A Christian marriage is based on deep appreciation and respect for Christ and humbly submitting to each other (Ephesians 5:18-33).
Marriage is not for status or a sense of security. It is also not for fulfilling our needs, like consumers looking for products to satisfy them.
Instead, Christian couples should submit to each other, each committing to serve the other. Wives should learn to grant leadership to their husbands, while husbands should learn to love their wives as they love their own bodies. Each side acts appropriately, even if the other side doesn’t reciprocate.
Submitting and serving do not equate to giving in. Look at Christ. He loves us and served us to the point of death, but He confronts us with the truth to help us grow and be holy.
We shouldn’t be self-centered because we know we are sinners saved by Christ. We shouldn’t be needy for others’ affirmation since we know the Almighty God loves us.
Also, note that marriage is not the ultimate relationship, and will not fill the deepest void in our hearts. Only Christ can. Don’t think that (a) marrying the right person will guarantee a perfect life, (b) having a wonderful family will be nirvana, or (c) marrying the right person will make us somebody. No one can replace God in our life. Putting someone in the place of God will totally destroy our relationship with the person.
Furthermore, don’t worry excessively about not finding the right person. There is no ideal mate. Even if you think you have found a perfect match, that person will change and will be influenced by others. So don’t be too cautious.
To conclude, Christ should be our ultimate spouse, who loves us and never lets us down. Let Him be the center of our life, so that we may love and serve our earthly spouses.
Summarized from a Tim Keller sermon:
A healthy marriage needs work and regular attention to cultivate it.
Marriage should make your spouse holy through your sacrifice (Ephesians 5). Husbands and wives take on different roles. The husband humbly leads to build up his wife, while the wife plays a helper role to build up her husband. Both submit to help the other.
To help, you need to understand your spouse deeply. For example, one may want to spend time together, when the other wants to have some solitary meditation. One may vent about a boss being unreasonable and seek emotional support, while the other tries to solve the problem without empathizing.
When there are problems, focus on the problems, not the person. Step off the battlefield and objectively look at the complications. If it is a feeling issue, focus on addressing emotions more than facts.
If it’s your problem, don’t make excuses. Admit it. Offer to change after things have calmed down.
If it’s your spouse’s problem, forgive first because Christ has forgiven our mistakes. Then critique yourself and admit mistakes no matter how small they are. After that, tell the truth lovingly so your spouse can grow. Develop an environment secure for criticism.
Sex is a blessing between couples. Don’t deprive the other side of it (Proverbs 5:15-20, 1 Corinthians 7:3-5). What happens in bed can affect other parts of the relationship. Sex is not a place to perform, but to love. Unlike the woman, the man is ready for sex quickly, not requiring much context. That may be why pornography can be more seductive to men. So, a husband needs to learn to be slow, while a wife needs to learn to be more responsive.
Do some spiritual things together regularly, such as praying before sleep. Emotion can start the engine, but marriage should have a deep unity, maintained by will and strengthened by habit. A healthy marriage needs to be cultivated.
May the grace of Christ be the impetus of our love. In light of what He has done for us, serve your spouse and help your spouse be a more wonderful person.
Summarized from a Tim Keller’s sermon:
The foundation of a healthy marriage is a servant heart, with each spouse submitting to the other. A servant heart takes the mind off yourself, can receive criticism without being crushed, gives suggestions without crushing, and forgives without residual anger.
How can we have a servant heart? First, we remember that we were nothing. Now, we are children of God entirely because of Christ, not because of our performances, accomplishments, or love. Christ sacrificed dearly for us and our spouses. So, at least out of reverence for Christ, we should serve our spouses with an unselfish heart gifted us by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:21).
Marriage is a permanent, exclusive, public, and legal commitment to share your entire life together. This commitment should override your feelings and emotions. Your commitment, investment in the relationship, and love toward your spouse strengthen each other. Where you invest your time and effort—where your treasure is—is where your heart will be.
Marriage should be prioritized above all other relationships. It is where a man leaves his parents and unites to his wife (Ephesians 5:32-33, Genesis 2:24). Most other societies emphasize children and parents, but in Christianity, marriage is the vortex of your life. The relationship with your spouse must come before that of your parents, children, friends, and career (Ephesians 5:28).
Differences in upbringing, previous family patterns, and previous ways of living can lead to misunderstandings and severe conflicts within a marriage. You need to understand your spouse deeply. Sit down, discuss the differences, and change. Let marriage be a fresh start; it has the power to change the course of your life, tear you down, and build you up.
Marriage isn’t a human invention, and its primary function isn’t for your happiness. Marriage was created by God to make you holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27). It is the most intense relationship because you can’t hide from your spouse. You are forced to see your mistakes, selfishness, and prejudices; God makes you confront them through marriage.
Love is something only a Holy-Spirit-created unselfishness can maintain. So go to God in your marriage and rely on Him.
Summarized from a Tim Keller’s sermon: