Quality of the marriage

Any relationship as a mere structure or a state of being connected by certain obligations is not worth much alone. Relationships should protect certain values and cherish them. The wedding ritual itself is exactly what it is named: only a mere wedding ritual, a procedure, a traditional structured formality. Even being admirable, it is just that and nothing else. The ceremony does not determines anything. It does not evaluate the depth of the relationship, it cannot reveal their motivations, it is unable to measure sincerity etc. Essentially, the wedding ceremony itself is the same action as it would be a birthday party or an anniversary of something. What makes guests happy at the birthday party? Why did they come? Obviously, the whole essence behind these formalities is their values. Actually these values behind the relationship measure the "weight" of the relationship. If a birthday party was celebrated only for food and drinks or making business connections or seeking some selfish goals, then this shows actually the kind of the relationship between the guests and the host. The same can be projected to a family, whose main goal would be the ceremony itself or the fact of getting married or showing up at the wedding. However, the very ceremony is not just the beginning but even not a start of the relationship! It is possible to say that marriage ceremony plays the role of a memorable event, which works similarly to a hook on the wall holding the coat. Such hook holds memories of certain events. During the whole life, there will be many of such "hooks" with various memories. But these hooks are only supporters for relationships. If there is no relationship, good memories about singular events cannot replace them. The existence of a great relationship does not depend on a gorgeous ceremony, which can be even omitted and never happen.

The power of a value one can identify with the power of a typical glue. Without "sticky" values, "empty" marriages will not last long, since they are "glued" (i.e. joined, συζεύγνυμι) just for some superficial purposes. This figuratively would mean "glued" with some weak glue. If values are vanishing, the relationship cannot hold anymore the whole structure of the marriage. But since marriage as a phenomenon is tightly integrated within the society, losing it can bring unpleasant and sometimes expensive consequences. Many marriages are forced to keep their exterior in a great condition, in order not to lose certain areas of influences, power, social status, maybe jobs etc.

In contrast to followers of legalism, Jesus taught about relationships that are beyond the screen of law. He was building principles of grace, mercy and faith, certainly not on law and rules. Legalism is very popular, since it allows the control and power over people to those, who are using it. Essentially, in Christian theology, traditional legalism (or nomism, from the Greek word "nomos" (νόμος), "the law") is a claim that one can become righteous simply by choosing to obey God's commandments, although not necessarily considering the form of these commandments. Through the history of Church, legalism has often shaped itself in various distinct forms. One of them is where certain people keep certain laws, rules and regulations and see other Christians who do not follow all that with contempt, regarding them as a problem in the Church. Legalism tends to view Scriptures as a set of regulations, extracting certain precepts into a literatim meaning rendering into strict rules and prohibitions. It deliberately restricts broad general rules of Bible to precise, rigid moral codes. However, the origins of those rules needs to be taken for granted, always considered already proven and never questioned. Essentially nomism is an exaggeration of behaviour discipline and legal ideas. This act brings the letter of the law above its spirit by exploiting superficiality, negligence of mercy and ignorance in grace. Legalists are aggressive against any views, that take grace of God as a basic principle of salvation, which is opposite to beliefs of legalism. One of the main goals of legalism is to establish some principles based on the rules of law, protruding their need, thereby indirectly inhibiting the importance of grace, mercy and relationship with God.

This classic passage is often used by followers of legalism as an argument to support a proposition of indissoluble marriages: "Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery" (Mt 5:31-32). From the perspective of legalism, these words supposed to be understood literally: if there was not any fact of adultery and only adultery, then the divorce is not allowed and vice versa, while any other reasons cannot be even considered. However, with this passage Jesus had no intentions to add some more rules to the Law of Moses and thus destroy it by replacing it with a new, more perfect version of it. Instead, He preached righteousness in its very principle through grace and mercy and was against self rectitude. Essentially, everything what Christ taught is about dominance and advantage of the spirit of the law over the letter of the law. Without seeing all that context, the mere passage can be easily misunderstood, as if Jesus there would literally "programming" Jews with a new version of the law. If He would meant to be understood only literally, then any woman, abandoned by a frivolous husband who is going to marry once again, commits adultery. Such unfortunate conclusion would be very unfair, would preach sexism, inequality and women humiliation in general. By that would mainly contradict directly to the whole idea of the Gospel, where in Christ there are no genders, no races, no nationalities. Such literal fundamentalistic interpretation would also dismiss everything what Paul was teaching. For example, among other cases, Paul also taught the following: "But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace." (1 Cor 7:15). In this verse Paul suddenly announces one more reason to divorce, introducing a completely new mechanism of doing that. So regardless why and when such precedent would takes place, it is important to notice its mere existence. For legalism it was already clear that there is no other way around to divorce anyone, unless one partner had committed adultery. And yet a completely other, new reason to divorce suddenly appears, and even directly impacts a Christian member of a family. To literally accept both positions is impossible, as Jesus directly repudiated everything what Paul was taught about by putting only one specific allowance to divorce somebody. But in that case, everything what Paul was teaching can be questioned in a whole and probably shunned as unreliable and faulty teaching. That would probably dismiss the good part of the New Testament rendering it inconsistent and discursive. However, arguing that Jesus was talking to Jews under the Law and Paul to gentiles who weren't under it, these two categories of people do not differ within the boundaries of God's grace in the context of salvation through the Christ anyway. The Word of God is supposed to be a Universal Truth, which can be considered as such only when it is valid in all times and places and in this case it is seen absolute and eternal. If this is the case, then one of two preachers, Jesus or Paul, were not teaching the Word of God. So if Jesus was God Himself, then in the view of legalism Paul should be considered as a false teacher. But he wasn't.

To solve this problem, Matthew wrote the following: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Mt 5:17). He was not talking about a screen of law that helps covering many hidden possessions looking decent only from the outside. Jesus was talking about true righteousness through the grace. Actually He was aggressively teaching against any legalistic views, though through the law one could justify himself clean. Jesus ridiculed the Law in whole, since it is incapable to answer all possible questions and address all possible cases. The law is also vulnerable to be used for self-centred intentions. Instead Jesus taught exceptionally about the spirit of the grace during the whole 5th chapter, about true relationships, about depth of the heart and purity of the intentions why people are doing certain things. This would explain why only God can truly judge someone, as all acts, affairs, matters and doings between God and a man are measured by spiritual law which is based on the relationship between that person and God. They are invisible to everyone else and therefore unknown. If every word of Christ is supposed to be taken literally, people should not defend their families, man should not protect his wife from the violence, but instead of confronting evil, turn the other cheek to the enemy, or cut off own arms, take out own eyes and probably even decapitate themselves for a wrong thoughts led by temptations. But Jesus did not teach anything through the literatim, He rather mocked the Jews challenging their quite developed concept of the Law, tearing off their masks by showing that only grace from God is capable to save a man, not man's endeavour alone. He was explaining how grace and mercy work in principle and how mimicry of the Law of Moses is far away from the true righteousness. Therefore both Paul and Christ, did not teach with omnidirectional all-embracing narrowed rigid claims at the level of rules and the letter of the law. Otherwise that would require numerical identity, which should be an absolute or total identity that can only hold between a thing and itself, ergo the meaning "being identical with B" would mean "everything of A is true of B". Respectively, if something true of A is false of B, then A is not identical with B. So in that case if Christ or Paul would speak within the scope of literatim, it would require to accept that what Jesus taught A is exactly the same what Paul taught B. But that is not what we observe in the Scriptures. Instead, both Paul and Jesus, were demonstrating how the spirit of the law works in the very principle over the letter of the law. And from such perspective it is possible to see that nor passage from Jesus, neither passage from Paul is something that is required to be followed literally. They did not require one should cover himself with the law in order to demonstrate a perfect condition on the outside surface, otherwise such demand would mean that Jesus was promoting a fake purity. Instead, Jesus together with Paul were talking about one should be himself the bond that would reveal a depth of the relationship. Such approach eliminates formal acting and legal evasions around the rules of the law. Sermon on the Mount wasn't for one more scroll of the paper in Torah (תּוֹרָה) and wasn't for developing yet another volume of Talmud (תַּלְמוּד), as both literally means "the instruction". It also wasn't for superficial blunt quick-fixes so the nomism of self-achievement or legalism of self-righteousness would push away the grace of God. No. Quite opposite. Sermon on the Mount was a principal narrative, a conscientious definition of the operation of Christianity. Exactly the same way relationship works in a marriage: internal through trust and grace, which is contrary to a public performance through prohibitions and rules of the law.

In order to understand the whole weight of the principle of relationship in contradistinction to a folding screen of the law, it is worth to look into another often abused passage: "Wives, obey your husbands as you obey the Lord. The husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church people. The church is his body and he saved it. Wives should obey their husbands in everything, just as the church people obey Christ" (Eph 5:22-24). A similar clause could be also found in the letter to Collossians 3:11 and 1st Peter 3:1. Paul and Peter, both are talking about the obedience of a woman. Such obedience is expected to be in literally everything. Any possible authority by definition is not an authority if it does not have a subject that is obeying to it. Therefore, if Paul's clause meant to be understood literally, it would mean that every woman has to listen to her man literally in everything. In such way that would mean full authority of the men over their wives, as obedience is supposed to be in everything. But how that can be called equality? Interpretation problem arose here due to fundamentalistic views and is clearly visible when one would look ontologically at the mechanics of the relationships between all objects involved in a whole. If Paul writes that we no longer belong to ourselves (1 Cor 6:19), then he also claims that we are obeying to who we belong to, that is, to God. So by saying that, Paul puts an end to the inequality between a man and a woman, asserting that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28). As the fundamentalism takes things literally, such clause puts legalists into a very interesting position, where they find the only exit from such logical problem by contradistinguish "life in Christ" versus "life in family" as a separated realms. Therefore a legalist would make a conclusion that if this is within the context of living with Christ, then obedience is required to Christ, however if there is a context of family, then there is obedience to a husband. But that leads to a quite ironic predicament, since fundamentalistic view also identifies relationship of Christ and Church as same as husband and wife, in order to defeat the concept of irreversibility of the marital covenant. However, such division between life in Christ and life in a family would contradict to the very idea of a Christian marriage, where life in a family transpires within the life in Christ. And if a Christian family is a derivative joint from the independent people, who believes in Christ on their own alone, such division is impossible in principle. But why such fundamentally erroneous, false interpretation became dominant within the teaching about Christian family? It appears, that the root of the problem is within an inaccurate, imprecise translation of the word "obedience". None of these passages are using word "obedience". It turns out that nor actually Church obeys to the Christ, neither a woman obeys to a husband in a sense of instantaneous undeniable acquiescence. The word "obedience" in a sense of an actual obedience, in Greek language is written as "ὑπακοή" (hupakoé, pronounced as "hoop-ak-o-ay'"). However, actually used word in Scriptures is different, and it is called "ὑποτάσσω" (hupotassó, pronounced as "hoop-ot-as'-so"). This word never meant to be an acquiescence or obedience. Latin translation of this word is "submiterre", from two words "sub-" as "under-" and "mittere" as verb "to arrange" or "to place oneself". Therefore the very literal meaning of this word is "to arrange under", and translation would be "to submit". Such disposition, as a central element of a legal precept, indicates rights and obligations of subjects. Therefore "hupotassó" (ὑποτάσσω) is "to concede someone's authority" in a sense of understanding own rights and obligations. However, Paul also says how to do that: "in the Lord", or "out of reverence of Christ" (Eph 5:21). Moreover, Paul does not commands to do that only to a woman. Instead, he teaches about two equal partners, to let them "ὑποτάσσω (submit to) one another" (Eph. 5:21). This gives another dynamics to the relationship within the couple. A woman is not forced to admit the authority of her husband in everything. It is possible to reflect someone in a different ways: culturally or traditionally or contemporary etc. Paul explicitly points out how exactly that has to be done: she is ought to admit only what is "in the Lord". Since such disposition is voluntary, so its main goal is to reflect the authority to which the partner is subordinated. Exactly the same disposition of subordination is towards the Christ: in order to reflect Him. Paul actually was telling that the woman should represent her husband in front of others the same way as Church represents Christ being its reflection. And a woman should reflect only what is "in the Lord". Because if the Church could reflect the essence of Christ without His help and only through the Law of Moses, then God would not need to put the Law of Moses to the end. But Christ started a new epoch, which is based on a merciful relationship with the God of grace. One peculiarity remains interesting: if a husband has nothing to show what would be "in the Lord", then what kind of relationships could ever happen in context of joining (συζεύγνυμι) a couple in the Lord? In order to be sure of an equality between a husband and a wife, Paul emphasises mutual representation of each other (Eph 5:21). Peter says exactly the same: "Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble'." (1 Pt. 5:5). During all times women were in an abusive inferior position as ancient culture always demanded full dependence and deference to a husband. However, Christian women are no longer adhere to social rules, since they have a higher law: the law of God, which releases them from the cultural limitations, offering them independence and freedom. Peter makes an example of Sarah, who addresses "My Lord" to her husband. However, historically, she did not use this idiom in order to express her servility and obsequiousity, conceding supremacy of her husband Abraham. Instead, such addressing expressed respect. It is important to remember that Abraham did exactly the same to her. This is why Paul was teaching about submission to each other, which decisively eradicates any concept of disgraceful hierarchy between husband and wife, instead putting their relationship on a commensurate, equal level.

Shaunti Feldhahn, a Harward University graduate, who became a social researcher and author of the bestseller "For Women Only", collected an interesting statistics while researching marriages, including her own in her new book "The Surprising Secrets of Happy Marriages". What she found is fascinating. For example, 53% very happy couples absolutely agree on the statement that "God is in the center of our marriage". However, 32% struggling couples do not agree with such statement. Shaunti found that very happy couples tend to put God as the center of their marriage and concentrate on Him, instead on the marriage itself or on the partner in order to feel happiness (p. 178, Highly Happy Marriages). Partners, who are joined to serve God have deeper relationships and are not living only according to the mere rules, being afraid to think outside the "box".

In fact a pretty high percentage of divorces among Christians serves as an evidence that not everything is as perfect as expected. Many people are rather seeking for reasons to quit the partnership faster and tend to shut it down, rather than finding out how to save and continue developing it. Such high percentage of divorces also suggests either frivolity or hardness and possible doctrinal discrepancies, inconsistencies and inaccuracies that are building a distorted understanding of the whole point of the marriage and therefore later on renders to a more serious confrontation and so unfortunate final results. Since the marriage among Christians is often understood as an inevitably unbreakable religious act that is impossible to end (or one better don't dare), after finding the reparation of the relationships impossible, spouses are forced to keep an external impression of "rock-solid, happy Christian family". Such screaming hypocrisy can be truly devastating for many. First of all, it is an extreme example of a double-faced life to children, who are living together and carefully learning all this. Also it is a general public lie, when once debunked, it destroys faith and courage to others, who were shocked by an actual truth behind the folding screen. And most important, it builds a false premise that belonging to a Christianity as a religion will likely help to have a happy marriage, while completely missing that having a relationship with God and by His given purposes actually does so. Pharisees behaved the same way, covering themselves with the law and prohibitions, worked for public and performed religious theater. Because of that Jesus called them whitewashed graves, as they were always very decent, honourable and correct from the outside, while very dead from the inside. So the same will be a family, which is ruled by law and prohibitions: an obdurate, ossified, unavailing whitewashed tomb.

That concludes to a question: Did the Creator plan family exactly that way? Because the answer is obvious.