“I don’t want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need.
I don’t care about the presents, underneath the Christmas Tree.
I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know,
make my wish come true, oh all I want for Christmas is you.” -Mariah Carey
In Ephesians 5 the Bible says the relationship between a husband and a wife is a direct representation of the gospel relationship between Jesus and His bride, the church. Recently my wife and I have asked, “what does Jesus desire for our marriage?”
In Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, and Ephesians 5:31 the Bible uses the action word “cleave” as the verb for marriage. What does it mean for couples to cleave? The word cleave means to cling to, join closely or glue one thing to another, focusing on interfacing, reciprocal relations. And how are they to cleave? The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that we are made up of three parts, a spirit, a soul, and a body. I believe in the marriage relationship we need to cleave spiritually (spirit), cleave relationally (soul), and cleave physically (body).
Cleaving to our spouse’s spirit may be the hardest hurdle. We need to pray together daily and sit in church together regularly. In a 1997 Gallup poll by the National Association of Marriage Enhancement, less than 1% of couples that pray together daily experience divorce. Cleaving to your spouse may look like praying out loud together once a day. And if it is hard for you and your spouse, you’re not alone, I’ve read that 92% of couples that call themselves Christians don’t pray together (FamilyLife Survey, USA)! The old adage is true, a couple that prays together stays together. Ed Stetzer suggests also that couples who attend church together only have a 10-15% divorce rate. For those of us in church leadership positions, it’s especially important we’re praying together with our spouse at home and being intentional to sit together in church regularly. How are we doing cleaving spiritually?
Cleaving to our spouse’s soul, their mind and emotions, may be the first one we notice needs attention. Spending time enjoying one another is important, and we can alternate doing one another’s favorite things. Healthy communication is essential. Carve out time every day to connect together relationally. This can be asking, “How are you doing today? Schedule a date once a week to sit across a table from one another and reconnect. One lost art of soul cleaving in Scripture is to “bless them” verbally, exhort, or give a benediction. The Bible says to encourage one another daily. If you would like ideas to encourage your spouse, see www.choosemercy.org and search “Encourage Daily.” Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Advocate, and Satan the accuser. In order to cleave to one another’s soul’s our communication needs to include blessing, encouraging, and yielding. We will have a hard time cleaving to accusing, resentment, and contention. Finally if one of you always has to be right or in control, cleaving to one another relationally will be especially hard. This is why the Bible asks all of us in Ephesians 5:12 to Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. How are we doing cleaving relationally?
Cleaving to our spouse’s body only protects our marriage from Satan’s attacks. 1 Corinthians 7:5, says to married couples, “Do not deprive one another (physically), except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” That begs the question how long is a limited time? In Exodus 19:15 Moses asked the people to obey God and consecrate themselves for three days with no marital relations. In 1 Samuel 21:4-5 David asks the priest for bread for his men to eat and the priest says they can have the consecrated bread if they have kept themselves from women. And David replies, “Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy.” While three days may be a biblical suggestion, whatever you and your spouse agree is a “limited time,” please be intentional about cleaving together physically, holding hands, hugging, kissing, and pursuing intimacy. How are we doing cleaving physically?
Some years ago when my wife and I were in a difficult time of unemployment, a dear mentor couple gave us great advice. They told us that in the dark seasons of life when you have no money and you don’t know what God’s plan is, you can still cleave to one another. It’s free. And it’s biblical. May we be intentional about obeying God’s call for married couples to cleave together. Let’s Cleave this Christmas!