As a pastor, something I love to hear from Christian couples is a husband occasionally boasting, “In 20 years of marriage we’ve never once had a single fight.” Needless to say, it’s a rare occurrence. I celebrate with them for a couple reasons. For starters, my wife and I had our first argument on our honeymoon! Secondly, such a marriage not only defies cultural trends, it’s often a sublime, earthly picture of Christ’s self-emptying faithfulness to His bride and a wife’s loving submission to her husband’s God-given authority. Marriage is still one of the best ways to visibly capture the Gospel in human form. That’s actually why it was gifted to us.
Still, as a husband of over four years, such a streak isn’t as remarkable to me as it once was. To be clear, the fact that a sinful man and a sinful woman can go 20 years without a single argument is nothing short of incredible. However, just as impressive to me now is the husband who can admit that he and his wife have been in more arguments than he can count, but by God’s grace he loves her and serves her more today than ever before. That’s the Gospel ladies and gentlemen. 20 years of apologies and reconciliation in the name of love is a testament to something greater than two people. That’s because a faithful Christian marriage is grounded in something – someone – larger than two sinners.
A husband and wife that make marriage an end unto itself will either destroy it or come to find that they fashioned a gift designed for worship into an idol for self-worship. Therefore our most reliable barometer for a great marriage isn’t counting the number of fights between husband and wife; it’s measuring our humility in the face of division. A man’s wife is his helper. (Gen. 2:18) But she’s so much more than that. She’s also an instrument for his sanctification. (1 Cor. 7:14) His growth. His maturity.
Women are one of the greatest gifts to men not simply for their beauty but for their ability to unite with men in such a way as to show the husband his greatest strengths and his greatest weaknesses. In matrimony, our spouses become our most welcome fans and sometimes, our most unwelcome observers. That’s because fleshly union allows them such unparalleled access to our lives and our hearts. “For no one ever hated his own flesh,” The Apostle Paul reminds us. (Eph. 5:29) Arguments in a marriage test the union of a marriage and the faith of both spouses. God didn’t suddenly look at the institution of marriage and think to Himself, “Hey that looks like the basic principle of the Gospel.” He intentionally crafted marriage for the explicit purpose of pointing both men and women to their need for mercy and their appreciation for the love of Christ toward His bride the church. If that basic, God-ordained parallel is missed, marital problems become obstacles to be hurdled instead of instruments for our faith.
After four years of marriage it’s still difficult sometimes to say “I’m sorry” to my wife. And that’s a message that many couples, young and old, need to hear. It’s time for churches to kill the lie of perfect marriages and instead open our eyes to the very purpose of marriages. When this occurs, marital counseling will lose its taboo nature. Double dates will become more than social affairs. Discipleship will permeate the entire family. Husband and wife are so much more than co-parents; they’re co-heirs in the kingdom of God being conformed into the image of Christ. (1 Pet. 3:7) Therefore your spouse is an essential Godward component in your road to glory. The secret to a perfect marriage isn’t pursuing a mythical streak. It’s pursuing a perfect Christ in the middle of your imperfect marriage.