For Better or... Bitter?
A woman was shocked when her husband came home early. “Himala! (“It’s a miracle!”) She exclaimed. “What happened?” The man replied, “My boss told me to ‘Go to hell!’ That’s why I went home.”
Marriage makes our life on earth either heaven or hell. Of all the institutions that God created, the family is the most important. The strength of the church and the nation depends upon the strength of the family. When the family goes down, everything goes down.
We saw the last time I spoke that the Spirit’s empowering penetrates even our relationships. In Ephesians 5:18, we are to “be filled with the Spirit.” This leads us to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (v. 21) Then the apostle Paul amplified it by starting with the husband and wife relationship. Let us read Ephesians 5:22-33 together...
22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—30for we are members of his body. 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
This morning we will focus on verse 31: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” It is lifted from Genesis 2:24. It is significant that Paul quoted this verse in his discussion of the man-woman relationship. When Jesus was asked about divorce, He replied: 4“Haven’t you read... that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6) Note that Jesus quoted this verse in support of His teaching. Thus, we can say that Genesis 2:24 provides the blueprint or what God meant marriage to be “for better or for worse... richer or poorer... in sickness or in health... till death do us part.” I pray that, because of this talk, we will be better, not bitter, in our relationships.
Let’s look into the context of this verse.
18The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:18-25)
Now God did not say “It is not good for the man to be alone” because it is best for him to be alone. That’s not what He meant. It is not good, period. In the Amplified Bible it says, “It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone...” It is not sufficient. It is not satisfactory. Ladies, just imagine what your house would look like if you leave us husbands alone in there! To the singles, please note that God, not Adam, pointed out the need for a partner. God is aware of your needs. Don’t fret. Don’t rush. He will provide.
God said, “I will make a helper...” Now that does not refer to domestic helper or maid. According to the notes of the NET Bible, “The English word ‘helper,’ because it can connote so many different ideas, does not accurately convey the connotation of the Hebrew word... Usage of the Hebrew term does not suggest a subordinate role, a connotation which English ‘helper’ can have. In the Bible God is frequently described as the ‘helper,’ the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs. In this context the word seems to express the idea of an ‘indispensable companion.’ ... she has everything that God had invested in him.”
Here we find our CALLING. Man and woman are CO-EQUALS before God. God created both the man and the woman in His image, that is, we reflect His love, His righteousness, His character. God called both the man and the woman and “blessed them: "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth." (Genesis 1:28, The Message) The man and the woman have equal access to God. During Paul’s time, Jews had a low view of women. “To them, women were servants. In fact, when a Jewish man would get up in the morning, he would pray, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. Amen.’” The Gentiles had a low view of women also. Demosthenes, a Greek philosopher, boasted: “We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; and we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately and being faithful guardians for our household affairs.” But Paul, a male Jew himself, wrote to the Galatians, who were Gentiles themselves, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Some people thought the Bible was in favor of men only. But that is not true. In fact, wherever the Bible went, women were restored to their rightful place. When it comes to our standing before God, both man and woman are equal before Him. If we keep that in mind, then we will be better, not bitter, because we will respect each other.
Now, God said, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” Here we find that the man and the woman COMPLEMENT each other. Thus, we ought to COOPERATE with each other. Again, according to the NET Bible, “The Hebrew expression... literally means ‘according to the opposite of him.’ Translations such as ‘suitable [for]’..., ‘matching,’ [and] ‘corresponding to’ all capture the idea. The man’s form and nature are matched by the woman’s as she reflects him and complements him. Together they correspond.” That’s why in the English Standard Version it says, “I will make him a helper fit for him.” In God’s Word translation, it goes like this: “I will make a helper who is right for him.” The man’s strengths will compensate for the woman’s weaknesses. The woman’s strengths will compensate for the man’s weaknesses. In our passage, after God recognized man’s need for a partner, He performed the first major surgery. He caused the man to sleep and then got one of his ribs to fashion a woman. When he woke up, the man saw the woman and said, “Wow! [That’s my version] Finally, here’s someone who is like me!” Now Paul argued that, since the man was created first, he is the leader: “3the head of the woman is man... 8For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” (1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-9) That’s God’s choice. It was not based on culture, not on intellect and not on talents. The Bible does not say that men lead because they are superior to women. The Bible does not teach that women submit because they are inferior to men. The man leads and the woman submits by God’s gracious decision and wise design. We will look further into the responsibility of the women on Ephesians 5:22-24 on the third Sunday of July. I will talk about “Be the Woman of Your Husband’s Dreams.” Then Reverend Harg Ang will expound the responsibility of men on Ephesians 5:25-33 on the fourth Sunday. He will talk about “Be the Man of Your Wife’s Dreams.” We are equal in respect and different in aspect. We are so different from each other that we need each other. “11Yet, as believers in the Lord, women couldn’t exist without men and men couldn’t exist without women. 12As a woman came into existence from a man, so men come into existence by women, but everything comes from God.” (1 Corinthians 11:11-12, God’s Word) If we keep that in mind, then we will be better, not bitter. There would be no power struggle in our marriage. Instead, we will bring the best out of each other.
Finally, let’s look into Genesis 2:24. In order for the man and the woman to fulfill their calling and fully complement each other, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Here we need COMMITMENT. Man and woman must CONNECT to each other. I owe a lot to A Biblical Portrait of Marriage seminar by WorldTeach in crystallizing my understanding of this verse. In order for the man and the woman to united or connected to each other, the man must leave his parents. There can be no cleaving without leaving. This goes beyond physical and geographical leaving but it includes those things. It does not mean neglecting your parents. It means standing on your own feet and starting your own family. We know there is so much at stake. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. There are times couples become bitter because of in-laws who became outlaws or parents meddling into the couple’s affairs. In short, the couple must be independent.
Then, the couple must be united or grow intimate towards each other. It involves the physical. “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (v. 25) But intimacy goes beyond sex. To become one flesh involves our entire being. Couples are to grow intellectually, emotionally, physically and socially together. Failure to do so would result in the husband and the wife drifting away from each other or “falling out of love.” They end up, just as Christ told the church in Ephesus, “But this is what I have against you: you do not love me now as you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4, Good News Bible) That’s why we should not allow anything or anyone to put a wedge between us and our spouses. In order to be better, not bitter, husband and wife must commit to grow intimately towards each other in all aspects of their lives.
There’s a newly wed couple who rode on a horse-drawn carriage on their way to their honeymoon. Suddenly the horse went wild. The man said to the horse, “That’s one!” Farther on, the horse bolted again. The man said, “That’s two!” Some time later, the horse became disturbed again. The man said, “That’s three!” He took out a gun and shot the horse point-blank! Shocked at what she just saw, the new wife exclaimed, “What have you done? What made you do that?” The man replied, “That’s one!” Whatever state our marriage is in right now, we must always give it a second chance and our best shot. Thus, we will remain better and never become bitter.