The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made [them] at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Matthew 19:3–6.
Some years ago my daughter implored me to attend a bridal fashion show with her that was being given at Pacific Union College in Angwin, California. It was not my practice to go to fashion shows, but I went to this one with her. There were a number of young ladies present, as you would expect, and there were some beautiful wedding gowns displayed, as the ladies who still had their wedding gowns—and were still able to wear them—modeled them for us on the platform.
At the end of the program all of the young ladies who were planning matrimony in the near future were asked to stand. To my astonishment, about 100 young ladies promptly stood. As I looked at them, I was saddened by the thought that, according to the statistical evidence, only about half of those marriages would survive. And this led to the next thought: Why?
There has never before been a time in the history of the human race when there has been as much counsel on marriage as there is available right now. A small, personal library could probably be filled with books on the subject, but what is wrong with this counsel that is not working? I would suggest that the problem is the philosophy of humanism.
What is meant by humanism? Some humanistic thought would include: there is no God; there has never been a fall of man from a perfect condition to an imperfect condition; there is no standard of right or wrong—except what people think about right or wrong; “socially acceptable” means that other people around you think it should be this way; there is no such thing as sin; whatever most people are doing is called “normal.”
As it pertains to marriage, humanists would see marriage as nothing more or less than a relationship of convenience between two animals—two highly intelligent animals, but animals nonetheless. And they pose the question, Why would you condemn an animal for being an animal? Would you condemn a cat for chasing a mouse? Would you condemn a dog for chasing a rabbit? Would you condemn a man for what he does? That is the way they reason.
Much counsel is being given on the topic of marriage by people who believe such things. How can such beliefs be beneficial to marriage? If marriage is nothing more than a relationship of convenience between two animals, when it ceases to be convenient, one animal walks away. What else would be expected? Why would you blame an animal for being an animal? That is the way they reason. Well, we do not believe that; I am just pointing out why we have to go a different pathway.
Our concept is the Christian concept. Marriage is not a relationship of convenience between two animals. In the first place, humans are not animals. In the second place, marriage is a relationship between Creator God and two of His subjects.
God created marriage. As Jesus said, He made them male and female; He ordained and performed the first marriage, and His involvement does not stop there. He is involved in every marriage that occurs on this earth; if it is entered into properly, it is a covenant between a man, a woman, and the Creator God.
In this article, seven principles regarding marriage will be given.
Spouses are responsible to one another, but even more so are they responsible to the third party in the marriage contract, the Creator God. He is watching and taking notice of everything. He is holding the marriage partners strictly accountable, because nothing is more important or has more potential for benefiting or injuring any human being on this earth than a marriage relationship.
The agony of a divorce or a separation is something that individuals never overcome. It is a lifelong injury that will never be totally healed as long as they live upon this earth. The Lord is fully aware of the tremendous potential for injury—not only to the husband and the wife, but to the children, to all the extended family members, and to all society—when the home breaks down. We should be very careful about the principle of responsibility.
Second is the principle of identity—that which distinguishes and identifies one from another, that sets apart, is separate from others. A man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife. The sovereignty of the new home must be respected by all. A new unit is being established—a new unit of life, a new societal unit, a new unit in the community. This unit has a peculiar unchallengeable sovereignty that no one must invade—that means fathers and mothers.
The mother and father of both spouses should be welcome in the newly established home. But the mother and father are guests in this home, and as guests, they are not to enter into decision-making in any way, shape, or form. Guests do not come into your home and tell you how to raise your children. Guests do not come into your home and tell you how to arrange your furniture or how to manage your finances. Guests are guests, and they must never forget their status as such. Let the sovereignty of the home be carefully recognized by all.
The next principle is the principle of unity. “They twain shall be one.” A certain bride, I am told, was startled when she heard the minister talking like that in a wedding ceremony, and she interrupted to ask, “Which one?”
The best answer, of course, is neither. In the marriage, a new oneness is being established. It is not the husband one or the wife one; it is a new we that is a totally new one. This leads directly to the question of dominance and leadership. There is one verse in the Bible that practically every man in the whole world knows, and that is the verse that says the man is supposed to be the boss. Well, they need to know a little more than that.
Ephesians 5:22–25 says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands.” That is where most men stop reading. But read the rest of this passage: “… as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.” Now, gentlemen, read this carefully: “… and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” I suggest that in any home where the wife understands that, should the occasion require, her husband would without hesitation lay down his life for her, there will not be very many problems of leadership.
The oneness, the leadership that is called oneness, is a unique, special kind of leadership. It is different from all other leaderships in the world. We would not call the leadership of an employer to an employee oneness. Nor would we use the word oneness when referring to the relationship of a king to his subject or the leadership of a teacher to a student. But the leadership of Christ to the church is special. It is unique; it is not like anything else on earth or in heaven. This is a very special kind of leadership which has to be based on sacrificial love.
In the Garden of Eden, the dominance of man over woman was not an element in Adam and Eve’s relationship. As two unfallen beings, neither had to be boss; they could work things out together and get along fine. The dominance of male over female is strictly a result of sin, and we who are trying to get rid of sin should also get rid of that which results from sin. Our goal should be to have total equality.
Ellen White wrote: “Woman should fill the position which God originally designed for her, as her husband’s equal.” The Adventist Home, 231.
“Neither husband nor wife is to make a plea for rulership. …
“Do not try to compel each other to do as you wish. You cannot do this and retain each other’s love.” Ibid., 106, 107.
This is the plan of God. We who respect the words, the teachings, and the counsels of God should make it very clear that we are striving to reach that goal.
The fourth principle is privacy.
“There is a sacred circle around every family which should be preserved. No other one has any right in that sacred circle. The husband and wife should be all to each other.” Ibid., 177.
I once was acquainted with some young married ladies who made the unfortunate mistake of comparing the adequacy of their husbands as lovers, and pretty soon all of them knew about everything. It was demoralizing. As this is such a frank, plain- spoken generation, we hear people brazenly and boldly talking about things that were better said in private if at all. Such discussion is cheapening and vulgarizing. That is the way we as Christians should feel when we see the tawdry display of sex all about us.
The “sacred circle” does not mean that those who need counseling should not seek counseling. But it does mean that things that are personal and private between a husband and a wife should not be casually talked about with other acquaintances.
The fifth principle is love. The simple application of the golden rule would solve most of the problems that occur in relationships, but we have specific help also from the God of love. “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except [it be] with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” I Corinthians 7:3–5. Incontinency means lack of self-control. The Greek word dia could be translated to as well as for. Verse 5 perhaps makes more sense when read, “Satan tempt you not to your incontinency.”
What about the aberrations, these strange things we are told are just alternate lifestyles in our time? I Corinthians 6:9, 10 reads: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” But that should not discourage anyone. Look at the next verse: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
The humanists are wrong who tell us that the lifestyle some are living is normal, that nobody can do anything about it. The word of God tells us that some were like that, but they are not like that now. People can change.
Those who turn away from the word of God flounder. There are enormous debates going on in high places as to whether the courts should permit same-sex marriages. There are arguments about having women on male football teams, having male attendants in ladies’ restrooms, and what to do with those who claim to be transgender. The word of the Lord solves all problems.
“Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32.
This verse is important to the principle of harmony, the sixth principle.
I was once called into a house where a home had broken up. The husband and wife had already decided what to do with all the furniture and with the children, and then, as a last resort, they sent for me. It would have been nice if I could have been involved earlier, but the evening I arrived, I could feel the tension, and I realized that if I said one wrong word, the situation would blow up. So, I was afraid to say anything. I sat down at the head of a table, asked the husband and wife to sit on either side of the table, and for a full 30 minutes I did nothing at all except read from the New Testament about the forgiveness of Jesus.
Gradually, the two necks began to bend a little bit; the eyes began to go down. Finally I finished reading, and I asked, “Now, with that object lesson before you, which one of you can refuse to forgive the other?” They both shook their heads, not me, not me. That is one home that was saved.
The last principle is fidelity. “Love is a precious gift, which we receive from Jesus. Pure and holy affection is not a feeling, but a principle. Those who are actuated by true love are neither unreasonable nor blind.” Ibid., 50.
True love is not possible unless there is a true man and a true woman. If you want to have true love, you must find a true man or a true woman, a man or a woman who lives by principle. His or her love will be true, because he or she is true.
To illustrate, young man, beware of the girl who lies to her mother and father to go out with you, but says she would never lie to you. When the occasion requires, she will lie to you, because a liar is a liar. Young woman, beware of the boy who cheats in class to get a better grade but says he would never cheat on you. He will, when the occasion arises, because a cheat is a cheat.
Feeling is the flower and fruit; principle is the trunk and the roots of the tree. Feeling is the high-spirited horse; principle is the firm hand on the bridle reins. Feeling is the high-powered automobile; principle is the hand on the steering wheel. Feelings change. Feelings come, and feelings go. That is why we are told so often to not rely on feelings.
“Love is patient and kind. Love knows neither envy nor jealousy. Love is not forward and self-assertive, nor boastful and conceited. She does not behave unbecomingly, nor seek to aggrandize herself, nor blaze out in passionate anger, nor brood over wrongs. She finds no pleasure in injustice done to others, but joyfully sides with the truth. She knows how to be silent. She is full of trust, full of hope, full of patient endurance. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:4–8 (Weymouth’s New Testament).
May God bless you all in your homes that they may be the little bits of heaven on earth that God intends for them to be.
Often regarded as the patriarch of historic Adventism, Dr. Ralph Larson completed forty years of service to the Seventh-day Adventist church, as pastor, evangelist, departmental secretary, and college and seminary teacher. Upon retirement, he continued his service, diligently working with and giving counsel to those within the historic movement until his passing on August 19, 2007.