Today we will explore the question: Is your marriage a “Legal Contract” or is it a “Spiritual Covenant?” These two options set the foundation for every marriage, with no exceptions. God created marriage to be fun, healthy, exciting and enduring, but no marriage can endure unless it is built on a firm foundation. Ask yourself, “Which foundation is my marriage built on?” If you are a Christian, chances are one hundred percent that you answered, “Spiritual Covenant,” and hopefully it is, but the real truth is that most marriages are a strong mixture of the two. There will be a few simple but straight forward questions that will confirm your answer. God’s Word is always good medicine. It is the cure -all for any and every problem of life, and that includes the challenges that may come against your marriage. Before we address the first question of Contract or Covenant, let’s take a brief look at what happened before you said, “I do.”
We all come into marriage with a certain amount of baggage. Some have light baggage and others have heavier baggage. Some baggage is good, and some is not so good . Our baggage usually comes from preconceived ideas and nuances that we have stored in our hearts and minds based on our family upbringing. Without exception, we all bring baggage into our marriages. Again, some baggage is really super great stuff, but all too often, we have baggage that is not only harmful, but left unchecked, can prove to be lethal. Have you ever considered that when you go to an airport your baggage is weighed for a reason? The reason is that too much weight can keep an aircraft from getting off the ground, and even if it does get into the air, being overloaded can cause an aircraft to behave very badly, often resulting in a crash and burn. In the same way, too much bad baggage can cause a marriage to crash and burn, which is exactly what happens to about fifty percent of all marriages. Most bad baggage can be placed into a column called, “Unreal Expectations.” In other words, we are convinced that exactly as Hollywood has presented, the person we marry will take care of all of our problems and make us complete. When they fail to do so, and they will, the tendency is to kick start the Legal Contract that is filled with conditions and expectations. Legalism is a recipe for disaster. God never intended for your mate to make you complete. Only He can make you complete, but God Himself can not make you complete unless and until you come to the end of self. News Flash! You cannot change your mate, or your children, or anyone else. Your can’t even change yourself, but you can allow God to make you the best husband or wife possible by training your spiritual ears to hear and obey the Holy Spirit. That will not happen by osmosis, it happens by spending time in the Word. Today is a good day to begin doing exactly that. Determine that today is the day that the old luggage is going to the garbage dump. Speak with authority that today is a new beginning! Declare that joy, fun, and excitement are returning to your marriage
Listen closely! Abundant grace and unconditional love are the antidotes that heal what legalism cannot. Now, let’s take a closer look at your marriage foundation.
A- A Legal Contract is a written or oral agreement that binds two or more parties for a certain length of time. It contains clauses that gives each party certain rights while limiting their responsibilities. In the event either party fails to meet all or part of their agreed upon responsibilities, the contract may be rendered null and void. If one party falters, Legal Contracts always have a back door of escape.
B – A Covenant, or more specifically a Marriage Covenant, is established when a male and female make an oath to God to give themselves in marriage to one another. Both the man and the woman surrender all of their individual rights and together as one assume any and all responsibilities. There is no time limitation. Only the death of the husband or wife can end a Marriage Covenant. (Questions about divorce? It is not the unpardonable sin. You are covered and forgiven by grace.)
As you can see, a Legal Contract and the Marriage Covenant are exactly the opposite of each other. Now, let’s ask a few questions.
#1 Do you consider your marriage to be a Legal Contract, a Spiritual Covenant, or a mixture of both? ______ ________ _______________.
#2 What did you base your answer on? ___________________________________________
NOTE: Keep in mind that every time strife enters into your marriage, it is because angry spoken words were voiced due to failed expectations. Not speaking to your spouse for periods of time because they made you mad or disappointed is a page taken from Legalism. Withholding your body from your spouse in an effort to punish them is a form of Legalism. To be unwilling to say “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” is Legalism, a page taken from the Old Covenant Law of an eye for an eye mentality. It is no wonder that the apostle Paul called the Law of Moses “the ministry of death written in stone” (2 Cor. 3:7-10). Was the Law not perfect? The Law was and still is perfect, but no husband or wife is perfect, and there-in lies the problem. If Law and Legalism could have saved us, there would have been no need for the Cross, but God mandated the Cross. That is why we all need Grace (Jesus), we all need forgiveness, and we all need to be ready to say, “I’m sorry,” and “I love you.”
#3 Can you recall a time or perhaps more than one time that your spouse failed to live up to your expectations (LAW) and your reactions reduced your marriage to a contract? Yes_____No____
#4 What was the outcome? _______________ How did you resolve the issue? _____________________________________________ Are there issues that are still not resolved? Yes___ No ____
#5 Based on the Word of God, is your home free of Legalism? Yes ____ No ___
#6 Last question: Do you love your mate more than yourself? Yes ___ No ___. Remember that love covers a multitude of sin, but nothing but the blood of Jesus can remove them.
Finally, it is safe to say that none of us have arrived, but we have surely embarked on the journey. Not every issue could be addressed in this post, so Penny and I encourage any questions or thoughts that you may be dealing with. As we move forward in our study of “How to Build a Better Marriage,” let’s allow the Lord to challenge us to build our marriage on the firm foundation of a Spiritual Covenant. Next Friday, we will examine the question: “Who Is In Charge?”
In Christ, Don & Penny