What is the one pressing topic no book on marriage and the family is currently addressing? What is the one issue that is integral to every marriage and family but that most marriage counselors and popular treatments of marriage completely ignore? The answer: spiritual warfare in marriage and the family. I have addressed this topic both in my book God, Marriage, and Family and at marriage seminars and have found that teaching on this subject has the potential of revolutionizing people’s experience in their marriages and the family life.
Spiritual warfare has been part of married life and childrearing from the beginning. The foundational biblical narrative in Genesis 3 recounts how the tempter, Satan, prevailed upon the first woman to violate God’s commandment and how her husband followed her into sin. Ever since, marriage has resembled more a struggle for control and conscious and unconscious efforts at mutual manipulation than an Edenic paradise. What people seldom realize is that the major passage on spiritual warfare in the New Testament, Ephesians 6:10–20, is preceded by extended treatments on marriage (5:21–33) and childrearing (6:1–4).
At the heart, spiritual warfare is a battle for people’s minds (2 Cor. 10:3–5; 11:3). As Paul rightly says, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, not against our marriage partners or children, but against Satan and his demonic forces (Eph. 6:12). For this reason believers ought to saturate their minds with scriptural teaching regarding their new position in Christ. Christ has blessed them with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). He has chosen them to be holy and blameless (1:4, 11). He has predestined them to be adopted as his sons and daughters in Christ (1:5, 11); and so on.
According to the New Testament, Satan’s attacks focus on three major areas: (1) sexual temptation (1 Cor. 7:5); (2) anger (Eph. 4:26–27); and (3) insensitivity toward one’s marriage partner (1 Pet. 3:7). In each case, we must take up “the armor of God” and fight the battle, mindful of the following principles: (1) be aware of the fact that there is a battle to be fought, and that the conflict is spiritual in nature; (2) know one’s spiritual enemy, the devil (cf. 2 Cor. 10:4; Eph. 6:11; 1 Pet. 5:8–9); (3) fight one’s spiritual battles by using spiritual weapons (Eph. 6:10–18; see the application of the “armor of God” to marriage on pp. 168–69 in God, Marriage & Family).
For a fuller treatment of marriage and spiritual warfare see Chap. 8, God, Marriage, and Family (Crossway, 2004), pp. 162–70. See also “The Biblical Framework for Marriage,” Midwestern Journal of Theology 4/2 (2006): 24-42.