NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–To most people, a contract sounds like a fine way to strike a deal.
Make an agreement, sign it on paper, and it’s done. Binding. Legal. If everyone does his or her part, everyone is happy.
Most marriages, says Gary Chapman, best-selling author and speaker on the topic of marriage and relationships, are lived like signing a contract.
And that’s missing the point, he says. Covenant, not contract, is the foundation upon which couples should build their marriage.
Chapman’s latest book, “Covenant Marriage,” published by Broadman & Holman, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources, came out just in time for October’s Marriage Protection Week, part of a movement by various pro-family groups toward a constitutional amendment — the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment — underscoring the biblical definition of marriage between one man and one woman.
And this, Chapman says, is exactly where his book comes in.
Beginning with the premise that a couple’s relationship with Christ is primary, Chapman takes a look at the problems and misunderstandings that have long plagued Christian marriages and how to alleviate them.
Chapman says covenant, not contract, is key to a winning marriage.
“Covenant marriages are characterized by unconditional promises,” he writes in his book, which he dedicates to his wife of more than 40 years, Karolyn. “In traditional marriage vows, the covenant we make with each other is couched in unconditional terms. Sadly, too many times after couples have verbalized a covenant relationship, they practice a contract marriage in which giving is conditioned on the spouse’s behavior.
“We make contracts with almost anyone, even an unknown salesperson, but covenants are made only with those with whom we have loving relationships.”
The most important part about covenants is that they mirror God’s covenants, Chapman says.
Using examples of Bible figures like David and Ruth, Chapman paints a picture of “covenant” in the deeper, spiritual sense — transcending simple human relationships and reflecting God’s constant love and promises to those who follow Him.
“The marriage relationship is so significant that God chose it as a picture of his relationship with His people,” Chapman says. “When a Christian has a healthy marriage, the whole world looks bright. When the marriage relationship is empty, it negatively affects all other aspects of life.”
In order to build loving and intimate relationships, Chapman outlines some of the biggest needs in marriage: a biblical foundation, individuality of both spouses, proper handling of anger and conflict and a godly perspective toward human sexuality.
Essential building blocks like communication, when eroded, can wreak havoc on a marriage, he says.
“Covenant Marriage” lists five levels of communication and unhealthy patterns couples often fall into. The book offers some ways to dig out of those bad habits — but not for the sake of “good” communication itself, but for intimacy.
In the chapter titled, “What’s So Important About Intimacy?” Chapman writes, “God designed marriage to be the most intimate of all human relationships. We are going to share life — intellectually, socially, emotionally, spiritually and physically — and we are going to share life to such a degree that it can be said of us, we become one.
“The degree to which a Christian couple attains intimacy in each of these areas determines the degree of satisfaction in their marriage.”
Covenant Marriage also paints a definition of intimacy, love and sexuality in the biblical, God-given sense — in stark contrast to the world’s corrupted view.
“The intimacy and fulfillment God intended for marriage can be experienced only if we are committed to a covenant marriage,” Chapman says. “This, I believe, is God’s plan for marriage: two people giving their lives away to each other, understanding that the ultimate goal in life is not simply to have a good marriage, but that if married, God intends us to be His encourager to each other so that together we will accomplish more for His Kingdom than we could have ever accomplished alone.”
Covenant Marriage and Chapman’s other books can be found at LifeWay Christian Stores or online at www.lifeway.com. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: COVENANT MARRIAGE.