If married life was part of the social reality of past centuries, the forms it takes change over time. And it is up to each generation of Christians, in their own culture and environment, to define what living as a couple means concretely. This is not a surprise, because it is the same in many other areas, for example the functioning of the Church, evangelism, worship, etc.
Of course, not everything has to be reinvented all the time! But still. Books that deal with the history of marriage over the centuries allow us to see the evolution and its necessities. And comparison with biblical descriptions highlights the change. In their practical reflection, Christians do not start from scratch: the Bible does not provide a model, but stable points of reference. It is therefore necessary, starting from biblical data, to translate the theology of married life into practice.
This theology tells us (1) that marriage is not a Christian institution but that it belongs to the order of creation. It specifies (2) that marriage is a covenant, as confirmed by the frequent use of the conjugal metaphor to evoke the relationship between God and Israel, and even more, in the New Testament, the relationship of Christ to the Church. Moreover, this theology of marriage tells us (3) that there is a specifically Christian way of living together, which consists in particular in applying to the life of a couple the principles, values and orientations of the life of discipleship.
It is because of point (1) that in the Christian resources on marriage, there is an enormous amount that is simply common sense, practical wisdom. This is the case of communication. Communicating in the couple is essential, but it is advice that is not specifically Christian, and that is what we can wish for all couples.
On the other hand, the couple relationship should be informed by New Testament teaching on discipleship and church relationships. Why ? Because the couple is a particular place for putting the Gospel into practice: the love that gives itself to the other, reciprocal respect, sincerity, fidelity, mutual submission, forgiveness, etc. All this, without being inaccessible to non-Christian couples, fortunately, corresponds to specifically biblical exhortations.
Concretely, this means two things. First, Christian couples have every interest in working on the practices and ways of living that are valid for all couples, for example communication, conflict resolution, the relationship with the in-laws… And far from receiving human wisdom without criticism, they can introduce specifically Christian motivations and colorings into it (see below). Secondly, Christian couples have the immediate opportunity to put into practice what they learn through the preaching of the Gospel and the biblical teaching received: to live as a Christian with one’s closest neighbour, the spouse.
These foundations being quickly recalled, how to build a life as a couple today, making the best use of Christian resources and common wisdom? The project is beautiful, the difficulties are real, probably not […]