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The Litmus Test for Every Marriage

 Life’s Three Verbs

There are three verbs that encapsulate all of human life. These three verbs are to have, to do, and to be. When put alongside marriage, these verbs provide a litmus test to determine the quality of one’s marriage. The test reveals in which verb the marriage is rooted. Jesus in His High Priestly prayer of John chapter 17 was praying to His Father concerning the highest level of human existence and experience – that of being.

Verses 20-21: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

He is in the Father and the Father is in Him and we are in them. We are one as He and His Father are one. We could say it simply, “We are Him and He is us”.Christian marriages suffer because when a couple doesn't see the ontological aspect of marriage. Click To Tweet

With this in mind, we can now see that many Christian marriages suffer because when a couple overlooks or is ignorant of the ontological  aspect of marriage, they are left only with the psychological or physical aspects that are not spiritual. In other words, they bypass the spiritual and live in the lower realms of the soul and body. Or, in still other words, they bypass the being and concentrate on doing and having.

The Three Verbs in Marriage

Every marriage is rooted in one of the three verbs; to have, to do, and to be. A married person can have a spouse, do marriage, or be married.

  1. Having a spouse is like the following:
    • A man having a car. It is a possession, a thing to be owned. It serves and is taken care of, or not. A man who possesses his wife says, “I have a wife,” and treats her like he treats his car. Dresses her up, repairs her as needed, drives her when he wants. She gives him a thrill and/or prestige. Of course, the opposite of all of these can happen.
    • A woman having a house. A women who possesses her husband says “I have a husband.” She treats him like she treats her house. She tries to keep him clean, repaired, renovated, painted, and above all controlled. He gives her security and a sense of purpose.
  2. Doing marriage is acting as needed in the marriage so as to optimize the experience for one’s self. There are all kinds of doings in a marriage that are beautiful and some that are not so beautiful. Many books are written to make the doing of marriage better with accenting on communication, building romantic love, knowing your spouse’s love language, etc. Most marriage getaways focus on the doings of marriage and try to get spouses to commit themselves to doing better and trying harder.
  3. Being married is something that is deeper than possession and experience. A married person whose marriage is based on the facts of marriage say, “I am married.” It stands as a whole regardless of the couple’s possessions or experiences – until death do they part. Christian marriage stands on what God did on that wedding day – a great mystery indeed!

Two Become One

The idea that two become one, that two people can say “I am her and she is me,” is an idea that comes from God. The Trinity, is Three but One. When a couple realizes, meditates upon, and sets as a foundation what God did when they said their vows before witnesses on their wedding day their marriage will begin to change – from the inside out.

This oneness has a huge impact on the doing in the marriage. Paul states a marriage formula that is derived from the two-are-one principle – “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:31). Oh, if only spouses could understand this. It would change the way they see and treat each other.

Getting married is like when we were born again. We, at the moment of salvation, are put into Christ and He is put into us. I am made Him and He is me. Every Christian has been baptized by the Holy Spirit into His Body – we are one. What Jesus did for us resulted in His being in us and we in Him. So it is with marriage. The consequence of two people’s doing at the altar creates a new being – the one new man of the marriage. God said it when man and woman were created (Genesis 2:24),; Jesus reiterated it (Matthew 19:5); and Paul emphasized it in the most famous writing on Christian marriage (Ephesians 5:30,31): “Therefore, shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” This a new being created by God and is the focus of the marriage – not a doing or a having but a being! Two have become a married being. The consequence of Jesus's doing for us is us being...in Him. Click To Tweet

The Bible tells us what happens in the spiritual realms when two people are pronounced man and wife.

  • God joins them. They are no more two but one (Matthew 19:6).
  • They become organically related to each other such that when one hurts the other he hurts himself (Ephesians 5:28-30).
  • The relationship between them, though temporal, is a representation of what is happening in the spiritual world – Christ is loving His church, His church is connected to her head (Ephesians 5:32).

These heavenly realities, if meditated upon, produce motivation and commitment. They bring the couple to celebrate the fact of being a married being. One begins to see his/her spouse for who he/she is – a part of me – it gives a proper perspective on having and doing. Let’s celebrate the miracle and wonder of marriage – a refection of the unity of the Three-in-One in heaven. What God has joined let no man put asunder.

Put your marriage to the three-verb litmus test.

Brian Lange

Brian Lange

Served 14 years as a missionary to France and Hungary. He is the director of Greater Grace International School in Budapest, Hungary (www.ggis.hu), a blog writer for Lifenotes.com, a marriage seminar speaker and Bible college teacher at Maryland Bible College and Seminary (www.mbcs.edu) Read the full bio here
Brian Lange

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