The Holy Covenant of Marriage
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The Covenant of Marriage"

Since God is our Creator it only makes sense that to live happy, fulfilling, and contented lives we must follow His instruction. One of the most obvious problems in the lives of many is broken marriages. Our Creator instituted marriage and those who enter into marriage with little respect for God and His word can not expect anything but problems. Marriage, to the majority of people, is something simply done out of convenience without a sense of obligation and responsibility before God. For those same people divorce is a convenience. Many get married with the selfish attitude that says, "I'll get married, try it for a while and if it doesn't work, if I don't like it, I'll get a divorce." Yet, God views marriage to be a covenant relationship.

A covenant is an agreement that involves promises and commitments. The Bible describes the marriage as a spiritual covenant that is just as binding, and just as sacred, as the covenant that God has made with His people. In fact, we find that when God describes the relationship between Himself and His people He speaks of the husband wife relationship (cf. Jer. 31:31-32). In the New Testament the blessed relationship between Christ and the church is described by the covenant relationship of the husband and the wife (Eph. 5:22-ff). Marriage is a holy union before God.

Malachi prophesied in a time of general apostasy and unfaithfulness. The people's apostasy was characterized by an atmosphere of general covenant breaking. In Malachi's time divorce was a real problem and became a central issue in all of the sins of the people. Thus God declared, "I hate divorce" (Mal. 2:16). There is more to divorce that just incompatibility, or "I just don't love him/her anymore." It is something so serious that it involves breaking a covenant that is just as binding and sacred as a covenant that God makes with His people.

A fact that many fail to realize is though it is a man and a woman that make the commitment to be married, they are joined in that commitment, bound in that covenant relationship, by God. Our Creator instituted marriage from the beginning and only He has the authority to bind, or say what does and does not break that covenant. Jesus declared, "..What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate" (Matt. 19:6). A marriage covenant involves more than an individual, their spouse, and the law of the land; it involves God and the covenant that He has bound when a man and woman vow their commitment before Him. The only One who has the authority to declare what is a legitimate reason to break that covenant is the one who bound it, and that is God. He has given only one exception to this lifetime covenant which we will discuss next time.


The Marriage Covenant
FATHER WILLIAM SAUNDERS

Given our understanding of marriage and marital love, we can readily see that the most beautiful expression of love in marriage is marital love, or physical love, or sexual intercourse, or conjugal love whatever term one prefers.
Granted, love in marriage encompasses much more than the act of conjugal love. Nevertheless, this action radiates a unique and special symbolism of the sacrament of marriage the covenant shared between the two who have become one flesh.
Interestingly, in our sacramental theology, we hold that a sacrament has two parts: the form, or prayer part of the sacrament; and the matter, the physical and action part of the sacrament. For instance, in performing a baptism, the matter of the sacrament is the priest pouring water over the head of the person or immersing the person in water three times; at the same time, the priest prays the form of the sacrament, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." In marriage, the couple are the ministers of the sacrament; the priest is the official witness of the Church, who also imparts God's blessing. The form of the sacrament of marriage is the exchange of vows; the matter of the sacrament is the consummation of the marriage, when the two people enact those vows in that physical expression of love. Therefore the Church teaches, "The acts of marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 49).

Pope Paul VI in his encyclical "Humanae Vitae" (No. 9), offered a beautiful reflection on this conjugal love of marriage. The Holy Father said that marital love is a genuinely human love, because it embraces the good of the whole person and is rooted in a freely willed giving of one spouse to the other. This love endures through joy and pain, success and failure, happiness and sorrow, united the couple in both body and soul. This love is also total free of restriction, hesitation or condition. This love is faithful and exclusive to both partners. In all, this love must be a mutually respectful action, a genuine expression of love. Unlike what is so often portrayed by the various media today, marital love is not some erotic action, rooted in selfishness, fleeting pleasure or dominance. No, marital love is a sacred action which unites a couple with each other and God. The spirit of this teaching reflects what Jesus said at the Last Supper, "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:13).

Moreover, the act of marital love also participates in God's creative love. The couple who has become a new creation by becoming husband and wife, one flesh, may also bring about the creation of new life in accord with God' will. Vatican II asserted, "by its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 48, cf. No. 50). The Council acknowledged that while not diminishing the importance of sacramental union symbolized in marital love, "it must be said that true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it is directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich His family from day to day" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 50).

Most recently, our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical "Evangelium Vitae," reflected that God's own image and likeness is transmitted through the creation of an immortal soul directly by Him. Moreover, a child is really the personification of the love of husband and wife in union with the Creator. Therefore, "it is precisely in their role as co-workers with God who transmits His image to the new creature that we see the greatness of couples who are ready to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior, who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day" ("Evangelium Vitae," No. 43, quoting also "Gaudium et Spes," No. 50).

Throughout sacred Scripture, we find the birth of children as a blessing from God and a sign of the living covenant between God and husband and wife. For example, Moses delivered the law of the covenant, declaring: "As your reward for heeding these decrees and observing them carefully, the Lord, your God, will keep with you the merciful covenant which He promised on oath to your fathers. He will love and bless and multiply you; He will bless the fruit of your womb and the produce of your soil, your grain and wine and oil, the issue of your herds and young of your flocks in the land which He swore to your fathers He would give you. You will be blessed above all peoples; no man or woman among you shall be childless nor shall your livestock be barren" (Dt 7:12-14). Clearly, life, fruitfulness and fertility were cherished as goods granted by God.

Because of this decree and the understanding that the procreative aspect of marital love is a sacred gift, "barrenness" or infertility was a true cross for a couple to bear. For example, in the old Testament, in the story of Hannah, wife of Elkanah, we read how she grieved at not being able to have a child although she had a beautiful loving marriage. Sacred Scripture reads, "Hannah rose, and presented herself before the Lord; at the time, Eli, the priest was sitting on a chair near the doorpost of the Lord's temple. In her bitterness, she prayed to the Lord, weeping copiously, and she made a vow, promising, Oh Lord of hosts, if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid, if you remember me and do not forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the Lord for as long as he lives; neither wine nor liquor shall he drink, and no razor shall ever touch his head" (1 Sm 1:9-11). The Lord heard the plea of Hannah, and she conceived and bore a son, Samuel.

In the New Testament, we read the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah, who were "just in the eyes of God" and "upheld the commandments of the Lord." However, in their old age, they remained childless. By God's will, they conceived a child, John the Baptist. Elizabeth said, "In these days the Lord is acting on my behalf; He has seen fit to remove my reproach among me." (Cf. Lk 1:5-25). Following this line of thought, Vatican II asserted, "Indeed children are the supreme gift of marriage and greatly contribute to the good of the parents themselves" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 50).

Therefore, we must not separate the unitive dimension of marital love from the procreative. Both dimensions are intrinsically good. Both dimensions are inherent in the act of marriage. Even if a couple is infertile, the act of marriage still retains the character of being a communion of life and love. We must constantly keep in focus the covenant of life and love a couple shares with each other in union with God.


                                          The Love Dare: 40 Days Love Journey.


Day 21: Love is satisfied in
God

The Lord will continually guide you, and
satisfy your desire.

Isaiah 58:11

TODAY'S DARE

Be intentional today about making a time
to pray and read your Bible. Try reading
a chapter out of Proverbs each day (there
are thirty-one a full month's supply),
or reading a chapter in the Gospels
(Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). As
you do, immerse yourself in the love and
promises God has for you. This will add
to your growth as you walk with Him.

Day 22: Love is faithful

I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
Then you will know the Lord.

Hosea 2:20

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TODAY'S DARE

Love is a choice, not a feeling. It is an
initiated action, not a knee-jerk reaction.
Choose today to be committed to love
even if your spouse has lost most of their
interest in receiving it. Say to them today
in words similar to these, I love you.
Period. I choose to love you even if you
don't love me in return.

Day 23: Love always
protects

[Love] always protects.

1 Corinthians 13:7 NIV

TODAY'S DARE

Remove anything that is hindering your
relationship, any addiction or influence
that's stealing your affections and
turning your heart away from your
spouse.

Day 24: Love vs. Lust

The world is passing away, and also its
lusts; but the one who does the will of
God lives forever.

1 John 2:17

TODAY'S DARE

End it now. Identify every object of lust
in your life and remove it. Single out
every lie you've swallowed in pursuing
forbidden pleasure and reject it. Lust
cannot be allowed to live in a back
bedroom. It must be killed and
destroyed today and replaced with
the sure promises of God and a heart
filled with His perfect love.

Day 25: Love forgives

What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven
anything, I did it for your sakes in the
presence of Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:10

TODAY'S DARE

Whatever you haven't forgiven in your
mate, forgive it today. Let it go. Just as
we ask Jesus to forgive us our debts
each day, we must ask Him to help us
forgive our debtors each day as well.
Unforgiveness has been keeping you and
your spouse in prison too long. Say from
your heart, I choose to forgive.

Day 26: Love is responsible

When you judge another, you condemn
yourself, since you, the judge, do the
same things.

Romans 2:1 HCSB

TODAY'S DARE

Take time to pray through your areas of
wrongdoing. Ask for God's forgiveness,
then humble yourself enough to admit
them to your spouse. Do it sincerely and
truthfully. Ask your spouse for
forgiveness as well. No matter how they
respond, make sure you cover your
responsibility in love. Even if they
respond with criticism, accept it by
receiving it as counsel.

Day 27: Love encourages

Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let
me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You.

Psalm 25:20

TODAY'S DARE

Eliminate the poison of unrealistic
expectations in your home. Think of one
area where your spouse has told you
you're expecting too much, and tell them
you're sorry for being so hard on them
about it. Promise them you'll seek to
understand, and assure them of your
unconditional love.

Day 28: Love makes
sacrifices

He laid down His life for us. We should
also lay down our lives for our brothers.

1 John 3:16 HCSB

TODAY'S DARE

What is one of the greatest needs in your
spouse's life right now? Is there a need
you could lift from their shoulders today
by a daring act of sacrifice on your part?
Whether the need is big or small,
purpose to do what you can to meet the
need.

Day 29: Love's motivation

Render service with a good attitude, as
to the Lord and not to men.
Ephesians 6:7 HCSB

TODAY'S DARE

Before you see your spouse again today,
pray for them by name and for their
needs. Whether it comes easy for you or
not, say I love you, then express love
to them in some tangible way. Go to God
in prayer again, thanking Him for giving
you the privilege of loving this one
special person unconditionally, the
way He loves both of you.

Day 30: Love brings unity

Father, keep them in Your name, the
name which You have given Me, that
they may be one even as We are.

John 17:11

TODAY'S DARE

Isolate one area of division in your
marriage, and look on today as a fresh
opportunity to pray about it. Ask the
Lord to reveal anything in your own
heart that is threatening oneness with
your spouse. Pray that He would do the
same for them. And if appropriate,
discuss this matter openly, seeking God
for unity.

Day 31: Love and marriage

A man shall leave his father and his
mother, and be joined to his wife; and
they shall become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

TODAY'S DARE

Is there a leaving issue you haven't
been brave enough to conquer yet?
Confess it to your spouse today, and
resolve to make it right. The oneness of
your marriage is dependent upon it.
Follow this with a commitment to your
spouse and to God to make your
marriage the top priority over every
other human relationship.

Day 32: Love meets sexual
needs

The husband must fulfill his duty to his
wife, and likewise also the wife to her
husband.

1 Corinthians 7:3

TODAY'S DARE

If at all possible, try to initiate sex with
your husband or wife today. Do this in a
way that honors what your spouse has
told you (or implied to you) about what

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they need from you sexually. Ask God to
make this enjoyable for both of you as
well as a path to greater intimacy.

Day 33: Love completes
each other

If two lie down together they keep warm,
but how can one be warm alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:11

TODAY'S DARE

Recognize that your spouse is integral to
your future success. Let them know
today that you desire to include them in
your upcoming decisions, and that you
need their perspective and counsel. If
you have ignored their input in the past,
admit your oversight and ask them to
forgive you.

Day 34: Love celebrates
godliness

[Love] does not rejoice in
unrighteousness, but rejoices with the
truth.

1 Corinthians 13:6

TODAY'S DARE

Find a specific, recent example when
your spouse demonstrated Christian
character in a noticeable way. Verbally
commend them for this at some point
today.

Day 35: Love is
accountable

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with
many advisers they succeed.

Proverbs 15:22 NIV

TODAY'S DARE

Find a marriage mentor someone who
is a strong Christian and who will be
honest and loving with you. If you feel
that counseling is needed, then take the
first step to set up an appointment.
During this process, ask God to direct
your decisions and discernment.

Day 36: Love is God's
Word

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a
light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

TODAY'S DARE

Commit to reading the Bible every day.
Find a devotional book or other resource
that will give you some guidance. If your
spouse is open to it, see if they will
commit to daily Bible reading with you.
Begin submitting each area of your life
to its guidance and start building on the
rock.

Day 37: Love agrees in
prayer

If two of you agree on earth about
anything that they may ask, it shall be
done for them by My Father.

Matthew 18:19

TODAY'S DARE

Ask your spouse if you can begin
praying together. Talk about the best
time to do this, whether it's in the
morning, your lunch hour, or before
bedtime. Use this time to commit your
concerns, disagreements, and needs
before the Lord. Don't forget to thank
Him for His provision and blessing.
Even if your spouse refuses to do this,
resolve to spend this daily time in prayer
yourself.

Day 38: Love fulfills
dreams

Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will
give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

TODAY'S DARE

Ask yourself what your mate would want
if it was obtainable. Commit this to
prayer, and start mapping out a plan for
meeting some (if not all) of their desires,
to whatever level you possibly can.

Day 39: Love endures

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:8

TODAY'S DARE

Spend time in personal prayer, then write
a letter of commitment and resolve to
your spouse. Include why you are
committing to this marriage until death,
and that you have purposed to love them
no matter what. Leave it in a place that
your mate will find it.

Day 40: Love is a covenant

Where you go, I will go, and where you
lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be
my people, and your God, my God.

Ruth 1:16

TODAY'S DARE

Write out a renewal of your vows and
place them in your home. Perhaps, if
appropriate, you could make
arrangements to formally renew your
wedding vows before a minister and with
family present. Make it a living
testament to the value of marriage in
God's eyes and the high honor of being
one with your mate.

Be completely humble and gentle; be
patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2 NIV

TODAY'S DARE

The first part of this dare is fairly simple.
Although love is communicated in a
number of ways, our words often reflect
the condition of our heart. For the next
day, resolve to demonstrate patience and
to say nothing negative to your spouse at
all. If the temptation arises, choose not to
say anything. It's better to hold your
tongue than to say something you'll
regret

Day 2: Love is kind

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted,
forgiving each other, just as God in
Christ also has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32

TODAY'S DARE

In addition to saying nothing negative to
your spouse again today, do at least one
unexpected gesture as an act of kindness.

Day 3: Love is not selfish

Be devoted to one another in brotherly
love; give preference to one another in
honor.
Romans 12:10

TODAY'S DARE

Whatever you put your time, energy, and
money into will become more important
to you. It's hard to care for something
you are not investing in. Along with
restraining from negative comments, buy
your spouse something that says, I was
thinking of you today.

Day 4: Love is thoughtful

How precious also are Your thoughts to
me. . . .How vast is the sum of them! If I
should count them, they would
outnumber the sand.

Psalm 139:17:18

TODAY'S DARE

Contact your spouse sometime during
the business of the day. Have no agenda
other than asking how he or she is doing
and if there is anything you could do for
them.

Day 5: Love is not rude

He who blesses his friend with a loud
voice early in the morning, it will be
reckoned a curse to him.
Proverbs 27:14

TODAY'S DARE

Ask your spouse to tell you three things
that cause him or her to be
uncomfortable or irritated with you. You
must do so without attacking them or
justifying your behavior. This is from
their perspective only.

Day 6: Love is not irritable

He who is slow to anger is better than
the mighty, and he who rules his spirit,
than he who captures a city.

Proverbs 16:32

TODAY'S DARE

Choose today to react to tough
circumstances in your marriage in loving
ways instead of with irritation. Begin by
making a list below of areas where you
need to add margin to your schedule.
Then list any wrong motivations that you
need to release from your life.

Day 7: Love believes the
best

[Love] believes all things, hopes all
things.

1 Corinthians 13:7

TODAY'S DARE

For today's dare, get two sheets of paper.
On the first one, spend a few minutes
writing out positive things about your
spouse. Then do the same with negative
things on the second sheet. Place both
sheets in a secret place for another day.
There is a different purpose and plan for
each. At some point during the
remainder of the day, pick a positive
attribute from the first list and thank
your spouse for having this characteristic.

Day 8: Love is not jealous

Love is as strong as death, its jealousy
unyielding as the grave. It burns like
blazing fire.

Song of Solomon 8:6 NIV

TODAY'S DARE

Determine to become your spouse's
biggest fan and to reject any thoughts of
jealousy. To help you set your heart on
your spouse and focus on their
achievements, take yesterdays list of
negative attributes and discreetly burn it.
Then share with your spouse how glad
you are about a success he or she
recently enjoyed.

Day 9: Love makes good
impressions

Greet one another with a kiss of love.
1 Peter 5:14

TODAY'S DARE
Think of a specific way you'd like to
greet your spouse today. Do it with a
smile and with enthusiasm. Then
determine to change your greeting to
reflect your love for them.

Day 10: Love is
unconditional

God demonstrates His own love toward
us, in that while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

TODAY'S DARE

Do something out of the ordinary today
for your spouse nomething that proves
(to you and to them) that your love is
based on your choice and nothing else.
Wash her car. Clean the kitchen. Buy his
favorite dessert. Fold the laundry.
Demonstrate love to them for the sheer
joy of being their partner in marriage.

Day 11: Love cherishes

Husbands ought also to love their own
wives as their own bodies.

Ephesians 5:28

TODAY'S DARE

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What need does your spouse have that
you could meet today? Can you run an
errand? Give a back rub or foot massage?
Is there housework you could help with?
Choose a gesture that says, I cherish
you and do it with a smile.

Day 12: Love lets the other
win

Do not merely look out for your own
personal interests, but also for the
interests of others.

Philippians 2:4

TODAY'S DARE

Demonstrate love by willingly choosing
to give in to an area of disagreement
between you and your spouse. Tell them
you are putting their preference first.

Day 13: Love fights fair

If a house is divided against itself, that
house will not be able to stand.

Mark 3:25

TODAY'S DARE

Talk with your spouse about establishing
healthy rules of engagement. If your
mate is not ready for this, then write out
your own personal rules to fight by.
Resolve to abide by them when the next
disagreement occurs.If a house is divided
against itself, that house will not be able
to stand.

Day 14: Love takes delight

Enjoy life with the wife you love all the
days of your fleeting life.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 HCSB

TODAY'S DARE

Purposefully neglect an activity you
would normally do so you can spend
quality time with your spouse. Do
something he or she would love to do or
a project they'd really like to work on.
Just be together.

Day 15: Love is honorable

Live with your wives in an understanding
way . . . and show her honor as a fellow
heir of the grace of life.

1 Peter 3:7

TODAY'S DARE

Choose a way to show honor and respect
to your spouse that is above your normal
routine. It may be holding the door for
her. It might be putting his clothes away
for him. It may be the way you listen and
speak in your communication. Show
your mate that he or she is highly
esteemed in your eyes.

Day 16: Love intercedes

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you
may prosper and be in good health, just
as your soul prospers.

3 John 2

TODAY'S DARE

Begin praying today for your spouse's
heart. Pray for three specific areas where
you desire for God to work in your
spouse's life and in your marriage.

Day 17: Love promotes
intimacy

He who covers over an offense promotes
love, but whoever repeats the matter
separates close friends.

Proverbs 17:9 NIV

TODAY'S DARE

Determine to guard your mate's secrets
(unless they are dangerous to them or to
you) and to pray for them. Talk with
your spouse, and resolve to demonstrate
love in spite of these issues. Really listen
to them when they share personal
thoughts and struggles with you. Make
them feel safe.

Day 18: Love seeks to
understand

How blessed is the man who finds
wisdom, and the man who gains
understanding.

Proverbs 3:13

TODAY'S DARE

Prepare a special dinner at home, just for
the two of you. The dinner can be as nice
as you prefer. Focus this time on getting
to know your spouse better, perhaps in
areas you've rarely talked about.
Determine to make it an enjoyable
evening for you and your mate.

Day 19: Love is impossible

Let us love one another, for love is from
God; and everyone who loves is born of
God and knows God.

1 John 4:7

TODAY'S DARE

Look back over the dares from previous
days. Were there some that seemed
impossible to you? Have you realized
your need for God to change your heart
and to give you the ability to love? Ask
Him to show you where you stand with
Him, and ask for the strength and grace
to settle your eternal destination.

Day 20: Love is Jesus
Christ

While we were still helpless, at the right
time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:6

TODAY' DARE

Dare to take God at His Word. Dare to
trust Jesus Christ for salvation. Dare to
pray, Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner. But You
have shown Your love for me by dying
to forgive my sins, and You have proven

Your power to save me from death by
Your resurrection. Lord, change my
heart, and save me by Your grace.

Day 21: Love is satisfied in
God

The Lord will continually guide you, and
satisfy your desire.

Isaiah 58:11

TODAY'S DARE

Be intentional today about making a time
to pray and read your Bible. Try reading
a chapter out of Proverbs each day (there
are thirty-one a full month's supply),
or reading a chapter in the Gospels
(Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). As
you do, immerse yourself in the love and
promises God has for you. This will add
to your growth as you walk with Him.