My guess is that there are a lot of Christians, including Christian leaders, who got married for the wrong reasons. We can all think of one main reason Christians get married; starts with an S and ends with an X. To be fair the Bible is not in opposition to the hurry up offense when it comes to marriage (1 Corinthians 7:9), but at some point, all Christian couples need to come to grips with the mission of Marriage or else a lifetime of disappointment awaits.
Most, if not all, of the marriages that fail do so due to unmet expectations. “I thought we were going to fall deeper in love everyday? We didn’t.” “I thought you would continue to pursue me and date me? You didn’t.” “I thought I would be the only one you would be sleeping with? I’m not.” In Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul gives us the clearest explanation of marriage in the New Testament. And in his writing we get one clear expectation, both spouses will be changed. The reality is, if you embrace Paul’s explanation of marriage, you will never have unmet expectations.
Paul likens marriage to Jesus’ relationship with the church. The church is not perfect, however, Jesus is working on it and through it to one day bring it to himself spotless. At the center of Jesus’ relationship with the church is covenant. His commitment to His bride is unparalleled.
The Hebrew word Ahava means “to give love, or a love of the will”. It’s not about emotion, it’s an action. It’s present when two people see each other clearly, good, bad, crazy, sane, rich, poor, and they choose to love each other no matter what. This is covenantal love. It says, I’m not going anywhere. This is how Jesus loves us: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Defining the mission
So what is the mission of marriage? Marriage exists to show the world how much a perfect God loves an imperfect people. So conflict is not a bad thing in marriage, it’s how the conflict is handled and resolved that matters. Butterflies are not a bad thing in marriage, but what speaks volumes is when the butterflies fly off and your commitment still stands. As people observe your marriage they get to see unconditional love, forgiveness and respect. This gives you a platform to say, Jesus has an even more perfect love for you.
I started dating my wife 15 years ago. I can still remember the first time we held hands. We were in a move theater and I thought I was going to explode! My heart was beating fast, I felt light headed, and my goal was to not throw up on her. But today, when we hold hands, I don’t have those feelings. What I do have though is a deeper, more robust love for her. We have thirteen years of marriage, three boys, lot’s of fights, lot’s of great times, lot’s of disappointment (for her mostly), and knowledge that we are more committed now to each other than we were back in that movie theater.
Christians, especially leaders, often think that a good marriage is one that lacks conflict and friction. Obviously a marriage full of romance and righteousness would be better, but let’s get real for a moment. Conflict and friction are opportunities for change and to show the world how Christ’ love works. Suppressing conflict and friction could be a sign of insecurity in the marriage. “If I confront them on this, they will leave me, or be cold toward me.” A secure love allows for blemishes to be brought to the forefront so they can be “washed” and worked on.