Marriage in the New World Society
“A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.”—Gen. 2:24.
1. Describe the beginning of marriage.
SOMEWHERE in the “Cradle of Civilization” and perhaps in what is modern-day Armenia there once existed a magnificent garden. There mankind and marriage had their start. If we could but turn back the pages of time and view that paradise home of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, what a marvelous sight we would behold! There they were together, man and wife, in a tranquil, pleasant garden, with its streams, its trees, its luxuriant foliage—those things required to make life possible and delightful. In the skies above, graceful birds winged their way. And on land, animals of many kinds were found—none harmful, none a threat to man. In earth’s waters, aquatic creatures moved about. But best of all, Adam and Eve were there together and they could bring forth their kind to populate the earth and spread their paradise home in joyful companionship. United, perfect man and woman could “be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it,” in keeping with the blessing of their heavenly Father, Jehovah.—Gen. 1:26-28.
2. How can married Christians surmount problems?
2 Today men and women are far removed from that perfect state, and paradise has long since vanished. (Rom. 5:12) For millions, though, these words have proved true: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) Yes, there have been problems, for these arise among imperfect creatures. Yet Christians, with the Word of God in hand and heart, are able to surmount these, for the psalmist David declared: “Good and upright is Jehovah. That is why he instructs sinners in the way. He will cause the meek ones to walk in his judicial decision, and he will teach the meek ones his way. All the paths of Jehovah are loving-kindness and trueness for those observing his covenant and his reminders.”—Ps. 25:8-10.
FILLING YOUR ROLE IN MARRIAGE
3. (a) How do many men deal with their wives? What about Christian husbands? (b) With what does the Christian wife comply?
3 Many problems would easily be overcome if the husband and wife both had a keen appreciation of their proper respective positions within the marital union. The reminders of Jehovah, recorded in his Word, make clear their status and responsibilities. To husbands, the apostle Paul wrote: “You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them.” (Col. 3:19) Many men lord it over their wives, subjecting them to unkind words and deeds. Not so the real Christian husband. Neither would a male Christian place the female on a pedestal, according her undue admiration and honor. Nor would the Christian woman expect that. She herself wisely complies with the apostle’s inspired words: “You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as it is becoming in the Lord.” (Col. 3:18) When men and women, united in wedlock, show regard for Jehovah’s reminders, problems are fewer and happiness is attainable.
4. Though some men dealt treacherously with their wives in ancient Israel, how will the Christian husband act?
4 In sentencing sinful Eve back in the Garden of Eden, God declared: “Your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.” (Gen. 3:16) How true this has been! Imperfect husbands have dominated their wives, often in cruel, harsh ways. Surely, though, these words of Jehovah are no authorization to husbands to tyrannize over their wives. All Christian husbands should know that they “ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies.” (Eph. 5:28) In ancient Israel some men dealt treacherously with their wives, divorcing them after they tired of them. But Jehovah stated: “You people must guard yourselves respecting your spirit, and with the wife of your youth may no one deal treacherously. For he has hated a divorcing.” Never would a Christian husband act in such a manner. In fact, in no way would he deal treacherously with his wife, for he would heed Jehovah’s reminder: “You must guard yourselves respecting your spirit, and you must not deal treacherously.”—Mal. 2:13-16.
5. How can the Christian husband measure up as the family head?
5 Are you a Christian husband? Then show your good qualities as the head. Be loving and considerate, never harsh and dictatorial. Do not make demands of your wife just to assert your authority. Think about her problems. As the head of the household, after weighing all the facts, you must make the final decisions in family matters. With Jehovah’s aid the husband will always see to it that the spiritual interests of the entire family are met. Remember this: You are responsible for your home’s spiritual state, whether it is good or bad. Your lead in love is necessary, because subjection on the part of your wife and children should not have as its basis a morbid fear of you. All should fear Jehovah. No Christian should forget that “the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom” and that “love builds up.”—Ps. 111:10; 1 Cor. 8:1.
6. How can the Christian wife contribute to wedded happiness? What do the Scriptures say of such a woman?
6 Are you a Christian wife? Then just think of the wonderful contribution to wedded happiness you can make. You can be tender, compassionate, loving. Proverbs 12:4 says: “A capable wife is a crown to her owner, but as rottenness in his bones is she that acts shamefully.” Never would you wish to act shamefully. For a woman to be a capable, submissive wife who is industrious and who loves Jehovah is fine, and commendation will flow from her husband, indeed, from others too. Many are the submissive, faithful Christian women who have stood loyally at their husbands’ sides, cooperating with them in godly deeds, in good times and in bad. If you are among these, then of you it may be said: “There are many daughters that have shown capableness, but you—you have ascended above them all. Charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain; but the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself. Give her of the fruitage of her hands, and let her works praise her even in the gates.”—Prov. 31:29-31.
7, 8. (a) What advice did the apostle Paul give at 1 Corinthians 7:3-5? (b) How may consideration be shown in the marital relationship?
7 For lasting happiness in marriage, regard must be shown for Jehovah’s reminders, as set forth in the Bible. Both the husband and the wife must do their part, filling their respective roles. There is a particular area of life in which they must show love and understanding. Regarding it the apostle Paul wrote: “Let the husband render to his wife her due; but let the wife also do likewise to her husband. The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, also, the husband does not exercise authority over his own body, but his wife does. Do not be depriving each other of it, except by mutual consent for an appointed time, that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-regulation.”—1 Cor. 7:3-5.
8 Authority over the body of a marriage mate does not mean that a Christian is justified in throwing off all restraint in intimate matters. The husband should be considerate of his wife, and she should not employ her attractiveness to her husband in some selfish way. In his Word, Jehovah has shown consideration for a woman’s limitations, and the Christian husband should do the same. He should not be oblivious to his wife’s cycles and vicissitudes. He should deal with her as with a weaker vessel, dwelling with her according to knowledge. (Lev. 18:19; 1 Pet. 3:7) A balanced marital relationship and loving consideration will bring you happiness in wedlock.
PRESERVING “WHAT GOD HAS YOKED TOGETHER”
9, 10. (a) When matrimonial problems arise, why is separation not the only solution? (b) What circumstances might give rise to a consideration of separation? Even then, what view should be taken?
9 At times, serious marital problems may arise among imperfect humans, so much so that separation is contemplated. But Jesus Christ said: “Did you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’? So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.” Obviously, then, earnest efforts should be made to preserve “what God has yoked together.” So, should matrimonial problems spring up, do not immediately view separation as the only solution. It is better to think of the day of your marriage and the joy it brought both of you. Your problem can be solved if love is allowed to enter again.—Matt. 19:4-6.
10 In essence, the Scriptures counsel married persons to remain together. Paul put it this way: “If any brother has an unbelieving wife, and yet she is agreeable to dwelling with him, let him not leave her; and a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and yet he is agreeable to dwelling with her, let her not leave her husband. . . . For, wife, how do you know but that you will save your husband? Or, husband, how do you know but that you will save your wife?” (1 Cor. 7:12-16) From this it is evident that a Christian should not even consider separating from a marriage partner unless the case is critical. Extreme physical abuse, actual threat to life, or the absolute imperiling of one’s spirituality, might give rise to a consideration of separation. But even in these instances the mature Christian would separate from a mate only as a last resort.
11. (a) If separation threatens, then what? (b) In what ways may separation itself pose problems?
11 Intense effort should be put forth to hold a marriage together. Hence, if separation threatens, turn to Jehovah. Prayerfully consider every aspect of the matter. “Persevere in prayer.” (Rom. 12:12) Throw your burden upon Jehovah and he will surely uphold and direct you. (Ps. 37:5) In addition to praying, work hard to preserve your union. Do not overlook the fact that separation itself may pose problems you had not anticipated, problems with respect to child care, funds, housing, and so forth. Then, too, your own physical and emotional needs, seemingly insignificant at a time of heated argument leading to a separation, may assert themselves if separation does take place. How terrible it would be if you were to yield to passion and act immorally under the pressure of a separation, perhaps self-imposed!
12. What questions might a married person ask at a time of strained relations?
12 To avoid separation at a time of strained relations, subject yourself, not just your mate, to personal scrutiny. Ask yourself: What am I doing to make this marriage work? Am I as considerate as I should be? Do I really display the fruits of God’s spirit? Think! Among these fruits are love and self-control. (Gal. 5:22, 23) Do you exercise self-control when your mate is irritable? Or do you make issues of matters of little significance? If you do, stop doing so. It may save your marriage. Make sure that you are doing all within your power to cope with your problems and that you are permitting Jehovah’s spirit to govern your life.
13. Why is separation neither wise nor necessary where both mates are dedicated to Jehovah? What course should be followed?
13 Sadly, it sometimes occurs that conditions become strained in a union where both mates are dedicated to Jehovah. Here especially is separation hardly wise or necessary. Dedicated Christian couples should be able to resolve their problems in love. And why not? “Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:8) If there is some domestic disagreement, handling it privately will usually suffice. Jesus said: “Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matt. 18:15) Surely, you should be able to gain your dedicated Christian husband or wife, if only you will try.
14. In discussing a problem, what procedure is suggested to marriage persons?
14 To do this it will be necessary to discuss matters. So consider the problem as it is covered in the Bible and as it has been treated in The Watchtower or other Christian publications. Sit down together, take the Bible in hand and talk over the problem dispassionately. Be honest enough to admit a weakness or the wrong you did. As a wife, you may have failed to be submissive in some respect. As a husband, you may not have been considerate on a certain occasion. The Watch Tower Publications Index has helped many persons to locate a discussion of their problem in The Watchtower or other Christian publications. Perhaps consideration of the relative positions of the husband, wife and children within the family circle would be beneficial. You might consult The Watchtower of August 1, 1962, containing articles entitled “Building a Happy Family” and “Role of Wife and Children in a Happy Family.” Also, do not bypass the article entitled “When Marriage Ties Are at the Breaking Point,” appearing in The Watchtower of September 15, 1963. If you do not have these copies, maybe you can get them at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses. Spend an evening or more studying such material together as husband and wife. Pay attention to Jehovah’s reminders. Will you feel like separating thereafter? It is not likely that you will.
15. How will prayer unify Christian marriage mates?
15 But there is something else of great importance. Prayer together will unify Christian mates. Centuries ago humble David earnestly petitioned Jehovah: “Search through me, O God, and know my heart. Examine me, and know my disquieting thoughts, and see whether there is in me any painful way, and lead me in the way of time indefinite.” (Ps. 139:23, 24) Why not make a similar fervent request? After joining in prayer to Jehovah concerning your problem, will you be able to treat each other harshly or coolly? No. Prayer will undoubtedly bring you together. After all, with a lowly mind you will have opened your hearts to Jehovah, kneeling perhaps. And you will have done so together. Can you then act contrary to your supplications? Hardly!
AIDING UNBELIEVING MATES
16, 17. If a married Christian endures hardship in a divided household, what may be the result? Give an example.
16 In a household that is divided religiously hardship may be encountered, even outright opposition. (Matt. 10:32-39) But if you endure this for the sake of God’s kingdom, you may win your husband or wife over to true Christianity. The Christian apostle Peter wrote: “In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.” (1 Pet. 3:1, 2) And this does happen. How do we know?
17 Well, on the island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean west of Morocco there lives a Christian woman who can testify to this. Consider this account of what happened in her case: “When a study [of the Bible] was started in her home, this caused great difficulty, as her husband was violently opposed and did all in his power to stop it. However, the study progressed, and soon the woman was attending meetings and going out in the service. As her interest in the truth increased, so did her husband’s opposition, until finally the sister determined to separate from her husband. The advice of the brothers was to continue living with him and be a model wife, as stated in 1 Peter 3:1, 2, so as to win him over to the truth. This she did, continually praying to Jehovah for his help and guidance. The result was that some months later her husband suddenly asked to have one of Jehovah’s witnesses come to the house to study with him. Due to this sister’s faithfulness and patience both she and her husband were baptized at the last assembly and both are now dedicated witnesses of Jehovah.” (1963 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, page 243) What a fine outcome! By heeding Jehovah’s reminders in a divided household separation may be avoided and that often with splendid results.
18. (a) What potential for building up the Christian congregation exists among unbelieving mates of believers? (b) How will the former unbeliever’s acceptance of Christianity benefit the believing mate?
18 Actually, among unbelieving mates of believers there exists a great potential for building up the Christian congregation. Sometimes women embrace true Christianity first; so an opportunity remains to aid their husbands to become Christians. In time, some of these men may dedicate themselves to God and advance to spiritual maturity. As Jehovah God prospers the work of his people, new congregations are formed and there is a need for additional overseers and ministerial servants for these. Eventually some who were once unbelieving mates of believing women may fill such positions. Also, with the acceptance of true Christianity by a husband who was formerly an unbeliever, religious disunity within a household is overcome. The family bond is strengthened and a woman who may once have been opposed by her mate then receives his aid. For her this may mean an improved and expanded ministry. There may also be children who will benefit. So there is good reason to aid unbelieving mates of believers. That is true, of course, whether they are men or women.
19. Why might an unbelieving marriage partner feel neglected? What can the Christian mate do about that?
19 If your mate is now an unbeliever, remember that as Christians we owe those nearest to us a debt of love. (Rom. 13:8) Recall Rahab? She had to gather those of her household together into her house so that they might all experience preservation when the Israelites marched against Jericho. (Josh. 2:17-21) You may be able to do something similar in these last days. So work to aid your unbelieving mate to become a Christian. Sometimes an unbelieving marriage partner is not really opposed to true Christianity. He may simply misunderstand. Though he is not neglected by his believing wife, he may feel that way. She attends Christian meetings and engages in the ministry, and in this her husband does not join her. Formerly, they did most things together. Now, even though she does well in caring for her household duties and is considerate, the unbeliever finds things changed. Can you do something about this? Yes. Show your mate even more love and consideration than might be considered normal. Naturally, if he begins to take an interest in true Christianity, you have cause for joy. By all means treat him with great kindness and understanding.—Col. 3:12.
20. What opportunities exist to establish a friendly relationship with an unbelieving mate?
20 An unbelieving marriage mate may be favorably impressed if a Christian married couple visits his home. Possibly the visiting Christian husband can establish a genuinely friendly relationship with the unbeliever. For example, if the believing mate is ill, a dedicated couple could make a call, thus showing Christian concern. Or the unbeliever may be sick. Would it not be a fine thing if these Christians showed interest in him? Certainly. Well, then, why not call at such times and give aid, if possible. Be helpful on other occasions too. You may thus have opportunities to offer Biblical comfort and encouragement. These words may be received with appreciation by one whose ears and heart were once unresponsive.
21. How should the Christian proceed if the opportunity presents itself to discuss the Bible with an unbelieving mate?
21 Should the opportunity to discuss the Bible present itself, what then? Do not wrangle with the unbelieving mate. Let him express himself. This will enable you to determine how you can assist him. Show an understanding of his position. Have empathy, putting yourself in his place. Try to view matters from his standpoint. Commend him where that is possible. For example, he may not see why Jehovah’s witnesses will not accept blood transfusions. You might point out that many persons who are now Jehovah’s witnesses once felt the same way. If you did personally, tell him so. Perhaps you can then explain that you had his viewpoint until you learned what the Bible says about blood. It may then be beneficial to direct his attention to what is said in God’s Word in such texts as Genesis 9:3, 4 and Acts 15:28, 29. By your kindness and patience you may be able to aid this person very much.
22. What might be explained to the unbeliever regarding dedication to God and the purpose of Jehovah’s witnesses? What prospect exists?
22 At a suitable time you might also show the unbelieving mate that he owes it to himself and to his wife to look into what she believes. It may be desirable to explain what dedication to God means and why his dedicated Christian wife must fulfill the vow she has made to Jehovah to do his will in her life. (Eccl. 5:4, 5) At another time you might explain that Jehovah’s witnesses teach Bible truths so that persons can act with knowledge. (Rom. 10:13-15) Point out that if he will consider what the Scriptures teach he will be benefited. Then he can intelligently choose the course he will follow. If things progress to the point where a Bible study is started with the unbelieving mate, he may feel more at ease if his wife is not present for the study, for a while, at least. Let the circumstances govern this. But, just think! If you show this keen Christian interest, some day this person may be instructing others from the “word of life,” joining you and his mate in proclaiming the everlasting good news. What a grand prospect!—Rev. 14:6; Phil. 2:16.
23. What quality should be exercised in marriage? Why heed Jehovah’s reminders?
23 After considering Jehovah’s reminders, then, what may be said of wedlock? Indeed, that marriage in the New World society can bring true happiness. If problems arise, however, be determined to resolve them in love by applying Biblical principles. Work to preserve what God has yoked together. Give sincere aid to unbelieving mates. And grace your marriage with love, for no quality eclipses it. “Many waters themselves are not able to extinguish love, nor can rivers themselves wash it away.” (Song of Sol. 8:7) As a man and woman united in matrimony, continue to display your love for each other by words and deeds. Heed Jehovah’s reminders. Then you will be happy. And how splendid is Christian wedlock when love prevails and when the Bible is the guide!