It takes a community to sustain a marriage. Thriving couples spend time with people who want to see their marriage succeed, and they have positive examples of marriage in their lives. They have people they can count on in times of need and are careful not to isolate themselves. They choose to interact with those around them for their own good and for the good of others.
The word fellowship belongs in every healthy community. In the Bible, fellowship connotes a shared vision. It means “community,” “intimacy,” and “joint participation.”[i] The God of this universe created us to be in relationship – with Him and with others. We were never meant to tackle the challenges of life and marriage alone. Couples need a strong community surrounding them at all times.
When you’re caught up in the euphoria of the first flush of romantic love, it’s easy to adopt an “It’s-you-and-me-against-the-world” attitude. But where do you turn for help when it becomes “You-and-me-against-each-other?” And what can you do to help when you see other couples falling into the same ditch? The answers can be found in fellowship. Here are a few thoughts on the need for community and some of the best places to find it.
Let’s face it. Marriage can be difficult. Satanic forces more powerful than any comic-book arch-villain are out to break up every couple’s marital commitment (1 Peter 5:8). And each partner’s innate self-centeredness is bound to create problems in a marriage. Even the healthiest relationships go through conflict, disappointment, and temptation. This suggests that family and friends have a continuing role to play in a couple’s grand adventure. When hard times come, loved ones who have vowed to support and fight for your marriage can make the difference between life and death in your relationship. In the same way, you can step in and help rescue others from the marital snares and pitfalls you’ve successfully survived. It’s all a matter of being connected, available, and involved before problems arise.
The first and most obvious place to make these connections is your local church. “We are members of one another,” writes Paul in Romans 12:5. That’s the meaning of the church in a nutshell. Naturally, this is a two-way street: you as a couple need the church and the church needs you. To be strong, you have to learn how to give and to take. God’s Word directs all of us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Married couples are an integral part of the church community.
Remember, Jesus Christ came into the world to become one of us so that He might walk among us, heal us of our sins, create us anew, and make us part of a new humanity. This means that there’s no place for “Me-and-God” theology in the Christian community. In order to truly live, we have to step outside our private lives, reach out to our neighbors, and do something for and with other people.
Within the larger fellowship of the church there’s a great deal you can do to establish bonds with people on a smaller and more personal level. For example, you can connect regularly with other like-minded couples by joining a Sunday school class, Bible study, or fellowship group for married people in your age range.
You can also make yourselves available to mentor newlyweds and younger couples who are in a position to benefit from your experience. A mentor couple fills a role similar to the role the apostle Paul played in the early church. He provided insight, wisdom, and acted as an inspiration to others. You can do the same thing. All you have to do is be yourselves. Show them by example what it means to have an intimate spiritual relationship, how to work together, and how to be caring, effective parents. You’d be surprised what you can gain by offering empathy and encouragement to husbands and wives whose marriages are in need of practical, tangible assistance. As in the life of the church at large, a mentoring relationship is very much a two-way street.
Thriving couples who desire to bear witness for Christ in the world also take the time and effort to look beyond the walls of the church. They make a conscious choice to interact with people around them, both believers and non-believers, in their neighborhoods and local communities. They do this by finding ways to engage with nurturing groups of all kinds – service organizations, social clubs, and common interest groups. This kind of outreach and involvement is both crucial to the health of your marriage and a strong indicator of its vitality. Thriving couples who love God and each other also care about loving people. In an important sense, the strength of the bond that holds you and your spouse together is directly related to the value you place on human relationships of every variety.
Wondering where to begin? If you think about your world as a series of concentric circles, you’ll discover a wealth of opportunities for building relationships. Start with your neighborhood and the local schools your children are attending. Your church probably offers a number of programs through which you can connect with others, particularly with the needy and disadvantaged. Workplace relationships are another good place to look – they form a natural bridge to building trust and growing closer to folks who may come from very different backgrounds. Finally, you may want to consider getting involved with others nationally and internationally through global outreach such as mission trips, worthy causes, and healthy social media activities.
Why not make your next Date Night a group activity? Retirement communities and nursing facilities are always grateful to have visitors. If you call ahead, it should be easy to set up a time when your group can stop by. Bring along a sampling of baked goods or some simple gifts. If anyone in your group is musically inclined, take the opportunity to lead a few songs. If that’s not your cup of tea, try spending the evening just talking with the residents. You’ll be amazed what an enriching experience it can be!
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