The Heart of Christian Marriage

September 2, 2007

When I originally starting writing weekly posts last January, I decided that the only way any of my writing would stay fresh is if the topic matter was consistently something that I was passionate about.  So I resolved that the weekly topic always be whatever the Lord had allowed to be on my heart and mind that week.

Earlier today I started writing this week’s post about now-famous James J. Lee, the gunman who walked into the Discovery Channel’s headquarters this morning and threatened harm if they didn’t change their programming.  His reasoning was that which only the insane mind can conjure up, which I won’t bother getting into.  Halfway into the article, I decided I couldn’t do it.  For me this was going through the motions.  Lee simply wasn’t worth my energy, and frankly, the media seemed a little confused and underwhelmed by his story as well.  Praying about it more, today, for me, my passion is Christian marriage.

Christian marriage is possessing my thoughts for several reasons right now in my life.  However, today, the greatest reason is that tomorrow my wife and I will be celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary.  How someone has put up with my annoying quirks and obsessive nature for three years is beyond me.

Well, actually I do have one thought.

A Christian spouse, by definition, understands Christian virtues.  And at the core of Christianity are the concepts of repentance, forgiveness, and sacrifice.  If these things don’t exist in Christianity, Christianity itself doesn’t exist.  Without launching into full sermonizing mode, a reminder of what these concepts are is always helpful:

Repentance – the original New Testament Greek word for this means to experience sorrow over something and proceed to turn away from it with complete intention of never again making the same mistake.

Forgiveness – the original New Testament Greek word for this means to release, or let go, or send away.

Sacrifice – this word is not exclusive to merely a heroic moment of diving in front of a bullet, but a willingness to live every day to the glory of someone else.

So, I love my wife for a variety of reasons.  Most of all, however, I love her because she understands these concepts.  When I say something thoughtless (I know! I just can’t see me doing that either! :)), and I look her in the eyes and say I’m sorry, she trusts that I have no desire to ever be such a fool again.  When she forgives me, I don’t expect that this mistake will be scrubbed from her brain, but I know that she’s not going to grudgingly hold it against me any longer.  And when she has decided that the evening plans are to go down to the Famous Footwear on the south side of town because we can’t miss the “buy one get one half off sale” that they only run 18 times a year, I go.  Sometimes I complain, granted, but I still go.  It makes her happy.  It’s a small sacrifice to make.  After all, her sacrifice of love was that she packed her bags, said goodbye to friends, and put other plans on hold so that she could go with me wherever the Lord called me to in my work.  These are the things that Christian love does – it repents, it forgives, and it sacrifices.

I know this is what Christian love is, because the Bible defines it that way.  1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Jesus sacrificed his whole self so that God would forgive us.  Whoever then repents and believes this good news (Mark 1:15)  is saved.

I love my wife because she desires to love me like Christ does.  Today over 50% of marriages end in divorce and the latest numbers say that the average marriage in our country ends before 8 years (and that’s factoring in those which go the distance of 50+years).  Divorce is perhaps as sad as any cultural trend in our country.  How does God feel about it?  He hates it.  He bluntly says, “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16).  Do you know how rare it is in Scripture that God just flat out says that he “hates” something?  I’d imagine he hates divorce so much because it’s the ultimate reminder that mankind is rebellious and cares more about themselves than him, his will, and his blessing.

The very first human relationship that God created was not brother/brother or mother/daughter or anything like that.  It was husband and wife.  It was the relationship that most closely resembled the intimacy that God wanted with mankind.  Carelessly breaking this gift from God is like opening a Christmas present that someone put a lot of thought into and scoffing at it while they’re watching.

Divorce is not the unforgivable sin though.  At the center of Christianity, again, is sacrifice, repentance, and forgiveness.  Through Christ’s blood we can be sure that the mistakes we’ve made, which we’ve repented of, are completely forgiven.  We’ve been cleansed.  But just because we now don’t have to go to hell because of divorce does not mean that we view marriage in the same cavalier manner that the world does.  If so, we’ve completely missed the point of what is arguably God’s 2nd greatest blessing to mankind.

My wife and I have tried to get into the habit of regularly enumerating our blessings together.  This was a practice that was recommended to us by a very faithful woman with a very successful marriage who also happened to be the wife of the pastor who was leaving when I came to Resurrection.  Now, particularly during tough moments when perhaps not feeling our most thankful, we alternate turns in saying the many things that we’re thankful for.  Numbers 1 and 2 are always the same – 1) Salvation through Jesus and 2) each other as Christian spouses.

Not surprisingly, studies seem to indicate that Christian marriages in general last longer, are more satisfying, and are more peaceful than others.  I’ll be honest.  I’m not exactly sure how any non-Christian couples ever survive for years in marriage.  Packing two human sinners under one roof who don’t have the Christian concepts of repentance, forgiveness, and sacrifice in mind seems to be a recipe for a relationship with a short shelf life.  And the statistics support this unfortunate truth.  It’s just another reminder of what a tremendous blessing a Christian spouse is.

By God’s grace, three years ago a woman chose to love and commit herself to a flawed creature like me.  And she’s stayed true to that commitment primarily because she knows her Savior, a being who chose to love and commit himself to a flawed creature like her.  It’s a beautiful thing.

My encouragement for you today would be this: tell your spouse today 1) how sorry you are for any times you’ve ever caused them grief, 2) how much you appreciate the fact that they love you despite your flaws, and 3) how you would do absolutely anything to make them happy, because you love them that much, and then do it.  (NOTE: also be sure to tell them not to read this week’s post or they might see it as somewhat rehearsed :))

And if you are single (either never married or divorced), understand this: earthly marriage in a sinful world, wonderful of a blessing as it is, in part, functions as a symbol of the unity and fellowship that God wants us to have with him eternally.  It’s no coincidence that one of the most common pictures of heaven in the Bible is a wedding banquet.  It’s no coincidence that one of God’s favorite descriptions in the Bible of his relationship with his people is that they are his bride.  Marriage fosters an opportunity to understand the beauty of intimate relationship.  In heaven, you will experience the bliss of the most intimate relationship possible without sin holding it back.  YOU will be “married” to God himself.  Takes one’s breath away.

I certainly have an excellent opportunity this week to thank God for the gift of Christian marriage.  You do too.  Married or single, as part of the bride of Christ (the Church) you have eternal, passionate, intimate relationship in store for you.  This is the true romance of knowing God.

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8 thoughts on “The Heart of Christian Marriage

  1. Gina says:

    A wonderful reminder to every married couple, whether married 3 years–or 23 years! A cord of three is not easily broken . . . especially when God is the perfect third strand.

  2. Holly says:

    Interesting writing James! Your father told us we should check out your blog in church this morning….and being a native of Rochester I had to check it out!

    I am guessing that you would love to see your folks closer, but should they choose their call to Wisconsin they will be truly missed by many here.

    Your dad talks about his “quirks” and I do wonder how many wives allow Dialects in their houses! My kids have to check out our bulletin box at church right away….looking for the next episode! I thought I would stop in and say “hi” as you have probably heard about the Dr. Who fans in Mandan, ND!

    • Hi Holly! That’s actually my uncle (not dad) that you’re talking about out in Mandan. However, they’re both great and faithful men with “quirks” (i.e. sci-fi passion) so it’s an easy confusion :). Thanks for reading!

  3. Dawn Donald says:

    James:
    I hope this doesn’t embarrass you because it’s from your mother-in-law but if it does, that’s okay. Scott told me about this week’s blog and I read it today. It’s amazing that someone so young has so much wisdom. That’s a great gift from the Lord in itself. Your message was right on the mark, and even though we have been married for 28 years, there was something for me to learn in reading it. You are truly blessed!!
    Dawn
    PS I called Scott right after I read it and asked him why he didn’t call me and tell me all those things at the end that you suggest. It really put him on the spot!!

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