Cross · Holiness · Husband · Jesus · Marriage · Sacrifice · Wife

Marriage Built on Holiness, Not Happiness

Today we have moved marriage from the idea of holiness to happiness. We have forgotten that marriage was once called “holy matrimony” and both the wedding itself, and the marriage were made to be holy. 

Not only does our society misunderstand holiness, but even some who weekly dawn the pews have missed what it is, because we have dumbed down the Gospel in so many churches. Sadly many do not speak “church words” at church, not realizing that these church words are scriptural, which means they are really God’s words.

Holiness in Scripture is two-fold. It can mean both perfect and set apart. When thinking about the idea of perfection, we mean without sin. So the first thing a marriage should be is about a husband and a wife living together, working to the best of their ability to not sin against each other. When they do sin, because they are not Jesus therefore they will, they confess their sins to each other (James 5:16), and forgive each other (Ephesians 4:32). This brings them back to perfect holy matrimony again.

The next part of the biblical definition of holiness is being “set apart,” or distinct. This means set apart from worldly ways, and set apart to God’s ways. He says in I Peter 1:16 “you shall be holy, for I am holy.” 

When we study and find God’s ways for marriage are different from the world, they are distinct, they are “holy.” The world, on the other hand, offers happiness as the telos, ultimate object or aim, for marriage. Therefore, if you are not “happy” in your marriage, the marriage can be discarded on the basis that it was not happy. 

This philosophy is selfish. It asks, what is in it for me first? It places a husband and wife against each other, both sitting back, waiting to be pleased by the other first. It’s a shootout duel where in the end both die.

Marriage for the Christian is different. The end game and ultimate goal first is not happiness, but holiness. It does not ask, “am I being sacrificed for,” but “am I sacrificing for my spouse?” 

In Ephesians 5, the marriage passage, verse 25 says, “husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” How did Christ love the church? He died on the cross for the church, for the believer. That doesn’t sound very happy to suffer like that, but it is holy. His death on the cross set us apart from sin to Himself. His holiness gives us happiness, and that’s how husbands are supposed to treat their wives.

So husbands sacrifice their happiness to die for their wives, to sacrifice for them. They do so financially, emotionally, physically, sexually, and the like. They take on the responsibility, and make sacrifices for the marriage to show her love. This is living holy, which will give her happiness.

The wife sacrifices herself to her husband. She follows and submits to him. Not in an abusive way, but a godly one. This is what the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:24: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit everything to their husbands.

Again, sacrifice. Is it always what provides her happiness first, maybe not from a worldly perspective, but it will provide holiness. The reason is because she’s not just following him to follow him, in any way he wants. She is called to follow him as he leads her in Christ. And if she is following Christ, she will receive joy, or happiness.

Sacrifice is what it is all about. Holiness is what it is all about. The entire Christian life is built on these things. Why should we expect any less from what God wants out of our marriages? When you are focused on these things, and not happiness, you will persist even when you are not happy. Why? Because holiness, doing what is right, not happiness, is your goal. And you can be holy even if you are not happy.

The great irony here is that holiness and sacrifice will lead to happiness. Doing what is right in your marriage will lead to God’s blessing on your life. God blesses obedience (Proverbs 16:20, Jeremiah 17:7). If the husband and wife are being obedient to God in their marriage and sacrificing for each other, they will be happy and blessed.

This is also a marriage that is holy in that it is set apart. They are not set apart from loving and serving people outside of the marriage. This husband and wife are set apart for each other. The relationship is sacred, holy, and  cut off from other relationships outside of itself in a marital sense. It shares distinct sexual, emotional, financial, relational, familial, goals and dreams which it doesn’t with those outside of the marriage.

One final thought is this. If you are looking for a marriage that is built on happiness, not holiness, you will never find it. If it is all about being pleased, being sacrificed for, that marriage is not out there. If you go into it thinking what can I get out of it, instead of what can I give, then you will face the failure of what you are looking for. The “next time” won’t be better, if holiness is not a part of it.

Is your marriage built on happiness or holiness? What is your focus in your marriage, happiness or holiness? What are you putting into it? Is it holy? Have you set it aside to be something special? Do you see God’s blessing on your life and marriage when you and your spouse are acting holy? In the end, it will provide a lasting, fruitful marriage. 

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