I clearly remember completing marriage counseling with my husband before our wedding (as I should; it wasn’t even four years ago). Our pastor sat with us for hours, asking us specific questions about our expectations in marriage. We talked about finances, church attendance, plans for children, intimacy, household chores, and numerous other aspects that come up when you are “doing life” with someone.
He told us that we were entering into a covenant with God, not just each other. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. We were both Christians, and had been for our whole lives. Of course God would be at the center of our marriage. What other way is there for Christians to be married?
We quickly found out.
As young newlyweds, we discovered that having little money and unstable jobs led to regular fights. Add to that a bride who desperately missed living in her home state with family closeby and it was a recipe for disaster. Without meaning to, we swiftly fell into a pattern of thinking of what we wanted first, never what God wanted for us and our marriage.
In the Ligonier Ministries blog “3 Ways the Gospel Changes Marriages,” blogger and pastor Erik Raymond writes that Scripture has laid out a better plan for husbands and wives. Marriage from the gospel has three important components:
1. Selfishness must be replaced with service.
Raymond explains it like this: “Every single sin flows from the reservoir of self.”
How true is that? Even as Christians, our wants and needs are at the forefront of our minds. But God has called us to put others first. We must replace our hearts of selfishness with hearts for service for our spouse.
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
2. Laziness must be changed into action.
When problems arise in marriage, many of us are quick to sweep them aside to be dealt with later. We become lazy, telling ourselves that dealing with the problem would only make matters worse. It is far more comfortable to remain stagnant than initiate a painful change. But God has called us to be engaged in our marriage, taking action when issues arise.
Raymond writes that we are to become “what Jesus is about: pursuing Christlikeness by means of painfully putting sin to death.”
“Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion.” Romans 12:11
3. Self-righteousness must be transformed into humility.
Raymond writes, “Self-righteousness is that devilish mindset that we possess merit in ourselves that commends us before God and men.”
Most of us don’t think of ourselves as self-righteous, though we take on this quality every time we want to be “right.” We feel attacked when our spouse comes to us with concerns, so we respond by playing defense attorney. We name ourselves the victim, hurling evidence that asserts our innocence at our spouse. This is not the way that God intended our marriages to look.
“This is to be contrasted with the gospel which teaches us that we have already been sufficiently attacked, critiqued, and judged. The cross is the verdict. We are guilty. But the beauty of the gospel is that while we were infinitely sinful we were also unfathomably loved. This brings humility and assurance,” Raymond says.
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself with be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’” Luke 18:9-14
Crosswalk.com contibutor Debbie McDaniel says that consistent prayer is our greatest weapon against Satan’s aim to destroy our marriages. To remain steadfast in our promises of service, action, and humility, I invite you to pray the following prayer from McDaniel’s 40 Powerful Blessings to Pray Over Your Marriage:
Dear God, We praise you for your love and faithfulness. We thank you for huge grace. We thank you that you give us the power to love well. Thank you for my spouse. Thank you for the gift of marriage. Thank you that you’re for us; that you fight for us. Thank you that you are Redeemer, and you have good in store. We confess, some days, marriage gets tough, and we blow it – again. We ask that you would make us more like you. Please fill our marriage and lives with truth and cover it with blessing.
You can read the rest of McDaniel’s prayer here.
Carrie Dedrick is the Family Editor for Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: March 11, 2016