The Ministry of Marriage
- Charles R. Swindoll
- 2002 30 Dec
"We rent wedding rings." Four words in the window of a Hollywood jewelry store said it all. A wedding in Hollywood makes all the grocery store magazines. When was the last time you saw a fiftieth anniversary on the same covers?
Marriage has turned into a one-day event rather than a lifelong commitment. If there is anything on the critic's list today, it's marriage. You talk about bad press. You talk about a conversational football to kick across the television talk show platforms. You talk about a joke in the office. Marriage today is under fire.
You doubt that? Listen the next time someone in your office announces his or her future plans for matrimony. Just listen. Don't say anything. Listen for words of affirmation and then compare those with the snide remarks and the sarcastic jabs. I mean, you would think that the person had just announced plans to buy a 20-foot pet python when they tell you their plans are to get married this summer.
Today solid and happy homes run the risk of becoming an endangered species. Just stop and think. You stop and think of couples you know who were happily married five years ago-as far as you could tell, solid as a rock-who today are no longer married or now live separate lives while not divorced. And if you want to add a bit of insult to injury, limit your list to Christian couples.
According to Dr. George Macer of the University of Southern California Medical School, "The decline of modern marriage has reached a point where a happily married couple seems to be an oddity."1
Did you hear that? If staying married today is rare, staying happily married today is peculiar, strange, and, dare I say, abnormal. It's almost to the place where some may think that God's early words to Adam were, "It is not good for the man to be married," when in fact He said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18).
Because marriage is under siege, it's natural for us to forget that strong families grow from strong marriages and to make building strong families the end-all goal. That's like building a beautiful home on a bed of quicksand. Marriage is the foundation of family life, and marriage is one of God's greatest tools for ministry. Let me say that again . . . marriage is one of God's greatest tools for ministry. Our goal isn't to build stronger marriages. It's to build stronger marriages for a purpose - ministry. One of my favorite couples in all of Scripture is found in Acts 18. This chapter is filled with the extraordinary actions of an ordinary couple. Let me just highlight two. They gave up a room for 18 months, and they invited a roaming preacher to dinner. Doesn''t sound too difficult, does it?
Somewhere in the streets of Corinth, Priscilla and Aquila stumbled across a man down on his luck. Paul, destitute, homeless, and fresh off a demoralizing trip in Athens, needed a place to stay. They cleared out a room. Not for one night, not for one week, but until Paul was called to move on.
Then an up-and-coming young evangelist breezed into town. After his eloquent sermon, Priscilla and Aquila invited him over for dinner. Acts 18:24-25 states Apollos was gifted and passionate. Though he was accurate in his teaching, he was incomplete in his theology. This couple corrected him of his doctrine without quelling his desire.
Two tent makers. A blue-collar family with an extra room and a devotion to applying Scripture correctly. They hadn't been to seminary. They weren't vocational pastors. They simply opened up a room for Paul and a seat at the table for Apollos. Through their hospitality and instruction, they impacted two of the greatest early church leaders. What about us? Who could we impact that may in turn impact the world?
Do you want to have a happy and fulfilled marriage? Spend as much time reaching out as reaching in. Now don't get me wrong . . . serving others is not a quick fix to every marital difficulty. Solid marriages depend on honesty, communication, and sacrifice. Time spent reaching in is essential, and you should strive to meet your spouse's needs before meeting the needs of others. You want to develop a strong marriage and build into your marriage a purpose-ministry. Is it risky? Yes. Is it uncomfortable? At times. Is it rewarding? Absolutely. There's nothing better. So what does it take?
I'm gonna get really gutsy here. Find an individual in need. Just look around. How about a struggling single parent? How about an unwed mother? How about an emotionally hurting friend? Now, they may mess up your life a little. They may get your carpet dirty, but you'll turn their life around. And if you're not careful, it may just revolutionize your marriage and strengthen the very foundation of your family.
1. As quoted by Louis O. Caldwell in Good Morning, Lord: Meditations for Modern Marrieds (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1980), meditation 14.
For more from Chuck on this topic, listen to the message "A Couple Mightily Used of God" in the current series, A Family Album. This message is always accessible in the broadcast archives at www.insight.org.