discuss one thing you can do this week to be God’s light.
♦ Would you say that your marriage is focused on God first and on each other second? If not, what can you do to get things in the right order? If so, what can you do to keep it that way?
♦ Close your time by praying together. Ask God to keep your marriage centered on Him. Ask Him to help you see how He wants you to be His light around you.
Until next week, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,