Recently, I read an article that stated between 1,700 and 1,800 pastors leave their assignments each month, most due to burnout or marital stress. Honestly, I read statistics like this and tend to think they will never affect me, my circle of friends or my sphere of influence. Recently, however, I had a big wake-up call. A friend showed me an old photograph of four couples that I had the privilege of teaching in bible school. As I inquired about each of them, I was saddened to hear that three of the four couples in the photo had divorced. Suddenly, the statistic I mentioned above was no longer just a number, but had affected me in a personal way.

It seems most relationships in our society are not working well. You have most likely heard and know the statistics. I believe one of the greatest issues for believers is that we have defined our relationships on a contractual, or earthly level, but God defines them quite differently. He defines relationships based on covenant. To have “God-kind of results,” we have to re-define our relationships on a “God-kind of level.”

In a contract, we protect our rights and limit our responsibilities. We want all the benefits of a covenant relationship, but expect to live a selfish lifestyle. Especially as Americans, we want to protect our rights. We have been trained to protect our rights. In covenant however, we give up our rights and pick up responsibilities. In a covenant, there should be sacrifice to the point of death to meet the needs of the other person.

Genesis 2:21-25 shows us God’s pattern for marriage. From this passage we can glean three truths that will help us succeed in our relationships. But we must be willing to re-define them to the standard that God set forth.

First, we see that God started the relationship by cutting Adam and taking out a rib from his side. God immediately took their relationship to a covenant level.
So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man. “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’” This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.
(Gen. 2:21-25)
From this passage, we can learn three RIGHTS that we give up when we enter into the covenant relationship of marriage.

First, we give up the right of priority. We can longer be number one or put ourselves first; we have a new number one when we enter into a covenant. A commitment must be made to our spouse that they are now first, above all other people and endeavors. We see in verse 24, God sets forth that a man should even re-prioritize the dearest relationship he has known when he enters into this new covenant relationship. God says a man is to leave his father and mother. The bottom line is, for a covenant relationship to work, you have to give it the place of priority. The same is true with God. He wants to be number one in our lives. He put us first, so He wants us to put Him first (Matthew 6:33).

The problem is we say we believe this principle, but we don’t always demonstrate it. Oftentimes, we give our best to our job or hobby, yet at home we give our spouse what we have left over. Another danger can be child-centered homes. We have to be very careful to keep a proper balance of priorities in the home because of what it communicates to our children. For instance, I always to try to give my wife a significant gift for Christmas in front of our children. I want to demonstrate to our kids that Dina is number one.

Second, we give up the right of ownership. In a covenant relationship, we give our spouse the right to co-own everything in our lives. It is not my stuff that I am generous with; that is a contract. Everything I have (time, money, possessions), my wife also owns. Nothing is exclusive; my wife has equal and free access to all I have. There is no mine or yours — only ours. One thing is certain: selfish people do not do well in covenant relationships! I believe that when a married couple has separate checking accounts, it can be dangerous to the relationship. It can so easily turn into “his money” and “her money.” I recommend separate accounts for administrative purposes only and to be very careful it does not become “his account vs. her account.”

The third right we give up is the right of privacy. Our spouse should have unhindered access to every part of our lives. There can be no secrets in a successful covenant relationship. Genesis 2:25 says, “now the man and the wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.” They were completely exposed; nothing was hidden from the other. In a secure relationship, our life is an open book. Practically, this means, our computers, email or social media accounts shouldn’t have private passwords we hide from our spouse. In the same way, spouses need to be able to openly share their lives, hearts and struggles without fear of retribution.

East Coast Believers Church
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