Daily Devotionals

Christian Marriage

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Scripture: “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” – John 13:15

When Kathy and I got married 30 years ago, the New Testament reading we chose was a (lengthy) selection from the 13th chapter of John. John 13, of course, is not about marriage. It finds Jesus in the upper room with the 12 sharing the Passover meal on the night in which he was betrayed. It is a dark and heavy scene, somewhat out of sync with the joy and revelry of a wedding. Weddings are about optimism and possibility not about betrayal, denial, and death. (Maybe that’s why, in the scores of weddings I have officiated since then, I have never had a couple ask for John 13 to be read….)

John 13 is not about marriage, but it is very much about discipleship. It is about humility, service, and mutuality. It is about the essential dignity of every human being in the sight of God. Jesus doesn’t just wash the feet of Andrew, James, and John – the more or less good disciples; Jesus also washes the feet of the denier- Peter, the doubter- Thomas, and the betrayer- Judas. There is a seat at the table for each one of them. No one is too flawed for Jesus to love. 

Christ has set us an example of how we are to relate to one another by taking on the role of a servant and doing the most menial task in the household. That’s what Jesus wants from his disciples. Those are the terms of entry into the disciple community. There is a seat at the table for everyone. No one is too lost, flawed, or despised for Jesus to touch. There is nothing Jesus won’t do to show us the depth of love God has for us. There is nothing we can do to one another that the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ can’t restore and reconcile. 

So, that’s what John 13 has to say about Christian marriage. Christian marriage unites us in a covenant where we know we are not perfect and don’t expect our partner to be perfect. Like the disciples gathered around that table, we are flawed and capable of the worst acts of disloyalty. Christian marriage is a union of the flawed but not forgotten; the flawed but not rejected; the flawed but forgiven; the flawed but still beloved.  

It follows, then, that what strengthens and enriches Christian marriages more than anything else is strong, committed, enriched Christian discipleship. The habits of the heart that cultivate humility, mutuality, service, gratitude, mercy, and love are the raw material of healthy, durable marriages. Christian lives united in Christian marriage become the living stones that God combines with other disciples – the single, widowed, divorced, and celibate – to build the spiritual house that is the full expression of God’s holy people. 

Prayer: Lord, you have given us a new commandment that we love another just as you have loved us. Give us sufficient humility and grace to accept the invitation of Jesus to live differently, to act mercifully, and to love selflessly. Amen.

Submitted by Rev. Dr. Douglass Key