Marriage is a solemn union ordained by God for His glory and our joy. To help ensure that people enter marriage rightly, the church (most churches, at least) provide what is commonly known as P.M.C. (Pre-Marital Counseling) for those courting. When done well, these sessions can help couples come to terms with helpful truths that could help foster godly marriages. For those of us trying to get married, what things can we bear in mind? Indeed, there are foundational principles we ought to learn before marriage that could cushion us once the waves of marriage life start hitting us after the wedding.
Abiding in the Vine
Firstly, do not ignore the warnings by the Spirit of God not to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14). There is good reason why the Spirit of God raises this subject, so do not suppress the truth. Be that as it may, abiding in the vine is the most crucial habit we can culture in our relationships. Hence, before you ask someone into a romantic relationship, ensure that your vertical relationship with the Lord is characterized by constantly abiding in him (John 15:4-5).
In John 15:4-5, Jesus commands us to abide in him to bear fruit. The fruit that Christ talks about here is also known as Gospel fruit. It is this same fruit that Paul talks about in Galatians 5:23 that no law can stand against it. The fruit entails love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Spirit of God produces all fruit in us and only leads to the glory of one, God. The flip side is captured in previous verses (Galatians 5:19-21), where Paul says that the fruit of sin will be evident due to a lack of abiding. The fruit of sin is sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these, which are essentially works of the flesh.
What happens is that when we exhibit these traits, we already dent the heart on matters trust, reliability, and faithfulness once we go into marriage. The end goal of the works of the flesh is sin. When sin is grown, it leads to death (Romans 6:16). What fruits characterize your relationship today? Is it time to take stock and see if you are still in step with the Spirit? What we do not mend now will eventually break us later in our marriage.
Honoring the Lord’s Temple
Secondly, be the person who sees themselves (and your partner) as more than instruments for satisfying selfish carnal desires. Scripture calls us to care for our bodies with holiness since we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:15-19). We do not belong to ourselves any more than our partners don’t belong to us. There are limits we teach our minds and bodies when we, on account of the command of God in scripture, resist the urge to indulge in sin. Also, resisting sin allows us to be more convicted of the truths of God. Fornication and lustful tendencies, on the other hand, create a sense of insecurity, self-loath, and filth in the relationship. Allowing carnal indulgences in your relationship makes it more difficult for you to trust the ability of your partner to keep it pure even in marriage (with all the shifting realities of physical beauty and attraction).
Friend, the will of God is for your sanctification. Abstaining from sexual immorality, handling our bodies in honor like God’s children, and not taking advantage (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8) is God’s desire for us. God will avenge us when we refuse to honor our bodies amongst ourselves before and in marriage. When you discipline your heart to honor your partner’s body while dating, you will have set yourself on an upward trajectory for purity victories in marriage.
Keeping in Fellowship
Lastly, there is accountability and safety in the fellowship of believers. God calls us to deeply consider the need for fellowship and not walk away from it as some do (Hebrews 10:24-25). In our Christian walk, we must stir each other to love and good works, which is critical for a sober relationship approach before and after the wedding. First, handling relationships man-solo is dangerous because we need to allow ourselves to be sharpened by other saints. We do not know all things, and that is why we need fellowship. Secondly, the Devil is cunning, sly, and deceptive, and the safety of fellowship keeps us from falling for his deceptive ways. We also grow in our convictions and approaches to godly standards of relationships as we see others walk the path and fight for God’s glory to be seen. This habit is carried forward to marriage in Marriage Enrichment Groups (M.E.G.), which benefit many marriages today.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that no discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those trained by it (Hebrews 12:11-12). If we develop helpful disciplines for our marriages as early as now, we can avoid being broken in the future. All in all, we can trust God to keep our marriages, our imperfections notwithstanding.