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Marriage is Not About Being in Love

by Kelly Crawford

Her name tag read, “I’m John Smith’s ex-wife.  If you want to know why, just ask me.” The bitter scorn worn on her blouse like a scarlet letter.

“He left her for some lady at his church”. I don’t even know him and the words sink like a rock in the pit of my stomach.  The crushing news of another Christian couple getting a divorce begs me to search out the problem and safeguard my own marriage against it.

“Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God. It displays the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people to the world in a way that no other event or institution does. Marriage, therefore, is not mainly about being in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. And staying married is not about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant and putting the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display.” From This Momentary Marriage, John Piper

“Telling the truth with our lives”.  But do we love truth–God’s truth–more than we love ourselves…or at all?

What the entertainment industry has done to our perception of what love and marriage is supposed to be is devastating.

Love is not the romantic compelling of two people to be together.  Love is a choice.  That pitter-patter will weaken over time, and we are left with the choice to love, to pursue our mate and to represent a picture of Christ to the world in the choosing.  Choosing to love, as Christ chose us, is true love.

More and more we would have the fleeting pitter-patter than to speak the truth with our lives about Him.  Fewer and fewer Christians are concerned with God’s reputation, with obedience, with denying self and taking up crosses.  Oh that we would love Him more!

We should be radically shaken about the dating system and the way we teach our children to approach finding a marriage partner.  We handle it so carelessly, as if getting our children married is something we do just to make their lives happy!   We must teach them the truth about marriage. I would encourage every Christian couple within reading of this post to give your ideas about dating serious scrutiny in light of what God says about marriage, not what the culture says about it, recognizing our grave responsibility to lead our children on a path toward holiness.

Three responsibilities of Christians concerning marriage:

  1. Understand the gravity of what your marriage says to the world about our Savior and purpose to say it well.
  2. Pass the baton of marital faithfulness to your children and grandchildren.
  3. Teach others around you–anyone and everywhere–about God’s design for marriage.

If holiness doesn’t drive our approach to marriage, we have no business touching it.

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Marcee April 25, 2010 - 9:18 pm

Love this and it’s SO true! DH and I have been thru difficult times and chose to love each other regardless. On the other side of the storm was something more amazing than we could imagine. You can never go wrong when you follow the teachings of the Bible!

Luci M. April 26, 2010 - 2:18 am

I love this post. Leaning on God and depending on His grace is the only way to have a successful marriage. Love is a choice; habits that encourage love are CHOICES. If only the world realized this.


Leigh April 26, 2010 - 6:43 am

“Fewer and fewer Christians are concerned with God’s reputation, with obedience, with denying self and taking up crosses.”

This nugget within the post sums up my observations. I shed many tears over a woman who formerly attended my church and facilitated Marriage Encounter, a Catholic group for shoring up rocky marriages and enhancing good ones. She divorced her husband, a co-facilitator, and married someone from an interdenominational church who did some marriage counseling, his second marriage, her third.

It’s discouraging enough, Christian divorce, which should be an oxymoron, but when the leadership succumbs to the world’s standards…God help us.

I once heard a pastor say at a wedding of a couple who were both around 40, neither had been married before, that when the ooo and aahh wears off, that’s where commitment comes in. With your quote above and this, countless marriages could be saved. Too many in church have bought yet another lie from secular culture, marriage is all about completing “me” or some other ridiculous movie line rather than realizing it is a call to loving servanthood as well as companionship and all the other wonderful fringe benefits the Lord grants us.

My husband and I have been married over 23 years and firmly intend to stay that way.

Christians should remember we made vows to the God Who said, “I hate divorce.”

Ginger April 26, 2010 - 7:48 am

Christian divorce *is* an oxymoron. Just because a couple attends church and is able to discuss theology doesn’t mean they are actually Christians. It is naive of us to assume that the couple in church who just divorced were Christians.

SavebyGrace April 26, 2010 - 8:21 am

Amen and Amen. It is a discussion I’ve had with MIL many times – she says love is a feeling and you must feel it to stay married – I say it’s a choice because we all have periods in our life when we don’t like the one we wake up with 🙂 – more than that but that’s the one I like to use 😉

More needs to be taught on this subject because so many people decide I’m not happy, phooey on this I’m leaving. It’s bad anytime but sooo disheartening when it’s a Christian couple.

Christianity ultimately boils down to obedience to Scripture. Truthfully, though, even more than that is a need for belief that the Word of God is inerrant and actually the Word of God. No one, among us, is intelligent enough to say which parts to take out and which parts to leave. After all if it’s not God’s Word but some man’s why bother to obey it at all?

“Let God be right and every man a liar” Romans 3:4

Word Warrior April 26, 2010 - 8:21 am


Well said.

“Ask not what your spouse can do for you, but what you can do for your spouse”.

That would change everything.

And just the misunderstanding I think we have about the seriousness of a covenant made to/before God.

A bizarre story in the OT tells of a Jephthah who vowed to sacrifice the first thing he saw on his return home from battle. His daughter was the first thing and by all indications, he followed through with his vow with a heavy heart. Unthinkable to us, but a revelation of the once-sacred belief that a vow made to God was kept at all costs. If we only held a fraction of that belief…

R. F. April 26, 2010 - 8:26 am

It is so true! My brother-in-law once said he wanted what my husband and me had, a happy marriage. We told him the secret, being committed to God and CHOOSING to love each other. He said, no that can’t be it. You two are just right for each other. I just need to find the right person. How sad. He is now divorced and engaged to be married again.
We are still praying for him.

Sandy April 26, 2010 - 9:06 am

GREAT post, Kelly.

The concept of commitment is lacking in many areas of our society… including within the church. Even the best of marriages have challenging times, and only commitment… to the Lord and to each other… will get us through those times.

As parents, we must choose to be intentional in passing these truths on to our children. They are bombarded by our society through media and other people to think about themselves. The world’s way of finding a mate is so shallow. Our children won’t see the higher calling within a Christian marriage unless someone diligently teaches it to them… much more than just a passing comment here or there.

Thank you for sharing, Kelly. You’ve spoken one of the passions of my heart today.

Kelly L April 26, 2010 - 10:39 am

AMEN!!!!!! “Am I giving God a bad name?” Should be a question in anything we are doing. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord.” Guess what? Whatever we do is, in the eyes of non-believers, in the name of the Lord. THEY get that verse more than WE do! Be Holy! It is time! (Not saying I am perfect, just made so by Christ’s blood).
And stop getting out because things get hard. We stick with a job, kids, and other family members when things are hard. Where did this idiot idea come from that our spouses are dispensable? Ridiculous.

Bethany Hudson April 26, 2010 - 12:28 pm

This is so true. It intrigues me that, in the Catholic Church (which used to be the status quo for all Christianity), there IS no divorce–because it IS an oxymoron, like everyone has pointed out–to have a Christian divorce. We do have annullments (for those marriages which were entered into under misperceptions or for the wrong reasons) which declare a marriage null and void, but there is no divorce within the Church. If you leave your spouse or divorce them civilly, it’s considered abandonment or separation, but you can’t be divorced within the Church. You’re still married. If you remarry while your spouse (civilly, ex-spouse) is still living, then you are simply considered to be in adultery. You can’t remarry because you’re already married. A lot of people hate this stuff, but it makes perfect sense to me. If you want to be married in Christ’s Church, then you have to abide by the rules of Christ. Otherwise, just get a civil marriage. The government gives you an easy out, if that’s what you’re after.

Kelly April 26, 2010 - 12:51 pm

Kelly, thank you for speaking the truth! I have a dear friend who is in a painful marriage with an unbeliever. She has chosen to stay to honor her covenant with God despite so many Christians telling her to “just leave.” I have thought those thoughts in my own head but I have prayed that I would always have Biblical thinking! It’s so “swimming upstream” compared to “modern” thinking.

God has changed the hearts of me and my husband in regards to how we prepare our children for marriage. Dating is no longer an option that we are willing to entertain for our children, especially given the temptations that we faced as we dated for four years! I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who wants to remain pure in the truest sense. We were both raised in Christian homes! Thankfully, my husband of almost 16 years and I have had God’s covering over our marriage despite not being adequately prepared.

Thank you again, Kelly.

Mary April 26, 2010 - 1:29 pm

The subject of marriage and divorce should be preached more and not just from the pulpit. My husband and I are shocked by how many “christian” couples we know who have divorced. The questions are always what happened and are they really christians. The church today doesn’t seem to take a stand against divorce;Nor teach the only biblical reason for doing so,adultery.(Matt5:32;Luke 16:18)If the Church would follow what the Bible says we would see less of this.(1 Corinthians 5:5-13). Walking in the Way isn’t always easy to do ;especially, when you have to encourage someone who is sinning to stop and then stop fellowshiping with them if they don’t.

Once again Kelly a pertinent topic worth discussing !!

Word Warrior April 26, 2010 - 1:30 pm


“If you leave your spouse or divorce them civilly, it’s considered abandonment or separation, but you can’t be divorced within the Church. You’re still married. If you remarry while your spouse (civilly, ex-spouse) is still living, then you are simply considered to be in adultery.”
Thank you for bringing that up. This, to me, is a point that can’t be avoided and is one of the main factors in the flippancy of divorce. If you get a “redo” then divorce is an attractive option. But if people understood that “if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress.” Romans 7:3 it would change everything about the way we looked at it.

Just as a qualifier, I have heard a good explanation of “the symbolic death of a spouse” if he breaks covenant (adultery) that entertains the idea of a spouse being free to remarry; my husband and I are still not sure where we stand on that, but it is worth considering.

Lori April 26, 2010 - 1:44 pm

Kelly, regarding divorce and remarriage, you really need to read “Second Chance” by Rev. Ray Sutton, available free here:


Bethany Hudson April 26, 2010 - 1:47 pm

Kelly- I’ve heard arguments for that, as well. As a Catholic, obiviously, I can’t support that line of thinking, but I couldn’t for biblical reasons, either. See, there’s a part of me that wants to be able to give an abandoned spouse the comfort of being able to remarry (this happened with my own mother, so it’s personal), but then Matthew 5:32 gets in my way: “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” So, to marry a divorced person is considered adultery, regardless of the circumstances. So rough, but I know that God has his reasons.

Diane April 26, 2010 - 2:47 pm


Jennifer April 26, 2010 - 5:34 pm

It’s not that cut and dry Bethany, thank God. I used to think so, but please read these words by a poster on Stacy Mcdonald’s blog:

“I feel this is worth a look at the Biblical terminology used here. I believe the KJV is the only version that correctly translates the word “apoluo” as “putting away.”

At that time among the Jews, there existed a practiced called “putting away.” If the wife displeased her husband, he could put her away by sending her away, without divorcing her. She wouldn’t be legally free from the marital relationship, but she wouldn’t be living with the husband. If she remarried in this instance, the husband would be forcing her to commit adultery, since she was still legally bound to him.

BUT, as Jesus says, if the husband puts away his wife because she committed adultery, then she’s ALREADY an adulteress. The husband can’t MAKE her an adulteress by putting her away… she already IS in that circumstance. We’re interpreting His statement as an “exception,” when it seems to be merely a clarifier.

I think we need to look at this passage in cultural context as well as examine the exegesis in order to make sense of it properly.

Furthermore, we should consider what an interpretation of “divorce and remarriage only in cases of adultery” implies for those who have divorced and remarried for reasons other than marital unfaithfulness, and then whether or not such an interpretation makes sense in light of such. Let’s say they are committed Christians in love with the Lord. Umm… is that just in their heads and they’re really going to hell? Maybe it’s okay if they weren’t a Christian at the time? Their children from such a relationship are damned? They’re saved but God really begrudgingly extends salvation to them and doesn’t care for them much? Maybe it’s okay if the spouse actually had physical relations, but not okay if it was p*rnography, or maybe if the spouse pursued an affair with someone else but they turned him/her down, that’s not actual s*x and therefore is fine? If someone who divorces is a Christian, then God takes away their salvation? Jesus said whoever looks at a woman lustfully commits adultery with her in his heart. So is divorce and remarriage in such an instance permissible? What *exactly* is meant by “God doesn’t allow it?” People still do it, so God doesn’t zap them dead instantly. Does this really mean “God despises this practice? God sends you to hell? Your future Christian life is ruined, so just give up and live however you want?”

These questions that inevitably arise from such an interpretation seem to conflict directly with other Christian beliefs, such as positional justification, eternal security of the believer, monergism, irresistible grace, and so on. Clearly divorce isn’t God’s best, regardless of how one interprets this passage”.

Jennifer April 26, 2010 - 5:38 pm

Marriage is mainly about love, though not the fairy-tale tripe we see flashed around these days. It IS vital that the couple is in love, that they share a love that’s unique between them and this can only happen if they were created/ordained for each other by God; if they weren’t, they can’t choose to make themselves be or to fall in love. Falling in love isn’t a choice, but staying in love and keeping the Godly covenant of marriage alive through Christian love is definitely a choice. I think Piper has a great balance between choosing to commit and the importance of real love; his poems to his wife prove the latter 🙂

Jennifer April 26, 2010 - 5:40 pm

Some spouses are weak and leave when the spark dies out, whereas others sometimes really do find themselves married to the wrong person, usually done out of carelessness or mere “romance”. Either situation is a great tragedy, using marriage loosely, whether by breaking it easily or creating it flippantly.

Jennifer April 26, 2010 - 6:22 pm

I think Jepthah was an EXCELLENT example of why we should not take vows loosely, including marriage; his particular case showed the importance not of keeping vows, but of not MAKING them with so little thought. He was a fool indeed.

Bethany Hudson April 26, 2010 - 6:28 pm

Jennifer – I wasn’t sure if you were playind Devil’s Advocate with some of the questions you pose, but I think we are coming from very different places on this issue. I do not believe that because someone chooses to sin (even a mortal sin like adultery) that it means they were never a Christian or that they are necessarily going to Hell. That is the beauty of hope and repentance. It ain’t over til it’s over, and God’s saving grace is always being offered to each and every one of us. But, then, you do mention some theological terms that seem to indicate Reformed leanings, so of course, our theologies on this would be extremely different.

In any case, I agree that it’s not “cut and dry”. A single proof text does not a theology make. I was merely offering it as one sticking point for me. But, as I said, I am a Catholic, and I trust the interpretation and apostolic authority of the Church in this matter. As I said, annullments can be sought–and are all the time, and separation from an unhealthy or dangerous relationship is a perfectly legitimate route for some men and women to take. However, I would never be able to support remarriage for divorced persons with living spouses. It is against my own personal conviction, against my interpretation of Scripture, and against my faith.

Of course, Christians will come to different positions on this issue. That is the natural result of our diverse denominations. We differ on our interpretations of Scripture on many fronts–that’s why we have different sects. The issue of divorce is no different. In fact, this exact issue caused a deep fissure in the friendship of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein. Lewis was married to a divorcee and Tolkein (a Catholic) counselled his friend against the marriage.

Anyway, I think that it is an important discussion to have: how Christians approach marriage. Whatever our thoughts on remarriage, I think we can all agree that the divorce rate within the Church is truly tragic.

SavebyGrace April 26, 2010 - 6:34 pm

“People still do it, so God doesn’t zap them dead instantly. Does this really mean “God despises this practice? God sends you to hell? Your future Christian life is ruined, so just give up and live however you want?””

We shouldn’t confuse God’s Holiness and patience with a lack of Holy Judgment:

Romans 9:18-23
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
If we consider the Scripture, it plainly says that divorce was “out of the hardness of the heart”- Mark 10:5-9. It doesn’t actually ever say that divorce is acceptable to our Father at all. As a matter of fact it says the opposite “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder”. Divorce is not acceptable but tolerated out of the hardness of our heart.

Marriage is a covenant and is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church. Jesus doesn’t divorce us when we are unloveable but instead He loves us through those times. I know there are plenty of times when I am unloveable to God. We are to be an example and should CHOOSE to love our spouse no matter what.

BTW, Hi Jennifer 🙂

Jennifer April 26, 2010 - 6:53 pm

Hi, Bethany. Me Reformed, as in a Calvinist? Heh, NO. I wasn’t playing Devil’s Advocate either, just quoting someone else. If I’d realized the quote went THAT far, no doubt addressing something entirely different on the separate blog where it was posted, I wouldn’t have included the whole thing.

Hi Grace!

Jennifer April 26, 2010 - 9:01 pm

If anyone here likes Fireproof and similar movies, you’ve got to see No Greater Love. It’s amazing!

Mrs. Santos April 27, 2010 - 1:40 am

“…to speak the truth with our lives” I love that.

It is Christ in us, the hope of glory, no longer us who live but Christ who lives in us.

Sometimes, it seems we are more willing to speak truth to outsiders than to our spouses and children. We can turn the other cheek when it comes to the clerk at the grocery store, but when it is our child or husband who offends, well, then they are going to hear about it.

We SHOULD be speaking the truth with our life at home. Great post and blessings to you.

JennyO April 27, 2010 - 10:33 am

Well put! I was speaking to a single person last night, they were asking how they “know”. I told them, “Ask God if it is His will first and ask yourself is our joining glorifying God. Is marriage going to make my relationship with God stronger. Will our marriage cause others to seek God more or less?”
I love the statement, “If holiness doesn’t drive our approach to marriage, we have no business touching it.” I sent this to that person, I pray it will help them 🙂 This posting was in the Holy Ghost (As are all your posts) Thank you

TJL May 2, 2010 - 2:19 pm

my ex, a pastors son, born and raised in the church, was an adulterer.
After 27 years of marriage the ‘latest’ other woman became the focus of his life.
After 27 years of marriage I am healing from years of my self esteem crumbling.
He alone has to face his demons for his behaviors, and the pain he caused child and family.
I am once again strong and learned to never again sacrifice more for a man than he would for me.

marthabarrington July 13, 2010 - 10:11 am

Could it be that your ex was never truly converted-just was”trained”in christianity but never truly had that change in his life? Or did he just get caught up in sin+ christians do sin. David of old sinned but he grieved over it. I think that could be one difference between a true believer and a false one.I know of lots of pk’s who have sinned. Some repent and walk with the Lord again, but there will always be consequences of sin. As you mentioned, you can’t take away the years of hurt and pain caused by that sin. Only God can heal that pain. So, we have to be careful as parents-we need to see a true work of grace in the hearts and lives of our children Not an emotional decision to pacify us or someone else.

Leanne July 13, 2010 - 7:59 pm

“Dating is no longer an option that we are willing to entertain for our children”
As a mother of grown children, I have some thoughts I would like to share in this area. While they are living at home, you can certainly not allow your children to date while teaching them the dangers of dating, and I believe you should do that. However, ultimately it is their decision whether or not they will date. It is fairly easy to keep teens on board with courtship, but it can become more difficult as they grow older and possibly move away.

So, as you discuss this with your teens, I would make it a point to frequently give them questions to think about and remind them that one day they are going to have to decide what they will do regarding dating (while being clear about what you believe they should decide). Young adults respond well to their parents showing that they have confidence in their children to make good decisions.

Some questions to ask:
What constitutes a date? Is it a date if you go to lunch in the community college cafeteria with someone? How about if you meet someone at Starbucks to study? etc.
For a daughter… What if you are 28 years old and don’t even know any eligible courtship-minded guys? What if you meet a really nice, solid Christian guy who doesn’t know about courtship and he asks you out? You know that if you tell him he needs to talk to your dad it will probably weird him out, and he’ll run the other direction. Would it be reasonable to adjust your expectations about courtship at that time? Why or why not?
If you can’t think of any good questions, ask courtship-minded parents with kids in their 20’s and they’ll be able to tell you some.

Speaking of that 28 year old daughter, it is important for you to realize and for your daughters to realize that many guys from courtship-minded families will either abandon their courtship convictions, or they will court a girl who was not raised with those convictions. Conversely, very few guys who were NOT raised with courtship convictions will be interested in entering into a courtship (some, but not many). The logical conclusion is that many girls who hold to courtship convictions will not ever marry. If you look around the Christian homeschooling world, you will see this. There are many, many lovely Christian young ladies hitting 30 and beyond who remain unmarried. This is a truth that your daughters need to understand as they make this decision.

Jennifer July 13, 2010 - 10:32 pm

Very true, Leanne. The reason the strictest form of courtship falls flat with me is that your whole darn neighborhood and church practically need to be in on the practice in order for it to work.

Irene May 18, 2012 - 11:26 am

Please kindly give a little exposition on what Holiness is..
Would it be grounds enough to exit a relationship ?


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