4 everyday graces for an imperfect marriage

March 15, 2017

When God pointed out, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18 CSB), he was moved to do something good for the man, and ultimately, for the woman. He made them both for each other, showing that the love relationship of a man and woman in marriage is a good gift from God, a demonstration of grace.

Grace did not stop, however, at the union of this first couple. They soon sinned against God and each other. While these lovers were quick to shame and to blame, God was again moved to show grace. They hid, but he found them to correct them, for sure, but also to cleanse and to heal them. Knowing their fig leaves could never camouflage their guilt, God tailored new clothes from the skins of an animal to show them just how far grace goes.

In our romanticized culture, gifts are often rightly connected with love. The two naturally go hand in hand, but not necessarily in a way that comes natural to us. We often give gifts to express our love. That’s good, but grace does more than show love. Grace makes love possible. So, here are four everyday graces that create an enduring love, even in the most imperfect marriage:

1. The grace to fail

No one likes failure, but every relationship is full of it. The “better or worse” of wedding vows is not an abstract idea, but a practical reality. There are seasons of better, and there are seasons of worse. Sometimes the worse is gross sin or betrayal, and sometimes it’s less dramatic than that. Whether the dip is big or small, it always begins with subtle neglect that we allow to grow into something more than it should.

That’s how it went for Adam and Eve. Apparently, Adam simply neglected to adequately pass on God’s command to his wife. Eve showed an interest in the fruit of the tree. Adam was inattentive to her wandering heart, and then present but silent when she fell to the temptation. The explanation of their failure is amazingly run-of-the-mill, but the consequences were no less devastating.

The “worse” was so unnecessary, yet every married couple has been there. He knew better, but he did it anyway. She was warned, but didn’t listen. We have a right to be angry. We have a right to condemn. We have a right to leave, but we don’t have to do any of that because the “worse” is where grace shows up the best.

We do not sin so grace may increase (Rom. 6:1), but the failure of our spouse gives grace the chance to shine. The consequences of sin are a good tutor, but the demonstration of grace transforms the relationship and makes space for the lasting love God designed us to experience.

2. The grace to change

The dust cleared. God removed Adam and Eve from the garden, and then Genesis 4 says, “The man was intimate with his wife Eve.” Their living arrangements had been downgraded, their circumstances had changed, and they were different than before, but they found the grace to let their love grow outside of the garden.

We are not the same people we were when we said, “I do.” Our spouses have changed too. Our successes shape us, and our difficulties wound us. Experiences reveal our character in a way that was previously unknown and unseen. In time, we discover the ugly realities of sin in each other. Despite declarations of love, we do not always love well, choose well or forgive well.

We should never overlook or make excuses for sin, but sin is no match for grace. Sin may occasionally win the day, but grace means the scars of sin that disfigure us do not have to destroy our love for one another.

Instead, while success and suffering change us, by grace, they also sanctify us. They make us better, not worse. I do not want my wife to be the woman I married. I don’t want to be who I was back then either. We need each other to be more than that, better than that, and that is the work of grace.

3. The grace to try

Adam and Eve began their relationship in paradise. When Adam first saw Eve, he immediately said, “This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). They were “naked, yet felt no shame” (Gen. 2:24). Life was really good, and then it wasn’t.

Sin separated them from God and from one another, yet God pursued them, forgave them and restored them. He was generous with them. But then they did this: they received his grace. Rather than wallowing in the past or holding each other hostage to previous failures, they tried again. There were only two guarantees: (1) life would be harder than ever, and (2) God’s grace was sufficient.

So outside of the garden, Adam and Eve gave their love another go. After devastating failure, they restarted their life together.

In a healthy marriage with two flawed people, we discover grace, not grit, makes trying again possible. It’s a humbling thing really. Can you imagine Adam’s sense of regret and inadequacy after losing so much? How tempting would it have been for him to push the reset button and just try harder to attempt to reestablish his manhood? Grace, however, doesn’t allow us to try harder. It requires we just try again, and this time by trusting God with empty hands and a yielded heart.

4. The grace to lose

Eve soon gave birth to two sons, Cain and Abel. She knew God had helped her, but we read that as these sons became adults, the Lord accepted Abel’s sacrifice of worship, but not Cain’s. “Cain was furious, and he looked despondent” (Gen. 4:5). The Lord warned Cain not to allow sin to rule his heart, but Cain refused to listen and ultimately attacked and killed his brother Abel.

In a way that is remarkably similar to how he responded when Adam and Eve sinned, the Lord confronted Cain. It’s right to assume that God was willing to forgive and restore him, but Cain denied any responsibility for Abel. As a result, the Lord judged him by exiling him as a “restless wanderer on the earth” (Gen. 4:12).

First, Adam and Eve lost their home to sin, and then they lost their only two children, one to death and the other to disobedience. They were powerless to fix any of it.

None of us can restore to ourselves what sin takes from us. In marriage, these losses threaten our union. As the devil seeks only to steal, kill and destroy, we are prone to turn on each other and demand a recompense that is impossible for anyone to pay.

That was not how Adam and Eve responded. Without the benefit of the Bible, a local church or a certified therapist, they found grace. No doubt they grieved, but by grace, grief does not have to turn into despair. Instead, grace gives more than sin takes. Adam and Eve were intimate again, and Eve gave birth to Seth. In Hebrew, Seth’s name sounds very similar to the word for “appointed.” Adam and Eve knew Seth was a sovereign act of generosity toward them.

When we are engulfed by irreparable loss, God’s grace secures us and binds us together. We may lose and lose greatly, but grace means God never loses us.

Feelings of love come and go throughout the seasons of marriage. Circumstances challenge our resolve and loyalty, but God’s amazing grace sustains us in marriage as a gospel witness and beautiful picture of his enduring love for us.

This article originally appeared here.

Daryl Crouch

Following 28 years in pastoral ministry, Daryl Crouch now leads Everyone’s Wilson, a community transformation initiative that helps churches bring the whole community around every school so that every student, educator, and family can live whole. He’s married to Deborah, and they have four children. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24