Covenant Marriages: Dream or Reality?

Written by Carl & Yolanda Bennett
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  • Covenant marriages are initiated for the benefit of one's spouse.
  • Covenant marriages require unconditional promises.
  • Covenant marriages are based on steadfast love.
  • Covenant marriages view commitments as permanent.
Covenant marriages require confronting and forgiving. Most couples, even Christians, have a contractual relationship. This is one of the reasons the divorce rate among Christians has ascended in the past decade. Must we therefore conclude that the biblical ideal of a covenant marriage is outdated, beyond the grasp of modern man, a dream that exists in man's memory but simply produces guilt feelings when one seeks to apply it in the modern world.

Applying the Principle of Servant hood. John 13: 12-17

We are going to give you the questions that helped make the principle of servant-hood practical in our marriage. When we were willing to ask these questions, our marriage began to change.

The questions are:

How can I help you? How can I make your life easier? How can I be a better husband/wife to you? When we were willing to ask those questions, we discovered our marriage started to change for the better. We were wiling to give the answer to each other, and we had some ideas of how we could be better to one another, and when we allowed each other to be taught how to serve, our marriage began to change. Not overnight-the pain had been there too long. But change did occur.

In a covenant marriage, husbands and wives are both winners. When we truly became a follower of Jesus, our marriage became a mutual aid society. We genuinely believe that we have accomplished much more in life because we have been there as chief cheerleader and encourager. We know for certain that we would never have accomplished what we have accomplished with our lives had we not been there to encourage and support one another in our efforts. This, I believe, is God's plan for marriage: two people giving their lives away to each other understanding that the ultimate goal in life is not simply to have a good marriage, but that if married, God intends us to be his encourager to each other so that together each of us will accomplish more for his kingdom than we would ever have accomplished alone.

A Personal Covenant with God. Luke 1:69,72-75

Everything begins by focusing on our covenant relationship with God. Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, was keenly aware of the covenant God made with Israel when he said, "He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David. He has dealt mercifully with our fathers and remembered His holy covenant-the oath that He swore to our father Abraham. He has granted us that, having been rescued from our enemies' clutches, we might serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness in His presence all our days"

The Old Testament covenant had included the sacrifice of animals and the sprinkling of blood as atonements for man's sins. Through the years, many had offered such sacrifices as evidence that they were in covenant relationship with God. When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper in, Mark 14:24 he said, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is shed for many". Thus, his sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice for sins. Now, all who are willing to enter into the covenant relationship with God may do so by accepting his sacrifice. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are saying, "Yes, I will accept God's covenant promise of forgiveness and eternal life." The Lord's Supper is a symbol of our trust in Christ's death for our salvation.

This is the first step in becoming a follower of Jesus.

When one looks at the characteristics of a covenant marriage, it does indeed seem to be "unearthly." It is unnatural in the sense that we are all self-centered, so to expect us to focus on the well being of someone else is totally abnormal. We, are fully willing to admit that apart from the work of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our life, We are in fact self-centered and will never overcome that problem. Yet in Christ we have a new nature, and that nature motivates us to look out for the interests of others. In fact, that is the clear challenge to husbands in Ephesians 5:25, when we are asked not only to love our wives but we are given the illustration of Christ who "gave Himself for [the church]." There is no question that this is God's expectation. Therefore, as Christians, we must not accept the cultural norm as our standard. Rather, we must recognize that in Christ we have an ability to transcend a strong pull of selfishness and self-centered living and to give ourselves to our husbands/wives.

Is steadfast love an impossibility in daily married life? Without the help of God, I believe the answer is yes. As Christians, however, we have the help of God. Paul reminds us in Rom. 5:5 "God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us". The steadfast love of God is available to every Christian. Here again, the Christian has an advantage. We can be God's channel for loving our spouse.

Occasionally we meet people who has focused on the negative aspects of their spouse for so long that they difficulty seeing the positive aspects. They asks, "How can I express positive regard for my spouse when I see no positive traits?" The answer is to follow the example of God himself: in Rom. 5:8 "But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!". God did not wait until we were lovely before he loved us. Though the Scriptures say that God cannot "countenance" sin that he hates sin even while we were sinners, God still loved us.

God's ability to love unlovely people is available to us. If we will open our hearts to God's love and in essence pray to Him, "Lord, you know the person with whom I live; you know that I have great difficulty in seeing anything positive about him/her; but I know that you love him/her. I want to be your channel for loving him/her. Use my hands, my tongue, and my body to express your love. "We can have God's help and become lovers of what we perceive to be unlovely.

Some of you will ask the question, "How can I continue to forgive my spouse when he/she does the same thing over and over again?" Peter raised this question: "Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus answered, in Matt. 18:21-22 "I tell you, not as many as seven but 70 times seven". Obviously, there is room to question one's sincerity if he commits the same failure that often, but Jesus indicates that we do not have the ability to judge another's sincerity. Jesus says that if they confess, we are to forgive. The lasting answer to such repeated offenses lies in trying to discover why the person continues to fail in the same area. Usually there are emotional reasons why a person continues to fail. Finding the answer may require counseling; it may require openness with Christian friends or a pastor; it may even require "tough love" sometimes the most powerful expression of love as a way of motivating the spouse to deal with the problem in a responsible manner. But certainly the root of the problem needs to be dealt with if there is to be a lasting answer,

The standards for a covenant marriage are indeed beyond human ability; however, as Christians, we have divine help available. In his power we can forgive as he forgives and love as he loves. Covenant marriage does not depend on human perfection - it is based on steadfast love worked out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit giving us the ability to give and forgive. An intimate relationship with God is the key to turning dreams into realities.