The Delightful Duties of a Christian Marriage

August 09, 2023

The Delightful Duties of a Christian Marriage

John Calvin wrote and had recorded literally thousands of pages. Guess how much was devoted to the topic of marriage? Very little. Nonetheless, it was extremely important to him. We know this because in August of 1540 John Calvin married Idelette van Buren. Her husband had died, after a bout with the plaque a couple of years earlier, leaving her with two children. We do not know a lot about their relationship. However, it’s obvious from the various letters he wrote, their marriage was a biblical one, and, therefore, a happy one. We get a small window into it when Idelette died in 1549. Calvin wrote to a friend,

I have been bereaved of the best companion of my life. During her life she was the faithful helper of my ministry. From her I never experienced the slightest hindrance.  She was never troublesome to me throughout the entire course of her illness …

His words reveal that Idelette was a wife who gave herself to helping her husband. And from all evidence, Calvin was a husband who delighted in and sacrificially loved his wife. So much so, Calvin commented to a friend that had lost his beloved,

“What a terrible injury, what a pain the death of your wife has caused you, and I speak from my own experience. For even now I fully know how difficult it was, seven years ago now, to deal with such a grief.”

Even after nearly a decade, Calvin still felt the sting of losing his bride. And their marriage was an anomaly during the 16th century. The way in which husbands and wives related to each other, during this time, was characterized by anything but biblical commands. Marriage relationships were marked by abuse, harshness, manipulation, control, disrespect, selfishness, and an overall lack of intimacy. 

The Milieu of Marriage in America

If we think about our own day, it is really no different. And sadly, this is true in the church. If recent statistics are generally accurate, the divorce rate in the US for those outside professing Christian congregations is almost the same as those inside it (which not only says something about the state of the Evangelical Church but also marriages in it). And this conclusion is drawn by just focusing on divorce rates. Imagine what the data would say about overall happiness and contentment in the marriage relationship.

How can the church in America take a stand for biblical marriage in our declining culture when her own marriages are in shambles? As someone mentioned to me a while back, perhaps this is one reason why so many in our society do not take us seriously about what constitutes marriage. Our message holds little weight when relationships between husbands and wives in the church are so dysfunctional. Amongst Believers, many husbands are domineering or disinterested in lovingly leading. Many wives are depressed because of an authoritarian man or deviously un-submissive to him.

The Delightful Duties of Marriage

This is not how marriage is supposed to be. The heart of a Christian marriage is a delightful duty where husbands love, and wives serve. Where both, who are one in Christ, fulfill Holy Spirit inspired roles given in Scripture (Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19). Husbands are called to love, cherish, and sacrifice for their wives. Wives are challenged to encourage, honor, and yield to the leadership of their husbands. Are these duties easy? Not always. Given our sinfulness, marriage can be tough. But the difficulty should never overshadow the delightfulness of marriage.

How is it possible for husbands and wives not to get lost in ‘the problems of marriage?’ How is it they can understand their roles? What does it mean for a husband to lead and love, and a wife to help and submit? How does the Gospel reorient and reinforce marriage? And what kind of impact does any of this have for those who are not married? Over the next several weeks, we are going to explore these questions? 

— Pastor Clif