Marriage Is a Reflection of Our Relationships with Christ

A few years ago I learned  the important lesson that marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ. Katie and I faced the biggest crisis of our marriage. I started pastoring Woodland Christian Church when it was fairly small. Within three years the congregation had tripled in size. I admit that before I became a pastor, I was completely unaware of how much work is actually involved in shepherding a church of even a few hundred people. I had been an Army officer, a supervisor at a distribution center for Target, and an elementary school teacher. But none of those occupations approached the amount of mental and emotional energy and sheer hard work pastoring entails!

We had no secretary or associate pastor at the time. Almost all of my waking hours were packed with studying, teaching, counseling, making phone calls, sending e-mails, meeting with people, addressing administrative responsibilities, and tending to benevolence issues. When I was home, I should have been an engaged father and husband. Unfortunately, I did not have much left for my family emotionally, mentally, or physically.

Although I was failing as a husband and father, I was able to convince myself I was still pleasing the Lord. I compartmentalized my life by saying, “I am a Christian first, a spouse second, a parent third, and an employee fourth.” Instead, I should have said, “I am a Christian spouse, a Christian parent, a Christian employee.” The danger of seeing ourselves as a Christian first and a spouse second is we can find ourselves believing the lie I bought into at the time: “If I can be a good pastor, I can please God even though I am not the best husband.” The truth is that I was a poor husband, and I should have recognized that meant I was not pleasing the Lord.

The reason we cannot please the Lord while failing as a spouse is marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ

Our marriages are outpourings of our relationships with Christ. This means our Christianity is directly related to the way we treat our spouses. We treat our spouses the way we do because of our relationships with Christ.

  • In Matthew 7:16b, Jesus asked: “Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?”
  • In James 3:12, the apostle James asked: “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?”

The point of these verses is that we reveal our Christianity by the way we live. As Jesus clarified: “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16a).

Since our relationships with our spouses are our most important earthly relationship, what we are in our marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ. Two commands give us the standard for marriage:

  • Ephesians 5:25—Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.
  • Ephesians 5:22—Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Since the Lord gave us these commands, our obedience to them reflects our relationship with Christ. This is why there is no such thing as a spiritually mature man who does not love his wife nor a spiritually mature woman who does not submit to her husband:

A husband is to love and cherish his wife not because she is perfect, or because she treats him the way he wants to be treated. A husband loves and cherishes his wife because he loves Christ. Likewise, a wife submits to her husband not because he is a wonderful spiritual leader, or because he loves her the way she wants to be loved. A wife submits to her husband because she wants to submit to Christ.

A husband’s love and a wife’s submission is not a test of their obedience to their spouses—it is a test of their obedience to the Lord.

This might sound discouraging, but it should actually be encouraging. When a husband knows his love and a wife knows her submission is an act of obedience to Christ, it can be that much easier. There will be times when a husband does not want to love his wife and a wife does not want to submit to her husband. In those moments husbands and wives can tell themselves: “I am doing this out of my love for Christ. I am submitting to the Lord, because of what He has done for me.”

I would never try to convince a husband that his wife is worthy of his love, or try to convince a wife that her husband is worthy of her submission. The fact is, their spouses are not. But Christ is worthy of a husband’s love and a wife’s submission. It is important to understand this principle before we examine God’s instructions for husbands and wives because this will give us the necessary motivation to obey.

The obvious questions, then, are: How can a husband love his wife just as Christ loved the church? How can a wife submit to her husband as unto the Lord? That will be the topic of my next post!

Discussion questions for husbands and wives

  • Husband: Do you see your love for your wife as a reflection of your love for Christ? Why or why not?
  • Wife: Do you see your submission to your husband as a reflection of your submission to Christ? Why or why not?
  • Both:
    • What are common excuses people give for not obeying these commands?
    • Which of these excuses do you tend to use?
    • Consider marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ. What three adjectives would you use to describe your marriage? Are these the same adjectives you want to describe your relationship with Christ? If not, what changes do you need to make?

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18 thoughts on “Marriage Is a Reflection of Our Relationships with Christ

  1. Great insight. It is difficult to love others sometimes, and our significant others are the people who know exactly how to make us upset with them, when we know we’re doing it out of our love for Christ when they are difficult to love it totally shifts our perspective.

    1. Hi Mikey,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, in counseling I don’t encourage people to treat their spouse well because of their wonderful feelings toward their spouse. As you said, at that time they’re upset with their spouse. They have to draw on another relationship and that’s their relationship with Christ.

  2. This is such a great topic to cover. I’m sorry to hear that you have gone through the imbalance in your marriage but love that you talk about it, because so many of us go through it and need to re-evaluate our priorities. Even when we are doing things for Christ, we still need to uphold the covenant of marriage and show love and respect to our spouse.

    1. Hi Kristi,
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, it’s easy to have this imbalance in ministry especially, because it seems like ministry is such a good thing. Easy to allow it to compete with marriage and children as a result.

  3. I have heard the saying that our marriage is our first ministry. It is the very ministry God called us into. You are very much right when you said this reflects our relationship with Christ. I also love the discussion section… I adjective that will describe my marriage. You know I will be a little curious to know how my wife will describe our marriage! And that is very key. Great post. Thanks Scott.

    1. Hi Olu,
      Thanks for the further feedback on the discussion section. Guess I’ll keep doing that!

      I’m glad this will produce some good conversations with your wife.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  4. I love this. In my Biblical Womanhood class at seminary we have been talking a lot about how our marriages are to be a reflection of the relationship with Christ and there are several young girls who are just starting out in a dating/courtship relationship. I think if we can work to instill that principle in our youth now it will hopefully make their journey into marriage just a tad bit smoother. Thanks for sharing!

  5. The insight about being a Christian spouse, Christian parent, etc. is life-changing. I agree- it’s so easy to think I’m okay with God because I’m doing his work…even if I’m not necessarily doing a great job in my other roles.

    I will add that this is a little disheartening when one spouse is trying to be Christlike and the other isn’t. Even in those cases, God gives us clear direction on how to treat our spouses, but it’s really hard to do so!

    1. Hi Beka,
      Wonderful—glad you found that life-changing!

      Yes, you nailed it in your second sentence.

      You’re right about that disheartening situation. I have seen that before and as a pastor providing counseling it is truly difficult to give the person the encouragement s/he needs.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  6. Thank you for so honestly sharing from your life. Yes, our marriages do reflect our relationship with Christ. A Christian marriage should also be a picture to the world of God’s relationship to his church. I love your questions for discussion!

    1. Hi Kathleen,
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      I’m glad you liked the discussion questions. You’re the second person to mention them, so I’ll be sure to keep including them. I was hoping for feedback regarding people’s thoughts, so this is helpful!

  7. Wow. Great food for thought! The questions you asked are very thought provoking. I am thinking about how I would describe my marriage. Thankfully I have a great one, but there is always room for improvement!

Do you have a question or thought? If so, please share!