The Value and Vulnerability of Marriage
The greater the value of something, the greater the need for its protection. The greater the vulnerability of something, the greater the need for its protection. For the Christian, then, no relationship calls for more protective measures than the marriage relationship.
When it comes to the different relationships in a Christian’s life, there is none more valuable than that of marriage. Listen to the words of Christ on the value of marriage:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.Mark 10:7-9
The relationship between the husband and wife is the only one designed by God designed to be consummated, and the only one mandated by God to be permanent. The call for both consummation and permanence speaks of a relational union that is unsurpassed in its value and dignity. And yet, for men and women alike, marriage is also unsurpassed in its level of vulnerability.
As Satan prowls around like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8), Scripture warns us that he has a particular appetite for Christian marriages. It is the neglect of one’s spouse that Satan immediately uses as an opportunity for temptation (1 Cor 7:5). For the Christian, the marriage relationship is as vulnerable to Satanic attack as it is valuable in the eyes of God.
As Christians, we cannot afford then to let down our guard. Peter exhorts that while Christians must not be weighed down by anxiety, we must be on a constant state of alertness (1 Pet 5:7-8). But not only must we apply protective measures to guard our marriage; we must apply protective measures prescribed by God himself. As the author of marriage (Gen 2:24; Mark 10:6-9), God is also the keeper of it. It is by his wisdom, and his wisdom alone, that a Christian will effectively guard his marriage in the way that God designed. And such wisdom must be applied by both the husband and the wife against the particular threat of sexual immorality—the sin that most threatens to destroy even the strongest of marriages.
Eight Wise Protective Measures for Your Marriage
The following are eight wise protective measures that will serve to protect the purity and integrity of your marriage, and thus will serve to further enable your marriage to function in the way it was meant to function as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with his church (Eph 5:31-32). And while such wisdom can be gleaned from the entire landscape of Scripture, I’m specifically focusing on the instructional wisdom given in the book of Proverbs.
Protective Measure #1: Cultivate a fear of the Lord in your heart (Prov 9:10; 5:21)
Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” A worshipful heart produces a walk of wisdom. When a man is in a right relationship with God, he will navigate through all of his relationships with wisdom, including the relationship he has with his wife (or the wife to her husband). The more a man, through the revelation of God in the Scriptures, grows in his understanding of the glory and greatness of God, the more He grows aware that the eyes of God are upon his every step. And that kind of circumspect walk produces a holy caution concerning his marriage life. A man who fears God is a man who understands the value of his marriage before God, and thus will do everything before God and through God to preserve it.
Protective Measure #2: Continually pray for your marriage (Prov 15:29)
Proverbs 15:29 says that while God is far from the wicked, “He hears the prayer of the righteous.” That a child of God must regularly ask his heavenly Father to protect his marriage is almost an understatement. It was Christ who said to pray to the Father to keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil (Matt 6:13). The truth is, no matter what safeguards a man puts in place to protect his marriage, it is God who works in believers to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil 2:12-13). Do what you can to develop a discipline that gets you to pray regularly for your marriage—whether it is praying for five minutes every night or dedicating one day a week to pray throughout that day for your marriage. But the bottom line is this: If a husband and wife are both genuinely seeking God and asking Him to protect your marriage while walking righteously in the process, he will hear those prayers.
Protective Measure #3: Keep no secret life (Prov 10:9; 11:3)
Proverbs 10:9 says, “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.” The Hebrew word for integrity means wholeness and completeness, with every part of life in harmony with one another. Consistency must pervade all aspects of one’s life. One of the implications of this principle is that a wise man can never have a secret life of sin. He may (and should) have a private prayer life (Matt 6:6), but he must never be engaged in endeavors that are secretive and contradictory in nature to the Christian walk that he claims to have. One of the biggest threats to a marriage relationship is a secret life—one that is totally disjointed from the marriage itself. Even if it is not characterized by sinful activity in and of itself, it can easily become a haven for such activity. While it doesn’t mean that a husband and wife must be next to each other twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, it does mean no aspect of life ought be kept from each other. Such is vital to the protection of the marriage.
Protective Measure #4: Have ongoing romance and sexual intimacy with your spouse (Prov 5:15-19)
Proverbs 5:18-19 gives such wisdom in steering clear of adultery, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated always with her love.” Romance and sexuality are not only permitted in marriage; they are prescribed and designed to be ongoing. I’ve pointed to this verse countless of times before both young single adults who are looking to get married and adults who are already married with children. The former always listen with excitement, while the latter always listen with guilt! One of the very practical ways that God has prescribed to protect one’s marriage from immorality is for a man to have fervent and ongoing romance and sexual intimacy with his wife. Married couples: date each other a lot! “Fantasize” and dream about each other a lot. Have sex with each other a lot. It sounds blunt and may cause you to blush, but God prescribes it in order to protect us.
Protective Measure #5: Be quick to confess your sins to your spouse (Prov 28:13)
Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” Marriage is both the union of a man and a woman as well as a union between two sinners. The most difficult conversations that married couples have are not about areas of disagreement, but rather incidents of transgression. When either a husband or wife falls into some kind of sin—particularly in the realm of immorality—the instinctive reaction is to conceal rather than to confess. But wisdom isn’t instinctive, it is acquired, and must be practiced in spite of what our natural instincts may plead for. God makes it clear that though a conversation about a transgression committed will be difficult and deeply painful—particularly to the spouse who was transgressed—it is always better to confess than to conceal. Concealing sin only allows the sin remain protected in a warm cavern where it can grow and multiply. Confessing sin allows it to be dealt with, and stops it from causing further destruction.
Protective Measure #6: Be quick to forgive the sins your spouse committed (Prov 10:12)
Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” As important it is to be quick to confess sin, it is equally important to forgive it. The question is not whether a husband will sin against his wife or a wife against her husband; the question is whether or not both will be quick to forgive. If it is love that knits souls together (Col 2:2), and if love by nature covers a multitude of sins, then the only way for husbands and wives to protect their marriage bond is for both to be quick to extend forgiveness to one another when sin is committed. How joyous is a marriage where both husband and wife have the assurance that, should they confess their sins and repent, that their spouse will free them from the debt of that sin! Even couples in which one spouse fell into the transgression of adultery still have hope to preserve their marriage if the transgressor is quick to repent and if the transgressed is quick to forgive.
Protective Measure #7: Create and commit to boundaries even when you aren’t tempted (Prov 5:8)
Proverbs 5:8 warns the young man concerning the adulteress, “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.” If adultery is the sin that most threatens the perseverance of the Christian marriage, then Christians must stay as far away from adultery as possible. And while it is unrealistic to ask a Christian man to refrain from interacting with any female other than his spouse and likewise for a Christian woman with any male, wisdom can be applied by creating and committing to boundaries, particularly with people of the opposite gender and who are within your age demographic.
Proverbs 5:8 doesn’t just tell the young man not to touch the adulteress; he says to keep his way far from her. And how does he do that? By keeping himself far even from her house. In other words, get out of her neighborhood! As a married man, I can honestly say that in eleven years of marriage I have never been tempted to pursue any other woman with the exception of my wife. But that is largely due to the fact that, in my years as a single man, I heard counsel after counsel from seminary professors and seasoned pastors about how to set proper boundaries when it comes to interacting with females. It’s not just about staying away from the volcano crater; it’s about steering clear of the entire city where that volcano sits.
Protective Measure #8: Refrain from all forms of fighting and contention (Prov 21:9, 19)
Proverbs 21:9 says “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” While conflict is inevitable, fighting is a choice. And while confrontation is necessary, contention is not. Hence, Proverbs also instructs the wise man to “abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.” I disagree with those who say that couples must learn to fight well. Couples shouldn’t fight. You can deal with difficult issues and work through conflicts without fighting, in the same way that I can express my vehement disapproval of something without cussing and I can discipline my children without calling them names.
One of the greatest threats to marriage is unnecessary prolonged separation, even when it happens on a daily basis (i.e. the husband who spends disproportionally lengthy hours at work). And I say unnecessary, because there are times when a man chooses to remain at work away from home longer than he needs. If he’s honest, it’s because he doesn’t want to go home, and if he’s honest as to why, it’s because he dreads going home to an angry wife. A wife will struggle with the same thing with a habitually angry and temperamental husband. If you want to protect your marriage, give your spouse every reason to want to be home with you. And you do that when you refrain from all forms of fighting and contention.
Remember that God designed marriage to bring glory to himself. Thus, he cares about your marriage, and he desires to protect your marriage. He has not left us bereft, but has equipped us with the tools of wisdom to do so. So let us hear his wisdom and diligently apply it. For he who finds wisdom will find life in its fullest form (Prov 8:35), and thus marriage in its sweetest state.