Yes, let's talk about marriage.
Just by reading the title of this article, many would have already switched off. Why? I don’t have the answer for that. But I do believe that it is the same reason I have had such opposition over the past decade whenever I have spoken about it in person or in written form.
For one reason or another, no one wants to engage in any meaningful conversation about marriage. Marriage pieces I’ve written in the past were written at a time when I was also seeking answers. There were many issues surrounding marriages, and most of it frightened me. It was during a time when I was angry with the lack of biblical teaching that was available in the local assemblies accompanied with the many excuses I was getting from ‘church’ leaders. To combine those excuses from various leaders (to form a sentence) it would read something like this:
“If we teach about marriage from the pulpit or hold a marriage event, it will upset the single folks, those who are divorced and widowed.” Valid point! But Jesus never turned anyone away so it didn’t sit quite well with me then and it still doesn’t today. I went away sad on each occasion, always wishing I could have explored the topic a little further.
I understood the need to not exclude anyone and I would like to thank those of you who have thought about it long enough to acknowledge that fact. My mother falls into two of those categories. Some of my friends fall in all three categories. It certainly would not be a loving thing to keep asking my leaders to do something I felt was needed for the edification of one group within the church/community, at the risk of alienating/ excluding another group. Therefore, my husband and I began looking outside the ‘church’ for the help we needed.
Now looking back, I realise how wrong those leaders were. In trying not to exclude certain groups (because ‘they may be offended’), they’ve inadvertently excluded us and all other couples (married, engaged or those who are non-believers coming into the fellowship because they want to be taught how to move forward in a way that pleases God). Unless you were a member of the extended family of leaders in the church or had a close friendship with the leaders, where such intimate details would be known, you would be left to deal with your issues on your own. That often leads to the death of a marriage or find couples living in unhealthy marriages.
In effect, those leaders were saying to me and my husband that the issues we faced in our marriage was not of importance to the ‘church’ and that translates to a fatherless child (already dealing with the issue of rejection) that I didn’t matter, my marriage didn’t matter and they did not care about the child who would eventually suffer the consequences should his mother and father separate. From the conversations, debates and confrontations, it would appear as if they were saying, ‘It’s okay to be separated because when you become a single mother, you would have the support of the other single mothers, the women’s ministry and small groups you're attached to.’ In the same breath they were saying to my husband that he would have the support of the other single men and the men’s fellowship or small groups he's part of. I was hearing, ‘We can’t afford to offend the unmarried singles, those who are divorced or those whose partners have died but it’s okay to ignore the needs of the married couples.’ And just like that, I became an outcast.
A fair bit of my writing is about the pain of growing up a fatherless child and I wonder what difference it would have made to my father or my mother if marriage principles were taught from the pulpit. If marriage was taught from the pulpit, instead of separation through divorce, I wonder whether my mother and my step-father’s marriage would be thriving today. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to experience life without the influence of a father and maybe, growing up, I would have seen marriage displayed before me, through my parents, if marriage principles were taught from the pulpit. That being the case, I would not have had the need to be running from one church leader to the next, seeking answers.
There were 106,959 divorces of opposite-sex couples in 2016, an increase of 5.8% compared with 2015 (ONS.Gov.uk).
If our ministers were encouraged to preach and teach the truth about marriage, I believe we would have more spiritually grounded individuals who would find it a joy to serve within the ministry of marriage.
As their marriage moves into new dimension they would grow from strength to strength, understanding and embracing the changes that all marriages go through. They would be prepared to deal with the demands of a growing family (including the many issues that married couples encounter such as finance, childcare, pre or post pregnancy loss, barrenness, loss of partner, adult children or parents, empty nesters, becoming grandparents etc.). Surely, in doing it God’s way everyone would be covered, leaving no room for exclusion.
We have watched and listened to many sermons online that convicted us of areas in our personal lives or marriage that needed correcting. Not all were marriage sermons (a fair amount were) but they all contributed to us as individuals growing in the Word and as a result growing in our marriage. Some of the preachers who have reached those areas of our lives includes the Briscoes, Chuck Swindol, T.D. Jakes and Steven Furtick. The hours we've spent regularly being fed by online preachers could have been better spent actually tending to our marriage or volunteeing in our local church or community, had we been exposed to it from our local fellowships over the 18 years of our marriage.
Interestingly, in listening, reading or watching anything on Marriage, I’m always taken back to the first time I ever heard a minister of the Word speak on marriage. I was a thirteen year old teenager who had just started my walk with the Lord. It was the Rev. Clinton Chisholm who addressed the issue of Marriage in a most beautiful way in a Bible Study session and later I saw the beautiful display of a Biblical marriage on a visit to his home. It was from then the seed was planted and I knew that I wanted to experience that way of life. So, I want to encourage church leaders not to be afraid of addressing the topic of marriage in small groups and from the pulpit because it’s not just married couples who benefit from the teaching.
When we do it God’s way, He takes care of all our needs. So I write to encourage our leaders to re-think this whole concept of ‘inclusion vs exclusion’ strategy. When we work on satisfying one group at a time we inadvertently exclude other groups. It may work for a while and you may see results in that area of ministry but soon you’ll find that discontentment or disillusionment kicks in because we can’t satisfy all the needs of the people with the various events or projects we try to introduce. Only the Word of God can do the supernatural work that it was intended to do.
Preach the Word. The Word is the water that washes us clean (Eph 5:26). The Word, in conjunction with the Holy Spirit does the training, resulting in transformation (Rom 12:2). Don’t be afraid to preach the Word. Don’t wait for a crisis to preach on a topic—be consistent with the teaching and faithful to the believers in preaching the word in and out of season according to 2 Tim 4:2.
Weddings are constantly taking place without guidance, babies are born by the minute and dedications are regularly taking place. It is a cycle. Therefore, even if you are not marrying people regularly there are married couples who have moved into your community and need to know how they can maintain a healthy marriage.
There are individuals in your congregations whose partners you’ve not yet met or been made aware of—they need guidance also and you are mistaking them for singles—you are letting those couples down. There are single people in your congregation. Some are desperate to hear that sermon about marriage because they would like to get married one day while others are wondering if marriage is for them.
We are commanded to teach those who come to Christ how to obey the commands Jesus has taught us. It is a two-edged sword according to Hebrews 4:12, “ For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” That means that we will be able to separate the truth from the lies if you preach the Word. When its admonition is applied, it can change the direction of our lives. We are craving the biblical truth so we can apply it to our lives.
We want to see healthy marriages around us which in turn will produce healthy environments for our children to grow up in. When our children see healthy marriages displayed before them we are setting the foundation on which they will one day build. It’s a win-win situation.
Let’s talk about marriage and watch God transform our homes and our ministries.Your sister in Christ,Janice S Ramkissoon14th March 2018
Part 1: A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness of Marriage