Beyond Valentine’s Day: Having a Missional Marriage
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 2 Feb
On Valentine’s Day, couples typically look inward as they focus on their own romantic relationships. But the man whose life inspired the holiday – Saint Valentine – encouraged couples to look outward to how their marriages could contribute to the world.
Valentine, a priest in 3rd century Italy, believed that marriage is an important part of the God-given mission in life for people who sense God’s call to get married. He saw that God used loving Christian marriages to show people the power of His love in action, and to inspire them to seek His love through their own relationships with Jesus Christ.
So passionate was Valentine’s belief in missional marriages – in which spouses work together to serve God and other people – that he continued to marry people even after the Roman emperor Claudius II outlawed weddings to try to prevent his soldiers from becoming distracted from their work by giving their attention to marriage. When Claudius heard about Valentine’s illegal wedding ceremonies, he sent Valentine to prison, where Valentine continued to witness to people about the power of God’s love, even though he could no longer perform weddings.
Eventually, Valentine was martyred for the risks he took standing up for his convictions. The day of his death – February 14th – later became a day in the ancient church calendar to remember Valentine’s faithful life. Over the years, people who were inspired by Valentine’s commitment to romantic love as a gift from God with a missional purpose started celebrating romance on February 14th, calling the holiday “Valentine’s Day.”
Celebrating romance in your marriage on Valentine’s Day is a great idea. But an even better idea is to use Valentine’s Day as a time to seek God’s guidance together about his mission for your marriage.
That mission goes far beyond the love between you and your spouse; it encompasses every person who knows either one of you. The daily decisions you each make about how to relate to God and each other show people a story that makes powerful statements about the meaning of faith and love.
What is your marriage showing people about placing their faith in Jesus Christ and letting his love flow through them? Are you and your spouse working together to intentionally communicate the Gospel message to others through your marriage?
In order to do so, it helps to keep in mind that marriage is meant to be an illustration of the deepest love of all: Jesus’ love for the people he came to save. The marital union between a husband and a wife is “a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church,” the Bible says in Ephesians 5:32.
Every Christian marriage has a mission. What better time to discover that mission for your own marriage than Valentine’s Day, the holiday that honors the life of a man who did whatever it took to stand up for the importance of missional marriage?
Here are some ways you can discover and pursue God’s mission for your marriage this Valentine’s Day:
Pray about your mission together. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you and your spouse clearly discern God’s mission for your marriage. Identify each other’s core values, pray for the wisdom to see how those values align with God’s purposes for your lives, and ask for guidance on how you can best work as a team to fulfill your God-given purposes in life together. Keep praying as new insights emerge, and take notes on what the Holy Spirit shows you.
Consider the Holy Spirit’s work in your lives. Ask: “What are some specific ways that we could show people who know us some evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in our relationship with each other? How could we model love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as we interact with each other?” For instance, if you and your spouse clearly enjoyed each other’s company and showed it (such as by hugging, kissing, smiling, and laughing often together), your marriage would stand out from many others and attract people’s attention, inspiring them to discover more about the source of your joy: the Holy Spirit’s work in your lives.
Consider how your values are impacting the direction of your marriage. Ask: “How does our lifestyle show others that we’re living for God rather than ourselves? How are we using our God-given resources of time, energy, and money in ways that show our commitment to biblical values? What direction is our marriage heading in as a result?” One way you can steer your marriage in the right direction by living out the right values is by participating together fully in a local church. When people who know you or your spouse see you all making time to worship regularly, investing energy into serving the congregation, and contributing money to your church’s work for God, they’ll see how doing so strengthens you and your spouse as you both constantly grow closer to God.
Consider your dreams and goals. Ask: “What God-given dreams and goals do we each have, and how can we encourage and support each other to pursue them? How can those dreams and goals complement each other, so that working toward them as a team we all can accomplish more together than we could apart?” For example, maybe one of you senses a call from God to start a business or go to graduate school. If so, fulfilling that part of your mission requires you to work together, so figure out how to manage your shared life to successfully accomplish it.
Consider your service to others. Ask: “How do we sense God calling us to serve other people together in your church and local community? What are some specific ways we spouse could work as a team to help meet some needs for people God brings to your minds?” Perhaps you and your spouse could pursue a hospitality ministry together by regularly inviting people over to your home for meals and conversation. Maybe you both could volunteer together at a local charity that works for a cause you’re both passionate about, such as helping poor people in your community.
Write or revise a mission statement for your marriage. After God’s mission for your marriage has taken shape clearly in your minds, articulate it by writing a marital mission statement together – or, if you’ve already written a mission statement earlier in your marriage, revise it to clarify how you sense the Holy Spirit leading you during this current season of your lives together. The statement can be brief (just a few sentences) and should summarize how you both believe that God wants to distinctively use your marriage to witness to the world about the reality of his love.
Make daily decisions together with your marital mission in mind. Post a copy of your marital mission statement in a place where you and your spouse can read it every day to keep it fresh in your minds. Then you can make decisions based on the right priorities to create a life together that best communicates your Christian values to others. When you and your spouse incorporate mission-minded values into the daily decisions you both make, your marriage will naturally grow to become the kind of relationship God wants it to be to witness well to others about faith and love.
So this Valentine’s Day, look beyond the candy hearts and flickering candles of romance to the faces of the people around you who need to know that true love really does exist. Enjoy a romantic holiday with your spouse, but don’t stop there. Work together to point people toward God, who alone can fulfill people’s deepest desires because he is love!
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: February 5, 2014