Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
After typing up Three Sixes and looking over the notes for Slave of Christ? I still felt that something seemed unsatisfactory in what the Holy Spirit had taught me about our marriage-like relationship to Jesus. If we really become the spouse of Christ Jesus when we come into a saving relationship with him, then why are there so darn many rules? I asked the Holy Spirit and right away he explained that for a believer, the commands of the Bible are more like house rules.
House rules? When you’re single, you can basically do whatever you want. Bachelors are notorious for dirty houses, left-up toilet seats, and not really having any responsibilities outside of their jobs. Spiritually, we’re the same before coming to Christ. Paul reminds us, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Obviously, if you have no God, then rules are sort of immaterial aside from the laws of the land (and even those…). Well, once you get married, that changes. Suddenly you find yourself accommodating your spouse as they change their habits to match you. And the more you learn about each other, the more rules (spoken or unspoken) start to work their way into your home. The same is true with the Lord- he’s just more upfront about it (what with everything being written down in the Bible). Theoretically, you want to get closer to your spouse, so you put up with their quirks and embrace their rules- There’s a verse for that:
I seek you with all my heart;
Do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
That I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:10-11).
This mindset should apply to both your heavenly marriage and your earthly one as well. You don’t want to upset your spouse, so you follow the house rules they establish and they follow the ones you establish. As a good husband, Jesus is willing to work with your needs as well. He told his disciples (and us), “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). And so, honoring his family line as well as his relationship to us, the Lord is willing to give us the things we ask him.
Ok, so to clarify this point, let’s look at some laws and rules from the Bible and try to equate them with the sort of stuff that might come up in your earthly marriages. For example, Jesus taught,
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell (Matthew 5:21-22).
Where God says, “Do not murder,” maybe in your house you and your spouse decide that you won’t hit your kids (or each other) or maybe avoid raising your voice in the house. I guarantee, after a few big fights, you and your spouse will start laying down ground rules on how to deal with conflict- so does the Lord. Another one; the Lord says, “Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period” (Leviticus 18:19). Apparently God doesn’t think that’s cool, kind of like how one spouse might not be cool with the other sticking a finger up their butt during intimate times. Or where the law says, “Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion” (Leviticus 18:23), you might say to your spouse, “Fido is pretty old, don’t play with him too rough or too much” (see, it doesn’t even have to be a sex rule). Or, Jesus says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:16); whereas you or your spouse might say, “When you’re done peeing, put the toilet seat down.” Jesus teaches,
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:5-6).
But your spouse may try to impress on you that in your (plural) house, there will be no closed doors (or maybe you guys like closed doors, that’s up to you and the one you’re married to). Paul writes to us, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy” (Romans 13:13); this is probably analogous to “Don’t stay out all night drinking with your friends.”
What happens when you break a house rule? Depending on what it is and how many times you’ve done it, the consequence could be nothing but a dirty look or a grumble, or maybe sleeping on the couch for a while. But are you going to get divorced over the toilet seat? Probably not. Someone who’s willing to divorce over that shouldn’t get married in the first place. More than likely, most house rules end up with a small penalty, if any. The same is true when you sin after coming to Christ. More often than not, the most you’ll experience is the after-effect of what you do, like the hangover after staying out late with your friends. It’s less divine (or spousal) retribution and more natural consequence. Now, I should note that we as a species are extremely good at getting ourselves into trouble, so that “hangover” could still really really suck- and just like the hangover, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Paul reminds us, “’Everything is permissible for me’- but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’- but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). This is a great verse to remember because it serves as both a reminder of how free we are in our relationship with Christ and explains that it is still wise to listen to the Lord’s guidance.
Ok, well what about adultery? If you’ve read the Bible before, Jesus actually notes that adultery is grounds for divorce. He teaches, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). If there is cheating in your marriage, then you are allowed to leave without any consequence. But what does this mean for our relationship with Jesus? What if we turn against God in anger or seek out other forms of worship, such as idols, fortune tellers, horoscopes or the like? God has every reason to drop a believer, revoke their salvation, and leave them in a pile of their own problems. However, the Lord won’t. For he has said,
“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the Lord Almighty.
So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith (Malachi 2:16).
Our Lord hates divorce, and to that end he will not give up on you. When Israel turned against God, he was pretty angry with them, but check out what he wrote to them:
“Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
And remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband-
The Lord Almighty is his name-
The Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
He is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
As if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit-
A wife who married young,
Only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
But with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
But with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
Says the Lord your Redeemer (Isaiah 54:4-8)
This means that although the Lord may let you feel some consequences for your actions; even though he’s totally justified in revoking a believer’s salvation, he won’t. No matter how bad you screw up, the Lord will always be your husband, and you his bride. And you will always have a place in his kingdom.
And so Paul asks the question (and then answers it himself), “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2) Even if you can’t lose your salvation, you can have a less fulfilling marriage with the Lord through bad behavior. Instead, show love for your spouse (heavenly and earthly) and live in harmony with them. For it is written,
And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love (2 John 1:5-6).
So, brothers and sisters; love, be loved, and enjoy love. Enjoy your marriage: both to your spouse and your God, and enjoy learning more about them and growing closer to them. May the Lord bless your matrimony!