It happened again. My wife and I heard of yet another Christian couple—whom we knew and loved—ending their marriage. I felt sick. I couldn't rid my mind of the years, likely decades, of unrest that would trickle from this.It seems as if Christians are beginning to be okay with their marriages mimicking the world's broken marriages. We are growing accustomed to leaving the gospel on the sideline when it comes to our wedding vows. Divorce has become something of a car crash: unpleasant, destructive, but sometimes simply inevitable. A wreck, however, pales in comparison to the ripple-effects of divorce. A fractured marriage not only affects the family, it devastates our witness as ministers of grace to a broken world.
But just consider the impact of a couple who says and actually means their wedding vows—"for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part."
Several years ago, I officiated a memorial service for a woman who had had a long fight with Alzheimer's. She rarely recognized her husband the last years of her life. Yet week after week he drove four hours to be with his bride. On his last visit, something changed. She held his face in her hands and whispered, "I love you." What a beautiful picture of the stubborn, never-wearying love of the gospel—a love that gives and forbears, even in days and years of forgetfulness.
The following are two biblical truths that help us to understand why God calls us to reflect the gospel by keeping our marriage covenant.
Satan Hates Your Marriage
In marriage, we do have an enemy, but that enemy is not our spouse. Understanding that will make all the difference. That enemy is the one who delights in deceiving, distorting, and dividing. Satan has hated marriage from the beginning, just as he hates all of God's good creation.
When God created Eve and then led her to Adam as his bride, the Scriptures says: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Immediately following God's institution of marriage, the enemy of marriage enters: "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made" (Gen. 3:1). In the following verses, we see the immediate results of Satan's temptation. Eve tempts her husband to sin. And Adam resentfully points the finger, blaming his wife and God for his sin. Satan wasted no time, creating a chasm of resentment and struggle between man and his wife.
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Satan continues to hate marriage to this day. Why? Because God formed this institution to reflect the relentlessly-loving relationship between Christ and His bride—the church (Eph. 5:31–32). When we throw in the towel on our marriages, when we are unfaithful through infidelity or pornography, when we stop fighting for our marriages with a holy stubbornness, we fail to reflect the One who never stops assuring His bride, "No matter what, I will not let you go." We too quickly let Satan win.
Jesus Will Never Leave His Bride
Jesus will never leave nor forsake His bride. Sally Lloyd-Jones described God's covenant love as His "never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love." Oh, that our marriages could be described like that. When Jesus came to earth as God in the flesh, He put skin on unconditional love. He showed what love looks like towards the unlovely—the prostitutes, the tax collectors, to those who had nothing to offer in return. When we display Jesus' love by maintaining our marriage covenant, we become a practical demonstration of the love of Christ to a broken world.
Jesus will never leave His bride. Followers of Jesus shouldn't either.
Yet Jesus does more than provide an example of stubborn love. The good news of the gospel is that believers are given the strength to live and love righteously. Because of Christ's life, death, and resurrection, we can lean into the embrace of Jesus to find the strength to love our spouse.
I remember hearing the testimony of a young couple who had been on the brink of divorce. The husband had battled anger for years. The wife had committed adultery. After he and his wife had separated, the husband repented and turned to the Lord. In an attempt to reconcile, the husband looked at her and said, "Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead?"
Yes, was her replay.
He continued: "And do you really believe that God could raise a dead man back to life and not breathe new life back into our marriage?" Restoration soon flooded this relationship—God breathed life into brokenness.
If Satan seems to have the upper hand in your marriage, if you are weary of trying to love your spouse with whatever endurance you can muster, the gospel has a better word for you.
Cling to Christ as you seek to reflect His faithful love to your spouse:
O love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow,
May richer, fuller be.
[Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2018 and has been updated.]