Jesus Is Not a SupplementMarriage reveals beliefs. Over time, patterns begin to emerge that reflect a couple’s view of Jesus. Husbands and wives whose hearts are growing distant or independent often like the idea of Jesus but not the person of Jesus. Most agree he was a great teacher and even God, but they don’t trust him personally or believe he has any power or authority. He rarely comes through for them (on their terms), which makes them doubt in his goodness. They believe Jesus makes a difference in their marriage in the same way vitamins make a difference for their bodies. Vitamins provide a boost for health, but without them, couples could still manage life, pursue happiness, and generally feel good about themselves.
Jesus Is the DifferenceIn life and marriage, Jesus doesn’t make a difference in the same way vitamins do. Jesus makes a difference like oxygen does. Without oxygen, we’re dead. Jesus is a person, he is God, and he is the life-giver. He is the difference between spiritual death and life. There are six marital markers, which can help us decide what difference we believe Jesus is making in our marriages.
1. ExaltationsWe grasp tightly, or worship, what we love. When we worship anything created, even something good like marriage or our spouse, we become lifeless, just like the object of our affection either is or will become (Psalm 115:4–8). But a worshiper of Jesus is given new life as God transforms us into the image and likeness of his Son Jesus. God loves and changes his worshipers (Romans 8:29).
2. ExpectationsMarriage reveals that we have demands, not expectations. When we don’t get what we want, we feel entitled to sin and justify our actions as we do. (James 4:1–3) Using hurtful thoughts, words, and actions, we turn our spouse into either an object in the way of getting what we "deserve" or an enemy who must submit or be eliminated. Conversely, maybe we expect nothing from our spouse or ourselves. We become comfortable and complacent and enjoy having a roommate around. God does have an expectation for us in life and marriage: perfection. We can’t clear that bar on our own. We have nothing to demand from God or our spouse when we realize this. The good news is God sent Jesus to live a sinless life and be our perfection. We are free to love him, our spouse, and others when we live out of an identity of a sinner made righteous by the perfect death and life of Jesus (1 Peter 1:16–21).
3. ExcusesWe make lame excuses like, "We’re all sinners," "Nobody’s perfect," "He started it," or "I’m not happy" to label our spouse as more sinful than we are, allowing us to feel good about our thoughts, words, and deeds. God calls excuses lies. Since we cannot make ourselves look good to God, we can stop pointing our finger at our spouse and point it at ourselves instead. When we embrace our identity as sons and daughters of the living God, we can repent and name our sin instead of excusing it away. We are loved and cherished because of the grace given to us through Jesus who died for us while we were "weak," "sinners," and "enemies of God" (Romans 5:6–11).
4. ExtremesWords like "always," "never," "only," and "every time" are dishonest and laced with self-righteousness and resentment when used in the context of marriage (Psalm 52:2–3). Instead of believing extremes about our marriages, believe the extremes Jesus speaks. He promises to "never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5), that we will "never perish" (John 10:28), and that "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). God can’t lie, and his truth is always true. The question is, will we believe him?
5. ExperiencesOur past experiences often define us. We either feel great because of our accomplishments and performance or awful because of our past sin and failure (Psalm 44:15, 1 Peter 5:5). We live in shame and pain from the past, believing we are what we have done or had done to us, or in pride, lording our success and self-righteousness over others. We remain hidden or haughty, damaging our relationships as we fight hard for self-preservation.
Jesus allows us to live for him today in a new identity, not bound to past sin, family dysfunction, pain, or deceived by pride.
When we become Christians, God doesn't give us amnesia, remove struggles, or recognize our achievements. However, he gives us a new past, present, and future "in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus allows us to live for him today in a new identity, not bound to past sin, family dysfunction, pain, or deceived by pride.
When we lay our past aside and approach him and our spouse in humility, "he gives more grace" (James 4:6).