What Does a “Christian” Marriage Look Like?

Our life group went to see Overcomer this week. (It’s a really uplifting movie by the way! You should see it.) Although the movie is not about Christian marriage per se, two of the central characters are Christians who are husband and wife. As the storyline has the characters face challenges and oppostion, the audience gets a glimpse of the producers’ concept of Christian marriage, a glance at how this fictional couple interacts and how they handle their family and the stuff of life. Scenes that touched the heart and drew out the tissues. We all left the theater declaring it a great evening out.

But that was not the end of my evening. The 7:15 movie start time got me home way past bedtime for my 58-year-old body. As I was settling in for the night, a random question popped up on my phone. A sweet younger mom who had been at the movie asked, “Is that what a Christian marriage really looks like or is that just Hollywood fluff?” Woah! A valid question, but difficult to answer in a quick text. I told her I’d have to think on it a bit and get back to her. I still haven’t answered. It’s been a couple of days. I guess I’m trying to process it here.

As I viewed the movie, I had identified with the married couple. I laughed at the little mistakes they made that hit too close to home and teared up over the tender moments I could relate to. I identified with that Christian couple on screen. But was it realistic? Or was it more an ideal of what we hope to be as spouses but rarely live up to? Did it project a healthy view of marriage for this younger generation, many of whom haven’t grown up in a home with both parents and therefore don’t have first hand observations of what a Christain marriage is supposed to look like? Or was it sugar-coated and overly idealistic? I won’t make a judgment on that.

But focusing on real life because of my friend’s text, I realized something. More important for me than the movie’s depiction of the marriages of believers was my recognition that I was now the “older woman” of Titus 2:3-5, and I was failing in my God-given role to teach the younger women what I’ve spent my whole married life struggling to learn on my own. Wouldn’t my pain and wisdom learned through the montains and valleys of married life be made somehow more worthwhile if other people benefitted from it without having to go through those same tough mistakes themselves?

What does a real Christian marriage look like?

I realize that this topic cannot be conquered in one short blog, but perhaps this will be a first in an ongoing look at strengthening marriages and families. It surely goes hand-in-hand with the idea of homebuilding and constructing our lives on the principles of God’s Word that we have been discussing at GFBC this year. For today, let’s touch on a couple of the more important “looks” of a Christian marriage.

 1. Selflessness.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:3-8

I struggle with this verse in my interactions with society in general as I guess we all do. Could I be selfless and let that other person have my parking spot at the mall? Could I rejoice with a co-worker who got the promotion I wanted? Could I let go of my one-upmanship tendancies when hanging out with my girlfriends and bragging about what our 18-month-olds are doing, or not doing? Could I let the other person break in line or cut into traffic without it igniting my anger or road rage? Yep, those times are difficult to learn to lay down our self-will.

But those things paled in comparison to learning to lay down my selfish will to my husband! These verses destroy me because they relfect to me the sinful, self-serving wife I really am! I’m more concerned with what he didn’t do than with my own failures. I speak angrily and harshly to him, worse than I would ever speak to my friends. I want my way in the household, and often berate him for NOT doing it my way. Instead of being a humble partner in life, I come at him as bossy and controlling. I must say that in the middle of an argument with my husband I rarely even consider having the mind of Christ. And to humble myself to the point of death for my “Sweetie”! No thank you! Not when I’m in my selfish frame of mind. Now when I’m in my loving mood I might say I’d do anything for him, but that’s a lie. Because when I’m living in my selfish, fleshly state I won’t give an inch!

I truly believe I could spend my whole life working on trying to live out just these 6 verses in my relationship with my husband and never conquer it. I’m to do nothing towards my husband out of selfish ambition or conceit! Nothing! Do I humble myself and value him above myself? Do I put his interests before my own? What a generous way of relating! Do I have the mindset of Jesus when I interact with my husband? Do I serve my husband as Christ served the world, humbly and gently, laying down my life for his?

It takes this selflessness to be able to love unconditionally, and it takes unconditional love to be able to be truly selfless.

Unconditional Love.

beautiful-blur-bridal-256737Our notion of love in American society is often based on movies, books, or Disney fairytales. Outside of the Christian community there is a lack of understanding of what love truly is. Romantic love hyped by Hollwood is seen as true love. Sex is viewed as love. Rarely in modern secular society do you see the idea of laying down your will and your life as a crucial component of real love. Conversely, you often hear, “I just don’t love him anymore; he’s not meeting my needs.”

When it comes to modern examples of agape love (God’s true, genuine love) we have few to none. People want to be served not to serve, we want things our way, we love others as long as they do what is desired, and we get angry when others dissppoint or let us down. To have a healthy marriage based on unconditional love we have to go against the flow of society and grasp the teachings of Jesus that seem so contrary to life these days. Ideals that tell us the least will be the greatest, the last will be first, a leader must be the servant of all, to save our life we must lose it, and a man must lay down that life for those he says he loves. A thriving marriage must become an incubator of this kind of authentic, agape love.

We must first, as two autonomous individuals, each choose to love well. We must work on it, practice it, and pray for more of it. As we grow individually in this respect, we will also begin to live that unconditional love out to others: our children, our extended family, friends, acquaintances, and those who have wounded us, our enemies. When we each allow God to work in our hearts to make us love more unconditionally, we will see our marriage becoming a sweet reflection of the sacrificial love of Christ, and it will be a testimony to the world around us and will draw others to Our Savior. The world is looking and longing for that unconditional love of Christ. We as His image-bearers must be vigilant about the picture we are painting of God the Father and His great love for humanity.

Check out what Ephesian 5 has to say about love and marriage:

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality,… Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)  and find out what pleases the Lord…. 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, … 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ…. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. … 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5 NIV

  • Imitate Christ.
  • Walk in love.
  • Give your self up as a sacrifice to God.
  • Be light, not darkness.
  • Please the Lord.
  • Be careful how you live.
  • Be wise.
  • Make the most of every opportunity.
  • Submit to one another.
  • Love each other.
  • Respect each other.

These things cannot humanly be done. But a heart fully given to Christ is filled with His Holy Spirit and thereby made able to conquer the unwilling flesh.

I challenge each of us this week to love our spouse unconditionally and walk selflessly, putting the interests of our spouse ahead of our own self-interest. It won’t be easy. It won’t be fun. The cross wasn’t easy. It wasn’t fun. As we follow in Jesus’ humble servanthood and self-sacrifice, we will be a light in a dark world and an encouragement and role model for those younger women needing to see how Christian marriage works. We will become a living picture of Christ. In today’s cultural lingo, let’s be the icon, the avatar, the meme, or the GIF that diplays a glimpse of Christ for all to see.


Merry Christmas from All of Us at Priceless!

The Greatest Gift of all is Jesus

Where ever you find yourself this Christmas, and in whatever bleak or joyful, lonely or busy situation, may you know and rejoice in the Greatest Gift of All – Jesus!

Your Father God gave you His own Son – Jesus.

In Jesus, He gave you a Redeemer to reclaim for you all you have lost and all the things the enemy of your soul has stolen from you.

He gave you a Spotless Lamb, a perfect sacrifice for your sin and failure – the sinless Son of God.

He gave you Hope in the form of a man.

He gave you Unconditional Love that says “I love you.  I accept you. I choose you as mine, no matter what you have done.”

He gave you a Wonderful Counselor for your darkest moments and deepest depression and despair.

He gave you a Prince of Peace to come and work in your confusion and chaos.

He gave you a Friend that sticks closer than a brother for when you feel alone and abandoned.

He gave you a Mighty Warrior to rescue you from the evil one and the prison of sin and self.

He gave you the gift of a loving family, even if your earthly family has let you down. He Himself is your Everlasting Father, Jesus is your brother, and the entire body of Christ is your extended family!

He gave you Immanuel, God with Us, who humbly came to earth as a man, to know our pain and be one of us.

He gave you the gift of that Babe in the manger, but that babe wrapped up so much more than we comprehend!

Celebrate these gifts you Do have this Christmas. These eternal gifts in Christ!


Loving Messy People

by Debbie Stovall

Do you have a messy friend? Or maybe you ARE that messy one. And I’m not referring to one whose house is a wreck, whose car is full of fast food wrappers, or who (like me) looks a bit wilted and slouchy as soon as she walks out the door even if she just spent 2 hours getting dressed.

I’m talking about those with messy lives. Issues. You know… A history of bad decision stacked upon bad decision. A string of divorces or jobs or financial problems. Addictions. Self-destructive tendencies…cutting, abusive relationships one after the other, binge drinking or eating or shopping. Compulsive lamenting over illnesses or a verbal barrage of negativity, complaining, whining, or self-pity every time you are within earshot. THAT kind of messy! The kind of messy that makes the friendship uncomfortable at times even though you love them dearly. The kind of messy that makes you take a deep breath as you answer their calls. The kind of messy that leaves you in tears and prayer when the call ends. The kind of messy that makes you ask, “Will she ever find her answers in Christ or will she deal with these crazy ups and downs until she’s 80 if she lives that long?!”

I’m here to tell you there is Hope for even the messiest of us!

As a Beloved daughter of the Most High you have something to offer those Messies. When they text you at 2:00 a.m. and you have no solution in your playbook to answer their question,… you still have something to offer. When they lie and manipulate and use your friendship in unhealthy ways, you still have the love of their Creator to offer them. When they get stoned or pregnant or caught in their sin, you still have the mercy of Christ to offer them. When they hang up on you and won’t listen to you, you still have something to offer on your knees to The One who is ever-listening. When your compassion and willingness to deal with them has flown out the window, you still have something to offer – forgiveness and a fresh start. The grace, mercy, salvation and unconditional love of God are what you always have to offer and what our dear Messies need more than they need a shoulder to cry on, or money, or advice, or a place to crash, or positive affirmation. 

Many of us are Messy People ourselves, struggling to walk faithfully with God. Interacting with other Messy Folks will either strengthen us or tear us down. Whether we struggle ourselves or think we’ve got it together at the moment, every interaction with the “messy” friend stretches us to our limit to love unconditionally. Sometimes we think we just can’t do it anymore. Sometimes our friend just wears. us. out. But scripture is true – when we are weak, He is strong. When we can’t, He can. And does. And those are usually the key moments in those messy relationships. When we have no mercy and grace left in our heart to offer and we’re so mad we just want to verbally bash them with the truth of their sin and failure, Father God pours into our hearts His mercy and grace by the armfuls and enables us to draw them in to a hug and bless them.

The grace, mercy, salvation and unconditional love of God are what you always have to offer and what our dear Messies need more than they need a shoulder to cry on, or money, or advice, or a place to crash, or positive affirmation. 

As we are stretched we learn not only how to offer these things, but also how to speak the truth boldly. We find our voice. As the Holy Spirit stirs up scriptures in our mind that we never remembered memorizing, we speak the truth to them in love. And then we are able to let go and to say, “It’s your choice, but you need to know the consequences.”

Messy people are challenging. But aren’t we all messy at times? Aren’t friendships inconvenient? Isn’t being REAL a hard thing to do? Giving ourselves and our time when it seems to make no lasting difference is hard. So when you’re finding it challenging to deal with that Messy friend, here are some tips I’ve found to be true.

  1. Love them with a God-love. Human love can be self-serving, conditional, too merciful at times, and even mean when people don’t act the way we think they should. First Corinthians 13 teaches us about God-love.”…If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
  2. Set boundaries with them. This is NOT a cruel concept. It is Biblical. In scripture God gave His people boundaries for their land and tribes. The garden of Eden had boundaries. Even Jesus displayed boundaries in His actions – He did not minister to, nor heal, every single person around Him, and He often left them just as He had found them except with a choice to live differently. When I was a young married mom of four I protected my family time even when engaged in a mentoring relationship with a Messy one. She knew she could call me 24/7 with an emergency, but I wasn’t available for a gripe session at 3:00 in the morning when she was drunk. No, I wouldn’t get matching tattoos (even a small one!) because it went against my convictions for myself. Yes, she could spend the night on Thanksgiving evening and enjoy the holiday as a part of our family since her mom was partying with her boyfriend. No, I wouldn’t taste this alcoholic drink they love (once again – my convictions!) or go to questionable places to meet their friends. Yes, I will invite you out to lunch and pay at times, but I am not a free ride for you when you have been irresponsible. The list could go on (‘cause those are just some of the things that really happened), but you get the picture. And you have your own list that you have had to or are needing to set boundaries on. Check out the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend for more on boundaries.
  3. Remember their real need is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Be less focused on their outward circumstances and more focused on their sinful heart needing the Redeemer. We fall into wrong thinking when want to give advice and “fix” these Messy ones. We will not stop them from drinking or shooting up or lying or sleeping around or smoking (or whatever else) with our wise reasoning and brilliant words. The only thing that will permanently change their messy lives is the salvation of the Lord. A transforming encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ will heal their messy broken hearts and put them on the path to cleaning up their messy habits and messy lives, just as Christ has redeemed and cleaned up our messiness.
  4. Pray. Pray with them. Pray for them. Let them know when you are praying for them. Pray for yourself as you deal with them. Pray silently for yourself in the moment as you don’t know what to say next. Pray aloud with them in the moment so they’ll know what is being spoken on their behalf. Pray for their family and people who impact their lives. Pray scripture with their name inserted. When you wake up with them on your mind – Pray! Prayer walk their neighborhood, dorm, work, or school. Pray against temptation for them. Pray for their protection. Pray for their mind, situation, finances, character, job, relationships,… anything that God brings to your mind. But most of all pray that the day of their salvation will come soon!
  5. Speak truth, speak scripture to them. Your words are kind and helpful, but sweet friend, your words have no eternal power! But scripture does! Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
  6. Treat them as a friend, not a project. People sense when we aren’t being real. If this person is your project, they’ll know it. If you are on your knees for them and heartbroken over them they will sense that too. So relax and enjoy your times together. Sometimes those days will be deeply spiritual, but other times shared laughter or cooking a favorite meal together strengthens the bond and lets them see your love and know they can trust you because you really care. Don’t be self-protective. Love them even if others don’t understand. Don’t worry about what people think.
  7. Bless themSpeak sweet, pure words of blessing over them whenever God reveals something to you that they need to hear. It may be nothing more than, “God will redeem your pain and make something beautiful from it.” (For more on the Blessing of people as we see it in scripture, read Genesis 48 & 49 or check out The Blessing Challenge or the book, The Blessing by Gary Smalley & John Trent.)
  8. Mentor them. Some Messy people are already believers like many of us, but they may not have had the guidance to grow up in Christ. They need you to disciple them, mentor them, mother them, be their “spiritual doula.” First, ask them if they are willing to be mentored. Explain what you mean if necessary. Then set up a regular time to meet each week for discipling them. Choose a Bible study or plan to read through a book of the Bible together explaining Christian principles as you go. Your goal in mentoring: 1) to teach them how to apply the truths of scripture to their lives and 2) to be open with them where they can see a Christian living out the Word in everyday life. (They don’t need you to be perfect!) If you don’t have a Bible study you like for mentoring them in the basics of walking the Christian walk, check out my friend, Iva May, her blogs: Iva’s blog and CBT Blog , and her discipleship materials, especially W3: Women, Worldview and the Word. (NOTE: Only disciple other females. The messy male co-worker you want to help…just don’t go there! I’m warning you gently. Unless it’s your son or brother, don’t get into intimate interpersonal relationships trying to disciple a male. Find a godly man you can recommend to do the mentoring.)


“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love…. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear,…” from 1 John 4:7-21