Family Life, June 2018

Family Life: The Divine Trinity, A Model for Marital Unity

Dennis and Jill Eenigenburg

The Divine Trinity: A Model for Marital Unity
By Dennis Eenigenburg*

The most profound and wonderful relationship in existence is found not in a grocery store tabloid, but in the Bible. Here, we find the dynamic and in many ways, mysterious relationship between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Bible presents them as the creators of the universe and intimate companions. The nature of the relationship of this divine society leaves many unanswered questions to our finite minds. On the other hand, the Bible reveals much we can apply to our own relationships. In the following, I would like to focus the application to marriage. The oneness and unity experienced in the Trinity of the Godhead can instruct us in our pursuit of marital unity.

  1. Like the Trinity, husbands and wives, while distinct as persons, have equal value.

In the Trinity: Each member has equal value.
One of the many passages illustrating the equal essence of the persons of the Trinity is Matthew 28:19 known as the “Great Commission.”
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
In the Marriage:  Each member has equal value.
“And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
In many cultures, including our own, women have been treated as less important than men. This attitude often leads to neglect, abuse and disrespect. As men and women we are image bearers of our Creator, and thus, of equal value before God. As a husband, I want to treat my wife as God’s special creation. She is not only my wife, but she is the princess daughter of the King of Kings through her faith in Jesus Christ. In I Peter 3:7, husbands are reminded to “show honor” to their wives as fellow heirs of God’s grace.”

  1. Like the Trinity, husbands and wives have unique, complementary roles.

In the Trinity: The members have complementary roles.
One example of the unique roles within the Trinity is illustrated by their roles in the redemption of mankind, from slavery to sin to the freedom of Salvation. Paul, in Ephesians 1, tells us we have been:
Predestined by the Father. “He predestined us to adoption as sons.”  V. 5
Purchased by the Son. “In Him we have redemption through His blood.” V. 7
Preserved by the Spirit. “You are sealed in Him the Holy Spirit of promise.” V. 13
In terms of the hierarchy of the Trinity, there are also distinct roles. Jesus, in His prayer to the Father, recorded in John 17:18, said this: “As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them (the disciples) into the world.” The one sending is exercising authority over the one sent. The sent one is submissive to the one sending. In the Godhead, there is a voluntary order of authority. Jesus says of the Holy Spirit,“for if I do not go away the Helper (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go I’ll send Him to you.”(John 16:7)
In the Marriage:  The members have complementary roles.
Most of the attitudes and actions that produce a healthy marriage are the same for both husbands and wives. We are to love each other with divine love found in I Corinthians 13. We are to prefer one another as Christ preferred us over His own well-being. We are to pray for each other and speak the truth in love. We are to raise our children in a way that points them to Christ. But there is also a unique role given to each husband and wife. The wife, for example, is given the honor of conceiving and bearing children. Children are eternal beings with great potential to bring honor and glory to God. The husband, illustrating the role of Christ and the Church, has been given the responsibility to lead, love, provide and protect his wife.
“Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself up for her.”  (Ephesians 5:25)
The wife is called to support that imperfect leadership as a way of honoring God. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22) While in many other relationships, women may be in authority over men, marriage is a place where the headship/submission picture of the relationship of Trinity is to be painted.

  1. Like the Trinity, husbands and wives are unified by common purpose of mutual honor and affirmation.

In the Trinity:  The members seek to bring glory and honor to each other.
One of the consistent themes that dominates the purpose of the Trinity is to honor one another by revealing the worship-worthy attributes of each other. One of the words used to describe the way the members of the Godhead honor each other is the word “glorify.  To “glorify” means to “make known or to reveal the greatness of another’s works or character.” Jesus said this about His crucifixion.
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”(John 13:31)
In the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross, the Son and the Father would be glorified.  In other words, the titanic love, sacrifice and grace behind salvation would be revealed and give creation a cause for eternal praise and worship. Speaking of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “He shall glorify me, for He shall take of mine and reveal it to you.” (John 16:14)
Over and over again, we see the individuals in the Godhead displaying the value and the virtues of the other members of the Godhead.
In the Marriage: The members seek to bring honor to
each other and their Lord.
When we survey the “one another” passages in the Bible, we find that we too should affirm and honor each other. In marriage, this includes being thankful, giving compliments, using words of affirmation and acts of service. Just as the members of the Trinity seek to exalt one another, so should we in our marriages and all relationships.  The real unifier, however, is when husbands and wives make it their common priority to glorify God … to live in a way that reveals the character of Jesus Christ living through them. A couple joined together in a bond of worship and obedience to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit will experience two kinds of oneness, oneness with God and oneness with each other. This oneness brings joy and mutual enrichment to marriage and an impact on the world as they reflect the likeness of their Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus put it this way: “The glory which you have given me, I have given them: that they may be one, just as we are one; I in them, and you in me, they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that you did send me and did love them, even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-23)
In a world looking for role models, there is no greater relationship to study and emulate than one revealed in the Divine Trinity.
*Co-author with Jill Eenigenburg of The Heart of Marriage.
 

“Dennis Eenigenburg and his wife Jill lead a ministry called Equipping Network.  Their goal is to serve underserved “shepherds” primarily in third world countries.  One of the tools they use is a marriage seminar they authored called “The Heart of Marriage.”  Since 2012 they have taught pastors and church leaders in 13 countries. In May they taught Heart of Marriage at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Liberia.   Last year they celebrated 50 years of marriage with their three married sons and 11 grandchildren.”

July 2016, Learning For Life

Teaching Young People About God’s Plan for Love and Marriage

by Lisa Tramontana
The Reverend John Edd Harper.
The Reverend John Edd Harper.

Years ago, the Rev. John Edd Harper was working as a youth minister in a small town in Texas when he came up with the idea for a sex education class. The 8th grade girls and boys he taught seemed a little too worldly, and he believed it was only a matter of time before his students might be dealing with teen pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.

Yes, sex ed is taught in public schools, but it is often limited to the biology of human reproduction. The moral element is missing, and this can create confusion and conflict.

With the help of a local physician, Harper designed a sex education seminar that combines the physical and spiritual aspects of sexual intimacy in a format appropriate for young people. Eventually, he developed two versions of the seminar, one for junior high and another for senior high. His message was simple: Sexuality is a beautiful, valuable and powerful gift from God that is meant to be saved for marriage.

His first concern was whether parents would be supportive … after all, many parents dread “the talk.” While they might feel relieved that someone else is willing to start that discussion with their children, they also are naturally curious to know about the topics that will be covered. In today’s world, children are bombarded with sexual images and themes from television, social media and the Internet. Just how much information is appropriate?

“I always have a meeting with the parents and explain the material I’ll be teaching, the language that will be used, and the lessons we’re trying to get across,” Harper said. “In all the years I’ve been doing this, only one parent has ever pulled their child out. Most of them realize that this is a very important and necessary educational opportunity. The kids are going to learn about sex one way or another. Isn’t it better that they learn it in a Christian setting rather than on the street?”

young loveTo that end, his students learn about physical anatomy, the reproductive system, their changing bodies, contraception and pregnancy. The next layer of learning focuses on beliefs about sexuality, making smart choices, and being in healthy relationships. Through discussion, Bible study and prayer, the students share their feelings about morality, mutual respect, peer pressure, and the consequences of their actions.

Some students who attend the seminar have already had sex and feel like they’ve made a terrible mistake and it’s too late for redemption. Harper never judges his students, but instead, encourages them by introducing the idea of “secondary virginity” — basically a promise to abstain from sex from this point on until marriage.

“It’s never too late,” he tells them. “God forgives you. You can decide right now that you believe sex is a gift from God and you are going to save yourself for marriage and the right person to share that wonderful gift.”

At one point in the junior high seminar, Harper invites the class to share every slang term they can think of for sex and for certain parts of the male and female anatomy. Understandably, it prompts plenty of laughter and snickering. Then he takes a rose and shows it to the class, saying, “What if I chose not to call this a rose anymore, and instead gave it a new name … a disgusting or ugly word?”

SexEdHis point is that young people are profaning something beautiful when they refer to sex in crude and vulgar terms“It always has an effect on them,” Harper said. “They get it.”

Most important, though, is that the students come away with a new respect for themselves and a deeper understanding of God’s plan as it relates to human sexuality, love, marriage and family.

Harper is a coordinator of the Board of Ordained Ministry, Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. His secondary appointment is as a pastor at Hope Community United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge. Harper has been leading human sexuality and morality seminars since 1985. He has served as a youth minister in Texas and Louisiana for more than 20 years. He can be reached at Johneddharper@LA-UMC.org.