I know it is hard to believe, but marriage was created for so much more than happiness. Sure, we all want to be happy with our partner, hence the ridiculous divorce rate; but happiness with your partner isn’t the sole idea behind marriage. It is a little hard to believe that with all the love stories flitting around and happily ever after(s) that being happy with our partner is not what marriage should be focused on. We all want that passionate, romantic connection with our spouse that brings us joy beyond comprehension, but God desires even more from our marriages than just happiness. He desires holiness. He wants you to be more madly in love with him than you are with your spouse, and he wants your spouse to be head over heels for him too. A strange relationship to a non-believer, but holiness is the crux of a lasting Christian marriage.
Let’s take a look at an example from the Bible of a marriage based on holiness rather than happiness. Remember Hosea? If not let’s recap… Hosea married a prostitute. Why? Because that is who God called him to take as his wife.
“Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of the unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord” Hosea 1:2
Props to him for listening because if God told me to marry a gigolo, I would have probably (definitely) said no. But, Hosea took Gomer as his wife and time and time again she cheated on him. Time and time again Hosea faithfully came to her and loved her, even when she didn’t want it. In Hosea’s situation he chose his holiness over his happiness. I’m certain that his marriage wasn’t easy as it was often one sided, but he was faithful to God’s calling. Hosea is an incredible example for the modern Christian. We focus so entirely on being happy in our marriage that we often neglect the true purpose of being placed in unity with our spouse. In our marriage vows we promise to the other that we will take them “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part”. It does not indicate that you will always be promised happiness in each situation, but by promising to take them in all circumstance means that you also promise to uphold those vows according God, in holiness.
What is holiness?
You might be thinking ‘Well that’s all well and good, but what does being holy even mean?‘. Touché. If we look into the Bible we see several examples and definitions of holiness:
For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight -Ephesians 1:4
But just as He who called you to be holy, so be holy in all you do- 1 Peter 1:15
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good– Romans 7:12
The overall theme is the same for all 3 passages: set apart, unique. A Christian couple who strives to be holy will seem different, others can tell there is more to their relationship than just fuzzy feelings, a connection much deeper, they are set apart from the crowd. But being holy in marriage is the most difficult undertaking. It means submitting as a wife and pursuing the role as a wife and mother that God has called of you. For husbands it is laying down your life, giving yourself up and placing your marriage before yourself. It is a duty that never ends and an always developing task. It means putting aside your wants, and your feelings and constantly coming to God for direction and counsel. This is the downfall of so many marriages today, relying on ourselves to do what we think is best, rather than coming to the one who knows it all.
Why be holy?
Being set apart in marriage is a task we can never perfect, no matter how long we are blessed in years of marriage with our partner. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Hosea kept trying, and although he wasn’t perfect he was set apart in constantly seeking a wife who as most would say was unworthy. If we look at ourselves we are all unworthy, we are all Gomers who need a Hosea. Each of us carries baggage into marriage and brings sin into our relationships because that is who we are, we are sinful by nature. We are all unworthy of unconditional, steadfast love; but because that is what God has demonstrated to us we are called to mirror that love in marriage to our spouse and have only been made worthy by the blood sacrifice of Christ.
Striving for holiness in marriage allows us to maintain focus on the real center of a Christian relationship, God. If we keep our eyes on him and allow him to lead our marriage then in turn we will glorify him in our interaction with our spouse. Holiness is what we have been called to as believers.
The purpose of holiness
Holiness in marriage means loving as Christ loves us. In Ephesians we are given examples of how to love like Christ and how to be set apart from the world.
Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us- Ephesians 5:1-2
The purpose of holiness and loving one another so deeply is to bring God glory through both ourselves and our spouse. Being set apart and demonstrating to others that we are different is a way in which God draws others to him. If our marriages were intended to be the same as secular marriages than we wouldn’t stand out as different from the rest, and unfortunately often we don’t. We forget about being holy and replace it with being happy and sometimes what makes us happy also causes us to stumble.
How can we be holy?
As a wife I need to always be mindful of my thoughts, my actions and the way I present myself to my husband. If I wrong him, I need to come to him in humble apology and own up to my mistakes. I need to be in communion with God daily, in prayer, reading his word and learning in his wisdom. Knowing Gods commands helps me to understand what it is he is calling me to be and further understand how to be holy. But my holiness extends beyond myself behavior or thoughts, it is also how I keep Clay accountable for his. If he says something out of line I am supposed to remind him in love that those things are not righteous. If he does something or acts a way contrary to God’s word than I need to come to him and demonstrate love by telling him he is wrong. My job as his wife is to encourage him in the word, nourish his relationship with Christ, and keep him accountable. It is not my duty to keep him happy, it is my duty to keep him holy.
Chances are you did not marry a prostitute as Hosea did, but as Hosea we need to each remember that we have been placed in marriage with our partner for a purpose more than just our happiness. God has united us with our spouse to do his will and to bring him glory through holiness by being set apart. What an honor it is to do God’s will and what an honor it is to do it with my husband at my side. God has shared with us his holiness and in marriage we are able to share in that gift with our spouse; to hold one another accountable in our actions, thoughts and words, to love them in the same way that Christ loves us. In turn we share that with others in our uniqueness, difference and distinction. As Christians we live in the world, but we are not of the world and it is important that we choose to set ourselves apart in marriage and remember that we are not meant for happiness, we are meant for holiness.
Need a good read? Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is an incredible fictional story based on the book of Hosea that follows the life of a young prostitute California during the mid 19th century. I highly recommend this book! Click the image to purchase.