16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
Some time ago a group of motion picture engineers got together and classified what they considered to be the 10 most dramatic sounds in the movies. They listed things like a baby’s first cry, the blast of a siren, the thunder of waves breaking against the shore, the roar of a forest fire, the sound of a fog horn in the night, the slow dripping of water, a galloping horse, the sound of a distant train whistle, the howl of a dog, and the wedding march.
Out of all of those sounds, the one sound that evokes the most emotional response in people is the sound of the wedding march. When it is played every kind of emotion wells up in the hearts of people: sometimes sorrow, sometimes anger, resentment, and bitterness—and sometimes great joy. I suppose this is because we all start out in marriage with such idealism. I have talked to hundreds of young people who were planning to get married, and I never have talked with any yet that didn’t believe that their marriage was going to be the perfect relationship.
But after a while they discover that their marriage is not all that they thought it was going to be, and they become disillusioned. Joan Rivers summed up the change that occurs after marriage when she said, “Before you get married your husband puts you on a pedestal; after you are married he expects you to dust it.”
A good marriage is not a gift; it is an achievement. It can’t be performed for us by the minister. It doesn’t come in a package with the wedding ceremony. It is a result of two people working together and striving together to build a happy relationship. This is most likely to happen when Jesus Christ is Lord of your life. This is because he gives us the capacity to love as he loved, and the greatest need of every marriage is to have God’s kind of love in it.
There are many places in the Bible where love is described for us, but it is never presented more beautifully than when Ruth says, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”
Out of the entire Old Testament Ruth is one of the most beautiful characters, and her book is one of the most interesting. There are only two books in all the Bible named after women—the book of Ruth and the book of Esther. Esther is the story of a Jewish lady who marries a Gentile. The book of Ruth is the story of a Gentile lady who marries a Jew. Her story begins in Bethlehem of Judea when Naomi, her husband, and two sons in a time of famine decide to move to Moab. There the boys grow up, meet two beautiful young ladies, and marry. In the passing time Naomi’s husband dies and the two boys die also.
With her husband and two sons dead, there is no reason for Naomi to stay in Moab. So she decided to return home to Bethlehem. As she travels homeward, her two daughters-in-law travel to the border with her. When they get there she encourages them to go back home to their own people, to marry again, and to establish new families. It is while Naomi is pleading with her two daughters-in-law that Ruth makes this beautiful expression of love. This is the kind of love on which you can build a good marriage. This kind of love enables us to give to our mate that which every person and every marriage needs.
There are at least five things that every marriage needs, and we’ll cover three today: appreciation, acceptance, and forgiveness. When a marriage has these qualities in it, it has the essential ingredients to be a success.
1. You must appreciate your partner.
The first need of every person’s life is appreciation. William James said that the desire to be appreciated is one of the strongest desires of every person. We all know how desperately we long to be appreciated, but sometimes we forget that the person we are married to also needs to be appreciated.
Some time ago a survey was conducted among a group of supervisors and foremen in 24 industrial plants. They were asked to rate the things that they felt were most important in building morale among their employees. The first thing that they listed was the salary received for work done. Number eight on the list of morale factors was appreciation for work that was done. When they asked that same question of the employees, they listed as the number one morale factor as appreciation for work done. Wages ranked fifth on the list.
It is true in business, it is true in the church, and it is true in marriage that one of the greatest needs of life is to be appreciated. If we are going to build a happy marriage we need to show honest appreciation to the person we are married to. So often after people get married, they start to take one another for granted, and they cease to show appreciation. Somebody said that the pattern in most women’s lives is: first they are taken out and then they’re taken in and finally they are taken for granted. That’s hard to understand. Some men are like the fellow who didn’t kiss his wife for 10 years and then shot the man who did.
If you love your wife you ought to show appreciation to her because that is one of the deep needs of her life. And ladies, your husband has that same kind of need. Unless we show honest appreciation we will fail to meet the basic needs of our mate.
2. You must accept your partner.
Not only do marriages need appreciation, but they also need acceptance. When I accept another person, it means that I allow him to possess the feelings that he possesses, to hold the attitudes that he has, and to be the person he is. When you marry a person, you need to understand what he is like, accept him as he is, and not spend your life trying to remodel him and make him into something else. One of the principle forms of rejection is nagging and complaining about the behavior of another. It is a way of saying, “You are not acceptable to me, and you must change in order to make me happy.”
Everybody has some unpleasant quirk about him. And no matter who he is, you can find something about him that you don’t particularly like. So if you are going to live in peace and harmony with him, you must accept him as he is, just as he must accept a lot of things about you. If you can’t learn to accept one another, you can’t ever be happy. Perfect mates come only in gloves, shoes, and fantasies. No person ought to go through life with someone else continually chipping away at his personality. That is simply unfair. We need to work on accepting our mates as they are with their faults and their weaknesses because they must accept us the same way. Everybody needs appreciation, and everybody needs acceptance.
3. You must be able to forgive your partner.
Everybody needs forgiveness. It is impossible for two normal, healthy people to live together for any length of time without having some kind of conflict. Every once in a while I meet people who say, “We’ve been married for 20 years and we have never had an argument,” and I think, “My soul, how boring that must be.” When two people agree on everything, one of them is not necessary. A good argument sometimes can clear the air and, rather than weaken the relationship, can actually strengthen it.
The question is not “Do you have conflict in your marriage?” The question is “How are you going to deal with that conflict?” If you can deal with it in a mature way and attack the problem and not attack each other, and if you can reach a solution that is acceptable to both of you, then the marriage relationship can actually be strengthened by conflict. When you love another you are able to deal with conflict, forgive and forget your differences, and get on at making your marriage what it ought to be. If there is real genuine love, there is the ability to forgive and to forget.
Paul tells us this when he writes that love “thinketh no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:5). The King James translation of that verse does not give us the full force of it. The word thinketh is a bookkeeping term. It means “to enter into a ledger book.” Paul means that love does not keep records of the wrong that is done to it.
I was on the island of Trinidad in the West Indies several years ago, and one of our missionaries introduced me to a man who kept a diary of every wrong that his wife did. Can you imagine trying to live under the weight of every mistake you have ever made? I talked to a man once who said, “Every time my wife and I get into an argument she gets historical.” I said, “You mean hysterical, don’t you?” He said, “No, I mean historical. She keeps bringing up the past.”
If you keep bringing up the past, you are destined to destroy your marriage. Nobody can live with the weight of all his past failures on his shoulders. Unless you can forgive and forget, you can never have a good marriage.
Every once in a while we hear about a marriage that has fallen apart, and we think that it happened suddenly. But marriages don’t just suddenly fall apart. Marital failure is usually the result of years of problems that have accumulated. This is the very reason you should begin today to appreciate, accept, and forgive one another. It is exactly what every marriage needs.