Theology of the Gap

What we believe about marriage should be based on the Word of God rather than our circumstances or negative experiences.

Part 2 of “What I Believe About Marriage”

As I stated in my first “What I Believe” post, I believe marriage was God’s idea and that he designed it to operate in a specific way. Not that every marriage should look the same, but there are specific God-ordained principles that are meant to under-gird and strengthen the marital covenant relationship between a husband and wife.

These marriage-strengthening principles are on display for us in the relationship between Jesus and the church, and I strongly believe  passionate, intimate and lasting marriages are best built upon the foundation of these truths.

In exploring marriage beliefs, it is important to consider what I’ll call “the theology of the gap.”

Theology formed in the Gap

What do you do with the gap between something you believe to be true and what you see with your eyes or experience in your own life?

Whether it is the belief that God wants to heal our diseases, that God wants to bless and prosper us, or that God never leaves us or forsakes us, there will be times when what we believe doesn’t “seem” to be true based on our experiences and circumstances.

What do you do with that gap?

Typically, what we tend to do is form some kind of less than ideal theology to “fill the gap” between what we see and what we think is true. We will tend to dumb God down or make excuses that rob the Gospel of its power and life. There is all kinds of bad theology that gets formed in the gap. Often times this theology is formed out of fear or the desire to explain and control our circumstances in a way that makes us feel less vulnerable.

We do the same things with biblical marriage principles.

I’m sure we can all point to Christian couples with dreadful or failed marriages. Maybe you are in one (or were in one). Maybe they (or you) even tried to apply some of these biblical principles to no avail.

So, some may conclude, biblical marriage principles must not work.

The Challenge of Faith

As long as marriages involve people – real, broken, imperfect people – there is going to be a gap between the ideal biblical marriage, which I say is modeled for us in the bridal relationship between Jesus and the church, and what we are able to experience here on earth.

The question is what do we do with the gap? Isn’t it really a question of faith?

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

Just because you aren’t yet able to “see” perfection in your marriage as you walk toward a biblical relationship, it doesn’t mean these principles don’t work.

Consider a parallel example in the natural. Suppose you flip on a light switch and the light doesn’t come on. Do you then conclude that electricity doesn’t work – that it isn’t real? No, you commence to figure out what is wrong. Maybe the bulb is out. Maybe the breaker is blown. You don’t just abandon electricity.

Similarly, when you try to walk in God’s design for marriage and it doesn’t turn out how you think it should, rather than throwing out the principle, dig in and figure out what went wrong. Seek the Lord in prayer. Ask him to help you make the necessary adjustments. God is for your marriage, and he longs to partner with you to make it great. 

Marriage is definitely a journey, a process of growing and maturing toward the ideal. This side of heaven we won’t get to experience marriage perfection, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on what we believe to be true.

Examples of Gap Theology

Here are but a few examples of marriage principles that we could be tempted to abandon based on negative experiences.

  • Grace – You show your spouse grace and he or she messes up again. Do you conclude grace doesn’t work, or do you go with God’s approach to grace, where he extends it to us over and over again?
  • Selfless Love – You feel you are the one doing all the giving in your marriage. Do you switch over to selfishness, or do you model your selfless love on Jesus, who went to the point of laying down his life for his bride?
  • Marriage Roles – You’ve seen abusive or authoritarian husbands who make their wives doormats. Do you conclude that the biblical principles of headship and submission don’t work, or do you continue to seek to make your marriage a mirror of the relationship of Christ and the church?

Instead of forming theology around your bad experiences or negative circumstances, I encourage you to base your beliefs about marriage around the Word of God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Because God designed marriage, it makes sense that he would only design it to operate in accordance to his own nature.

The more you know about who God is, the more you’ll know about how to do your marriage.

Can you identify places in your own belief system that were formed out of your negative experiences and circumstances rather than on what God says?


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