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Some marriages may be made in heaven, but many of the details have to be worked out here on earth. Unfortunately, many couples enter into an intimate relationship with little or no thought about how such a relationship is designed to work.

"I married only to get away from home, to get a house of my own and to be independent," admitted a young woman named Jane. "My parents tried to talk me out of it, but you always think you know better."

Jane thought she was breaking from her parents. In reality, her marriage was only a contest to prove she knew best. She failed to develop a close bond with her husband, however, and "after six months I knew it was a mistake even before my baby was born." Shortly afterward her marriage dissolved.

The names change, the circumstances vary, but the tragedy remains the same: Up to half of the marriages in America eventually end in divorce. Why? One Christian leader states: "All of my counseling in marriage and family problems can be categorized on the basis of these three situations: failure to truly leave the parents; failure to cleave to the one partner; or failure to develop a unified relationship."

Leave. Cleave. Unify. The prophet Moses, the . . . Some marriages may be made in heaven, but many of the details have to be worked out here on earth. Unfortunately, many couples enter into an intimate relationship with little or no thought about how such a relationship is designed to work.

"I married only to get away from home, to get a house of my own and to be independent," admitted a young woman named Jane. "My parents tried to talk me out of it, but you always think you know better."

Jane thought she was breaking from her parents. In reality, her marriage was only a contest to prove she knew best. She failed to develop a close bond with her husband, however, and "after six months I knew it was a mistake even before my baby was born." Shortly afterward her marriage dissolved.

The names change, the circumstances vary, but the tragedy remains the same: Up to half of the marriages in America eventually end in divorce. Why? One Christian leader states: "All of my counseling in marriage and family problems can be categorized on the basis of these three situations: failure to truly leave the parents; failure to cleave to the one partner; or failure to develop a unified relationship."

Leave. Cleave. Unify. The prophet Moses, the Lord Jesus Christ, and later the apostle Paul all used these same three concepts to describe how God designed marriage to work. Marriage involves leaving our parents and clinging to our spouse. It is a total, intimate, exclusive union between a man and his wife.

First, the Bible teaches that marriage is an intimate union. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two will become one flesh" (Mark 10:7- 8). When you marry, you leave your parents and bond with your spouse. A totally new, intimate union is formed; this union between one man and one woman is meant to last a lifetime.

Unity in marriage should exist on every level. It starts on the spiritual plane: a couple is united in their love for Christ and each other. It also brings a couple together intellectually, volitionally, emotionally, socially, and physically.

Second, the Bible teaches that Christian marriage is an exclusive union. It is unmixed, pure. Husband and wife are no longer two, but one. No one else can be part of them the way they are part of each other. The Bible says, "What God has joined together, let man not separate" (Mark 10:9).

When you get married, you take a tremendous step in God's eyes. You join your whole life body, soul, and spirit to that one person. This excludes all third parties. The Bible clearly states, "You shall not commit adultery" Exodus 20:14).

In God's eyes, marriage is absolutely exclusive. Once you are married, your affections belong to your spouse. This leaves no room for sexual looseness, no room for playing games or even flirting with someone else's spouse. Why? Because it destroys everything marriage was meant to be.

Third, the Bible also teaches that marriage is a symbolic union, a beautiful metaphor of Christ and the church. Just as a husband and wife are one flesh, so Jesus Christ is one spirit with His church. As the church is to respond to Christ, so a woman is to respond to her husband. As Christ loved the church, so I am to love my wife. This symbolism elevates marriage to its highest dimension.

Christian marriage is really a triangle: a man, a woman, and Christ. My wife, Pat, committed her life to Christ at the age of eight. I was 12 when I made the same decision. When we joined our lives, we did so in the presence of the Lord. He is the third party to our marriage. He is the one who keeps us together and draws us closer to each other as we seek to draw closer to Him. He will do the same for you.
Copyright Luis Palau
This article first appeared in Husbands and Wives, Victor Books, 1988. Published by permission of the author.
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