There is a big difference between two Christians who are married and a Christ centered marriage. (Gary Oliver)
What do you think? Is there a big difference? That’s the question we want to address here. Does a couple have a “Christian marriage” just because both spouses claim to be Christians? That’s an important point to consider. There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding this issue.
We confess that we struggled with this matter for a number of years. Repeatedly spouses would write the same thing to us. They would essentially say, “We’re both Christians; but we keep fighting and fighting, and now we’re getting a divorce…”
That statement always confused us because we couldn’t understand how two people could claim to be Christ followers and yet their marriage was unhealthy and combative. We understand about having conflicts; that’s a “normal” part of marriage. We fight; you fight; most all married couples fight. That’s just a part of the process of marrying our lifestyles together!
And sometimes we even go through “disagreeable” seasons of marriage. Difficult situations arise and we have to work things through to get to a better place in our relationship. That is not necessarily a short process. But STAYING CONFLICTED is another matter entirely. And taking it to the point of divorce, again, that’s another matter.
If that’s happening, then one or both spouses are not living their lives for Christ. They may say they are Christians; but their actions don’t show it. That’s true for each one of us; either you follow Christ and His teachings, or you don’t. And if you consistently don’t, you can’t claim to be a “follower” of Christ.
The Christ Centered Marriage
All of this came to mind when we were going through some old seminar notes. We were deciding what to keep and what to throw away. But it caught our attention when we came across some notes from a seminar, we attended several years ago where Gary and Carrie Oliver were the Keynote speakers. In it, they talked about this very issue.
Carrie has since gone to be with the Lord after losing her battle with cancer. But what rich advice they gave, especially in that seminar! Their insights are timeless. So, we’re going to share a few of the things we wrote down. We pray it brings clarity to you, as it has to us.
Gary and Carrie Oliver first revealed what happened in their own marriage in the earlier days. They acknowledged that this is quite common in a lot of marriages, if not most. Perhaps you can relate.
“It seemed as if one morning we woke up more aware of each other’s weaknesses than strengths. We were more aware of what each other did wrong than right. And we were more negative and critical of each other, our kids, our friends, and even God.
“…It used to be that we were MADLY IN LOVE. But eventually, we were JUST MAD!” The Lord had to work on us BIG time, to change that attitude around!
That’s just a short insight into what happened in their marriage. But symbolizes a much longer, more complicated journey to turn their “just mad” attitudes into truly being “madly in love” again. But this time it was based upon God’s love, which reflects the love of Christ.
Choices / Changes
Carrie went on to say, “When couples marry, a lot of them are actually promising, ‘I choose you because you make me feel better about myself.”
She later said, (which was also stated in a Christianity Today article):
“Marriage is about choices. At the altar, many couples say, I choose us; but what they’re really saying is, I choose you to help me be happier and to be more fulfilled and to have more fun. I choose you to help me feel better about me.”
We certainly can relate because we each approached marriage that way. Before we knew Christ in a personal way, we both thought we knew what “love” was. (We now know that we didn’t.) We were sure we were in love; and we lived out our expressions of “love” according to our own understanding of it.
But then our marriage started unraveling so we both thought we had fallen out of love. Actually, we now know that we only loved who we thought each other was. And once the shine and newness started to rub off our relationship, things looked a lot different. So as quickly as we “fell” into love, we “fell” out of love again. It was a bounce in and bounce out kind of thing.
However, after the Lord came into our individual lives, He helped us to see that we had made a vow on our wedding day. It wasn’t a wedding WISH; it was a marriage VOW. And that changed the whole direction of what we needed to choose to do. It wasn’t all about our individual wants and needs. Marriage is more about God than it is about us. It’s a living picture of HIS love in action.
Choosing to Live Out a Christ Centered Marriage
Scripture explains what God requires in giving love and living it. Simply said, the principles for living with each other in marriage are the principles for loving, as written throughout the Bible.
Concerning that principle, Gary and Carrie Oliver pointed out the difference between a Christ centered marriage and a “regular one.” It’s important to know the difference. A Christ centered marriage takes work and intentionality where a regular one just goes with the flow. (And that “flow” is oftentimes a downhill movement.) So, here’s what they said:
The Christ Centered Marriage Vs a Regular One
• “In a Christ centered marriage, I/we choose to find creative ways to serve. But in a regular marriage, the focus isn’t as much on serving as it is on wanting to be served.
• “In a Christ centered marriage, I/we work to understand. We assume the best in our spouse. (Often times that can be extremely difficult.) However, in a regular marriage, the worst is often assumed about the motives behind the other spouse’s actions and words.
“If our sensitivity levels are set too high, we often take offense when none is intended. We look for slights when they aren’t really there. And we assume the worst when it may not be true.”
• “In a Christ centered marriage, I/we will seek opportunities to pray together and individually for each other. But in a regular marriage, praying together isn’t often important to us. It is hit or miss at the best.”
• “In a Christ centered marriage, I/we will pray that the Lord searches our individual hearts to ‘see if there be any wicked way in me and change me in the way ever-lasting’ as David prayed in the Bible. In a regular marriage, the attitude is more of, ‘please change my spouse.’ And if we pray for our spouse, it is more on the line of wanting them to change so our life together is easier. This is opposed to grieving over what sin is doing in their life.
• “In a Christ centered marriage, I/we seek to forgive and be forgiven. That is absolutely essential. In a regular marriage, it is not. It is a continual struggle of tug and pull.”
So, where is your marriage? Is it a Christ centered marriage or a regular one? Please take the time to evaluate that. Additionally, take the time to evaluate if there is anything YOU can do to live out Christ in your marriage. Gary and Carrie, Steve and I did that. We continually do that because of our love for Jesus; and as a result, we are better able to live out a Christ centered marriage.
We realize you can’t control your spouse’s actions. But you can control yours. Are you revealing and reflecting the love of Christ within the ways you interact with your spouse? Your words and actions do account for something important. God believes that; if He didn’t, He wouldn’t have sent His son to die for us, which paves the way for us to live for Him. But we must receive this gift first. After doing this, we WILL reflect His love. Our walk will reflect how we talk, and our talk will reveal our true walk with Christ.
On that note, here’s something more that Gary and Carrie shared that can help us:
9 Powerful Words for Your Christ Centered Marriage
Here are “9 Powerful Words” we should say more in marriage. They are:
“I was wrong.”
“I am sorry.”
“Please forgive me.”
Those are very important words, indeed! And this was an important message for us all to prayerfully consider. Please know that just because you and your spouse claim that you are “Christians” it doesn’t mean that you have a Christ-centered marriage. You must both love Christ and follow and live by the teachings of Jesus.
As we said before, we all go off-track at times. Let’s face it; Christians are just “sinners saved by grace.” We don’t always do what we should. But to have a Christ-centered marriage, Jesus needs to be at the center of your relationship. You aren’t to just be Bible-reading Christians, but also to be Bible-living Christians.
Here’s what the Bible Tells Us:
“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror. After looking at himself, he goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it —he will be blessed in what he does.
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (James 1:22-26)
Please take these mandates seriously. God does and so should we. We pray that God will minister to you in your marriage to help you to make your marriage the best it can be. Once again we pray:
“May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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