Just because two people claim to be followers of Christ, it doesn’t mean they have a Christian marriage. They may have a marriage where there are two people who say they are followers of Jesus Christ, but it takes more than occupancy to make it a Christian marriage —one that exemplifies who Christ is and wants them to be. So what makes a marriage a Christian one?
We came across a book titled, The Complete Marriage Book, written by Dr David and Dr Jan Stoop, published by Fleming H. Revell, that makes some good points on this subject. We’ll be sharing a portion of what they wrote, hoping it will give you look into this important issue. They write:
“What makes your marriage Christian? I mean distinctly Christian? Imagine that you are good friends with another couple who have a very strong, solid marriage. But they make no claim to have an interest in being Christians, or in having a Christian marriage. Perhaps they go to church with you on Christmas or Easter, but that’s the extent of their interest in spiritual things.
“Over the years, you’ve watched them, and you know they have a great marriage. They also have high moral standards, and they live by their values. You claim to have a Christian marriage, but how is your marriage different from theirs?
“There are a number of good responses that are true and important but don’t really answer the question. For example, you might say, ‘Our marriage is different because we have Christ at the center of our lives.’ That’s extremely important, but how does that make your marriage different —in a practical sense? Or you might say, ‘We attend church and are active in its ministries.’
“You’re getting closer, but again, how does that affect your marriage —in a practical sense? Now you say, ‘Well, my partner and I both have a great relationship with the Lord. He’s very real to us and he affects the way we live our lives.’ Nothing is more important in our lives than our relationship with the Lord, but again, how does that affect your marriage —in a practical sense? How about an answer that says, ‘We experience incredible intimacy with God as a couple?'”
David and Jan Stoop then go on to write about the first marriage between Adam and Eve and their loss of intimacy as a couple with God:
“We’ve found that part of our purpose as believers is to begin to restore some of what was lost when Adam and Eve sinned. In other words, as a Christian couple that is seeking to have a genuine Christian marriage, we will do things that seek to restore to us as a couple what was lost at the fall. That includes confronting our shame, defensiveness, and fear, which every couple has to do to build a healthy marriage. And then we need to begin to repair the brokenness we experience as a couple in our relationship with God.
“What makes a marriage truly Christian, then, is that we AS A COUPLE are seeking to restore in our lives part of what was lost in the Garden of Eden. We not only strive to become more whole as an individual, we want our marriage to be more of what God intended marriage to be —a complete, satisfying union of two people with God —intimacy together with each other and together with God. Unless our search for spiritual intimacy with God is part of our behavior as a couple, there is little else that distinguishes a marriage as being truly Christian.”
The authors go on to talk about how we do that (which we won’t be able to go into detail in this message, to honor their copyright privileges and because it would take up more space than we can dedicate to this message), but basically a lot of it is working together in partnership along with God to help each other be all we can be in Christ if we wouldn’t have married. It’s is working on each other’s “aloneness” and helping each other to live up to our potential, praying with and for each other, worshiping our God together, studying the Bible, and living our lives together as God teaches.
They go on to write:
“What marks a marriage as distinctly Christian is that we, as a couple, are doing things together that non-Christian couples don’t do together. While non-believing people may pray at times, and may even read the Bible for comfort at times, it is not a regular habit they are doing to nurture their marriage. Reading the Bible together and praying together on a regular, daily basis are the foundation stones for building spiritual intimacy in a marriage.
“George Barna’s surveys found that the divorce rate for couples who read the Bible together daily is only 1 out of 1,100. Another statistic we found was that couples who pray together on a daily basis have a divorce rate of 1 out of 1,200. These are unbelievable statistics in light of the divorce rate in the general population being one out of two marriages.
“Reading the Bible together and praying together are strong divorce-prevention behaviors, but their primary purpose is to develop spiritual intimacy together as a couple.”
Drs. David and Jan Stoop go on to talk about different retreats they and other couples have gone on, to grow closer to God and to each other as individual couples and ways they can “make their worship experiences more of a couples event.” You can talk together as a couple on how you can do that, and/or read the book (plus we also have articles posted on our web site in the “Spiritual Matters” topic as well as the “Marriage Enrichment” topic that could also help).
In closing, David and Jan write:
“Spiritual intimacy in our marriage means that we are developing a shared inner life together. While this may sound like a frightening, huge task, remember, we begin with a few simple things. Don’t rush the process, but don’t fail to get started either; or if you’ve already started, don’t fail to add new ways to experience God together in your marriage.”
Author Gary Thomas (from the book Sacred Marriage) says this:
“Your marriage is more than a sacred covenant with another person. It is a spiritual discipline designed to help you know God better, trust him more fully, and love him more deeply.”
And to that we say, AMEN!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ALSO —
A Family Life Today article, written by Bob Lepine gives additional insights into what a “Christian marriage” looks like: