The Gospel in Marriage

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1cor13Marriage & Divorce.

The divorce rate in Japan is estimated to be 27% of the 128 million population.  Out of every 3 marriages, one end up in divorce.  In a post in 2011, I quoted from a excerpt and stated that:

“In 2008, a record number of 251,000 divorces took place.  In Japan, the breadwinner of the household was historically the male.  Men used to enjoy the benefits of job security for a lifetime, but this is no longer the case in this climate of economic uncertainty.  Today women are more educated, and as a result, they enjoy more financial independence.  Some argue that this is a contributing factor in the increased number of divorces in Japan.”

However, a recent online survey of 721 Japanese women also showed that playing video games was the fourth most cited reason for splitting up with a spouse.  Furthermore, women aged between teens to 60 plus said that adultery, alcoholism and overspending were greater grounds for divorcing their husbands.  There were also less offensive options like sleeping in until noon on the weekends and differing “approaches to cleanliness” that contributed to divorce.  Some women claim that their husbands, in their devotion to their companies, came home late and hardly had any time for their families even after being married for 20 years.  And the list could go on.

The Love Chapter.

Western Style wedding ceremonies are very common in Japan, which is a typical Protestant ceremony style.  Apparently, Japanese do this to make a fashion statement.  Besides that weddings are a $20 billion industry in Japan.  But the point of marriage is not how great the ceremony is, but how long people stay married.  Typically part of 1 Corinthians 13 is read from the Bible.  After the reading, there is a prayer and a short message, explaining the sanctity of the wedding vows (seiyaku).   Some argue that the divorce rate may have slowed done partly because fewer couples are getting married, while some prefer to remain single.  Then there’s also a very low birth rate, and 300,000 abortions take place annually.  On the top of that Japan is aging faster than any country in history so we need to see an increase in the birth rate.

The Traditional and The Modern. 

Traditionally, it is said that men don’t enter the kitchen partly because this was reserved for the women.  Nonetheless, that has shifted to a great extent in modern day, and today more women are found in the workplace.  Sono-san, a female novelist, wrote in an article that “women should leave their company when they have babies and kosodate suru (子育てする, raise their children) for some years.  This will work if society makes it possible for them to saishūshoku suru (再就職する, get a job again) after their children get older.”  Surely, even Shinzo Abe had proposed a ikukyū sannen (育休3年, three-year child-care leave) for women in the workplace to alleviate their dilemma.

Though many, including women, support Abe’s proposal Sono-san also believes that this can meiwaku senban (迷 惑千万,  causes a lot of trouble) for companies because they cannot easily hire a new person for a position that will be vacated by someone who will later come back from maternity leave, since people in the same department have to cover for the person taking leave.   According to her onna no teki wa onna 女の敵は女 (meaning- women’s enemies are women).  And the majority of both men and women still support the idea that a mother’s place is in the home.  What are we missing then?

 God’s Love Story For Marriage.

Despite the marriage vows and the love chapter (I Corinthians 13) however, about one in three Japanese marriages end up in divorce (four times the rate in the 1950s and double the rate in the 1970s).  With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the passage from the love chapter which is famously read in Western Style weddings- as this is key to not only having a healthy marriage, but especially key to being right with God eternally.  It reads:

4. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or 5, rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.  6. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  (Love here in the greek is agape= unconditional love).

At the root of all our problems is the heart.  If this verse is read merely as some kind of a moral principle to be applied, we won’t have heart change.  Why?  The Gospel is incredibly Good News, not good advice.  Human love is limited and deeply  tainted because of sin, and will only endure for a while.  In fact, the Bible tells us “when we were dead in our trespasses [God] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2: 5).  We were dead in our sins, spiritually incapable of pleasing God.  Our best efforts toward our fellow men and even our spouses could not please God.  We needed not just some moral principles or an example to follow, but a Savior to save us from our sins.  Sin is breaking God’s holy laws, and is an offense to God because God is holy.   Even our self-righteousness is as “filthy rags” before God’s holiness (Isaiah 64: 6).  And since God is holy, He has to judge sinners.  Yet, out of His great love for us, God sent His son who knew no sin to pay the penalty for our sins.  Jesus lived a perfect life none of us could live.  He died a death we should have died to pay the just penalty for our sins.  He willingly laid down His life, and obeyed God the Father perfectly.  And God raised Him up on the third day, so that we might die to our sins and live a new life with Him forever.

So human heart needs to change, and this continuous change can occur only as we rightly understand God’s unconditional love for us first, and then for our spouses as portrayed to us in the Gospel.  The Gospel is incredibly good news in a world of bad news and statistics.  Self-help books on “How to Fix A Marriage Problem” will do more long term damage than if we rightly understood and applied the Gospel in our hearts and marriage daily.

Only Jesus Fulfills I Corinthians 13 Perfectly. 

The only One who loves us unconditionally is patient and kind, and He does not envy or boast.  He is not arrogant or rude, does not insist his own way, nor is irritable or resentful, and does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth because He is the truth.   Jesus bore all things, including all our past, present and future sins on the cross.  He endured all things and submitted joyfully to the Father perfectly on our behalf.  Only as we grow in our understanding of this great love He has for us, will we also be able to express that love to others- especially to our spouses.

“Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving” (What Did You Expect? p. 188- Paul Tripp).

In a world full of hate and a merciless generation, God in His great love for us has forgiven all our sins.  He has chosen to show us grace and mercy, instead of judgment for our sins.  That is what God wants us to see and display in all our relationships- especially in our marriages.  Loving others isn’t about putting others in our debts and expecting them to pay off their debts to us.  No.  God’s love isn’t like that!!  The love of Christ compels and motivates us to love like Him.   In the end, the question isn’t “What kind of a wedding ceremony will you have?”  But “what kind of a marriage will you have?”  There is great hope for you and your spouse in the power of the cross.  The Gospel of grace makes us right with God and also enables us to learn to love like Him.

On the next post on The Gospel in Marriage Part 2, we will address “Civil Marriage and Covenant Marriage.”  Please stay tuned.


Author: Outside The Camp

God's passion for His global glory is our passion for the gospel in Japan.

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