Marriage Missions International

What Makes a Marriage Christian – Marriage Message #344

Just because two people claim to be followers of Christ, it doesn’t mean they have a Christian marriage. They have a marriage that two people who say they are followers of Jesus Christ occupy, but it takes more than occupancy to make it a Christian marriage — one that exemplifies and lives out who Christ is and wants them to be. So what does it take?

We came across a book titled, The Complete Marriage Book which is written by Dr David and Dr Jan Stoop, published by Fleming H. Revell, that makes some good points on this subject. We’d like to share a portion of what they wrote, hoping it will speak to your heart for at least a small look at 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 talk about the first marriage between Adam and Eve and their loss of intimacy as a couple with God. They then say,

We have found that part of our purpose as believers is to begin to restore some of what was lost when Adam and Even 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 so we 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.

They go on to talk about different retreats they and other couples have gone on, in order to grow closer to God and 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 and recommended resources posted on our web site in the “Spiritual Matters” section as well as the “Marriage Enrichment” section that could also help).

David and Jan go on to say in closing,

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:

WHAT MAKES A MARRIAGE DISTINCTIVELY CHRISTIAN?

Share

Join the Discussion!

But please observe the following guidelines:

  • Try to be as positive as possible when you make a comment.
  • If there is name-calling, or profane language, it will be deleted.
  • The same goes with hurtful comments targeted at belittling others; we won't post them.
  • Recommendations for people to divorce will be edited out–that's a decision between them and God, not us.
  • If you have a criticism, please make it constructive.
  • Be mindful that this is an international ministry where cultural differences need to be considered.
  • Please honor the fact this is a Christ-centered web site.
We review all comments before posting them to reduce spam and offensive content.

Comments

7 Responses to “What Makes a Marriage Christian – Marriage Message #344”
  1. Mike says:

    (KENYA) Dear Marriage Missions, I am involved in a lot of marriage ministry and seminars together with my wife and even now we are in a different city doing a ladies conference… I am happy to have found your website. I will make use of its material fully… Please let me know anything new in your account or a conference. Are you coming to our country soon? It’s so Rich…. Mike and Susan

  2. Rajendra says:

    (INDIA) Many pastors like me are being helped while meditating on marriage sermons.

  3. John says:

    (USA) I think this is what God wants in a marriage… two people who can easily pray or praise God at almost any time in almost any circumstance. I think that God would come very often and fellowship with such a couple. How sweet.

  4. joy says:

    (USA)  I googled “marrying an indifferent Christian” and found this website; I need advice! When I was a teen dreaming of the perfect Christian husband I would have never thought I would dream of compromising what I felt was ” God’s Best” for a husband for myself… but through all of my lifes trials, and difficulties, and experiences I have wondered if all those early years had my head in an idealized picture of a “perfect” man. Did I have God in a box? Does the right man for me work in a church, read his Bible daily, pray all the time and never miss a church service? Or could it be that even though I met a man who is somewhat searching for truth and is my age, with simular mistakes made in past relationships but willing to go to church with me… possibly the one for me?

    I have to admit I did make a bad choice initially in dating him knowing he wasn’t maybe even a believer ( but he was open and attending church with me)… I stayed with him because I didn’t view mysrelf as such a strong believer anymore either and maybe we can search for truth together. Unfortunately almost 7 years have past and with many distractions in between to slow us down and the spiritual conflict between us being the biggest obstacle, we are still not able to get married.

    I am wondering if I should move on (It’s not an easy decicision because of the history with our families we have developed over these years… my girls want me to finally marry him etc). I am fearful and would feel like a part of me has died if I move on but the reality is Yes, we have a bond together, but I would have to accept his slow growth and or indifference in growing in the Lord together if we are to be married for life.

    I am again hungry for the things of the Lord daily and constantly reach out longing to leave a leagacy for my children and grand children and for that, it makes more sense to wait for a strong christian man to come along…He doesn’t have that same vision and desire that I have to pass my faith ( it’s like i’m constantly trying to get him to understand it- he’s always agreeable however- probably as long as I do the work, because it’s my idea).

    My thoughts are, I just don’t think that at 45 years of age my chances are that great to find that “strong” Christian man elswhere and my chances are better if worked out with the one i’ve got now( seems like all those men are already taken) so I’m frozen in indeciciveness!

    Currently my boyfriend is asking me to go to counceling… we are not sinning in fornication anymore, we live four hours apart (because of a break-up, and trying to figure “us” out)… Biblically or practically, would you say I’m wasting precious time because I have enough facts? This approach has seemed so judgemental due to the fact that I have many flaws myself even though I’m striving to live for God and in many ways he is more mature than a lot of christian men I’ve known. On the other hand, sooo much time has passed already!

    Should I be more tuff and possibly write down my adgenda for marriage, give it to him, leave all the details up to God and be willing to walk away if he does not accept them or wait and explain all of this out in front of a competant Christian councelor? Please, I welcome your feed back. Sincerely, Joy

    • Angelo says:

      (AUSTRALIA)  Hi Joy, I’ve just come across your post. Wow! When I read your email I sense a heart for the Lord but lots of confusion. For what they may be worth let me make a couple of suggestions: One of our struggles is that we always seem to put ourselves up against the standards that are put before us -which are almost always a perfect scenario. So for a husband he should be ALREADY reading his Bible everyday, praying three times a day (at least), going to church thrice a week etc. I’m only half kidding :^)

      Heres something to try. Find 3 or 4 older Christian couples who seem real and somewhat together and go ask them this – what is your spiritual life like TOGETHER? i.e. how often do you pray and read your Bible TOGETHER? How much are you both on the same page ALL the time? Has it ALWAYS been like this or is it something thats built up over the years? What was your spiritual relationship like at the START of your marriage compared to now and how did the change come about?

      You see those of us who have been married for 30 years and/or have been on the road with the Lord for 30 years find it very easy to give the impression that everyone’s marriage should be at the stage ours is at AFTER 30 years right from get-go.

      The other thing that people don’t take into account is that individuals experience the Lord differently and learn differently and express thier worship differently. Some express their love for God through prayer, some through Bible reading, some through helping others …There’s lots of different ways. BUT they have this in common, to a degree or other they are doing it for the Lord.

      “Does the right man for me work in a church, read his Bible daily, pray all the time and never miss a church service?” There’s lots of men like that who do those things for very nonspiritual reasons. And there’s lots of men who don’t do all of those things who love the Lord.

      Now I don’t know your man but let me say what strikes me about him:
      = a man who is somewhat searching for truth
      = and is my age,
      = with similar mistakes made in past relationships but
      = willing to go to church with me…
      = he was open
      = my girls want me to …marry him -like him -after 7 years you’d think they’d have picked up if someone wasn’t good for their mum.
      = I would have to accept his slow growth (according to who?)
      = indifference in growing in the Lord together -reality check! Most Christian marriage partners grow at a different rate for most of their married lives.
      = I am again hungry for the things of the Lord daily -is he stopping you?
      = longing to leave a leagacy for my children and grand children and for that, it makes more sense to wait for a strong Christian man to come along… WRONG :)

      Sorry -a ‘strong Christian man’ is not as likely to help you grow in the Lord as you think -more likely you will be doing no more than spiritually slipstreaming him -which he’ll only enjoy if he’s someone who needs people to be dependent on him. No -I think you need to get on with it with yourself and the Lord no matter what.

      = Currently my boyfriend is asking me to go to counceling… very unspiritual of him, terrible, terrible, terrible :) just kidding.

      There’s not a whole lot of men that would hang around for 7 years and be the ones asking to go to counseling together -trust me -whatever else he’s in the minoirty on that = we are not sinning in fornication anymore, -He’s willing to stop having sex and he’s asking to go to counseling and he’s still got time for you even though you are 4 hours apart and he’s still willing to try to work to ‘figure us out’ Which part of this is not consistent with “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church” ??

      “In many ways he is more mature than a lot of christian men I’ve known.” I don’t knopw the men you’ve known but he certainly sounds more mature than many Christian men I know!

      Maybe rather than comparing him to some model we have got from pulpits and church talkfests you could ask (maybe even ask him and give him a chance to tell you) if he is willing to meet GOD’s standard of a good believing husband as found in Eph 5:25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church (ie always put HER best interests – not necessarily her desires -first in all your actions and decisions). You may be pleasantly surprised by his answer :^)

      Are you willing to be a Christian wife, btw? “Are you willing to be my partner in the way God’s word says?

      Sorry to prattle on. I will pray for you to have a peace in your heart. Success in marriage is not so much about compatibility as both partners willingness to work at it with God’s strength. Blessings, Angelo

  5. Presentia says:

    (SA)  Thanks for inspirational words, ladies. My challenge is that as an African women when you get married you are automatically expected to attend your husband church. However, his church does not fulfill me spiritually. I have discussed this with him but it seems we are on different wave lengths in terms of spiritual understanding.

    This situation makes life unpleasant at home because we attend different churches and he thinks I am disrespecting him by not attending his church. The kids are going to church with me.

    Follow Christians, your prompt advice will be appreciated.

  6. Matt says:

    (UK) Thanks for your post. Does the book give a more specific source for the two statistics you cite? (“the divorce rate for couples who read the Bible together daily is only 1 out of 1,100… couples who pray together on a daily basis have a divorce rate of 1 out of 1,200.” As I’ve looked on Barna’s page and not found it (in fact he suggests the opposite). Thanks, Matt

Marriage Missions International