It’s not about you.
If there is one thing people need to hear in regard to marriage it is that. I’m not talking about non-Christian marriage. I am talking about marriage founded upon the biblical ideal that God has joined two people together to become one flesh through his covenant work. (If that previous sentence doesn’t make sense to you then nothing else in this post will either). This concept of covenant marriage is the picture we see in Genesis 2. It’s the picture Jesus affirms in Mark 10 and Matthew 19. It’s the center of Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 5. And it’s the image at the heart of the eschatological vision in Revelation 19. Christian marriage is not to be downgraded by secular, cultural appropriations that reduce the sacred institution to some trite, legal arrangement based upon the feelings of affection or self-fulfillment a person derives from their spouse. How trivial!
As a pastor I get a front row seat for watching many marriages. In this season, in my context, it is clear to me that marriages are under attack by God’s enemy. The cultural foothold of self-seeking narcissism perpetuated by the elevation of the individual through the vanity of cultural relativism that has given rise to the pandemic of self-focus highlighted by the prevalence of personal expression (Thanks, social media!!) is the very foothold Satan is using to destroy marriage. We live in a culture that repeats, “It’s all about you. It’s all about you. It’s all about you. It’s all about you.”
That’s a lie! It’s a lie from the Devil himself forged in the fires of hell. It’s the lie Satan first sold Eve and Adam and it’s the lie that Cain believed when he killed Abel. It’s the lie that is destroying our marriages. It’s the lie that makes husbands (or wives) focus on their careers and personal empires and aspirations. It’s the lie that makes wives (or husbands) focus on their physical appearance from fashion to facelifts. It’s the lie that has allowed pornography to become so prevalent in homes and in phones. It’s the lie at the heart of the justification and allure of un-checked lust and extramarital affairs. It’s the lie that allows the lack of one’s personal happiness to become an indictment of their spouse opening the door to seeking fulfillment outside of marriage. It’s the lie that created helicopter parents who live vicariously through the popularity or success of their children.
Marriage as God intended was to be the cornerstone of human civilization. It was to be the foundation of functional society that celebrated and multiplied the image and glory of God through human flourishing. It was to be the sacred and holy space in which the brilliance and beauty of human sexuality was to be preeminent. Instead we have ripped sex from womb of marriage, ignored the image of God in one another, and profaned the glory of God by turning the covenant of marriage into a compost heap of self-gratification. This is not marriage. It’s something else. We need a different name for this cheap plastic imitation that is so easily broken.
As a theologically orthodox evangelical I have heard my corner of the church bemoan what is happening to marriage in our culture. But the Church’s great battle with marriage is not what our secular society is reducing it to through no-fault divorces and same-sex unions. The Church’s fight concerning marriage is not with legislators and lawmakers and the SCOTUS. The Church’s fight is within itself. The Evangelical Church has no integrity with which to speak to society’s reduction of the institution of marriage. All society has done is ratify the evidence of what they have seen in the Church. We cry out that marriage is sacred. But in truth we have made it sanctimony. We are letting Satan steal God’s priceless gift of marriage within our own house and yet we have the gall to muster indignation at how secular society treats it? We point at the dumpster fire of marriage in our culture and ignore the fact that we do so from atop the smoldering remains of marriage in our own yard. Put down your picket sign and pick up sackcloth. We need to repent.
Do I sound a little harsh? Intense? Well, Satan himself is speeding away with the covenant God forged at the center of your marriage, which he plans to destroy in order to profane the name of Jesus Christ through you. So yeah, I am a little passionate.
So what should you do? First, foremost, and finally, remember and never forget that it’s not about you. YOUR MARRIAGE IS NOT ABOUT YOU. The natural aversion you have to reading that and the argument you are formulating against that is precisely why you have to remember that. For you, marriage should be about the glory of Christ first, your spouse second, and yourself last of all. Your rejection of this idea cannot be supported with scripture and can only be rooted in the fake version of marriage you have purchased from the sordid trench coat of our society.
How do you stop the heist of your marriage in your own home?
- Center yourself on Christ. If Christ is in the sidecar of your life you have dishonored the gospel. Personally repent, asking him to be Lord of all of your life.
- Do your part in making Christ a priority for your family- not by becoming self-righteous but by serving your spouse with his grace. Yes, that means making church- Christian community- a priority, not a convenience.
- Seek to meet the needs of your spouse with the best of your energy and imagination. Cease living in frustration because your spouse does not meet your needs and actively sacrifice your wants by loving your spouse in the same way you want them to love you.
- Stop making their reciprocation of service a prerequisite for your own. Marriage is not a balanced ledger sheet. You give 100% of yourself 100% of the time.
- Don’t pray that God will change your spouse until you are weary from asking God to change you. Don’t believe the lie that your marriage problems begin and end with your spouse.
- If you are in danger or being abused do not excuse your spouse’s behavior. You profane marriage by tolerating your own abuse within marriage. Seek help.
- Stop your sin. Confess your sin. Seek restoration from your sin. Looking at porn? Having an inappropriate emotional relationship with someone? Having an affair? Is your primary focus making money or having fun? Living in bitterness or resentment toward your spouse? Stop. Confess. Seek restoration.
- Fight for your marriage not against your spouse. You cannot change your spouse or your feelings. You can only change your behavior. So change it.