Marriages – with and without Christ

MarriageAs a college pastor years ago, I gave a series of talks to the student body on love and marriage. To conclude the series, I was asked to answer written questions in a well-attended Wednesday night vespers service.

One question went like this: As a new Christian, I hear a lot of talk about Christian marriages that are in trouble, some near to being dissolved. I don’t understand this. My parents are not believers. They never go to church, but they appear to be very much in love with each other. They don’t demonstrate all this hassle.

The answer I gave went like this: God has ordained marriage for all mankind, not just for Christians. And the laws he has ordained to govern this relationship — like loyalty, mutual respect, open communication, ready forgiveness, shared commitments, and such — apply to every marriage union.

When a man and woman who love each other pledge to one another to heed these relational “laws” — however imperfectly — I went on, they are likely to experience a solid marriage, whether or not they are Christians.

At the same time, couples who profess Christian faith but in various ways fall seriously short of these principles — like harboring grudges or being dishonest with one another or failing to give and receive forgiveness — will experience distress in their relationship, sometimes to a dangerous degree. They are breaking the requirements for a good marriage that God has built right into our humanness.

But of this we can be sure. Since God ordained marriage it is undergirded by deep religious elements. There’s great truth in that longstanding slogan, statistically proven: Couples that pray together stay together.

Couples that put Christ as their Lord at the very center of their life together will experience an additional spiritual quality that does not exist without him. All this was the essence of my answer in vespers.

Thinking of this answer now, I’m recalling that more than 40 years ago I made a pastoral visit in a home where the wife was a believer and the husband was not. At their dining room table I presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the simplest way possible. He responded affirmatively and there at the table, he acknowledged his sins to God and asked him for forgiveness. He became a Christ follower.

Some weeks later I met the two of them. They were radiant. Referring to our earlier meeting she said, “I loved him before but now I love him so much I could hug him to pieces.” They had found that deeper spiritual element in their union.

They live hundreds of miles away from where I do, but yesterday I phoned them. It was an upbeat call. They are enjoying each other, their children and grandchildren and they are living lives of service in church and community. Their boys are serving the Lord. Their human love, enhanced by their shared faith in Christ, has lasted a lifetime and is now proving a good example for oncoming generation.

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