If you’re dedicated to becoming a good Christian Case Maker, I bet you’ve discovered just how hard it is to find the appropriate balance necessary to study, share what you believe, and maintain your responsibilities as a spouse, parent or employee. I also struggle, but my experience as a pastor has helped me to keep a proper perspective. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of performing a number of weddings. These are joyous occasions and I always feel a burden to say something profound and meaningful. I probably fail to accomplish this most of the time, but I try. The best wedding sermons usually contain some form of “advice”, and the best advice comes from the heart. I always try to share some profound piece of wisdom gleaned from my experience as a husband or from my own observations as a pastor, counselor, friend (and, yes, as a Christian Case Maker). There’s one thing I am eager to share with people who are getting married: I always remind them that their commitment to their marriage is more important than their commitment to their spouse.
My wife, Susie, is quick to point out that this advice seems a bit harsh for a wedding sermon. Maybe she’s right, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be committed to a happy, loving marriage, even before you ever decide who you want to partner with in that marriage. In fact, I think it’s important to be more committed to a happy, loving marriage than you are to your spouse. I grew up in a broken home; my parents divorced when I was three years old. Growing up, however, I was fully aware both my parents loved me deeply. They spent time with me, helped me whenever I needed help and did everything (and more) that could be asked of a parent. But they weren’t married, and this fact presented me with a number of challenges over the years. I had a fine childhood, but there is no doubt that it would have been much better if my parents had been able to stay together in a loving relationship.
The value of such a marriage is often underestimated and under-appreciated. Surveys and studies repeatedly confirm, however, children do best (in virtually every conceivable area of measurement) when raised by their two biological parents in a low conflict setting. Loving married families are better for kids than loving divorced families. Loving married families are better for kids than loving blended families. Marriage matters.
Those of us who care deeply about marriage usually express this concern by focusing our attention and commitment on our spouse. But let’s face it, there are times during a marriage when our relationship with our spouse may be less than ideal. Every marital relationship has ups and downs; peaks and valleys. There are times when we enjoy each other greatly and times when we enjoy each other “less greatly”. If you’re married, you know what I mean. It’s easy to be committed to your spouse in the good times, but in the hard times, it’s important to remain committed to your marriage, even when you may not feel that great about your spouse. Marriage is more important than the person you happened to be married to.
Don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. It’s my hope that my commitment to a loving, happy marriage results in a deep, committed, loving relationship with my wife. Commitment to one, results in commitment to the other. It’s possible to be in love with your spouse without being in love with marriage. But when times get tough and your love for your spouse is tested, it’s far easier to walk away from him or her if you don’t value marriage above everything else. If a happy, loving marriage is your goal, you’ll take great care to make sure your relationship with your spouse is in good shape.
If you’re a busy, over-extended Christian Case Maker like me, it’s important to remember we examples to the world we are trying to reach. If we master the evidence but fail to master the most important relationship we will have with another human being in this life, we’ll fail to persuade anyone. We, of all people, ought to understand our vow to our spouses is actually a contract with God, the transcendent Creator of the Universe. If our marriages reflect God’s power and presence, our case will be all the more persuasive.