“Through Christian marriages, the story of the gospel-of sin, grace, and restoration-can be seen and heard both inside the church and out in the world. Christian marriages proclaim the Gospel. That is how important they are”. -Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, p. 249.
I recently read this paragraph to a friend asking, ‘How many Christian marriages live with the experience and reality that that their marriage proclaims the gospel?’. How would you answer those questions in your own marriage - or as a single person, how would you answer those questions about the Christian marriages that you observe? With these questions, I am certainly not intending to communicate with a critical or pompous tone. Rather, I want to humbly call us to a higher vision of what God intended marriage to be and, by God’s grace, of what our marriages can be.
Christian Marriages proclaim the gospel.
Christian Marriages proclaim the gospel, and the gospel forms Christian marriages. Christian marriages can exist without the gospel at the center, but moving beyond mere existence to God’s original intent for marriage will be impossible without gospel centrality. Gospel centrality places God Himself at the center of life, while Christian marriages functioning without gospel centrality can place self or spouse at life’s center. Life functions best when the Author of life remains central, and gospel centrality enables Christian marriages to keep Him, God, at the center.
So how do Christian marriages, with God and the gospel at the center of the marriage, proclaim the gospel? Christian marriages proclaim the gospel in the following ways:
A) To self-by death. ‘Abide in me’ (John 15:4). This gospel call says something about dependence vs independence. I commented to my wife this week that perhaps one of the most arrogant lifestyles a Christian can hold to is a lifestyle of living independent of God’s Presence, God’s Word, God’s authority, etc. Such a lifestyle requires a death to independent-from-God living.
B) To spouse - by consideration. Consider one another’s needs above your own’ (Php 2:4). This gospel mandate requires death to a spouse’s own needs as primary. This does not mean that an individual dies to the reality of their own needs, but that a spouse’s needs transcend their own needs.
C) To children - by exposure. (Verse). Parent’s position their children for maximum gospel impact by consistently exposing their children to a gospel-proclaiming marriage. Many grown children are choosing not to marry because they lacked gospel-proclaiming marriage exposure in their family of origin. This is a tragedy that does not need to continue in the next generation, and gospel-proclaiming marriages have much to do with bucking this trend.
D) To church - by contentment. Ask yourself this question: In your local church, are you spurred on to love and good deeds (Heb 10.25) as you observe the way the gospel is proclaimed in the marriages in your midst? In your local church, do you hear testimonies of grace-in-action through repentance of sin, biblical conflict resolution, joyful celebration of one another, and the fruit of contentment? Godliness with such contentment is great gain, not only for individuals, but for entire local churches as well.
E) To world - by oneness. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me (John 17:21-22, MSG). These are Jesus’ words to those who would believe in Jesus through the disciples’ testimony: you and me. Giving evidence of God’s love to a godless world, according to this text, comes through the means of mature oneness. What produces such mature oneness? God. And His means to produce such oneness include a daily dying that Christian marriages can demonstrate.
Christian marriages are intended to and can in fact proclaim the gospel in many ways and in many directions, five such directions having been examined above. The potential personal, familial, ecclesial and missional impact of such gospel-proclaiming marriages are many; let us strive by God’s grace to encourage, equip, and model this type of other-worldly marriage.