Treasure #1: Unity

Proverbs 24:3-4 tells us that a house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure.

Treasure? When I read these verses one of the first questions that comes to mind is, “What are those treasures?” So I searched the Bible, studied the writings of psychologists, and looked at my own marriage experience, and I concluded that there are four treasures. The first one is Unity.

Jesus said whenever two come together in unity, he promises to be there with them. He followed that with another guarantee: whenever two are in agreement and ask for something, he will do it for them.

Do you catch the significance of this? Unity invites the presence of God and ignites the power of God. That’s what makes unity a priceless commodity in your home. It’s the single most-important component of an effective marriage.

The first treasure you need, then, to decorate your home is unity, and the first three Biblical Principles of Marriage will show you how to do that. When a couple puts these concepts into action in their home, they are able to create the dynamics that will sustain them and provide a deep awareness of the behaviors that contribute toward unity. They’ll learn to avoid the words and behaviors that destroy unity.

When you are committed to building and maintaining unity in your marriage, you will experience the active presence of God and the awesome power of God. You’ll start to decorate your home with this beautiful, priceless jewel, paving the way for more treasures to follow.

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Head of the House

Phone 2The phone rang on a Saturday afternoon.

“Hello,” I answered.

“Hello, I’d like to speak to the man of the house.”

“We don’t have one,” I stated matter-of-factly.

The caller didn’t know what to say, so after a few seconds, I hung up.

gender-1990154_1920Please understand. I am a man. The only man who lives in our house, by the way. Our three sons are grown and have homes of their own, so technically, I am “the” man of “the” house. But that’s not what the caller meant.

He wanted to talk to the person who had authority to make decisions, the person who didn’t have to check with someone else before spending a lot of money, the person who was in charge. And he assumed, as many do, that a woman can’t make decisions, can’t spend without permission, and can’t be in charge.

That’s what I objected to, and that is the kind of skewed gender-role relationship that we don’t have in our home. What a demeaning, unbiblical view of women and marriage!

dollar-660223_1920.pngI spoke with another caller, and what he was selling actually sounded like a good deal. But when he got to the point where he wanted to close the sale, I mentioned that I wasn’t going to make a decision on the spot, because I wanted to discuss it with my wife. I couldn’t believe his sarcastic response. “What’s the matter? Aren’t you the man of the house? Can’t you make a decision?”

I’m not sure what he thought when I said, “My wife and I respect each other enough to talk about major expenses, and we make shared decisions. So, go ahead and call someone else, someone who doesn’t understand how to build a good marriage, and try to bully him instead.”

The fact is, my wife and I both make decisions; we’re pretty good at it, too. We trust each other and support each other. We’re not perfect by any means, but our usual practice is to take time to talk together before making major decisions. It’s one of the ways we’ve been able to maintain unity. We value one another and what each other thinks and feels. It’s also a matter of courtesy. 

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, very few decisions have to be made today. Unity is more important than haste. In other words, a good decision at the expense of unity is a bad decision.

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Speaking at Peoples Church

Tomorrow morning, Sunday February 10, Linda and I are speaking at People’s Church, 3800 Recker Highway in Winter Haven, FL. There are two morning sessions, 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., and we’ll be at both.

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The theme for the morning is “Created for Unity” and focuses on the importance of developing and maintaining unity as husband and wife. What can you do to get unity? What prevents it? What are the results if you do maintain unity? And what happens when you don’t?

This is the second of a four-part series on relationships called “Woven Together.” Pastor Mike Spivey started the series last week. Linda and I have the second session tomorrow and the third session next week on the 17th. Then Pastor Mike will conclude with the fourth part on February 24. The principles we’re talking about are relevant to all relationships, by the way. So if you’re not married, it’ll still be helpful. If you’re able to come, it’d be great to see you.

Let Go of the Past

suitcase 1When we say a person is carrying a lot of baggage, what we mean is there has been some pain, abuse, or failure in the past, and the person hasn’t finished dealing with it. We often have trouble letting go of it, healing from it, or forgiving the people involved. Whatever is in “the baggage” still has a negative impact on present-day relationships and attitudes.

There’s a Biblical Principle of Marriage in Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” I call this verse the Old Testament equivalent of Philippians 3:13-14: “But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Spiritually, in order to fully live in the present we have to let go of the past. If we want to enjoy the Christian life and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, we have to allow God’s grace to set us free from our past, and move forward in a new direction, with different habits and attitudes, forming a different lifestyle that is shaped by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. This might entail ending some relationships and forming new ones.

Relationally, if we want today’s marriage to succeed, we have to stop focusing on previous relationships, good or bad, and live the life we are currently called to live. We can’t afford to live in the past.

While Genesis states that it is the parents who must be left in order to form a new unity, there are others besides parents we must leave behind as well. These might include a boyfriend, girlfriend, or a previous lover or spouse. There may be a number of people and situations that have to be included in what we let go of: friends, abuse, wealth, lifestyle, job, fame, sports, or any number of things.

Future Past

One couple lost a son in a boating accident. The woman drove her husband to divorce because she was unable to let go of the pain and loss, unable to heal, and unable to stop blaming him. She couldn’t let go of yesterday, so it ruined today.

But it’s not only the negative that has to be left behind. Sometimes we have to let go of some positives: the good old days, a happy first marriage, the perfect job, a previous home and neighborhood, wealth, fame, or even a dream or ambition. An athlete whose playing days have come to an end is often headed for emotional and relationship disaster. A business person or a Soldier whose career comes to an end might find it hard to stop living that life and transition to retirement. Someone who loses a leg or an arm in an accident at work can have a tough time accepting the new reality, and letting go of the previous physical ability.

It is crucial that we understand the power of forgiveness. When we forgive, we release ourselves and others from the pain and injustice of the past. But forgiveness doesn’t happen quickly. It can’t happen quickly. It happens slowly, with a little understanding, and with some confusion. It has to sort out the anger, the pain, the betrayal, and the injustice. When forgiveness finishes its work, however, both the forgiver and the offender have been renewed, transformed, and liberated.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean there will be no scars. We typically carry the consequences of pain long after the hurting stops and forgiveness is complete. The Christian singing group Point of Grace sings a song called “Heal the Wound.” The words of the chorus deal with the scars that might remain for a lifetime.

Heal the wound but leave the scar

A reminder of how merciful You are

I am broken, torn apart

Take the pieces of this heart

And heal the wound but leave the scar

RiverOne middle-aged couple recognized that they still carried some of the baggage from their past, so they decided to do something about it. They had both been in a previous marriage, and still felt some attachment and affection for their exes. They also felt guilt and pain because of some of the decisions they had made early in life. They called their pastor for guidance. He suggested that they create a private ritual, during which they would identify the aspects of their past that they wanted to be free from. They also talked about how to forgive each other, and how to receive God’s forgiveness. They took a month to plan, and then went camping. The second day, they took a hike along the river, until they came to a suitable spot. They both wrote down the specifics of what they wanted to let go of. Then they read them to each other. They prayed and asked God to wash them, forgive them, and help them to let go of the past. They also asked each other for forgiveness. Then they threw their lists into the river. Watching them float downstream was therapeutic. The river represented a washing or cleansing, and they were able to start fresh, committed to each other, committed to living in the present.

To the degree that a couple is willing and able to leave the past, they have an opportunity to create a new unity as a couple. The opposite is also true. To the degree that they cannot or will not let go of the past, they will be unable to create the unity essential to growing a healthy, happy marriage.

Unity Produces Winners

quarterback-73614_1920Football season is in full swing. All across the nation, players and fans have high hopes and great expectations that their team will win. And let’s be honest, for most people, it’s not how you play the game. It’s whether you win or lose.

Last week, several sportswriters interviewed a college quarterback whose team just won a big game. They had beaten a good team by a pretty wide margin, and when asked how he did it, the QB deflected the praise. “It was my guys. They played a great game. I know I can count on them to come through.” Another question elicited this answer, “The reason we’re doing so well is that we all bought into what the coaches are telling us. There’s no fighting or working against each other here.”

Winners always have one thing in common: They have team chemistry and camaraderie. After a successful game, and especially after the season ends and they win the championship, a reporter inevitably asks the question, “What’s special about this team? What made it possible to win it all?” And the answer is always, “We’re a family. On and off the field. We have a sense of togetherness that really made it happen. I love these guys.”

The same happens in any sport. Unity produces winners, and this dynamic is at play in every field, whether a business, a school, a club, a fraternity, a church, a military unit, a marriage, or a family. Even in politics.

In Matthew 12:25 Jesus says, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.”

A kingdom? A city? A household? The context of his statement is the spiritual realm, which means the same principles are at work in the spiritual dimension as they are in human relationships, athletics, and the business world.

We see this again in Matthew 18:19-20. “If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

According to these verses, unity turns on the power of God, and invites the presence of God. No wonder unity produces winners. We need the power and the presence of God at work in our lives and our relationships.

Years ago, my wife and I adopted the slogan “We’re on the Same Team.” We’re both competitive, and there’s a potential for one of us to feel good for winning, at the expense of the other feeling bad for losing, and we don’t want that to happen. In reality, husband and wife both win, or they both lose. Everyone in the church wins, or the church loses. Just like on the football team, everyone wins, or everyone loses.

Unity produces winners.

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