April 7, 2015

Absolute Marriage

Gary Thomas — 

Absolute Marriage

A simple spiritual practice can revolutionize who you become in your marriage and parenting. A short, half-an-hour a day exercise will help usher God’s presence into your life and relationships in a very practical way.

This spiritual practice sprang from a powerful (but not perfect) movement of God that swept the world in the early part of the twentieth century, often referred to by two names: Moral Re-Armament (MRA) or the Oxford Group. As the world was re-arming for World War II, MRA’s founder Frank Buchman suggested we first re-arm “morally” by adopting four summary benchmarks of the Sermon on the Mount, and then spend time daily listening to God to see how we’re progressing.

The four benchmarks reveal the astonishing depth out of which Jesus calls us to live:

  • Absolute honesty
  • Absolute purity
  • Absolute unselfishness
  • Absolute love

What if we applied these same benchmarks to marriage? What if we asked ourselves, on a regular basis, “In my relations with my spouse am I being absolutely honest? Absolutely pure? Absolutely unselfish? Absolutely loving?”

By putting “absolute” in front of these summary benchmarks, we’re unable to hide behind being “mostly” honest, “usually” pure, “occasionally” unselfish, or periodically loving. The “absolute” part was almost as important as the concept that followed. Almost honest, almost pure, almost unselfish and almost loving doesn’t cut it, and it won’t provide a foundation for a mature, intimate marriage.

Are you mostly honest with your spouse, but, for instance, occasionally lie about how much money you’re spending, how much food you’re eating, or who you’re chatting with on Facebook? Do you stop playing video games when your spouse gets home so she won’t know what you’ve been doing, and do you allow her to think you’ve been doing something else while she was gone? Is your marriage filled with these “little white lies” that, when it comes to destroying intimacy, are neither little nor white?

Go through the other three benchmarks with the same meticulous care:

  • Am I pursuing absolute purity, or merely a purity that exceeds the low levels of my friends?
  • Am I generally unselfish but decidedly so on certain favorite issues? Do I excuse my most deeply held points of selfishness because I try to be unselfish at other times, somehow thinking I’m “making up” for it?
  • Do I tend to be loving, but also have many times when I check out of the relationship or put other, lesser things as a higher priority?

Buchman’s next point is crucial: not just aspiring after these things, but working with God’s power and guidance to experience them. He calls us to consider all four benchmarks and then wait on God, listening to His still small voice, asking Him to reveal to us where we may be shading the truth, compromising on purity, acting with mixed motives, or living for our own comfort instead of for love. We ask God to convict us by His Holy Spirit along the lines of these scriptural principles and then listen to see what He says.

“God, reveal to me where I’m acting dishonestly (wait); where my heart isn’t absolutely pure (listen); where I’m being selfish (give Him time); where I’m lacking in love…”

This small exercise is so simple, which is partly what made MRA so powerful and what allowed it to jump national boundaries to become an international phenomenon: Four objective benchmarks, followed by subjective listening. These two simple, powerful tools literally changed governments, brought revival to many places, renewed marriages, and transformed workplaces.

They aren’t tied to any century or any war. They will work in peace, and they will certainly work in your marriage. Why not give them a shot? If you take up this challenge, please share with all of us how God used these tools to refine your marriage. This is the kind of post we’ll come back to and check the comments on to keep the conversation (and learning) going.

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8 responses to Absolute Marriage

  1. Brian Lee Jones April 9, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Wow this is powerful Life changing I got the message and plan on implementing them. Thanks Gary! May God keep on blessing you and your family!

  2. Hi Pastor Gary do you have an email I can write you?

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this, Gary! So much wisdom and so much to think about! I do have a question for you: how does one differentiate between being unselfish and having boundaries? How does someone love their spouse/children unselfishly while at the same time communicate behavior that he/she is uncomfortable with? Thanks!

    • This could be a very long answer, given that a couple guys have made a very good living writing several (very good) books on this topic! In a short answer, true unselfishness is always doing what is best for the other person. Enabling unhealthy behavior isn’t best for anyone. So we ask ourselves, am I doing this in a way that serves them or harms them? If we’re pleasing them so that they like us more but our actions are crippling or enabling an unhealthy pattern, that’s actually being selfish. So, thanks for the question. That’s an important qualification.

      • Thank you so much for taking the time to respond! I really appreciate your insight! Your blog and books have been a blessing to me! Take care!

  4. Jennifer Gonzalez April 7, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    This just punched me in the gut. I needed this today. Thank you!

  5. Thanks for the great challenge, Gary! I once heard a story of a wonderful meal being served…..glazed chicken with herb stuffing, roasted potatoes, freshly steamed vegetables, a platter of juicy fruit, warm yeast rolls, and chocolate cream cake with fudge icing topped with chopped nuts and bits of shaved chocolate. There was also a variety of ice cold drinks – sodas, tea, freshly squeezed juice and spring water. So much good stuff. HOWEVER, somewhere on this delicious meal….there was a little sprinkling of arsenic! Would you STILL want to partake in this meal??? Just as in our marriages, the ‘appeal’ can be lost due to the ‘little’ things that creep in…….white lies, impurity, selfishness, unloving words, gestures, actions. It doesn’t have to be much, but the ‘little’ things can lead to big consequences.
    Thank you for encouraging us with this wonderful challenge of absolute truth in all areas of our lives. I’m in!