I’ve had the privilege in the last months to provide premarital counseling to five young couples. We cover together dozens of topics. One, and primary to me is the biblical basis of marriage, or, what I refer to as the gospel in marriage. So, all sessions begin with a thorough and foundational biblical overview of marriage. By the time the couple stands before the minister, embedded deeply into their hearts, and seared deeply into their minds, is this notion that marriage is more than two people hooking up for life. It’s about two people living out, in relationship, a kind of love that led Jesus to come here to purchase his bride and to present that bride to his Father. During this session, I talk in depth about what that kind of love looks like, how it’s played out in their day-to-day interactions, and even rubbing against the common daily frictions that will seek to roughen the edges of their relationship. Halfway through this particular session, I hand out a sheet with the bold title hovering over the top that reads, Mitch’s Three Pillars for a Healthy Marriage. While three pillars provide a bad and shaky design for a physical building, they are essential for the foundation to a strong, solid, lasting marriage. I go through them carefully because they are so ess
Pillar One: It’s not about you. (Ephesians 5)
Pillar Two: The other is always more important than you. (Phil. 2:4-5)
Pillar Three: Humility trumps pride, always! (Matt. 20:26)
My voice is full of conviction and excitement as we walk around these pillars, discussing their place and value to the building of this home, this family. I all but guarantee that building from this foundation assures a vibrant, love-filled, lasting and secure relationship. Free of tensions and conflicts? Not at all, but the motivation to always place the other before yourself leads the couple past tense corridors, to a room absent of anger or even the memory of what was said or done that might have caused the tension. This room, full of I Corinthians 13 is where love keeps no record of wrong, is kind, does not envy or boast, nor is it rude. It never insists on its own way, not irritable or resentful, never rejoices in wrong doing. And according to Philippians 2:4-5 this love seeks and longs for the best for the other. So, as we complete the tour around each pillar, I insist to the couple that building the marriage on these three pillars will bring about a lasting life-full relationship, the kind that shows the world the kind of love, a kind of love that God demonstrated to us when he sent his Son to redeem us, restore us and include us in his family. What happens in marriage can be proof that that kind of love is real.
Any and every marriage will be healed and strengthened when humility, other-centeredness and self-sacrifice is the drive. If you are on the receiving end of a husband’s anger, or tired of your wife’s demands, your posture matters. Unless you are in danger, the drive to give back the very antithesis of what you are receiving could reverse the course of your marriage. Love back when the other hurls hate. Break down a criticism by affirming. Take the air out of gossip by praying. Proverbs 15:1 promises that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. Respond with a warm hand over an accusing finger. Sling an arrow tipped with patience at the heart of impatience. Laugh rather than defend. Acknowledge your vulnerability over refusing to see your own sin. Biblical love has the power to bring hate to ashes and on that heap see a new life, a marriage restored. I all but guarantee it will. It’s proven. Proven best at the cross.
At a recent wedding I reminded the doting couple before me that what Jesus did on the cross for his Father displays the kind of love that gets to be played out, lived out in their relationship. Their marriage, should they accept the privilege and challenge, gets to be a stage to show that kind of self-sacrifice-all-out-other-centered-love played out for a lifetime. Their legacy, I told them, the narrative spoken about them for generations, will be of a marriage, two people who sought all their lives to outdo each other with love.
And it will be said of them, “Now, that right there is an example of the very thing Jesus came to do for us”.
Order my new booklet DID I SAY THE RIGHT THING? here!
This resource is perfect for pastors, church leaders and all Christians who seek to be purposeful and intentional in reaching out to those who suffer.
An excerpt: “Many who suffer loss never come to the place of wholeness and restored usefulness, because others do not give them permission to grieve and mourn openly. They walk among friends who treat them as strangers. They learn to put a lid over their pain and come to assume that speaking of it is taboo.”