The Intentional Christian Marriage, Part I
Is your marriage intentionally Christian? In other words, do you as a couple intentionally seek to cultivate a God-centered, Christ-dependent, and Word-guided perspective in your relationship? Or do you just hope and pray and let the chips fall where they may? While working with families in the context of the church for many years, I have observed that many Christian couples are not intentional in strengthening their marital relationship. This is understandable when one considers the tremendous daily pressures that weigh down upon us. After all, when is there time to cultivate a strong marriage when there are diapers to change, children to feed, ball games and dance recitals to attend, housework to finish, grandchildren to visit, and ever increasing demands in the workplace? These pressures and responsibilities are real, and should not be minimized. Nevertheless, there are concrete ways to build and strengthen a marriage even amidst all the busyness of life. Here are some practical ways to be intentionally Christian in your marriage:
1. Study, contemplate, and discuss the theology of Christian marriage: Sadly enough, the last time many couples seriously think about and discuss the theology of marriage is during their pre-marital counseling. Our most significant relationship on earth ought to continuously be contemplated and cultivated in light of the Word of God. Unfortunately, it’s the light of the television that too often takes precedence, inevitably permeating the relationship with thoughts of discontentment. We all need to take time to read and discuss Scripture references such as Genesis 1-2, the Song of Solomon, and Ephesians 5:22ff. Furthermore, a plethora of helpful biblical commentaries and books on marriage are available that can stretch our minds and soften our hearts, forcing us to consider the Christian ideal for marriage; that is, one which mirrors the love that Christ demonstrates to His bride, the Church. So what does this look like? How can married couples be intentional and conscientious in cultivating a Christian marriage, thereby improving upon their wedding vows?
Perhaps you are reading this and cannot remember the last time you and your spouse carved out some time to read the Scriptures, communicate what’s going on in your life (heart), and pray for one another. This kind of biblical fellowship between couples not only fortifies a marriage, it also cultivates an increasing mutual love and respect. Periodically this kind of Christian fellowship should include some study and discussion about marriage – not just in a general sense, but as it pertains specifically to your marriage.
Two hindrances to sweet marital fellowship are worldly entertainment and inordinate busyness. Americans – evangelical Christians included – are entertainment saturated. Hollywood movies and cable television too often occupy any leisure time we may have. When not working, many are staring – often mindlessly – at a television screen. One does not need a PhD in anthropology or psychology to recognize that if couples spend all of their free time entranced by mind-numbing, worldly entertainment, marriages will not increase in godliness. Secondly, inordinate busyness blocks Christian fellowship among couples. Prior to marriage, during the dating stage, couples seemed to have no trouble finding time for one another … time to pray together … time to talk … time to get to know one another. However, with the passing of a few years, the unchecked busyness associated with work, children, home, etc. has resulted in little intentional Christian nurturing of the marriage relationship.
Take some time this afternoon to read Ephesians 5:22-33. Discuss the passage and then pray for each other. Also, evaluate the busyness of your lives and consider how you might designate more time to the nurturing of your relationship. This is an appropriate activity for a Lord’s Day afternoon in between morning and evening worship at Christ Church.
One obvious way to be less busy and occupied with the entertainment of this world is by keeping the Sabbath Day holy, seriously viewing it as a day of rest and focus upon God and His truth. A concentrated focus upon God and an active commitment to Lord’s Day worship will surely strengthen any marriage – for when husband and wife are both growing closer to God through the means of grace (Word and sacrament), they will inevitably grow closer to one another.
- Pastor Jon