Friday, September 28, 2012

Don't be "on the same team"

     All my life, I have heard people refer to marriage as “being on the same team.”  While I understand the basis for that statement—working in the same direction, having the same priorities and goals, etc.—being “on the same team” falls short of God’s calling for husbands and wives.  You see, teams want mutual success, but teams don’t always work together, teams have “better players” who can develop an ego, teams cast blame when they aren’t winning.  Teams have no problem going their separate ways when it is convenient, financially beneficial, or they are just plain tired of each other.  The biblical concept of marriage goes way beyond “being on the same team.”  Husband and wife are called to become “one flesh.”

The 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.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. 
(Genesis 2:23-25)

And Jesus reaffirmed this spiritual and physical reality when he answered the Pharisees challenge to give a good legal reason for divorce:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and 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’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  (Matthew 19:4-6)

To answer their question, Jesus challenged them to reorient their thinking as he took them back to creation and to God’s intent for marriage at the beginning.  Rather than looking for the “line in the sand” that it is permissible to end a marriage, Jesus wanted them see the divine mystery of marriage (Eph. 5:21-32) that transcends our selfish, fallen nature. The implication of “one flesh” is far greater than a couple "being on the same team" and sharing a home, sharing some bills, sharing a bed, and sharing an occasional day off.
     So, what does it mean to be “one flesh”?  This is a bit hard to define because it will manifest differently in different couples.  It is normally something a couple continually grows into, and the way it is lived out can change from one season of marriage to the next.  My own clearest understanding of what it means came years ago when my own Dad passed from this life and my Mom’s first words through her tears were “Part of me has just died.”  They weren’t just on the same team.  They were one flesh.
     While I can’t fully put into words a divine mystery, I think there are a couple of obvious things to help us see if we’re really trying to move toward “one flesh” or if we’re settling for just being on the same team.
     First being "one flesh" means that I would never say or do anything to my spouse that I wouldn’t want said or done to me.  This is, of course, and impossible expectation.  Even the most loving, intimate, selfless couples still have conflict in their relationship.  So “one flesh” isn’t the absence of conflict.  Nor is it refusing to say something to your spouse that might hurt him/her if it needs to be (very lovingly) said for the sake of accountability and moving toward healing the relationship.  But it is a conscious effort to do everything within your power to not use your words or actions in a deliberately selfish or abusive way toward your mate.  It is fostering a true, holistic intimacy in which you deeply feel your spouse’s joys as well as his/her pains.
     Second, it is not a romanticized relationship.  "One flesh" is not a promise that life will be filled with rainbows, butterflies, and happiness.  Instead, it is a covenant union formed in mutual joy and pain, flowing with forgiveness, and established in a mutual faith in God. No matter how well a couple gets along, if God is left out of the picture they cannot truly experience the holistic “one flesh” relationship that Jesus was pointing us toward.  We live in a fallen world, and we are fallen people, so “one flesh” always calls us to exhibit self-control, surrender ourselves to God, and to be very generous with grace, mercy, and forgiveness toward our spouses.
     There are a lot of similarities between a covenant Christian marriage and a team that functions well, but don’t mistake one for the other.  Don’t be on the same team as your spouse.  A team can split up and go their separate ways.  But one flesh stays together.

This Saturday, September 29th I will be leading a 3-hour Marriage Enrichment Workshop at the Leanna Church of Christ in Murfreesboro.  Please come and share this info with others. 


  1. Danny,
    Always enjoy your posts and comments regarding marriage! Something I thought you and your readers might find interesting is a recent article about statistics and Christian Marriages.

    I thought I would share:
    "new data correcting some erroneous divorce rate statistics that seem to get thrown around the Internet, in the media and, unfortunately, in the pulpit. The stat in question was that Christians divorce at roughly the same rate as the world. But what did the actual research show—particularly concerning practicing Christians?

    People who seriously practice a traditional religious faith—whether Christian or other—have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population.

    The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice.

    What appears intuitive is true. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes—attend church nearly every week; read their Bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples but serious disciples—enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public and unbelievers.

    Specifically, the research shows couples who are active in their faith are much less likely to divorce. Catholic couples were 31 percent less likely to divorce; Protestant couples 35 percent less likely; and Jewish couples 97 percent less likely, which in itself is quite impressive, I must say."

    The article goes on with some other good points. It can be read here:

    Gary Hickerson

  2. Thanks Gary. Statistics can easily be manipulated to say anything the user wants to make them say. I think the key in this article is "practicing Christians." Many who claim Christianity do so out of heritage rather than an active relationship with God both personally and as part of a community of faith. Churches should be taking the lead in furthering a theologically-centered viewed of marriage, not a sociologically or psychologically-centered view.