Today I will take a last look (for the present time) at love as it applies to marriage and then next week we will begin to look at some current issues in the news.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, there is one and only one distinctive that defines a marriage. Every service and provision except one that a husband and wife give to each other can be done by another. This is evident in how The 5 Love Languages and Love and Respect can easily be applied to other relationships. Even in His Needs, Her Needs, many of the emotional needs can be met by someone other than one’s spouse. In fact, that is what Dr. Harley warns against, simply because if someone other than one’s spouse meets some of those needs, this could result in the development of an affair. Thus his text is subtitled, Building an Affair-Proof Marriage.
Yet, many spouses may be handicapped or have some disability that prevents them from supplying one or more of those basic emotional needs, and there are people who make their living supplementing what a spouse cannot; e.g., companions who take people to shop or provide recreational outlets, financial advisors who regulate purchases and manage a spouse’s money, housekeepers who supply domestic support, etc.. But there is one service that others cannot supply without significant consequences.
James notes that “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” That is to say that all sin IS sin, and that the most important issue is WHO is sinned against. In his thinking, there is no difference between the various sins listed in the law as all of them are offenses against God’s holiness. However, the apostle Paul makes a distinction of one sin that is different from any others, He says in 1 Corinthians 6:18 that “Every sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” Furthermore, Jesus even indicated there are differences in ‘levels of sin’ when He told Pilate, “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11)
So it is that the distinct aspect of sexual copulation is reserved for those in a committed relationship, a covenant of marriage. This is more than a contract. In a contract, Party 1 says, I will perform function A if Party 2 performs function B; Party 2 agrees to perform function B as long as Party 1 performs function A. Contracts are mutually accepted constraints and responsibilities that remain dependent on the performers. If Party 1 fails to provide function A, Party 2 is released from being required to provide function B, and vice versa.
But the Bible sets up marriage differently: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Notice, the first responsibility is on the husband; nothing is said in Genesis about a wife’s role in the marriage, other than the sexual union of becoming one flesh.
This is consistent with the rest of Scripture that puts the onus on a husband to love his wife as he loves his own body; to be faithful to the point that even the Lord’s disciples said, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10) There is a mutuality to this relationship as Paul explains in his letter to the Corinthians, but it starts with a man’s responsibility to provide conjugal relations and affection for his wife, and then moves on to instruct that neither the husband nor the wife has final say about their own bodies, but rather the other party is in charge.
So where does that leave us in the covenant? The current emphasis on “covenanting” in marriage is that even if one party does nothing to fulfill his or her part, the other party is still fully responsible for doing whatever they agreed to in the marriage ceremony: to love, honor, cherish, keep oneself only for one’s spouse, etc. One friend once explained, “Any marriage that is based on a 50-50 agreement is dangerously close to dissolution. Only a marriage based on 100-100 is safe.”
Drs. Harley and Eggerichs both point out in their books and websites that if someone attempts to do the exercise of providing for a spouse’s needs based on the idea, “I’ll try this for a couple of weeks and see if I get feedback that is acceptable,” he or she is likely to be sadly disappointed. The issue is not to get your way in the marriage, as if The 5 Love Languages, the Energizing Cycle or supplying emotional needs for a spouse were means to manipulate a spouse into doing what you want them to do!
The bottom line for the Christ-follower, whether man or woman, is to please our Master, Jesus. Suppose a husband said to his wife, “Let’s not talk any more. We have enough memories of all our conversations and I have no desire to converse. We can always text, email or even write letters, but let’s stop talking.” Or imagine a wife who says, “Let’s not have sex anymore. We have enough memories from our bedroom and I have no desire to do it anymore. We can always cuddle and hug, but let’s stop lovemaking.”
The responsibility to provide your spouse’s needs are not dependent on their willingness to provide for yours! Our responsibility is to the author of life, our Creator, and He will judge or reward us according to what we have done while in these bodies. NOTE: this is not about salvation, which is accomplished by the blood of Jesus and His resurrection, but He will reward us based on the work we have done as His followers. (See 1 Corinthians 3:10-14.)
So whatever your relation to your spouse is like, it is up to you to fulfill your responsibility to speak your spouse’s Love Language, to show Love and Respect unconditionally, to provide for their basic emotional needs, and to enjoy The Gift of Sex that is exclusively reserved for those in a covenant of marriage. It is that which expresses most clearly our relationship to Christ as part of His church. It is the distinctive that defines a marriage and no one else is allowed by the Creator to supply.