Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

The Sanctity of Marriage

Have you heard the term “sanctity of marriage?”

I typically hear this phrase thrown around to say that marriage should be protected at all costs, that divorce is never an option, that a Christian couple should never throw in the towel under any circumstances.

I’m not sure, however, that is the proper use of the term sanctity of marriage.

I do believer marriage should be protected and that divorce should only happen when it is absolutely necessary. But, I believe the sanctity of marriage is so much bigger, so much more important than just a tool to eliminate divorce.

How, you might ask.

Let’s start by examining the word sanctity. By definition, sanctity means the state of being holy, sacred or saintly. I definitely believe marriage can and should be holy.

But is it truly holy to stay in a marriage just because it is a marriage on paper? Is it possible that the sanctity of marriage is more than holding it up as an idol, an institution never to be broken? Is it possible that the sanctity of marriage and divorce are not mutually exclusive?

Is it possible that the term sanctity of marriage should represent so much more?  

As a divorced Christian, I might believe in the sanctity of marriage even more than your average, everyday Christian. I am acutely aware of the pain and devastation divorce brings upon every aspect of one’s life: mental, emotional, social, financial, spiritual. No area of life is left untouched.

I am also well aware of the damage that is done to the children of divorce. Even when divorce brings a sense of peace and safety to the kids, they still bear scars well into adulthood.

Which is why I believe in the sanctity of marriage.

Marriage is supposed to be sanctified. Let’s rephrase: Christian marriage is supposed to be sanctified. It is supposed to be a relationship that brings about holiness and happiness. It is supposed to be a relationship that reflects the selfless, sacrificial love of Christ for His bride.

But is that what we see in all marriages? In most marriages? In Christian marriages?

Unfortunately, I see the worst. I hear the horror stories of abuse and abandonment and adultery and addiction. I interact with people whose marriages are anything but sanctified. I frequently interact with people who are fighting for the sanctity of marriage when their marriage is often destructive that they are literally fighting for their lives—their mental, emotional, and sometimes physical lives.

Some of these people need to hold marriage up and recognize their marriage is anything but sanctified.

What does the sanctity of marriage look like?

The sanctity of marriage requires two individuals committed to God. I used to believe a marriage could be protected from adultery by setting clear boundaries around the marriage. Never be alone with someone of the opposite sex. Never counsel a member of the opposite sex alone. Never do this. Never do that.

These boundaries are good. Honestly, they are essential. But there is only one boundary that really makes a difference: two individuals committed completely to God. You see, we can have rules, but it is our relationship with Christ that is really the boundary we need. When both individuals are fully committed to God, their actions flow from pure hearts. Two individuals fully committed to God produce a sanctified marriage.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:30

The sanctity of marriage requires two individuals committed to one another. Commitment to the good of the other person is non-negotiable. We should so reverence one another, be so committed to each other, that we always look out for the best interest of our partner. Again, this commitment flows directly from our commitment to God.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

The sanctity of marriage requires sacrificial care and concern. Love is a selfless act. It is always about looking out for another. It’s about serving one another out of reverence for Christ. It’s about trying to figure out how you can make your spouse’s life better.

Sometimes I get so tickled as I think about Roy. There are days we are simply trying to outdo one another in service to each other. I never knew this type of servant heart could exist! I know his love for me exceeds his love for anyone else, and that commitment provides an environment in which we can thrive. That is a sanctified marriage!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

The sanctity of marriage requires protection of one another and the relationship itself. Roy is a protector of those he loves. Maybe it is his military training. Maybe it is an inborn trait. No matter what, I know Roy would protect me and the kids at all cost.

But it goes beyond physical protection. The sanctity of marriage also requires that we fight to protect our marriage from any outside influences that might seek to destroy it. Pornography. Drugs. Alcohol. Adultery. Improper relationships. These are all things that could destroy our marriage if we aren’t careful. Or it could also be internal influences. Selfishness. Greed. Pride. Fear. We must be on guard against anything that could damage our spouse, our marriage, or us.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9

The sanctity of marriage requires honesty and vulnerability and a safe place to express these things. Marriage is about having someone who accepts you fully and completely. It’s about having someone who allows you to be who God created you to be without hiding anything. It’s about a place to freely express yourself without fear of judgment or shame.

Just as Christ loves us and accepts us and sees us as the Masterpiece He created us to be, marriage should provide that same acceptance, that same vulnerability. When marriage is sanctified, it is a place of freedom.

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. Genesis 2:25

The sanctity of marriage requires freedom to be who God created us to be without fear of rejection. If you feel compelled to hide your heart, your passion, your vision, your marriage is not sanctified. God created each of us with a purpose, a purpose before we were even formed in our mothers’ wombs. A sanctified marriage will provide room to grow into that purpose without fear. It should provide an atmosphere where we are encouraged to spread our wings and seek God’s will for our lives. And it is a purpose that should work with our spouse, not against him/her.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

So…do you believe in the sanctity of marriage? I sure do! But you see that the sanctity of marriage is so much bigger than just hanging in there at all costs. The sanctity of marriage is about creating an environment where both spouses can be holy and set apart. If your marriage is not sanctified, reach out to me today. I’d love to help you navigate these sometimes tumultuous waters.



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