Divorce might be common in America, but if you are Christian and willing to deal with threats our marriages face, you can divorce-proof your marriage, Pastor Greg Laurie shared with his congregation at Harvest Church in Riverside, Calif., this past weekend.
When a man and a woman walk down the aisle, saying "I do," there's a lot more to do, Laurie told the congregation, as he began his sermon, part of the series "Happily Even After."
"You can't neglect the maintenance of your marriage. Marriage needs work. If you see a strong and vibrant marriage … that did not happen by accident," the pastor said, warning that if you do not work on your marriage, over time it can potentially fall apart.
We must realize there are threats against our marriages, he said, "often little things that turn into big things." Laurie shared three major threats.
The first threat, he shared, is selfishness. "If you had to sum up in one word why marriages are breaking today, it would be this." That's because we make marriage all about us. "What can you do for me? How can you fulfill me?" How can you meet my needs?" There's nothing wrong in wanting your needs to be met, but "as I have said earlier, marriage is not so much about finding the right person as much as it is about being the right person," he said.
He quoted James 4:1-2, which says, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God."
"We are living in a culture that is completely self-absorbed," Laurie underlined.
The problem, he added, can be found in Genesis 3:16, which says, referring to Eve after the first sin, "... Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
The word "desire" in this passage means to impel or seek control over someone. So the curse was, women will try to control their husbands, and husbands will try to control their wives, he explained. "Male chauvinism and feminism, all started there."
But the Bible asks men to love their wives as their own selves, as written in Ephesians 5:28. So the threat of selfishness is to be dealt with selflessness, Laurie said.
The second threat to marriage is communication breakdown, he said. Asked in a survey why did their marriages break, 86 percent of respondents replied "deficient communication," Laurie shared.
Disagreement and conflict are inevitable, even in good marriages, so "we need to learn to disagree agreeably and fight (verbal disagreement) fair."
Deal with conflicts as they arise, Laurie suggested. And for that, it's important to listen. He quoted James 1:19 – "This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger" – and Proverbs 18:13, which says, "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him."
Before you respond, listen to your spouse, ask questions to understand her or his position, and if you are getting to a point where you want to throw things or raise your voice, walk away, Laurie said.
Learn to forgive one another as God has forgiven you, he said, adding, "I know what I'm talking about. I was raised in an alcoholic home. There were fights every night ... physical fights." It was dramatic for him as a child, he said. Never fight in front of the kids, and don't go to sleep while still mad at each other.
Remember, you are fighting to resolve, not to win. "If you are fighting to win, you have already lost," he added.
The third threat, and "it's a big one," is adultery, he continued. It's so significant that it's in God's top 10: you shall not commit adultery.
"Can you imagine how different our country would be, if we kept this one single commandment? How many families would still be together, how many fathers would still be around to raise their children?"
Unfaithfulness, or adultery, is one of the greatest threats against marriage today, Laurie said, sharing statistics that 40 to 50 percent of all married men have had extramarital affairs, and nearly 70 percent of married men under 40 expect to have an extra-marital relationship.
God has clearly warned us of the sin of adultery, he stressed, quoting 1 Corinthians 6:9, which says if you do it you will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Solomon warned us about going to the house of a prostitute, Laurie added, quoting Proverbs 7:24-28, "Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, and pay attention to the words of my mouth. Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths. For many are the victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain. Her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death."
Jesus took it to the next level in the Sermon on the Mount, he said. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart," quoting from Matthew 5:27-28. The word "look" in this passage is not a casual glance; it is continuous act of looking – intentional and repeated gazing, he explained.
Pornography promotes this kind of looking, and adultery, Laurie said.
You do incredible damage to yourself if you commit adultery, he added, quoting Proverbs 6:26-33, "For on account of a harlot one is reduced to a loaf of bread, and an adulteress hunts for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is the one who goes in to his neighbor's wife; whoever touches her will not go unpunished. Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry; but when he is found, he must repay sevenfold; he must give all the substance of his house. The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; he who would destroy himself does it. Wounds and disgrace he will find, and his reproach will not be blotted out."
These are "heavy duty words," Laurie said. "A few moments of guilty pleasure will lead to a lifetime of regret." Remember, you are going to get caught. No matter how clever you are, it is going to come out sooner or later, he warned.
You do incredible damage to your spouse when you commit adultery, he added, referring to 1 Corinthians 6:16-18, "Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, 'The two shall become one flesh.' But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body."
You do incredible damage to your children when you commit adultery, Laurie went on to say. It undermines a man's position and influence as the spiritual leader at home, and you may also find your children repeating your sin, he said.
You even do damage to the church by committing adultery, he said. For, when one member suffers, the whole body suffers.
You also damage your witness and the cause of Christ if you commit adultery, he added. And, above all, you sin against the Lord Himself.
Laurie said the Bible says adultery is grounds for divorce, as written in Matthew 19:7-9: "They said to Him, 'Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?' He said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.'"
However, this does not mean divorce is mandatory or even recommended when adultery is committed, Laurie clarified. "Every effort should be made to restore the marriage and examine the steps that led to this sin and apply some preventive measures." He added, "Immorality is not only grounds for divorce; it is also grounds for forgiveness." Divorce is a horrible thing, he said.
Divorce is also allowed in case of desertion, Laurie added. 1 Corinthians 7:15, states, "Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace." However, this too should be avoided, he suggested.
"Life goes by pretty quickly," he said. One of these days, before you know it, you will be old, sitting on a walking chair, maybe in a retirement home or on deathbed. That day, you are going to care only about God and your family. If you have been a faithful spouse, you will be a happy person, he concluded.