Cultivating the New Personality in Marriage
“You should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality.”—EPHESIANS 4:23, 24.
1. Why is marriage not to be taken lightly?
MARRIAGE is one of the most serious steps that one takes in life, so it should never be taken lightly. Why is that? Because it requires a lifelong commitment to another person. It means a sharing of one’s entire life with that person. Mature judgment is needed if that commitment is to be sound. It also demands a positive influence ‘actuating the mind and so shaping the new personality.’—Ephesians 4:23, 24; compare Genesis 24:10-58; Matthew 19:5, 6.
2, 3. (a) What is needed to choose a marriage partner wisely? (b) What is involved in a marriage?
2 There is good reason not to rush into marriage, swept along by the powerful desire of the flesh. Time is needed for the adult personality and character to develop. With time also comes experience and knowledge that can serve as a foundation for sound judgment. Then, choosing a compatible life partner may have a greater degree of success. A Spanish proverb states it plainly: “Better to walk single than be badly married.”—Proverbs 21:9; Ecclesiastes 5:2.
3 Choosing the right partner is obviously fundamental to a successful marriage. For that the Christian must bring Biblical guidelines to bear, not being guided just by physical attraction and undue emotional and romantic pressures. Marriage is much more than the joining together of two bodies. It is the joining together of two personalities, two family and educational backgrounds, possibly two cultures and languages. The uniting of two persons in marriage certainly calls for proper use of the tongue; with the power of speech, we either tear down or build up. From all of this, we also see the wisdom of Paul’s counsel to ‘marry only in the Lord,’ that is, a fellow believer.—1 Corinthians 7:39; Genesis 24:1-4; Proverbs 12:18; 16:24.
Facing the Stresses of Marriage
4. Why do friction and tension sometimes arise in marriage?
4 Even with a good foundation, there will be times of friction, pressure, and tension. These are normal for any person, whether married or not. Economic and health problems can cause stress in any relationship. Changes of mood can lead to personality clashes in the best of marriages. Another factor is that no one has perfect control of the tongue, as James stated: “We all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also his whole body. . . . The tongue is a little member and yet makes great brags. Look! How little a fire it takes to set so great a woodland on fire!”—James 3:2, 5.
5, 6. (a) What is needed when misunderstandings arise? (b) What action may need to be taken to heal a breach?
5 When pressures arise in marriage, how can we control the situation? How can we prevent a misunderstanding from developing into a quarrel and a quarrel into a ruptured relationship? This is where the force actuating the mind comes into play. This motivating spirit can be either positive or negative, upbuilding and spiritually inclined or degrading, ruled by fleshly inclinations. If it is upbuilding, the individual will act to heal the breach, to keep his or her marriage on course. Arguments and disagreements should not end a marriage. The air can be cleared and mutual respect and understanding restored by applying Bible counsel.—Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:23, 26, 27.
6 Under these circumstances Paul’s words are very appropriate: “Accordingly, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Colossians 3:12-14.
7. What problem may some have in their marriage?
7 That text is easy to read, but under the pressure of modern life, it is not always so easy to apply. What may be a basic problem? Sometimes, without realizing it, a Christian may live by a double standard. At the Kingdom Hall, he is among brothers, and he acts with kindness and consideration. Then, back home, in the domestic routine, he might tend to forget his spiritual relationship. There it is just man and wife, “him” and “her.” And under stress he (or she) might end up saying unkind things that would never be uttered in a Kingdom Hall. What has happened? Momentarily, Christianity has evaporated. A servant of God has forgotten that he (or she) is still a Christian brother (or sister) at home. The force actuating the mind has become negative instead of positive.—James 1:22-25.
8. What can result when the force actuating the mind is negative?
8 What is the result? The husband may cease to ‘dwell with his wife according to knowledge, assigning her honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.’ The wife may no longer respect her husband; her “quiet and mild spirit” is lost. The force actuating the mind has become physical instead of spiritual. A “fleshly frame of mind” has taken over. So, what can be done to keep that motivating force spiritual and positive? We must fortify our spirituality.—1 Peter 3:1-4, 7; Colossians 2:18.
Strengthen the Force
9. What choices do we have to make in daily life?
9 The motivating force is the mental inclination that comes into play when we have to make decisions and choices. Life presents a constant series of options—good or bad, selfish or unselfish, moral or immoral. What will help us to make right decisions? The force actuating the mind if it is centered on doing Jehovah’s will. The psalmist prayed: “Instruct me, O Jehovah, in the way of your regulations, that I may observe it down to the last.”—Psalm 119:33; Ezekiel 18:31; Romans 12:2.
10. How can we strengthen in a positive way the force actuating the mind?
10 A strong relationship with Jehovah will help us to please him and turn away from what is bad, including infidelity in marriage. Israel was encouraged to “do what is good and right in the eyes of Jehovah [their] God.” But God also counseled: “O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.” In view of the seventh of the Ten Commandments: “You must not commit adultery,” Israelites had to hate adultery. That commandment showed God’s strict view of faithfulness in marriage.—Deuteronomy 12:28; Psalm 97:10; Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 20:10.
11. How can we further fortify the force actuating our minds?
11 How can we further strengthen the force that actuates the mind? By appreciating spiritual activities and values. That means we must fulfill the need to study God’s Word regularly and learn to delight in discussing together Jehovah’s thoughts and counsel. Our heartfelt sentiments should be like those of the psalmist: “With my whole heart I have searched for you. Do not cause me to go astray from your commandments. In my heart I have treasured up your saying, in order that I may not sin against you. Instruct me, O Jehovah, in the way of your regulations, that I may observe it down to the last. Make me understand, that I may observe your law and that I may keep it with the whole heart.”—Psalm 119:10, 11, 33, 34.
12. What things can unite us in reflecting the mind of Christ?
12 This kind of appreciation for Jehovah’s righteous principles is maintained not only by studying the Bible but also by sharing regularly in Christian meetings and by engaging in the Christian ministry together. These two powerful influences can constantly strengthen the force actuating our minds so that our unselfish way of life will always reflect the mind of Christ.—Romans 15:5; 1 Corinthians 2:16.
13. (a) Why is prayer a valuable factor in strengthening the force actuating the mind? (b) What example did Jesus set in this respect?
13 Another factor is what Paul highlights in his letter to the Ephesians: “With every form of prayer and supplication . . . carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit.” (Ephesians 6:18) Husbands and wives need to pray together. Often those prayers open the heart and lead to frank conversations that repair any breach. In times of test and temptation, we need to turn to God in prayer, asking for help, for spiritual strength to do what is in agreement with the mind of Christ. Even the perfect Jesus turned to his Father in prayer on many occasions, asking for strength. His prayers were heartfelt and intense. Likewise today, in times of temptation, we can find strength to make the right decision by calling upon Jehovah to help us to resist the desire to give in to the flesh and betray a marriage vow.—Psalm 119:101, 102.
Contrasting Examples of Conduct
14, 15. (a) How did Joseph react to temptation? (b) What helped Joseph to resist temptation?
14 How can we face temptation? In this respect we have a clear distinction between the courses taken by Joseph and by David. When Potiphar’s wife persistently tried to seduce handsome Joseph, who evidently was single at the time, he finally answered her by saying: “There is no one greater in this house than I am, and [your husband] has not withheld from me anything at all except you, because you are his wife. So how could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?”—Genesis 39:6-9.
15 What helped Joseph to take the right course when it would have been so easy to succumb? He had a powerful force actuating his mind. He was very conscious of his relationship with Jehovah. He knew that committing fornication with this infatuated woman would actually be a sin not only against her husband but, more important, against God.—Genesis 39:12.
16. How did David react to a temptation?
16 In contrast, what happened to David? He was a married man, with several wives as permitted by the Law. One evening he observed from his palace a woman bathing. It was the beautiful Bath-sheba, wife of Uriah. David clearly had a choice of action—to continue watching while lust rose in his heart or to turn away and reject the temptation. What did he choose to do? He had her brought to his palace, and he committed adultery with her. Even worse, he went on to cause her husband’s death.—2 Samuel 11:2-4, 12-27.
17. What can we deduce about David’s spiritual state?
17 What was David’s problem? From his later contrite confession in Psalm 51, we can deduce some facts. He said: “Create in me even a pure heart, O God, and put within me a new spirit, a steadfast one.” It is evident that on the occasion of his temptation, he did not have a pure and steadfast spirit. Perhaps he had neglected his reading of Jehovah’s Law, and as a result, his spirituality weakened. Or he may have allowed his position and power as king to corrupt his thinking so that he fell prey to lustful desire. Certainly, the force actuating his mind at that time was selfish and sinful. Thus, he came to recognize his need for “a new spirit, a steadfast one.”—Psalm 51:10; Deuteronomy 17:18-20.
18. What counsel did Jesus give about adultery?
18 Some Christian marriages have been ruined because one or both of the partners allowed themselves to fall into a state of spiritual weakness similar to King David’s. His example should warn us against continually looking at another woman, or man, with passion, for adultery may finally ensue. Jesus showed that he understood human emotions in this regard, for he said: “You heard that it was said, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In such a case, the force actuating the mind is selfish and carnal, not spiritual. What, then, can Christians do to avoid adultery and keep their marriages happy and satisfying?—Matthew 5:27, 28.
Strengthen the Marriage Bond
19. How can a marriage be strengthened?
19 King Solomon wrote: “If somebody could overpower one alone, two together could make a stand against him. And a threefold cord cannot quickly be torn in two.” Certainly, two in a harmonious marriage can stand together in adversity better than one. But if their bond is like a threefold cord by having God in it, the marriage will be solid. And how can God be in a marriage? By the couple’s applying his principles and counsel for marriage.—Ecclesiastes 4:12.
20. What Bible counsel can help a husband?
20 Surely, if a husband applies the counsel of the following texts, his marriage will have a better basis for success:
“You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with them according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one, since you are also heirs with them of the undeserved favor of life, in order for your prayers not to be hindered.”—1 Peter 3:7.
“Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it. In this way husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”—Ephesians 5:25, 28.
“Her [husband] rises up, and he praises her. There are many daughters that have shown capableness, but you—you have ascended above them all.”—Proverbs 31:28, 29.
“Can a man walk upon the coals and his feet themselves not be scorched? Likewise with anyone having relations with the wife of his fellowman, no one touching her will remain unpunishable. Anyone committing adultery . . . is bringing his own soul to ruin.”—Proverbs 6:28, 29, 32.
21. What Bible counsel can help a wife?
21 If a wife pays attention to the following Bible tenets, it will contribute to the permanence of her marriage:
“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 [and of your] quiet and mild spirit.”—1 Peter 3:1-4.
“Let the husband render to his wife her [sexual] due; but let the wife also do likewise to her husband. . . . Do not be depriving each other of it, except by mutual consent for an appointed time.”—1 Corinthians 7:3-5.
22. (a) What other factors can affect a marriage for good? (b) How does Jehovah view divorce?
22 The Bible also shows that love, kindness, compassion, patience, understanding, encouragement, and praise are other essential facets of the jewel of marriage. A marriage without them is like a plant without sunshine and water—it seldom blooms. So let the force actuating our minds impel us to encourage and refresh each other in our marriage. Remember that Jehovah ‘hates a divorcing.’ If Christian love is being practiced, there should be no room for adultery and collapse of the marriage. Why? “Because love never fails.”—Malachi 2:16; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Ephesians 5:3-5.
Can You Explain?
□ What is fundamental to a happy marriage?
□ How can the force actuating the mind affect a marriage?
□ What can we do to strengthen the force actuating our minds?
□ How did Joseph and David differ when under temptation?
□ What Bible counsel will help husbands and wives to strengthen the marriage bond?
[Pictures on page 18]
Do we live by a double standard—kind in the congregation and harsh at home?