The phrase, “Mind the Gap, will be familiar to anyone who has visited London, England. As people enter and exit the Tube (underground subway) they are told to “mind the gap.” The phrase is a warning, however, the British accent makes it difficult to understand what is being said as well as being an unfamiliar colloquialism to Americans. After a few Tube rides, my wife and I finally figured it out. The phrase describes the four to six inch space between the concrete platform and the rail car. Americans would say, “Watch your step,” while the British say, “Mind the gap.” We had a good laugh and enjoyed giving our best attempts at mimicking the British accent each time we stepped on or off the Tube.
Recently the phrase took on a new meaning for me while reading the book, Look Before You Lead, by Aubrey Malphurs. The author does an excellent job describing how the values of leaders in the local church may lead to assumptions that are inconsistent with their behaviors such as: Leaders expect his or her churches to be evangelistic. The assumption would lead one to think that leaders with these expectations of their church would also be sharing their faith with unbelievers.
In this blog, I identify possible gaps between values and behaviors that people have toward marriage. The following tables give side by side comparisons of expectations/values and corresponding assumptions (see Table 1.0).
Christian values / expectations of marriage Assumptions of couples
|Marriage is a life-long commitment.||Married couples are committed to covenant relationships.|
|Churches value marriages and offers programs/opportunities that assist couples to enrich and reconcile crisis marriages.||Couples would exhaust every opportunity to reconcile a crisis marriage before separating or divorcing his/her spouse.|
|Marriage is holy.||Couples view their relationship as set apart – consecrated by God.|
|Marriage is a sacred trust that all Christians would honor.||Christian’s support each other’s marriages and would not encourage someone to divorce outside of biblical parameters.|
|Marriage forms couples into one-flesh relationships.||Couples are committed to develop shared spiritual lives.|
Gaps form whenever a spouse’s values/expectations toward marriage are inconsistent with their personal experiences, behaviors or attitudes. Here is where couples must “Mind the gap.” Typically, gaps form when personal or marital crisis’ places someone in a position that he or she never expected to experience such as discovering his/her spouse has been unfaithful, hides spending habits or uses pornography. The pain or disillusionment from being sinned against may challenge the victim’s values, opening up gaps between values and correlating assumptions. The person who was sinned against always believed that marriages could be reconciled and restored from such hurtful actions. However, the trauma of these experiences clashes with their assumptions of how they would respond, never thinking it would happen to them.
Every Christian was at one time greatly influenced by their culture. Men and women must be mindful of the gaps that form between their belief in biblical values concerning marriage and his or her personal experiences, behaviors or attitudes. I believe that cultural values toward marriage is responsible for creating many of these gaps between the core beliefs of Christians and his/her assumed personal behaviors or attitudes (see Table 1.1).
Cultural views of marriage Biblical truth
|Marriage is an outdated institution.||Marriage represents a heavenly covenant.|
|All relationships are equal. There are no differences between commitments of married or cohabiting couples.||Marriage bed is pure (Heb. 13:4).|
|Marriage is a platform for personal advancement.||Married is based upon sacrificial love. Couples love each other more than their own lives. Couples must transition from an “I” mentality to a “we” identity (Gen 2:24).|
|Friendship and compatibility are critical elements of healthy marriages.||The most critical elements of Christian marriage are sacrificial love, forgiveness, mercy and justice (Micah 6:8).|
|Marriage is between two individuals who agree to a civil contract.||Christian marriage make two individual to be as one – one flesh (Mark 10:8).|
The following tables identify possible gaps that may influence the beliefs of Christian couples due to cultural values that are communicated through media, music, education, or in the workplace (see Table 1.2).
Cultural view Gaps Assumption of couples behaviors
|Sex is not exclusive to marriage relationships. Sexual fulfillment is every person’s right.||If your spouse doesn’t meet you sexual expectations or needs you have a right to sexual fulfillment that may include pornography, prostitutes or extramarital affairs.||Marriage is holy and the marriage bed is to be kept pure.|
|Marriage is not exclusively reserved for men and women. Any two people can commit to a marriage relationship.||I will be viewed as a bigot if I don’t validate same sex marriages so I will remain silent concerning my beliefs or values.||Marriage is a sacred trust between men and women that all Christians honor.|
|Friendship and compatibility are the foundations of healthy relationships.||Personal enrichment is the by-product of marriages. I will stay married as long as my marriage relationship enriches the quality of my life.||Marriage/family represents the divine relationship between Jesus and the church requiring faithfulness, trust and self-sacrifice.|
|A civil contract is all that is needed to get married.||Marriage is a civil contract that can be nullified if one person does not fulfill his or her responsibilities. I will stay married as long as my spouse stays: employed, healthy, attractive, faithful, or supportive. You only need to love someone as much as they love you. Don’t give more than you receive.||Marriage is based upon a covenant that requires each person to give 100% commitment even if the other person waivers in his or her commitment.|
Churches need to understand how secular/cultural values regarding marriage and family may cause gaps in the values and assumptions of Christian couples. Churches need to develop premarital, marriage, and parenting classes that are based upon biblical values in order to prepare couples to stand strong when life is affected by sinful behaviors or life crises.
Couples who find themselves in these gaps are in danger of giving up on their marriages and families whenever unhappiness or personal struggles seem overwhelming. The church has been given the ministry of reconciliation, however, many people are unaware of what the Bible says about marriage, family life, and reconciliation (1 Cor 5:18). Pastoral care prepares parents and couples to avoid being overwhelmed by the cultural views that are contrary to biblical truths.
What is your church doing to teach on marriage and family life that prepares people to resist these cultural values and overcome these types of gaps?