Love and marriage, love and marriage
They go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you, brother
You can’t have one without the other
— Love and Marriage, by Sammy Cahn & Jimmy Van Heusen
Sound familiar? Some of your minds may go to Frank Sinatra, but it takes me back to the days of the great family show, Married With Children. Well, maybe it wasn’t a great family show, but it did solicit some great laughs.
You know, you could change one word in that verse and it would seem equally true: Conflict and marriage, conflict and marriage. They go together like a horse and carriage. This I tell you, brother, you can’t have one without the other.
Now, I don’t say that to because I have a low view of marriage. Marriage, as God ordained it, is perfect. It’s the humans who are imperfect and incapable of having conflict-free marriages. It is just a reality that conflict is part of marriage. And since that is true, we must learn to navigate the conflict in our marriage in the most loving and God-honoring ways possible.
It is extremely important that we learn how to properly engage our spouses in the midst of conflict, but it is equally important to learn how to properly view our spouses in the midst of conflict. How you view your spouse will determine how you engage them.
I would like to address two different groups of Christians today: First, I would like to address those Christians who have an unsaved spouse. Second, I would like to address those Christians who have a saved spouse.
For all Christians who have an unsaved spouse:
If you have truly been born again, then you remember what it was like before you were recreated in Christ. You know what it means to be a slave to sin and unable to walk in the Spirit. And you know that, if your spouse is unsaved, they are still a slave to sin.
Your heavenly Father may own your heart and dictate your rules of engagement, but the enemy still owns your spouse’s heart and he dictates their rules of engagement. It is not that your spouse is unwilling to show you godly love and godly grace, it is that they are incapable of showing you godly love and godly grace, because they have never experienced either one and have no idea what they are.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
― 1 John 4:7–8 NASB
Your real conflict is not with your spouse. Your real conflict is with the enemy that holds your spouse captive. If your spouse is unsaved, then you could win every battle against them and still lose the war, because the real war is for their eternal soul.
The real battle is not fought in the arena with your spouse. The real battle is fought in your prayer closet, crying out to the Lord to save your spouse’s soul and recreate them in Christ.
If your spouse is lost, then listen carefully. Every single conflict with them is an opportunity for you to hold up before them the love and grace of the Savior, in hopes that someday their eyes will be opened and he will become their Savior.
Don’t fight to win the earthly conflicts with your spouse. Fight to win the heavenly conflict for their soul. If you do this, it may turn out that losing every battle may be the means to winning the war.
Victory is not winning arguments with your spouse. The true victory is you and your spouse, side by side, worshiping and serving the Lord in heaven for all eternity. I’d lose every earthly battle to experience this victory.
For all Christians who have a saved spouse:
If both you and your spouse are saved, then you must understand that you have two different relationships with your spouse and, therefore, two different ways in which to relate to them. First and foremost, you have a heavenly relationship because you are siblings in Christ. You are brother and sister in Christ. Second, you have the earthly relationship of marriage. You are husband and wife.
First let’s look at the heavenly relationship of brother and sister in Christ. This is your primary relationship. This is an eternal relationship that will never end. You must learn to recognize the supremacy of this relationship over the temporal relationship of husband and wife. She is your sister in Christ before she is your wife. He is your brother in Christ before he is your husband. Because of this truth, you must treat them as such and never lose focus on this relationship.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ― Galatians 3:28 NASB
When you have conflict with your spouse, you must see this first as a conflict with a brother or sister in Christ and afford them the love and grace that you would any other brother or sister in Christ. If your spouse has wronged you in any way, you must see their sinful behavior first and foremost as a rebellion against their heavenly Father. Your primary concern must be to see your spouse reconciled to their heavenly Father. You must deal with them in a loving and restorative manner, as you would any other brother or sister in Christ that had fallen into rebellion against the Father. You must encourage them in love to take the necessary steps to be reconciled to the Father. Then and only then should you concern yourself with the fact that your spouse had wronged you. But honestly, if you are concerned enough with your spouse’s relationship with their heavenly Father and seeing them reconciled with him, you will not be very focused on how you were wronged.
Second is the earthly relationship of husband and wife. This is just as real of a relationship as the heavenly one of brother and sister in Christ. But this relationship should be seen as secondary because it is only a temporal relationship that will end when this life is over, and the other relationship is an eternal relationship that will never end.
The heavenly relationship of brother and sister in Christ is a relationship in which both the man and woman are equals in both position and responsibilities to one another. The earthly relationship of husband and wife, on the other hand, is slightly different. In marriage, both the man and woman are also equals, but God has given them different responsibilities. Sometimes these different responsibilities cause husbands and wives to forget that they are equals. Now, if they would always keep their primary focus on their heavenly relationship of brother and sister in Christ, then this would not happen.
Even marriages in which both the husband and the wife are saved will have conflict. There will be no conflict-free marriages this side of eternity, and there will be no marriages in eternity. So, the bottom line is, there will never be a conflict-free marriage. But there can be great marriages. The best marriages will be those in which a saved man and a saved woman understand that they are both brother and sister in Christ and husband and wife, and they are more concerned with each other’s relationship with their heavenly Father than they are about any wrongs suffered.
Please make sure you are viewing your spouse properly during any marital conflict, because only when you view them properly will you engage them properly.