Take the Gospel to the World through Your Marriage
- Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Our culture's emphasis on individualism and consumerism isn't friendly to marriage. In fact, with many people choosing to live together outside marriage and divorce running rampant, people in true Christian marriages can feel like resident aliens in a broken world.
But if you and your spouse decide to live out God's original purpose for marriage, you'll not only offer the world a radical alternative, you'll help transform the world as God's power flows through your marriage. Your relationship with each other will become an evangelistic mission, giving everyone you meet a glimpse of the living God.
Here's how you can take the gospel to the world through your marriage:
• Strive to understand our culture's case against marriage. Know the reasons why so many people are hostile toward marriage in our society. Keep in mind that they seek personal happiness and autonomy above what God wants and what's good for the community. Understand that they are reluctant to commit to marriage because they don't want to risk pain and are afraid that marriage will restrict their lifestyle. Realize that once you understand the culture's case against marriage, you can more effectively refute it through your own marriage.
• Look to the Bible - not the culture - to guide you in what it means to be masculine and feminine. Realize that men and women are designed to complement each other and move each other toward fullness in Christ. Understand that God has called men and women to merge their lives in marriage to fulfill a shared calling. Rather than engaging in separate lives that meet only in certain ways, God intends for couples to share every part of their lives with each other. Know that, as people made in God's image, husbands and wives are meant to help each other grow closer to God through their relationship with each other.
• Shift your focus from your own goals to God's goals. Know that God has a much greater purpose for marriage than simply personal happiness on Earth. Instead, God wants to use marriage to transform husbands and wives into people who will faithfully bear His image on Earth and develop values that will count for eternity. Realize that, when couples give up the quest for personal fulfillment and take the risks necessary to follow God in their marriages, they often find joy as a result.
• Don't isolate yourself. Realize that Jesus did not have the obsession our culture currently does on the small, isolated nuclear family. Don't think of marriage as a couple's club, withdrawing from other people. Instead, realize that you and your spouse are a vital part of a greater family - the body of Christ - and that your marriage should enrich that family.
• Teach by example. Rather than just lecturing others on morality or simply trying to legislate it, make a genuinely positive impact on the culture by showing how you are obeying God in your own life. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you stay married and build a healthy marriage that shows the world the power of God's love. Don't just talk about God to others; let them see Him at work as your marriage speaks for itself.
• Live an "Already-But-Not-Yet" life. Let your marriage reflect the reality that you and your spouse share in Christ's resurrection power even though you still live in a fallen world. Embody the gospel by showing how you and your spouse are in the process of helping one another grow into the people God wants you to become. Show a watching world what it looks like to remain faithful to your marriage vows despite difficult circumstances. Let people see how you and your spouse forgive each other, relying on God's power to begin anew. Be kind to each other. Serve each other cheerfully whenever you have an opportunity, trusting God's promise that those who lose their lives for His sake will find them.
• Work together, not separately. Don't follow the world's default plan of husbands and wives living in separate spheres. Instead, share your responsibilities, with both of you helping to provide for the family and nurture any children God gives you. Contribute equally and hold each other accountable.
• Be open and honest with others. Don't try to hide your marital challenges from other people or pretend like your marriage is perfect. Understand that every marriage has its share of difficulties, and the only way you can influence others for good is by admitting that your marriage has flaws and showing how God is using your challenges to help you and your spouse grow.
Adapted from Marriage Made in Eden: A Pre-Modern Perspective for a Post-Christian World, copyright 2004 by Alice P. Mathews and M. Gay Hubbard. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerpublishinggroup.com.
Alice P. Mathews is Lois W. Bennett Distinguished Associate Professor of Educational Ministries and Women's Ministries at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
M. Gay Hubbard has more than 30 years of experience as a Christian counselor. She currently is in private practice with Christian Counseling Associates in Osbourne, Kansas.
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