When my oldest daughter was married last month and we were planning the service, we had to choose Scripture readings.
And so we googled “Bible readings for weddings”. And all the typical ones showed up: 1 Corinthians 13:1-8; 1 John 4:16-19 (about how God is love, even though the passage has nothing to do with marriage); Ecclesiastes 4:12 (a cord of three strands is not easily broken).
It seems that only certain passages are deemed worthy of a wedding. But in reading many of them I didn’t even think they fit a wedding all that well. So we chose different ones instead:
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
We thought those were beautiful for a wedding–and for a marriage! In fact, I’ve been praying that passage from Romans over my own marriage ever since, because I think it’s so wonderful.
But it occurs to me that we do something similar when it comes to marriage advice.
If a marriage problem pops up, we immediately pull out “the marriage passages” of Scripture, and often leave it at that.
Ephesians 5:22-33: wives submit to your husbands and respect them; husbands love your wives.
Proverbs 31: Be a virtuous woman!
1 Corinthians 7: Don’t divorce and be generous sexually with your spouse.
1 Peter 3:1-7: Wives, obey your husbands and “win them without words”.
And maybe we’ll throw in 1 Corinthians 13 (about what love is) or Genesis 2 and 3 (about the creation story and the fall, too).
It’s as if God wrote this massive book sharing His heart with His people, and yet we’re only supposed to search out those few verses when it comes to marriage.
Don’t get me wrong–these passages are wonderful and give lots of wisdom and direction for our relationships. Bu they are not the WHOLE picture. When we look at those passages in isolation, we often distort them and, I believe, interpret them wrong. Context matters, and you can only interpret Scripture by looking at the rest of Scripture.
God created marriage as the perfect analogy of how He feels about His people. It’s the most important human relationship. And so don’t we think that the REST of the Bible may also have important things to say about marriage–important things about this very messy relationship which can’t always be summarized in pithy sayings or stitched on a pillow?
My new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage launches August 18, and I’m so excited to take the next two weeks leading up to that launch to talk about this concept of Christian “pat answers”–advice that we give that often doesn’t satisfy because it misses the bigger picture.
Pat answers make two kinds of errors:
Either they make a big problem seem small (by minimizing the severity of the problem and suggesting a solution that won’t solve it at all), or they make a small problem much bigger by giving advice that sends a woman in a completely wrong direction.
An example of the making a big problem small: “just have sex more and then he won’t watch porn!”
An example of making a small problem big: “God is close to the broken-hearted, so if you’re sad, just pray more!”
The first won’t work because it misunderstands the problem.
The second won’t work because it misunderstands God and what God wants from us.
And we aren’t going to grow in our marriages until we start thinking differently–getting rid of these pat answers, many of which we’ve heard our whole lives in church and in Christian culture–and getting back to what God wants for us.
And that’s quite simple: He wants us all chasing after Jesus and looking more like Him everyday.
Jesus didn’t live by simple formula. He lived His life always seeking out to do God’s will, and as He did that, He found great joy and brought joy to those around Him. His aim was always the same–to bring people closer to God–but His actions varied with circumstances. And that’s how we should live, too.
I wrote an example of how Jesus varied His actions while keeping His aim in this post on how Submission Doesn’t Mean Putting Up with Abuse.
Some of you are walking through difficult marriages, and I’m so excited to be able to share with you how thinking about those problems differently and thinking about what God wants from you can change the whole dynamic of your relationship.
Some of you are walking through great marriages, but you still find yourself dissatisfied at times, and wondering why your husband doesn’t “get you” all the time. I’m excited to show you how sometimes the way that we think about marriage actually jeopardizes our happiness. And I’m excited to show you how some simple, practical things can turn the whole thing around!
Quite simply, our modern Christian culture has some awfully sloppy thinking.
And that sloppy thinking is impacting our ability to have great marriages. So it’s time to stop listening to pat answers and start listening to the WHOLE of God’s word.
And don’t miss any of the posts leading up to the launch–or your chance to win! Sign up to get my blog by email, or to get a weekly round-up of all the posts!
Now it’s your turn: What are some “pat answers” you’ve heard about marriage that can make a problem worse? Let me know in the comments–and I may use your answer for tomorrow’s Top 10 post!