Three Goals in Dating That Lead to a Successful Marriage, Part Three: Together Motivated by Christ’s Mission

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In parts one and two we discussed the importance of your own maturity, as well as the maturity of your spouse, in leading to a successful marriage. But maturity alone is not enough. What matters most is jointly using your maturity in Christ’s mission for the two of you together. At Joy and Matt’s wedding I said, “What makes the relationship you have all the more special is your commitment to a third component. You are committed to something bigger than your relationship and marriage."

I expressed to Joy, "I love the fact that you love Christ. I am humbled by your choice to live for Him who died for you. As the apostle John penned in 3 John 1:4, ‘I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.’"

Living for and Loving Christ

Joy and Matt intend to live for more than their relationship with each other; they intend to live for Christ.

Joy’s prayer for herself: "A desire to live this life only for Jesus."

Joy’s prayer for her future husband: "Loves Jesus more than me."

Matt vowed, “I promise that I will love you for the rest of my life as God gives me ability. The only Person I’ll ever love more than you is Jesus.”

Inescapable Logic

This is as it ought to be. The logic is inescapable. If Jesus is the Lord of lords and King of kings then living for and loving Him first and foremost makes perfect sense. After all, He claimed, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

And the call He extended is clear: Follow Me.

Years ago a friend of mine was asked, “Do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God?” He replied, “Yeah, I guess I do.” He then was asked, “Don’t you think that demands something from you?"

With that he changed from living for himself to living for Christ.

That type of question hit me at the core of my heart when I was sixteen. The implication of who Jesus was demanded my all. What Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20 became all too real for me: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

The irony is that as we love Christ first and foremost, we love other people better than we would had we loved them without Christ in our lives. As Matt told Joy, "I know He will help me love you better."

A Warped View

Motivated by a mission does not mean one person due to egotistical cravings can act super-spiritual and demand, for example, that as a couple they start a church. This is about Christ’s mission, not our self-importance under the guise of religiosity and titles. The apostle John condemned this type of individual. We read in 3 John 1:9, "I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.” Diotrephes was a church leader but was pathetically arrogant and self-centered. Early on such folks like Diotrephes need to slow down, be humble, and respond to God’s initiative instead of always making things happen and making themselves first.

On the other hand, one spouse can hinder the other from actively pursuing the purpose of Christ for them as a couple. One can actually use the marriage as an excuse to refuse to follow Christ. Jesus condemned those who used matrimony to disregard Him, as he illustrated in his parable of the dinner in Luke 14: "Another one said, 'I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come’” (v. 20). Jesus heard individuals hiding behind their marriages as a way of not coming after Him to fulfill His purpose. This should sober all of us. We must not allow our marriage to take us off Christ’s mission but to serve His mission.

My son Jonathan has said that when two people know only their own culture as a couple, they become myopic. They can only see themselves, which ends up being one person saying, “Meet my desires.” Over time, both become short-sighted and selfish. When Jesus speaks, they "cannot come."

The Healthy Side Effects of the Mission

When two good willed people decide to use their talents and resources for the cause of Christ, most often good things happen in their marriages. When balanced in their efforts to serve Christ, not being overly aggressive nor unduly passive for self-serving purposes, a spark and sparkle come to the relationship.

The more we give of ourselves as a couple to something bigger than ourselves, the more excitement and energy we feel in our relationship. Jesus said, "Give, and it will be given to you" (Luke 6:38).

A Practical Application

At Joy and Matt’s wedding, I honored both of them for making Christ central to their lives and marriage.

One of the points I made referenced what Jesus said: "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). Paul espoused this truth when instructing us to do what we do “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 6:7).

Beyond the shoulder of Matt and Joy stands Jesus Christ. Each loves and respects “unto Christ.”

In theological studies we refer to this as the centrality of Christ.

Their purpose for living is Christ.

Their love and respect is unto Christ.

I said to both of them, “Matt and Joy, thank you for being part of something bigger than your marriage."

Bigger than Your Marriage

My question to you: Are you part of something bigger than yourselves as a couple? Jesus said, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). When two people commit to this mission and ministry, their relationship will take on significant meaning and can be less frustrating.

Though Sarah and I have the same conflicts that other couples encounter, those tensions seem to get resolved more quickly in light of our outward focus on others. That we serve husbands and wives in their marriages helps our marriage.

 The same applies to the couple serving the poor in a soup kitchen, conducting small groups in their homes, teaching a Sunday school class together, singing on the worship team, joining the church’s prayer team, going overseas short-term to build homes, and the list goes on.

When we do not have a purpose beyond ourselves, we end up focusing only on ourselves. When we do not think of something bigger than ourselves, we will only think of ourselves. When nothing is more important than ourselves, than we alone are important.

However, when we fight for something bigger than ourselves, we fight with each other less! That may not be the most noble of reasons to follow Christ, but it certainly leads to marital satisfaction!

Having raised Joy all her life and working with her for many years, I am confident of her own maturity. Since getting to know Matt personally, as well as hearing about him from Joy and some of his friends who have known him for several years, I am also assured that Joy has married an extremely mature man. And now having spent time with the both of them and watching their relationship grow up to this point, I have no doubt they are together motivated by Christ’s mission for them and committed to something bigger than just their relationship to each other. And because of these three assurances, I have no doubt that, though trials and temptations will certainly come, they will persevere together and have a successful marriage. My hope is that you, too, can have the same assurance in your marriage.

Discussion Questions

  1. If like Emerson’s friend you were asked if believing that Jesus is the Son of God demanded something more from you, how would you respond? How might God be asking more of you right now?

  2. Emerson said, “The irony is that as we love Christ first and foremost, we love other people better than we would had we loved them without Christ in our lives.” How is that possible?

  3. In what ways might a couple allow their marriage to take them away from God’s mission for them?

  4. If you are part of a couple, whether married or not, can you honestly say that together you are a part of something bigger than the relationship? If you answered no, what needs to change?

-Dr. E