God created marriage to bless and fulfill us, and it will only do that if we serve each other. For one thing, we can’t meet our own needs. If we could, we wouldn’t get married! And secondly, we are sworn to fidelity. We are at each other’s mercy. That’s why marriage only works if a husband and wife serve each other.
But there are problems that get in the way of this. Here are four of the biggest ones. If they are present in your life or marriage, you will need to overcome them in order to create a healthy marriage.
1. People are selfish
Marriage is brutal on selfish people. If you are selfish, you are going to have a difficult time being married. (I was very selfish early in our marriage, and that’s one big reason Karen and I almost divorced.)
I’ve spoken and written before about the idea of a Heaven Marriage and a Hell Marriage. It’s not biblically accurate, but it’s a great visual reminder. Imagine that the afterlife is a big banquet table with couples sitting across from each other. Everyone has long utensils strapped to their hands. The utensils are too long for each person to get food and bring it to their mouths. No one can feed themselves.
In Heaven’s banquet, each couple adapts by feeding each other across the table. They are serving each other. But in Hell’s banquet, everyone is trying to feed themselves—and they are starving. You can choose to have a Heaven Marriage or a Hell Marriage based on your willingness to serve your spouse rather than yourself.
2. People can be dominant
You’ll never have intimacy in a marriage when one spouse is dominant or controlling over the relationship. I was dominant of Karen when we first married.
The dominance of one spouse prevents an equal relationship. It says, “You’re here to take care of me, but I’m not necessarily here to take care of you.” It is a sin to dominate another person. This destroys intimacy and goodwill in a marriage—and the partner being dominated resents it. Dominance only changes when you repent.
3. People are ignorant about serving
The world’s concept of success devalues those in a position of service and praises those being served. We prize wealth, power and privilege! But that’s not what the Bible values. As Jesus said in Matthew 23:11-12, “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Think about your favorite restaurant, bank branch, school or store. The best employees at those places are always servants. The best marriages are also filled with servants. The greatest marriage is two servants in love and the worst marriage is two selfish people in love. You will always be happiest when you are serving.
4. People are ignorant about God’s nature
Most of us are familiar with the Bible story in John 13 about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper. We tend to be less familiar with a story after that, when the resurrected Jesus serves a breakfast of fish and bread to the disciples (John 21).
If anyone in the universe should be exempt from serving, it would be God. But He is the best example of sacrificial love and what it means to serve others. In fact, Ephesians 5 says God created marriage to reveal His character.
The marriages that best demonstrate the character of Christ are servant marriages—in other words, a “Heaven marriage”—where the husband serves his wife, the wife serves her husband, and both are committed to meeting each other’s needs.