There is no question that we influence the behavior–for good or bad–of those around us, particularly in the area of relationships.
King David is an example of someone whose marital sins were passed on to the next generation to his son Absalom, who committed adultery openly. His weakness in this area was even handed down to his other son, Solomon, whose downfall was that he married many foreign wives.
Abraham is another example of how our failures in relationships can influence others. Abraham lied about his wife Sarah, claiming that she was his sister. This sin was repeated by his son Isaac who lied about his wife Rebekah in a similar way. The same tendency to deceive was passed on to Jacob who lied to Isaac, and that was passed on to his sons who lied to him about Joseph being dead. One’s man lie spread to four generations.
Now a new secular study says if someone close to you divorces, that increases your chances of divorcing by 75% to 147%. While the conclusions of this study are being criticized, there are lessons for our own marriage that we can learn from this study. What are they?
1) Remember the power of example. Rather than follow the crowd, we need to set an example for others in “faith, purity, speech…” as Paul wrote to Timothy in the New Testament. The example we set may very well influence others in a profound way.
2) Watch your lifestyle and beliefs closely. We are to “watch our life and doctrine” closely because if we do “we shall save ourselves and our hearers.” Again, the power of lifestyle and beliefs is going to either work to save or ruin the lives of others.
3) Forget the excuses. We need to remember that regardless of what others in our family, church or social network may do, “We shall stand before Christ and give an account of deeds done in the flesh whether good or bad.” On that day we will not be able to blame our poor or sinful choices on the influence of others. God did not accept excuses from Adam and Eve, nor will He accept excuses when all our lives will be evaluated before the Bema Seat of Christ.
How can we protect our marriages against the corrosive influence of those around us who choose to divorce, engage in infidelity or give up on their marriages?
1) Daily choose obedience to God’s Word. Commit yourselves daily to obey the command of Jesus, “What God has joined together let no man separate.” This includes members of those in our family or social network who might try to influence us to separate what God has joined together for a lifetime.
2) Daily pray for a softened heart. Ask God to help you continually keep a softened heart toward your spouse. Divorce happens not because of the influence of others but because we harden our hearts toward our spouse.
3) Daily remember the example of Christ and the Church. Let the mystery of Christ and the Church serve as the standard by which you judge your attitudes, actions and words toward your spouse.
4) Daily stand your ground. Ask God to develop the character of a Joseph in your life. He resisted making sinful choices despite the fact he had no one on earth to support him or encourage him. Even if everyone in our lives is living in to sin, we can stand for righteousness. In the end, God will reward us.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
Remember, marriage is for better for worse for keeps.