The Golden Rule and Other Marriage Advice from God's Word
As a child, I was taught the Golden Rule, which is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Growing up, I didn’t know where this saying originated, but considered it to be good relationship advice. After becoming a Christian at age twenty-three, I started reading the Bible and learned that the Golden Rule was a Biblical principle taught by Jesus. He introduced it during His Sermon on the Mount when He summarized the last six of the Ten Commandments in this way: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
In continuing to read the Bible, I found that it contains a wealth of practical guidance concerning interacting with others. As God opened my eyes to these teachings and helped me apply them, there was a dramatic improvement in many of my relationships. This was especially true in my marriage, which was headed for divorce. Here are a few of the Biblical principles that helped make the difference.
Give a soft answer
Shortly after receiving salvation, I prayed asking God to make others be nicer to me. From my point of view, no one could speak a civil word to me. My co-workers were especially brutal, and often I left work crying due to their biting sarcasm. It was not much better at home where my husband, who was not a Christian, spoke to me harshly. In response to my prayer, God brought Proverbs 15:1 to my attention: “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” My first reaction was to say, “Why should I be the one to change? Yes, I say mean things too, but only in self-defense.” However, I ultimately yielded.
Ashamed of my behavior, and realizing the error in using meanness as a defense against meanness, I finally was able to start giving kind responses.
Over the next few weeks, I tried to put this verse into practice, but had developed a bad habit, and my responses remained less than kind. God provided help by prompting me to pause and think before speaking. Then, when I had trouble thinking of something nice to say, He showed me to write out useful phrases in advance on cue cards. When I continued to struggle, He gave Scripture that revealed my wrong attitude. Romans 12:19-21 says, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Ashamed of my behavior, and realizing the error in using meanness as a defense against meanness, I finally was able to start giving kind responses. At first my co-workers were speechless and my husband was puzzled, but within a few months both relationships turned around. The people at work not only spoke kindly to me, but also left flowers, balloons, and chocolates at my desk. At home, my husband replaced his harsh words with kind ones. Gradually, it dawned on me that it was everyone else who had been acting in self-defense.
When someone wrongs us, our natural instinct is to retaliate, but the Bible teaches to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). This is not because God wants to see His children taken advantage of, but because responding with His love is an effective way of stopping the cycle of retaliation by removing further incentive.
Using Colossians 3:18-20, God showed me a picture of His plan for families: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” Our family did not resemble this admonition in any way. I would not submit to my husband on any issue, because I did not respect him. In return, he seemed to have more bitterness than affection for me, and because we were not united in how to discipline our children, they were misbehaved.
The Lord spoke to me about doing my part by supporting my husband’s decisions in such areas as finances, disciplining the children, and how much to work. My initial response was, “No, no, and no, because he can’t be trusted to make good decisions,” but the Lord gave me a simple exercise to change my perspective. He showed me to say something respectful to my husband each day such as, “Thank you for working hard to provide for our family.”
In a short time, I began to realize there were many reasons to respect my husband, and it grew easier to defer to his judgment. As his decisions began to be respected instead of criticized, he naturally became less bitter and more amiable toward me. Applying this principle of respect to other relationships yielded similarly positive results.
The Bible teaches us to “honour all men” (1 Peter 2:17) including our spouses, parents, employers, and rulers—even when we believe they are undeserving. Doing so could alter our perspective and change the relationship for the better. More importantly, though, treating others with respect honors God; it acknowledges that each person is His creation and serves at His will.
Cleave to your spouse
As God was teaching me to speak kindly and show respect to others, I also came across this verse in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” God helped me see that my husband and I were cleaving to our respective families and not to each other. Among other things, we each confided in our own families while keeping secrets from each other, we looked to them to support our side during disagreements, and we spent our free time with separate groups of friends and family. For my part, I regularly called my parents after arguments with my husband, providing a long list of complaints and frustrations. And I never followed up those conversations by relating the times my husband apologized or we resolved matters. Also, I failed to convey his good qualities to them.
God revealed to me that speaking poorly of my husband left my family with an unfair, negative impression of him that would last long after our arguments were mended.
God revealed to me that speaking poorly of my husband left my family with an unfair, negative impression of him that would last long after our arguments were mended. And giving them incentive to rally to my defense was increasing the divide between us. With God’s help, I determined to speak only positively about my husband.
After a few months, my husband and I had a conversation about the change in my behavior. I told him that lately, I had a strong desire to read and obey the Bible, but did not know why. Though he was not a Christian, he had been raised in the Gospel, so he knew what had happened and asked, “Don’t you know that you got saved?” I didn’t even know what that meant, so he continued, “Did you pray, repenting of your sin and asking God into your heart? I know you did, because the difference in our home has been like the difference between night and day.”
This conversation opened the way to making some other changes that would cause us to depend more on each other instead of our separate support networks. My husband and I agreed not to bring anyone except God into our disagreements and to spend more time together. We also decided to quit keeping secrets from each other.
Breaking old habits was not easy, but God was patient and helped. Shortly after our conversation, I secretly loaned someone money after my husband had said not to. When the money was repaid, I went to the credit union at his worksite and put it back thinking he would never know. However, I had inadvertently parked right next to his car, and when I tried to leave, my car wouldn’t start. In addition, he was due to get off work at any minute. Realizing that God was intervening, I prayed, thanking Him for keeping me on track, and agreeing to tell my husband about the loan. With my next turn of the key in the ignition, the car started.
Ultimately, following the new rules of “cleaving to each other” had the effect of strengthening the bond between us and forming a protective hedge around our marriage. As that happened, others became more encouraging and supportive of our union.
God wants to see marriages succeed, for He ordained marriage to be for life. Knowing that “if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25), He gave spouses the instruction to cleave to each other and become one. As we commit to following this principle, He will help our marriages to stand.
One Sunday morning, my husband and I had a disagreement. An hour later, when it was time to leave for church, neither of us was ready to concede. Not wanting to go to church with this unresolved, I sat down next to the radio and prayed while waiting for the broadcast of our church service to begin. I said, “Lord, if he were right, I would apologize. But he is wrong, so what can be done? I will turn on the radio and obey the first words that come from it.” Those words were, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18), so I apologized.
In a marriage, it is more important to resolve minor issues than it is to be right. Offenses have an impact and are often remembered long after the reason for the argument is forgotten.
In a marriage, it is more important to resolve minor issues than it is to be right. Offenses have an impact and are often remembered long after the reason for the argument is forgotten. Over time, these can add up and cause resentment. God would rather we remember the debt He forgave us, and in return be forgiving towards others (see Ephesians 4:32). When we forgive, it not only relieves the other person of a burden, but heals our own hearts as well.
Follow the Golden Rule
I wanted my husband to work less and make some improvements to our house. When he would not, I asked God to make him give me what I wanted. In reply, God asked if I was giving my husband what he wanted, which was to make our house an inviting place. My response was, “Why should I do something nice for someone who often fails to think of me? After he gives me what I want, I will give him what he wants.” However, God persuaded me to give His way a try, so I began making my husband breakfast and packing his lunches. At first, he was indifferent, but after a time, he became appreciative. This made me want to do more, so I began looking for opportunities to do nice things for him. When he saw an ad for Mexican food one day and said burritos sounded good, I immediately went to the kitchen and made burritos. Eventually, he began wanting to reciprocate. One example was when he surprised me with a new purse after the strap on my old one broke.
When our motivation is to satisfy self, we can never get our fill, because there is always something more to be desired. Only when we put others first and “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) will we find true fulfillment.
God’s Word offers the best instruction for building good relationships. When we honestly attempt to apply His principles to our lives and personal situations, we will see positive results. In my life, one of the most positive results was that my husband was eventually won over by God’s love and was saved.