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 as spouses is a reflection of what we are as Christians. If we keep this in mind, we’ll be prevented from thinking we can be “good” Christians while being bad spouses.

Marriage problems are only symptoms

The actual problem is our relationships with Christ. In my own marriage, for instance, the “problem” looked like I did not have enough time for my wife and children, but that was only a symptom. The problem was that I would not obey the Holy Spirit’s conviction to put my family ahead of the church, make my wife a priority, spend more time with my children, etc. Plus, I was being consumed with anxiety, versus trusting Christ like I should have. In other words, the marriage problems I was experiencing were directly connected to my relationship with Christ.

A couple’s marriage problems can only be fixed by focusing on their relationships with Christ

This is why any biblical marriage counseling must address the husband and wife’s relationship with Christ. Couples I counsel are often confused when they share marriage problems they are experiencing and I respond by asking:

  • “What does your time in God’s Word look like?”
  • “How is your prayer life?”
  • “Tell me about your involvement in the church?”

A wife will say, “I just told you my husband yells at me. Why are you talking about his time in the Word?” Because the hope is that as a husband reads God’s Word he will become convicted of his sin and repent. He will become a more patient and loving leader. I do not have the power to change a husband’s heart (and apparently neither does a wife or there would be no need for counseling). A husband can only become a new man through a relationship with Christ.

Likewise, a husband will respond, “I just told you how my wife humiliates me in front of our friends. Why would you mention joining a small group?” Because other believers can provide accountability, vulnerability, and transparency. You can learn from others and be challenged by their examples. When you are not involved in the body of Christ, you will not receive the encouragement and exhortation God wants you to have. You will feel alone, as though you are the only couple having these problems. You will not have anyone in your life through whom God can regularly speak to you. We are made to have fellowship with other believers, and when we do not have it, that lack manifests itself in other areas, including our marriages.

Two situations I have witnessed a number of times…

A husband and wife are having marriage problems. They submit to Christ, and soon their marriage problems improve. Why? Did their difficulties simply disappear? No, those difficulties had been symptoms of the real problem—Christ was not supreme in their lives. When they put Christ first, the marriage problems were shown only to be symptoms.

Conversely, I have seen a couple plugged into church. The husband and wife pray and read the Word together. They are doing well spiritually, and their marriage is healthy. Then, for various reasons, they:

  • Get distracted from the Lord and their priorities shift
  • Start wavering in church attendance and spiritual disciplines
  • Fall out of fellowship

Soon their marriage suffers. Why? Their relationship with Christ was suffering.

So remember: Marriage “problems” are really only symptoms—or negative consequences—of not having Christ as the focal point in the marital relationship. If couples want a strong, healthy marriage, they need a strong, healthy relationship with Christ. When a couple’s relationship with Christ is weak and unhealthy, the marriage will be weak and unhealthy.

Discussion questions for husbands and wives:

  1. Consider marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ. What three adjectives would you use to describe your marriage?
  2. Are these the same adjectives you want to describe your relationship with Christ? If not, what changes do you need to make?
  3. While remembering to focus on yourself, if a “marriage doctor” were to examine your marriage, what are three “symptoms” he would observe?
  4. What does your time in God’s Word look like? If you are unsatisfied with your answer, what changes should you make?
  5. Are you involved in a church? Notice the question is not, “Do you go to church?” Or “Are you a member of a church?”
    • If you are involved in a church, in what ways do you share the marital challenges you are experiencing so God can use your church family to help you?
    • If you are not involved in a church, what changes need to be made so you can be active and involved?

Marriage God's Way bundle

This post came from Marriage God’s Way and the accompanying workbook. Both are for sale on my site. You can purchase the book and his and her workbooks for 30% off.

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

  1. •A husband cannot love Christ without loving his wife.
    •A wife cannot submit to Christ without submitting to her husband.

    At first I questioned these 2 statements when I read this in your book Marriage God’s Way. After reading further I saw what you were trying to say. The reason I struggled with it at first because I felt like it could of been worded

    “A Husband cannot love his wife until he loves Christ”
    “A wife cannot submit to her husband until she submits to Christ”

    Thank you for going into more detail and clarifying that because of our relationship with Christ is why we love our wife and the wife submits to her husband.

    I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the book. Thank you for writing it….I pray that God transforms many marriages through it.

    God Bless

    1. Hi Dennis,
      Thank you for reading Marriage God’s Way, reading this post, and sharing your thoughts!

      I like what you wrote and agree with it, but I think our thoughts make two different (but equally valid) points:

      • I was trying to say, “If you don’t love/submit to your spouse, you’re showing you don’t love/submit to Christ.”
      • It sounds like you’re saying, “Only by loving/submitting to Christ, can a spouse love/submit to his/her spouse.”

      Does this sound accurate? If that’s what you’re trying to say, I do agree with that too. I tried to make the point you’re making in the section discussing the Holy Spirit helping us. In other words, we can only love/submit to our spouse with the Holy Spirit’s help, which is to say, with a relationship with Christ.

      God bless you and I am praying God uses the book powerfully in your life! Thank you for your prayers for it to transform marriages. That is my repeated prayer too, and I’m blessed to have you join me in it! Please let me know your thoughts when you’re finished reading!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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!