In a couple of weeks, I kick off a new series at Life Centre Church called “Citizens – Living as God’s Kingdom People”, based on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7. I’m really excited to preach through it, as Jesus’ teaching is exceptionally relevant for today. As it relates to this topic Jesus had a few things to say about marriage, lust, anger, promises and divorce (Matt. 5:21-48). These are very practical and challenging. At the time of Jesus’ sermon, a large controversy about divorce and marriage was being conducted between two popular rabbinic schools of Hillel and Shammai. It was into that context in which Jesus spoke. What has been reinforced to me through my study is that God is far more for marriage than he is against divorce. God created marriage for our joy and God wants to elevate the blessedness of marriage in our eyes and to help a culture that is divorcing and separating left, right and centre how to experience joyful and fulfilling marriages.
So with this in mind I thought I’d do a short series called the 5 C’s To The Best Marriage Ever.
#1 – CHOICES.
The first principle to experiencing a great marriage is simply to make good choices. God has given us the means within our faculties to make choices. So choose well, before marriage and after marriage. Choose well.
Choices Before Marriage.
I often make the somewhat controversial statement that “It is not who you marry it is what you marry!” This may seem somewhat simplistic and even redundant yet it is such an important piece. Much of what leads to a great marriage exists well before the wedding day. Consequently, if you marry well, you immediately alleviate half the obstacles. A great marriage takes a great amount of work. It requires all sorts of compromises and adjustments that are not always easy. This highlights even more reason why choosing well before you marry is of such importance.
Too many people are looking for “the one”. This is very common, but not limited to the Christian context. The concept is that there is one perfectly designed soul mate out there somewhere. Find them, marry them and live the happily-ever-after you always desired. Thank you, Jerry Maguire and every other romantic comedy ever produced. While I do not wish to discount some couples experiences or the notion of compatibility altogether, I do find the concept of “the one” fraught with problems.
The first is a shaky foundation. Beneath the concept of “the one” is a subtle selfish agenda. That is, you are looking to get from someone rather than give to someone. Whether it is meaning, security, affirmation, identity, respect or love. You have an expectation that when you find this person these are things you will receive from them. Now, none of these things is wrong. In fact, they are all necessary in some sense to have any sort of meaningful relationship. The issue comes with only seeking to receive these things rather than giving these things. Many a couple got married, expecting their spouse would humbly serve them, only to find out that their spouse was expecting the same thing. If this is the foundation of a relationship then when times get tough, which they will, the relationship will collapse and you’ll be tempted to believe that maybe they just weren’t the one after all. It just wasn’t the right fit. But the problem isn’t the fit the problem is the foundation.
A great marriage requires both. Both parties need to feel valued, understood, loved and respected by the other. In order for that to be a reality, both have to prioritise the giving of these not just the receiving of them. If two people seek to receive, no one receives. If two people seek to give, both give and both receive. It’s beautiful and it is joyful.
The second is a misguided focus. The focus becomes to find someone and then marry someone. These are the ultimate goal. To be sure, no relationship exists without finding someone. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord.” You have to go looking, whether physically or digitally, in order to find a spouse. You have to take some risks, put yourself out there, and give it a go. But marriage is more than just finding someone; it’s about finding a spouse. Someone you will unite and covenant with for the rest of your life. And marriage is more than just about a wedding day. It’s about building a life together.
Now I hate to inform you of this truth, but the unfortunate reality is that the external fades over time. I turn 40 this year and my body is only moving in one direction and that’s south. So yes find a person you are physically attracted to. That’s legitimately important. But it’s really easy to get caught up by someone’s highlight reel without examining their behind the scenes. What are they like behind closed doors? The attraction needs to be both externally and internally. A great example of this can be seen in Genesis 24 where Abraham’s servant is sent to find a wife for his son Isaac (thank goodness I didn’t grow up in those days). The servant notices two things about a woman named Rebekah. 1) She was very attractive in appearance (Gen. 24:16) and she had a servant heart (Gen 24:20). Not only did Rebekah offer Abraham’s servant water, which she had to draw herself from a well. She also drew water for the servant’s camels. She was generous. She was kind. She was beautiful inside and out.
Sure he might be a really cool guy, or she might be a hottie but are they secure or insecure? Are they givers or takers? Do they use words to build others up or pull people down? Are they humble or arrogant? Are they personally growing or stagnant? Do they have the same faith as you or a completely different worldview? These things matter. It’s not just who you marry, it’s what you marry.
You need to like more than what you just see on the outside. As part of our church pre-marital counselling, I often say to young couples, “you’re going to talk a lot more than you are going to have sex. So make sure you actually like each other.” I don’t say it to be provocative. I say it because it’s true. You need to like the person you marry. You need to be attracted to the whole person, inside and out, including their mind and their heart. I can honestly say that I am far more attracted to my wife now, 15 years in, 4 children later, than on the day I married her. We are better friends than ever Why? Her character has continued to blossom. Her internal beauty shines brighter and brighter each and every day. In my view, I married a hottie not just externally but internally. And one day if God grants us the time we’ll be in our 80’s not looking like we did in our twenties but we will be far more satisfied, fulfilled, complete and joyful than even on our wedding day.
Choices in Marriage
The choices before you marry are important and the choices in your marriage are important. While a happy marriage may begin when we marry the one we love, a happy marriage blossoms when we love the one we marry. A great marriage is a result of thousands of little choices each and every day, week, month and year to love one another and do all you can to make the other even better than they would be on their own. Therefore make choices that not only benefit you but benefit the other and coincide with God’s plan for their life.
Tim Keller sums up a Christian vision of marriage.
Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!” Tim Keller
As you reflect on the quote above consider the choices you can make in your marriage to make it the best marriage ever.