Our approach to marriage counseling is very much against the grain of the current trend of over-specialized focus.
The sections in the New Testament on family relations could be counted on one hand, and they are very specific to the particular, unique situations involved as father, wife, etc.: Don't overcorrect your children; Love your wife as Christ loved; Wives submit to your husbands: etc.
Clearly, the Lord does not see spirituality (or LIFE) in marriage or family as some "special case". The human problem is SIN, the solution is the cross and new life in Christ as in every other area of life.
Is God's perspective reflected in the "human relations technology" approach we see in the Christian bookstore? According to this view, we need to draw up thinly modified horoscopes on each other; or learn to speak each other's "language of love"; or project some simplistic mental pigeonhole of two-dimensional explanation onto our spouse's behavior; or perhaps learn some psychological assertiveness techniques... or so it appears. This sort of puffery passes for wisdom among us. In such we think there is life?
Scripture NEVER takes such an approach, and so one wonders what God must think of all this "wisdom" and wasted energy. God's advice cuts through all this gesticulation and goes to the sensitive spot of the human condition: Stop sinning. Stop being a hypocrite; stop living in deception; step into the light of scrutiny and confession and humility--as husband, wife, child, slave or free; stop thinking of only yourself, pick up your cross and pour out your life in service to others--as husband, wife, child, slave, free, tall, short, young, old, or whatever else might distract you in the flesh.
We think most of the current books and teaching are so much "chasing after the wind". I may improve my assertiveness or communications techniques with such, but if I harbor adultery in my heart then all this is trumpery. If sin is not dealt with, there will be death in my marriage--or anyone else's.
Our approach is to focus on the essential doctrines such as in the Death to Self Bible Study. It is our falling from this glory--even the glory of Christ reflected in our marriage--that we suffer from. For we are all in this together, and ought to encourage one another towards godliness, not after the latest winds of pseudo-psychology doctrine.
Love covers a multitude of "human relations technology" deficiencies. Before I knew my wife's "language of love", temperament, etc... I was bonkers over her--and vice versa. It is SIN, not the absence of "human relations technology", that goes wrong and creates separation and division and discord. So the question--since no one is without sin--is now that she has failed me, and I her, will I repent and get back to that first love, or wallow in bitterness and sin and go to yet another seminar or read another book on how to "improve my marriage" as a diversion?
This is not to say that we cannot slightly improve our relationships or communication styles by means of this kind of shallow teaching--although it must be admitted that much in this genre is ridiculous. But if there is a baby with this bathwater, let us be clear that anything useful in this kind of teaching is a "good weather" concern. In other words, if it is a sunny day in your marriage then perhaps you could use some personality tweaks and refine your communication abilities. But this is the last thing to be worried about if your marriage is unraveling due to unrepentant sin; unless, of course, the sin is the communication itself. But even in this case, the problem is usually not style, but the will to communicate.
1 Cor 1:18-25 (NIV) For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.If we look to the Word of God as our guide, let us admit that specific instructions for married people are few and far between, and incredibly simple compared to modern flights of over-sophisticated fancy. The overwhelming emphasis in Scripture is on the one way that any person--married, single, Jew or Greek, rich or poor--can be saved and live in resurrection life to experience the fruit of the Spirit... as opposed to the inevitable pain, acrimony, and death that result from living in the flesh--no matter how skillfully. We have ignored the preponderant message of Scripture to the undoing of many marriages. It is time to put aside that which distracts us from the cross of Christ, and return to the core, eternal things of God.
Let us repent. All else is like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Such surface work might seem like progress--the chairs might actually look better rearranged--but to be engaged in such when larger issues loom is extremely foolish.
Prov 3:5 (NIV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.The next posting will revisit this same point in a more distinct way.