Applying the law of God into marriage creates tensions. Each party introduces traditions from their own family home which are foreign to their partner. I remember Katey and I having major problems our first Christmas. Each of us knew how we celebrated Christmas, yet had failed to disclose this to each other. Hence, disagreement and conflicts, five months into our marriage! At this stage we had little experience to draw upon and so were too ready to take it out on each other. Fortunately, good friends, who were long-time married, stepped in to help us and we navigated Christmas and learnt something about the ‘law of love’.
However, society’s values will always constrain marriage and spouses will submit to the prevailing rules. Paul recognises this, yet adds that such submission must be carried out in a Christ-like fashion. Hence in a society that accepted slavery, Paul advises the slave, Onesimus, to return to his master as a slave, while encouraging his master to treat him kindly, ie after the fashion of Jesus and as a brother in Christ.
The Church must be ready to contextualise its teaching within the society to which it is preaching. While all societies have marriage as a cornerstone to their stability, the rights of wives and husbands varies. However, the authentic Christian message is that marriage is a one time, lifetime commitment.
While such a commitment can pay homage to overarching social conventions, unless they breach God’s greater law of loving others as self (such as Sati, the custom of burning widows in India), yet within the Christian marriage the principle of equality and kinship must be practised. God’s law overrides all others in the life of the Church, yet cannot be enforced upon a social structure. That society must be wooed and won by the Good News first, and conversion is always a matter of free choice, never compulsion. How we live our marriages speaks to society.
(Dr Micha Jazz)
With many peaceful blessings