I think that we often get Christian marriage all wrong and the result is devastating for both Christians and non-Christians. We hold up an ideal relationship of love and fulfillment and we give people strategies for how to go after it so they can be satisfied. Christians get married so they can share their life with their soul mate and when things are not what they hoped they would be (as they will never be), then disillusionment often sets in. But, what if the metric was different from what we thought? What if the goal was not some perfect union where there were no problems and God was invited in to create wedded bliss? What if, instead, we recognized that marriage, Christian marriage, is actually two sinners submitting themselves to God and sharing a life together on God's terms instead of their own? What if the problems faced when two sinners joined their lives together were actually allowed by God so that the couple would experience the Way of the Cross and learn dependence upon the Lord instead of themselves? What if Christian marriage was not about the couple getting the life they always wanted, but rather, was a journey into trust in God, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and self-sacrifice and the life that only God can provide? What if Christian marriage was radically different from what we have thought?
Paul David Tripp has an interesting take on it that is different from what I've heard from many ministers in the past. He actually roots marriage in the Kingdom of God and explains what it looks like for the Kingdom to come in a marriage and how a marriage becomes a ministry and a place where God shows up.
As someone who likes to read more than watch videos, here is part of the transcript of what Tripp is saying:
When you think of the marriage between a man and a woman who are believers as being a forum for great commission ministry there are a couple things that come to mind. If you have these two sinners who by nature are self sovereigns who have little interest in doing anything in life, but building their own kingdom…And if they’re now living in a relationship of real unity, real love, willing self sacrifice, you’re seeing the Kingdom come. It has come in this marriage. There are few places where you can better invite people in to see the King at work and see how His Kingdom operates more than a marriage, because typically you don’t have unity, understanding and love.”
Tripp is saying here that when two Christians, who are by-nature sinners and are bent on getting their way, actually submit their lives to each other and serve one another and forgive one another and bless one another - instead of trying to get their own way - then, the Kingdom has come in that marriage. The Kingdom of God can come in a normal moment of service and love and sacrifice for the other that is not anything dramatic at all - but it is supernatural because it is not what the flesh produces. When one spouse decides not to try and get their way but instead seeks the good of the other, that is the reign and rule (the Kingdom) of God manifesting itself in that marriage and Christ is witnessed to. When the Christian life is simply lived out in the context of a marriage and real sacrificial love replaces real selfishness - that is missional ministry. Then, the world is invited to see something different - the relationship between Christ and His Church.
I do not always do this. I can be selfish and, well, selfish. That pretty much sums it up. But, as I learn to seek God and the good of my wife and my children over and above myself - then I am able to live out the Kingdom mission in my home. God help me. I am selfish way more often than I should be. But, like everything else, it all begins with my walk with the Lord and dying to myself and living to Christ daily. When I look to Jesus, everything else falls into place and makes sense - including my marriage and family. When I look to myself, everything falls apart. God help me.