What is the foundation of biblical marriage?
That’s a big but vital question! In short, marriage is God’s idea! He created it, and he designed it as a lifelong, faithful, intimate relationship between a wife and a husband.
You know, a lot of problems in marriages today go back to the simple fact that many of us don’t follow the owner’s manual when it comes to marriage. We think we can just conduct our marriage the way we think best and write our own ticket, so to speak, and then we’re surprised when things don’t work out the way we want them to.
Let me be clear: If I as a husband look at pornography, or engage in lustful thoughts, or am unfaithful to my wife in some other way, I shouldn’t be surprised if I don’t have a good marriage. God is holy, and sees everything I do. I may be able to fool others, at least for a while, but I can never fool God. The sooner we try to pretend, or even lead a double life, the sooner we can recover a biblical marriage.
How can we get started on the right path in our marriages, then?
It starts with being born-again Christians, of course. Then, we must follow Christ as disciples who deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. In this way, we can with the Spirit’s help learn to serve each another and to love each other sacrificially.
So, the first step is to love God, and to trust Christ, and to let the Spirit do his work in us. In this way, we can grow to love each other more and to overcome our sinful selfish tendencies.
As a husband, I can genuinely care for my wife’s wellbeing. I can listen to her. I can treat her as a valued partner in marriage and ministry.
Honesty is so important – to be honest with God, to be honest with ourselves, and to be honest with our marriage partner. Also, sometimes we men don’t believe it’s important to communicate, but our wives thrive on deep, loving communication. So we need to take the time to talk, and to care, and also need to realize that we won’t be able to meet all our wife’s needs. We need to encourage her in her relationships with her women friends and to give her time and space to pursue those and other ministry pursuits that are fulfilling to them.
How do you live that out in your marriage?
In our case, we met in seminary, and we both got our Masters degrees in Bible and theology. Later, first Andreas got a doctoral degree, and later Marny did as well. Now, we each have our individual ministries, and we also enjoy ministering together as a couple as we have the opportunity. We’ve written a book together, God’s Design for Man and Woman, that serves as a common foundation for talking about God’s plan for marriage and the family. And we’ve also written a book on parenting, Equipping for Life: A Guide for New, Aspiring, and Struggling Parents, which we use when talking about raising children (the book is also available in abridged form as Parenting Essentials).
In God’s Design for Man and Woman, we show that God’s plan throughout the Bible is consistent. It includes both male-female partnership and male leadership. There are times when people unduly focus on one while neglecting the other. But we’ve found that it is important to keep both of those aspects of God’s design in proper balance. If Andreas respects me as his partner, and I affirm him in his role as spiritual leader in our marriage and family, we honor God’s design and our marriage will flourish.
What is the practical outworking of those foundations today, knowing that the creative program of God does not change and we his people are culturally, technologically, and economically in a different world that even a couple of generations before?
You’re exactly right. God’s plan for man and woman has not changed, and does not change. And the fact that we are sinners in need of redemption and faith and repentance has not changed either. We depend on the Holy Spirit to work in us the spiritual transformation that makes us the kinds of women and men, wives and husbands, and mothers and fathers that God created us to be in the first place.
And yet, the environment in which we are to work all of this out has changed dramatically even over the last decade. In our books on parenting, especially, we have a chapter on parenting in today’s world, with all its unique pressures and challenges, and opportunities as well.
- Technologically, social media and smart phones present unique, unprecedented challenges and opportunities. We need to master them rather than be mastered by them.
- Economically, too, we need to make decisions based on biblical values regarding what is best for our marriages and families rather than what promotes materialism, upward mobility, and pursuing the American dream. That may mean choosing to be a one rather than two-car family, not moving to a better house, and choosing for the mother to make her children a priority over her career.
Particularly from Margaret, what are the currently needed directions and goals of “women’s ministries” in the church today. It seems there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
I see a need for a wholistic approach toward the ministry that includes addressing the body of Christ as a whole. Such an approach cultivates a ministry amongst women that includes women as full members and ministry partners yet specific to their needs as women according to their particular design by God. In this vein, a coordinated ministry of “making” disciples of both women and men would be one key area of effort and input that I would see as beneficial to the overall church – a focus on relational ministry amongst individuals.
This would not undermine the traditional services and ministries of the church, but instead promote them, yet aim to primarily further individual spiritual nurture and growth. For women, this would involve leadership development of key women who are faithful servants of God, with role modeling in biblical womanhood – especially roles of wife, mother, and ministry to spiritual daughters in the Christian faith.
Note: The original conversation with David and Adele Ogletree took place on April 20, 2021.