What are strong marriages built on? There are few better foundations for a marriage more than a sacrificial spirit — a spirit that enables a husband or wife to look at their spouse and say, “You are more important than me.” Want to protect your marriage against divorce? Put your spouse’s needs ahead of your own.
Every great relationship is a sacrificial relationship. Sacrifice is an ancient concept, going all the way back to the ancient Israelites and their relationship with God. He made a covenant with them — sacrifice for remission of sins — and then Jesus gave us a new covenant through his blood. He became the ultimate sacrifice.
Paul describes that covenant in Philippians 2, which starts off with two verses that married couples should have underlined and highlighted in their Bibles, and written on Post-It note reminders all over the house.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4)I can’t come up with any better tip for married couples. If you want a strong marriage, live your life according to Philippians 2:3-4. Love your husband or wife like Christ loves us.
Couples who live together before marriage often struggle because they never learn to sacrifice for each other. Co-habitation is totally self-centered. It’s a tryout, a chance to get the benefits of a relationship without putting down tent stakes. Maybe she wants to know how good he is at taking care of her. Maybe he wants to know how good she is in bed. The whole relationship is performance-oriented — if you please me enough, I’ll marry you.
But a covenant marriage is built on the sacrificial example of Jesus Christ, who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,” as Paul wrote in Philippians 2:7. A sacrificial marriage says “This is not about me and getting my needs met. This is about me giving my life for you.”
That’s the difference between a co-habiting marriage and a covenant marriage. That’s the difference between a marriage headed toward trouble and a strong, successful marriage. A good marriage — like a faithful follower of Christ — is never self-centered.