Do Not Put Apart What God Has Yoked Together
“They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.”—MATTHEW 19:6.
1, 2. Why is it both Scriptural and realistic to expect that married couples will have occasional problems?
IMAGINE that you are about to embark on a long journey by automobile. Will you face challenges along the way? It would be naive to assume otherwise! For instance, you might encounter severe weather, making it necessary for you to slow down and proceed with caution. At some point, you may confront a mechanical problem that is beyond your ability to solve, requiring that you pull to the side of the road and seek help. Should such situations cause you to conclude that it was a mistake to start on the journey and that you should abandon the automobile? No. When traveling a long distance, you expect problems and wisely look for ways to deal with them.
2 The same is true of marriage. Problems are inevitable, and it would be naive for a couple who are contemplating wedlock to expect a life of bliss. At 1 Corinthians 7:28, the Bible candidly states that husbands and wives would have “tribulation in their flesh.” Why is this the case? Simply put, it is because husbands and wives are imperfect, and we are living in “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1; Romans 3:23) Hence, even a compatible, spiritually-minded couple will face occasional problems.
3. (a) How is marriage viewed by many in the world? (b) Why do Christians strive to maintain their marriage?
3 In the modern world, when some couples encounter problems, their first reaction is to end the marriage. In many lands, divorce rates are spiraling out of control. However, true Christians handle problems rather than run from them. Why? Because they view marriage as a sacred gift from Jehovah. Jesus said regarding married couples: “What God has yoked together let no man put apart.” (Matthew 19:6) Granted, living by that standard is not always easy. For instance, relatives and others—including some marriage counselors—who do not recognize Bible principles often encourage couples to separate or divorce on unscriptural grounds.a But Christians know that it is far better to repair and maintain a marriage than to dissolve it hastily. Indeed, it is vital that at the outset we resolve to do things Jehovah’s way—not according to the counsel of others.—Proverbs 14:12.
4, 5. (a) What challenges must be met in a marriage? (b) Why do the principles found in God’s Word really work, even when problems arise in a marriage?
4 The fact is that every marriage needs attention from time to time. In most cases, that will involve the settling of minor disagreements. In some marriages, though, there may be more severe challenges that threaten the foundation of the relationship. At times, you may need to ask for help from an experienced married Christian elder. However, these situations do not mean that your marriage is a failure. They merely highlight the importance of adhering closely to Bible principles in working out solutions.
5 As the Creator of the human race and the Originator of the marriage arrangement, Jehovah knows better than anyone else what we need in order to have a successful marital relationship. The question is, Will we listen to the counsel found in his Word and obey it? We certainly stand to benefit if we do. Jehovah stated to his ancient people: “O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:18) Adhering to the guidelines set out in the Bible can bring success to a marriage. Let us first consider the counsel that the Bible gives to husbands.
“Continue Loving Your Wives”
6. What is the Scriptural counsel for husbands?
6 The apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians contains clear guidelines for husbands. Paul wrote: “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, for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it, as the Christ also does the congregation. Nevertheless, also, let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself.”—Ephesians 5:25, 28, 29, 33.
7. (a) What should be a prominent part of the foundation of a Christian marriage? (b) How do husbands continue loving their wives?
7 Paul does not discuss every conceivable problem that might arise between a husband and a wife. Rather, he gets to the core of the matter by identifying what should be a prominent part of the foundation of every Christian marriage—love. In fact, love is mentioned six times in the above verses. Note, too, that Paul tells husbands: “Continue loving your wives.” No doubt, Paul recognized that falling in love is likely to be much easier than staying in love. This is especially so during these “last days,” when many are “lovers of themselves” and “not open to any agreement.” (2 Timothy 3:1-3) Such negative qualities are eroding many marriages today, but a loving husband will not let the world’s selfish traits influence his thinking and actions.—Romans 12:2.
How Can You Provide for Your Wife?
8, 9. In what ways does a Christian husband provide for his wife?
8 If you are a Christian husband, how can you resist selfish tendencies and display genuine love for your wife? In his words to the Ephesians quoted earlier, Paul identified two things that you need to do—provide for your wife, and cherish her just as you do your own body. How can you provide for your spouse? One way is materially—taking care of your wife’s physical needs. Paul wrote to Timothy: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.”—1 Timothy 5:8.
9 However, more is involved than merely providing food, clothing, and shelter. Why? Because a husband can be very good at supplying his wife’s material needs and yet fall short in satisfying her emotional and spiritual needs. Providing for her in these latter ways is essential. True, many Christian men are very busy caring for matters relating to the congregation. But having weighty congregation responsibilities does not mean that a husband should neglect fulfilling his God-given obligations as a family head. (1 Timothy 3:5, 12) Commenting on this matter, some years ago this journal made the following statement: “In accordance with Biblical requirements, it can be said that ‘shepherding begins at home.’ If an elder neglects his family, he could jeopardize his appointment.”b Clearly, it is imperative that you provide for your wife—physically, emotionally and, most important of all, spiritually.
What Does It Mean to Cherish Your Wife?
10. How can a husband cherish his wife?
10 If you cherish your wife, you take good care of her because you love her. There are several ways in which you can do this. First, spend adequate time with your mate. If you neglect your wife in this regard, her love for you may grow cold. Consider, too, that what you think your wife needs in the way of time and attention may not be what she feels she needs. It is not simply a matter of saying that you cherish your spouse. Your wife must feel cherished. Paul wrote: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” (1 Corinthians 10:24) As a loving husband, you want to make sure that you understand the actual needs of your wife.—Philippians 2:4.
11. How is a husband’s relationship with God and the congregation affected by the way he treats his wife?
11 Another way to show that you cherish your wife is by treating her tenderly, both in speech and in action. (Proverbs 12:18) Paul wrote to the Colossians: “You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them.” (Colossians 3:19) According to one reference work, the latter part of Paul’s statement may be rendered idiomatically as “do not treat her like a maid” or “do not make a slave of her.” A husband who is a tyrant—either in private or in public—is certainly not showing that he cherishes his wife. By treating his wife harshly, he could affect his relationship with God. The apostle Peter wrote to husbands: “Continue dwelling in like manner with [your wives] 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.”c—1 Peter 3:7.
12. What can a Christian husband learn from the way Jesus treated the Christian congregation?
12 Never take the love of your wife for granted. Reassure her of your continuing love. Jesus set an example for Christian husbands in the way he treated the Christian congregation. He was gentle, kind, and forgiving—even when his followers repeatedly manifested negative traits. Jesus could therefore say to others: “Come to me, . . . for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28, 29) In imitation of Jesus, a Christian husband treats his wife in the same way that Jesus treated the congregation. A man who truly cherishes his wife, showing this in word and deed, will be a source of genuine refreshment to her.
Wives Who Live by Bible Principles
13. What principles does the Bible contain that can help wives?
13 The Bible also contains principles that can help wives. Ephesians 5:22-24, 33 states: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a savior of this body. In fact, as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything. . . . The wife should have deep respect for her husband.”
14. Why is the Scriptural principle of subjection not demeaning to women?
14 Note the emphasis that Paul placed on subjection and respect. A wife is reminded to subject herself to her husband. This is in harmony with God’s arrangement. Every living creature in heaven and on earth is subject to someone. Even Jesus is in subjection to Jehovah God. (1 Corinthians 11:3) Of course, a husband who exercises his headship in a proper manner will make it easier for his wife to remain in subjection.
15. What is some of the counsel for wives that is found in the Bible?
15 Paul also stated that a wife “should have deep respect for her husband.” A Christian wife should manifest a “quiet and mild spirit,” not arrogantly challenging her husband or taking an independent course. (1 Peter 3:4) A godly wife works hard for the good of the household and brings honor to her head. (Titus 2:4, 5) She will endeavor to speak well of her husband and thus do nothing to cause others to disrespect him. She will also work hard to make his decisions succeed.—Proverbs 14:1.
16. What can Christian wives learn from the examples of Sarah and Rebekah?
16 Having a quiet and mild spirit does not mean that a Christian woman does not have opinions or that her thinking is unimportant. Godly women of old, such as Sarah and Rebekah, took the initiative to express their concern about matters, and the Bible record shows that Jehovah approved of their actions. (Genesis 21:8-12; 27:46–28:4) Christian wives too can make their feelings known. However, they should do so considerately, not in demeaning tones. They will likely find that such communication will be more pleasing and effective.
The Role of Commitment
17, 18. What are some of the ways in which husbands and wives can resist Satan’s attempts to destroy the marital union?
17 Marriage is a lifelong commitment. Therefore, both husband and wife should have a genuine desire to make the marriage work. Lack of open communication can allow problems to fester and become serious. Too often, marriage mates stop communicating when problems develop, causing resentment. Some spouses even look for a way out of the relationship, perhaps developing a romantic interest outside the marriage. Jesus warned: “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.”—Matthew 5:28.
18 The apostle Paul counseled all Christians, including married Christians: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state, neither allow place for the Devil.” (Ephesians 4:26, 27) Our chief enemy, Satan, tries to take advantage of differences that may arise between Christians. Do not let him succeed! When problems arise, research what the Bible says about Jehovah’s thinking on matters, using Bible-based publications. Discuss differences calmly and honestly. Bridge any gap between what you know about Jehovah’s standards and what you actually do to apply them. (James 1:22-25) When it comes to your marriage, be determined to continue walking with God as a couple, and do not let anyone or anything put apart what he has yoked together!—Micah 6:8.
a See the box “Divorce and Separation” in Awake! February 8, 2002, page 10, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
c To qualify for privileges in the Christian congregation, a man must not be “a smiter”—that is, one who strikes others physically or browbeats them verbally. Thus, the September 1, 1990, issue of The Watchtower states on page 25: “A man does not qualify if he acts in a godly way elsewhere but is a tyrant at home.”—1 Timothy 3:2-5, 12.
Do You Recall?
• Why can even Christian marriages experience problems?
• How can a husband provide for his wife and show that he cherishes her?
• What can a wife do to show that she deeply respects her husband?
• How can a husband and a wife strengthen their commitment?
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A husband should be a good provider, not only materially but also spiritually
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A man who cherishes his wife is a source of refreshment to her
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Christian wives make their feelings known in a respectful way