Would you say that you have a good marriage? Some of you might answer this question in the affirmative (hopefully your spouse would, too); others might acknowledge that there remains a lot of work to do before you would claim to have a good marriage.
But why aspire to having a good marriage in any case? Just to be able to feel good about having a good marriage? And what does it mean to have a “good marriage”? When is a marriage a good marriage? If it is better than most other marriages of the people we know?
I submit to you that “Do you have a good marriage?” is the wrong question to ask. A better question to ask would be, “Does your marriage glorify God?” Is yours a God-glorifying, God-honoring marriage?
Rather than viewing having a good marriage as an end in itself, or using a human, relative standard of comparing our marriages with those of others or with some ideal set up by some popular current book on the subject, the goal of a God-glorifying marriage grounds the relationship with our spouse where it ought to be grounded: in the eternal, sovereign plan of God.
What, then, is a God-glorifying marriage, according to Scripture? Among other things, it means this:
(1) Both spouses are growing in Christ (“in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ,” Eph. 4:15)—not just the husband (husbands have a God-given responsibility to nurture their wives spiritually, Eph. 5:25–28) or just the wife (a sad reality in many marriages where the husband is spiritually passive).
(2) Both spouses exhibit fruit, both physically (children) and spiritually (they are engaged in Christian service, individually and jointly). For a couple to be fruitful and multiply is at the very heart of God’s purpose in creation (Gen. 1:26–28), and we should not sinfully put self above having and bringing up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (or consider adoption if a couple cannot have children).
(3) The marriage is between Spirit-filled disciples of Christ (Eph. 5:18) who are committed to his Lordship and authority over all things. He is the center of God’s plan, not them, or even their marriage (Eph. 1:10). A truly God-honoring marriage does not (ultimately) focus on the family; it focuses on God in Christ.
In a marriage like this, the husband and wife are too busy growing in Christ and serving him in tandem, and with their family, than to ask, “Do we have a good marriage?” A good marriage they have, but not because having a good marriage is ultimately their aspiration, but because anything we do in life that seeks to bring honor and glory to God (including how we conduct our marriage) will result in blessing.
May God be increasingly glorified in our marriages, for his greater glory and for our good.
For a full-fledged treatment on marriage and the family within God’s overarching purpose in Christ see God, Marriage & Family (2d ed.; Crossway, 2010).