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6th January 2017
Even the mention of the Marriage Course can make us nervous and defensive. We might be quick to assume that we don’t need help in our relationship or that we won’t like it. Often people are put off the idea of the Marriage Course because they don’t really know about it. So let’s tackle a few marriage course myths.
Myth 1: The Marriage Course is for struggling marriages.
Lots of people assume that the only reason you’d need to go on the Marriage Course is because you’re struggling in your marriage. But the Marriage Course is about strengthening relationships, and strengthening is not the same as solving.
Things only need solving when there’s a problem, but anything can be strengthened for the better. A building whose walls are crumbling has a problem that needs solving; a building that is strong and sturdy, but which regularly experiences the pressure of harsh weather conditions, doesn’t have a problem, but could always do with strengthening. Every marriage, however strong or strained, can be strengthened by the practical tools given in the Marriage Course.
Myth 2: I’ll have to tell other people about how my marriage is going.
The thought of sitting down in a circle and telling other people how your marriage is going may be your idea of a nightmare! You can picture the looks of shock and horror, or worse, disappointment, on people’s face as you admit what really goes on at home, how infrequently you get a date night, or the cause of your last argument.
But the marriage course isn’t like that. There’s no group discussion. There’s no confession time. You and your partner will have your own table, and you’ll get to work through the material with just the two of you.
Myth 3: It’s impossible for us to come because we haven’t got childcare and we can’t afford to pay for the course.
Finding babysitters can be hard, but if you want to come along to the course, we want to help you to make it happen. If you’d like to come but feel you can’t because you can’t find a babysitter, let us know and we’ll help you to arrange something. If you’ve got teenagers, you can drop them off at youth before coming to the course.
And if the cost of the course is too much for you - £50 to cover the food and materials – we want to help with that too. Just let us know and we’ll make sure you can come along.
Why not come along to the marriage course introduction evening on 13th January, 7.00-9.15pm at The Hastings Centre? They’ll be food and drink, with no cost and no commitment to sign up!
The next marriage course starts on Friday 3rd February and runs for 7 weeks (excluding February 17th, half term week). The course costs £50 per couple to cover food and materials, but let us know if that’s a problem. If you’d like to sign up contact the church office or go to the Connect page.
Posted by Ian & Claire Lockwood
1st May 2016
The letter to the Ephesians was written to those who follow Jesus. It's not a morality code for humanity. It's for those who follow Jesus. So when we come to passages about marriage, we read these as God's grace for His children.
Right at the start of history, God created men and women. He said that it wasn't good for Adam to be alone, so He took a rib from his side – not from his head, but from his side, so that they would stand side-by-side. God's plan for men and women was that they would be completely equal in worth, value, love, and importance before their Creator.
Marriage is also a covenant. It isn't a contract that can be easily broken. It's about two people that are fully and wholeheartedly binding themselves together.
Men and women were created equal, but different. We're going to be looking at submission and headship. We don't like these words because they've been horribly distorted and abused, but we're going to look at what they really mean.
God's perfect design for marriage is that wives submit to husbands, but it's so important that we have a really good understanding of what this means, what it looks like and what it doesn't, so that it doesn't get distorted or abused. We start by looking at the person and character of Jesus. We're all called to mutually submit to one another. Jesus lived a life of submission to God that wasn't weak, that wasn't passive, that wasn't inferior. It was beautiful and brave; it was sacrificial, motivated by faith, hope and love.
It says in Romans 12 that the Church gives itself fully to Christ in response to his love and mercy. Likewise, in response to our husband's love, we give ourselves completely – it's a willing, yielding to another. What does it look like? It means making a choice to give up our individual rights in order to bless and grow our marriage. It's motivated by faith and hope and love. It's a humble recognition that I am no longer independent.
Biblical submission is not slavish or abusive in any way. And it doesn't mean that wives are passive and weak. It doesn't mean San gets to pull rank! When we were deciding to go to Manchester, San didn't tell me it was happening and tell me to get on board. It is a dialogue from start to finish.
The way wives treat their husbands is "as to the Lord" – it brings glory and honour to God when I honour San. When San loves me in a Christ-like way, it's easy to follow him. But even if he's not loving me like that, it still brings glory to God when I work to bless my marriage. Esther in the Old Testament is a great example of honouring her ungodly husband.
San and I aren't in competition with one another: we're one flesh, a partnership, working together with God at the centre.
How do we work this out, practically?
The Bible talks a lot about love. 1 Corinthians 13 says love is patient and kind. I find it hard to be patient in the mornings! And difficult to be kind when I'm hurt. But it says in Colossians that we put on love – it's a choice I need to make in advance, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
My ability to be respectful towards San starts with me looking after my own character. As soon as I get locked into San's weaknesses, it all starts to go wrong. I am all for honest communication, but I want to be respectful and kind. I don't want to belittle my husband.
I want to champion my marriage in every way that I can – that's what it really means to 'help' your husband. I love the example in Proverbs 31, where who the woman is on the inside helps her husband.
There is brilliant fruit in a godly marriage. It glorifies God; it achieves the purposes of God through the co-working of the husband and wife; it is a blessing and a sanctuary to those around us; it witnesses to people who don’t know Jesus; it blesses and grows the next generation; and ultimately it will be a blessing to us individually.
The Bible says that the husband has been given authority and leadership in the home, but it says that means loving and sacrificing like Jesus. How does Jesus express His headship, His leadership? Through domineering control? No! Through harshness and brutality? No! Jesus came to serve. His life was defined by humility, kindness, compassion, mercy, love and sacrifice. This is what true leadership looks like. There is no greater love demonstrated to humanity. Why would we not willingly follow this head?
Just as submission looks like Jesus, so headship looks like Jesus. True biblical headship is expressed through love. It's not "I'm the boss"; it's "I'll lay down my life". The responsibility is on me, but I don't get to call all the shots! Jesus is Lord of the cosmos, but He doesn't lord it over anyone! He woos us towards Him, so we'll follow Him. Husbands are called to do the same.
The Son of glory gave up His life for me. That's why I willingly follow Him. Jesus' headship was servant leadership. True biblical headship is all about love – that's where the authority and authenticity comes from. My role is to lead and love like Jesus. It doesn't mean I dictate what happens, when, where and how. Not at all! It's got nothing to do with who calls the shots. We're a partnership working this out together. By taking responsibility, I believe that it's my role to ensure that everyone in my family is flourishing.
The Fall of humanity distorted everything, particularly relationships, and especially marriage. Husbands can become bullies or tyrants, or they can become passive and withdraw. When I re-read my marriage vows, I'm reminded that 14 years ago I promised to lead by loving Emma, honouring her, forsaking all others for as long as I live, to love and to cherish until death separates us. That's the call on my life – to love like Jesus.
Emma and I are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we are actively pursuing each other's hearts.
The Church is known as the bride of Christ, so no one gets left out. Regardless of life experience, we each get to stand before our Creator, knowing that we are fully united with Christ, bound in a covenant with Him that can never be broken. We can never be separated from His love for us.
Posted by Santino & Emma Hamberis
9th November 2014
Some of what the Bible says about marriage can offend us, because it doesn’t line up with what society says. We need to understand that what the Bible says is for our joy. It’s for our flourishing.
If I could go back and speak to unmarried, 22-year-old me, there are a number of things I would tell my younger self. Firstly, marriage is a covenant, not a contract. The difference between covenant and contract is that the first asks, ‘What must I give?’, but the latter asks, ‘What can I get?’
If you are married, whether you’re a Christian or not, your marriage is a reflection of the covenant between Jesus and His Church. Jesus laid down His life for the Church, and the Church submits to Him, knowing that when we are hidden in Him, we have all the blessings and benefits of that.
Marriage involves dying to self. It is a covenant that involves laying down our lives and submitting. Submission is a deeply unpopular word today. Sin has distorted this and created an on-going struggle between men and women, and some men have abused headship and others have abdicated their responsibility.
There’s a misconception in regards to equality, that submission means there can’t be equality. That doesn’t make sense, even in society, because though we all have equal value, we have different roles and responsibilities: society couldn’t function without leadership. Also, though, theologically, there is equality in the Trinity, but Jesus said that He came to do the will of the Father. He submitted Himself, though He was still equal with the Father.
We need to understand what men and women are and fight for that. My wife flourishes when I take my responsibility seriously. When I let her be her and she lets me be me, our marriage is stronger. So the second thing I would tell 22-year-old me is to allow her to be her.
The third thing is that I would tell myself to remind her of true beauty every day. The primary focus of 1 Peter 3:5-6 isn’t ‘who are you submitting to?’ – it’s ‘where do you place your hope?’ John Piper puts it this way: “The deepest root of Christian womanhood mentioned in this text is hope in God… A Christian woman does not put her hope in her husband, or in getting a husband. She does not put her hope in her looks. She puts her hope in the promises of God.”
We live in a society that is more concerned by our looks than by our character. What receives more attention from you: is it your outward appearance or is it your heart?
Lesson 4 would be that trusting me is a scary thing! To trust me with her heart, which is precious and needs to be cared for and nurtured, is a scary thing. Peter tells husbands to understand their wives. Your wife’s heart desires to be known by you; she wants to be known and understood by you. Don’t just assume; understand.
The Bible says that if a husband doesn’t honour his wife, his prayers will be hindered. It’s as if you mistreat your wife and then go to her Father and ask for a favour and are surprised when He is more interested in how you’re treating His daughter!
The fifth thing I would tell unmarried 22-year-old me is: Aled, if you never get married, Jesus is enough for you. If you are single, married, divorced, widowed – whatever your situation, Jesus is enough. Marriage is not the goal of the Christian life. Building a strong relationship with Jesus has always been the goal of the Christian life. There is no replacement for Him. He will always be enough for you.
Image: 1 Corinthians 13:4 by Ron Doke
Posted by Aled Cousins