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Marriage on the Edge of Eternity

How long do you think your marriage will last? Will you make it another five years? Ten? Fifty?

I think we can all agree that it’s not going to last very long—not in light of eternity.

Eternity changes how we enjoy marriage and everything else in this life. Eternity changes how we love. It would be unloving to get my wife and kids so focused on this life that they are unprepared for the next. Some Christians emphasize marriage so much that it might lead some to believe the goal of Christianity is to have a happy marriage, and God becomes a means to that end. I hear many Christians thank God for their families more than they thank him for the cross. Obviously God wants us to love our families, but let’s be careful.

Which Passage Would Jesus Quote?

Don’t get me wrong, I love being married. After 20 years, I love my wife Lisa more than ever. One of the keys to our marriage, however, has been to keep marriage in its proper place. While God commands us to value marriage, he also is clear that we must not over-value it. After all, we are on a mission during our brief time on earth. That’s why Paul says:

Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none. (1 Corinthians 7:27-29)

Paul who wrote Ephesians 5 also wrote 1 Corinthians 7. The one who said “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church” also wrote “let those who have wives live as though they had none.” We need to find the healthy tension of obeying both passages. And let’s not forget the words of Jesus: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-26).

Our tendency, when teaching on marriage, is to dismiss some of these passages with a sentence or two, and then quickly return to Ephesians 5. But is that OK? Or could it be that God wants us to emphasize all of these passages equally? Give them equal “air time”? Which passages would Jesus quote if he performed a wedding ceremony this weekend?

It’s understandable that we spend a lot of time teaching through Ephesians 5. After all, families are falling apart. Divorces are happening at an alarming rate. There is a crisis in the church. Husbands are neglecting their wives and vice versa. At first thought, it may even seem dangerous to teach certain passages. Human wisdom tells us to skip passages that warn us that our families can distract us from kingdom work. But preaching the “whole counsel of God’s word” means we value, trust and teach the whole Bible.