The Basics of a Biblical Marriage: Part 2

When it comes to marriage, many of us have a long list of characteristics that would describe the perfect mate. Some people are looking for an attractive mate. Yet, others are looking for someone with a certain type of personality. What characteristic is most important to you?

All Christians would agree that their “special someone” should primarily have a relationship with the Lord. The Bible teaches us that Christians are not to be unequally yoked (2 Cor. 6:14). In other words, Christians are not to seek relationships, especially marital relationships, outside of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that a Christian cannot have a meaningful relationship with a nonbeliever. However, when it comes to marital relationships, Christians are to avoid getting involved with nonbelievers.

But what about a second characteristic? If having a relationship with the Lord is the primary characteristic, what should someone look for as a second characteristic? When Christian couples get married, they first need to build their relationship upon Jesus Christ. Second, Christian couples should seek to develop their relationship with one another.

Companionship is an essential aspect of marriage. In Gen. 2:18a, God said that it is not good for man to be alone. The Lord then made a helper suitable for Adam. Adam’s helper was named Eve. Thus, in chapter 2, Adam and Eve began the relationship grounded in the Lord and as divinely ordained companions.

Genesis 2 teaches us that Christian couples must stick together in their relationship. In Genesis 2:24a, the author writes, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife.” The author’s point is that a godly marriage consists of a couple that must be committed to giving their marriage priority over every other human relationship.

So many times, Christian counselors hear about the devastating reality of couples who place all other relationships ahead of their own relationship with one another. Some couples will put their jobs, family members, and even their children ahead of his or her spouse. For Christian couples to honor God in their marriages, they must be committed to placing their spouse above all other relationships, including one’s relationship with his or her children.

If a person wants to honor God in his or her marriage, there are two steps to making your marriage a priority over every other relationship: the biblical principles of leaving and cleaving. In Genesis 2:18a, our author teaches us that the Lord ordains every marriage. While it is true that the Bible teaches that everyone should honor his or her father and mother (Ex. 20:12), our focal text teaches that man and woman must give priority to the marital relationship.

But, is not leaving and cleaving “old fashioned?” Doesn’t leaving and cleaving cause a lot of hurt feelings between a couple and their friends? Also, doesn’t leaving and cleaving cause conflict by couples distancing themselves from their friends and family? There is no doubt that many people, including Christians, misunderstand the biblical principles of leaving and cleaving.

1. What Leaving/Cleaving Does Not Mean

There are, at least, three misunderstandings involving the biblical principles of leaving and cleaving.

First, leaving and cleaving does not mean breaking off all relationships. When my wife and I were dating, we irrationally believed that we must break off all contacts with our friends for us to be together. This caused a lot of conflict between our friends and us. My wife and I would both agree that we missed out on opportunities to hang out with family and friends. My wife and I laugh together now regarding our foolishness, and we would both agree that a couple has the rest of their lives to spend together. Therefore, couples do not necessarily have to break off their relationships with their friends to have a meaningful marital relationship.

Second, leaving and cleaving does not mean abandoning one’s family. Some couples have a misunderstanding and believe that they should abandon their family members when they get married. There is a romanticized view that couples must “struggle” on their own to make it in this world. This romanticized view is foolish and unfounded. It is good for couples to maintain healthy relationships with their family members. The keyword is healthy. It is okay for Christian couples to seek advice from their parents and siblings. Also, it is okay for Christian couples to receive financial and emotional support from their parents. The problem occurs when couples begin to rely on their family more than each other.

Third, leaving and cleaving does not mean geographically distancing yourself from others. Some couples may feel that they must geographically remove themselves from their families to have a good marriage. Sometimes, it may be a good idea for a couple to move away from their parents. Other times, it may be a terrible idea for a couple to move away from their family. Therefore, Christian couples must use good judgment and biblical wisdom before moving away from their family.

There are two steps to making your marriage a priority. In the first step, God says children must leave their parents. What does it mean for children to leave their parents? First, biblical leaving refers to leaving behind a dependent relationship. (emotional, financial). Second, biblical leaving refers to leaving behind a parents’ temporary God-given authority over you. Third, biblical leaving refers to leaving behind a parent-centered and controlled manner of living. Fourth, biblical leaving refers to leaving behind one’s dependence upon their own parents’ approval.

In the second step, God says the man must cleave/be united to his wife (not “wife and parents”). What does it look like to cleave/be united to a wife? Cleaving looks like this: having a marriage relationship with spouse and adult–relationship with parents; spouses are to take full responsibility for life and decisions; spouses are to make decisions for their family while viewing parents as advisors; understand that your spouse’s opinions, insights, and concerns as being important.

By following these two steps, your marriage will become more of a priority by working and sticking together.

Questions for Discussion

1. Talk with your spouse: Are there any relationships that need mending as a result of the isolation of your relationship?

2. Ask your spouse: Do I have a dependent relationship with one or both of my parents? If so, what can I do to help become independent of my parents?

3. Ask your spouse: Do I seek the approval of my parents over your approval? What can I do differently the next time a decision needs to be made regarding the family?

4. As a couple, read Genesis 2:18-25, use this blog post, and discuss what it looks like to leave/cleave together as a Christian couple.