Recently, a wonderful young Christian lady asked me the following question in a private Facebook message:
How are you and Leah able to keep Christ at the front of your relationship and not let each other become an idol?
I asked her if I could use that question to develop a blog article, and she agreed. While I’m certain this is not a perfect response, I pray it causes all of us to think about our marriages in a truly Biblical and God-honoring way.
First of all, her question is outstanding and insightful. It shows that this young lady realizes that Christ must always be our top priority. It also shows that she realizes the responsibility of husbands and wives to love and respect each other.
However, it also shows insight into something most people rarely consider: it is possible for my mate to take the place of God; to become an idol. We may not want to consider that, but anyone or anything can push God from first place in our lives if we allow it. That, by its very definition, is idolatry. God, however, must always be primary, including even above my spouse.
It is a Struggle
We need to admit, first of all, that this is a real struggle. What is interesting to me, though, is that the Bible admits that it would be! In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, Paul wrote the following words by inspiration:
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (emphasis added)
Paul writes that, for the one who is married, interests are “divided” (literally, “split into factions”). Without going deeply into the context, notice his purpose in writing these words. He said at the end of that paragraph that he wanted “to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”
In other words, God needs to be first, but it is understandable that this is a struggle when we are married.
A married Christian loves the Lord but also has his wife or her husband to consider. Then, there are those things that naturally come with marriage (finances, sexuality, and so forth) that weigh on the mind. It is easy to put the marriage–and even our mate–in the place of God as far as our mental energy and our efforts are concerned.
Remember the “Picture”
So, what is the solution? I am not sure there is a “three-step” or “five things” list I could share to keep this from happening. We love our mate and we desire to show that love and respect constantly.
I believe the key, however, is to emphasize and remember what is really pictured in a Christian marriage. Ephesians 5:22-32 is, I suppose, the most commonly used passage concerning Christian marriage in the Bible. Paul speaks to wives and husbands in a beautiful but straightforward fashion. Often, we emphasize the husband-wife relationship from this passage, as is right, but we fail to see the parallel that underlies it all.
Near the end of that beautiful passage, Paul writes, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).
How is that the key? Husbands and wives, when they enter the covenant of marriage, carry the vast responsibility of picturing the beauty of Christ’s relationship with His Church through their marriage.
Burton Coffman said it very well as he commented on this verse:
The exalted view, both of marriage and of the church of Jesus Christ, shines forth in this text. The sacredness of marriage is seen in God’s design of it, from the very beginning, to be a figure of the union of Christ and his church… (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, page 214)
The way I keep my mate from becoming an idol is to always keep in mind that, through every aspect of our marriage, we are picturing to the world the relationship between Christ and His church!
That displays itself in financial decisions, because a husband and wife will make decisions that honor each other, but God will always be first in each decision. “Giving” will be first on the family budget (not last), but money will also be spent to show love and respect to the spouse, so the marriage remains strong in order to picture Christ and His Church.
It displays itself in the sexual relationship of marriage. Of all belief systems, only Christianity teaches that the body of a wife belongs to her husband and the body of a husband belongs to his wife (1 Corinthians 7:4). The coming together of a husband and wife in the conjugal relationship should be joyful, regular, and selfless, because that act alone can demonstrate the true intimacy of Christ and His church.
It displays itself throughout time. Not only do husband and wife simply remain together “’til death separates” them, but they stay devoted to one another throughout life, as well. The reason is because Christ is devoted to His bride (the church), and the church strives to remain faithful throughout time to the Lord.
Again, is this always easy? Of course not! We love our spouse, and we desire to show that spouse honor and love. However, if we will remember that, as believers, the primary reason we do so is to show the glorious picture of Christ and His church to the world, we can keep Christ as the central point of our lives.
And, when we do that, as the husband and the wife pursue Christ first and foremost, it is amazing how truly close, devoted, and intimate their marriage will be for a lifetime. Nothing else could ever compare to that closeness.
AUTHOR: Adam Faughn