Note: Each year, thousands of pastors and counselors use Preparing for Marriage as the foundation of their pre-marriage training for engaged couples. Preparing for Marriage was recently revised and updated, and the following excerpt addresses a subject that many couples do not adequately discuss before they are married.
No other human relationship will play a more important role in shaping your life than your relationship with your spouse. And yet many premarried couples make the crucial decisions about marriage when their minds are clouded with such powerful emotions that they find it difficult to think straight. They are so caught up in the whirlwind of romance that they fail to work out some crucial issues before they commit their lives to each other.
For a Christian, the most important of these issues is spiritual compatibility. Since marriage is a spiritual relationship, your spiritual compatibility will influence the quality of your relationship more than any other factor. There are two topics to consider here:
1. Are both of you Christians?
In 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, Paul writes, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial [Satan], or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?"
This passage warns that a Christian should not enter a partnership with an unbeliever because it will be a relationship built on opposing values and goals. Building relationships on Christian values, trust, and love is essential in the Christian life, especially in the most intimate of all human relationships—marriage. God created marriage, and its greatest fulfillment and enjoyment can only be found when both husband and wife have a growing relationship with Him.
When Christians marry nonbelievers, they usually experience a growing frustration after marriage:
- They are unable to discuss the most precious, intimate part of their lives with their spouses.
- They have conflicting goals and expectations.
- They clash over the values they teach their children.
- They have differing circles of friends.
- They have difficulty communicating and resolving conflict.
If you are considering marriage and one of you has received Christ as Lord and Savior but the other has not, we strongly recommend that you either put your relationship on hold or end it altogether. If your future spouse is unwilling to repent and change now, don't expect it to happen after you marry.
Second, if neither of you has received Christ, we recommend that you put off any wedding plans so you can focus on learning more about a relationship with Him. Give yourselves time to talk with Christian friends, or your pastor, and come to a solid decision about where you stand with God.
2. Do you both share the same commitment to spiritual growth and to serving God?
Many Christians know they should not marry a nonbeliever. Unfortunately, they go no further in evaluating their spiritual compatibility.
1 John 2:15 tells us, "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." You may both have received Christ, but if one of you is more focused on loving the world rather than loving God, you will experience many of the same conflicts as a believer and nonbeliever. Your goals and values will differ. Your lives will head in different directions.
If you are both growing in Christ, however, you will experience a special joy and teamwork in your marriage. Running coaches usually encourage their long-distance runners to train in groups rather than as individuals. In a group, runners encourage and push each other to ignore their weariness and pain. In fact, a runner may run faster in a group than he would by himself, yet feel less fatigued. In the same way, two people who share the same commitment to God can encourage and help each other to keep their eyes on Christ as they "run with endurance."
To evaluate this area of your spiritual compatibility, begin by asking yourself questions such as:
- Do both of us share the same desire to know and please God?
- Do I have any sense that one of us is putting on a facade of spiritual commitment?
- Do our actions back up our words?
- Do we both consistently display a desire to obey God in all things?
- What priority does each of us place on ministering to other people?
- Are we both willing to follow God's direction?
If you cannot shake a suspicion that you and your future spouse are on different wavelengths in your spiritual compatibility, we strongly advise you, again, to postpone any wedding plans. If not, you will likely experience a distressing level of isolation in your marriage.
From Preparing for Marriage © 2010 FamilyLife. Published by Regal Books, www.regalbooks.com. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
This article originally appeared in the May 10, 2010 issue of Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter.