In just a few months, my husband and I will celebrate five years of marriage. As is typical with milestones, I've found myself looking back on the last half decade and reflecting on how we've grown: I've learned to be more patient; I've learned to trust my husband's instincts about people; I've learned to stop asking questions that I already know the answer to ("Honey, have you taken the trash out today?"); and I've learned that marriage takes work, but it is the most gratifying, enjoyable work I've ever done.
When my husband and I got married, we laid down guardrails to help us honor our commitment to one another. Some of those guardrails include going to a marriage counselor once a month, making time for weekly date nights, and never lying to one another. We do all this and much more because we take our marriage commitment seriously, and we believe it matters.
In that sense, my husband and I are not unique. A lot of Christians are serious about marriage. Between the books, the articles, and the conferences devoted to upholding marriage, Christians are giving it a lot of time and thought.
However, there is a second commitment that the two of us honor, one that is just as important as our commitment to marriage. It's our commitment to our church.
Lessons from marriage
This might sound weird, but our commitment to a local church is almost as important as our commitment to each other. Yes, the comparison has limits—for instance, you can't take your church with you when you move—but it's not something we take lightly. To us, leaving a church is almost as serious a thing as leaving a marriage.
This level of commitment might sound extreme, but the marriage/church analogy is not original to us. In Ephesians 5, Paul draws an extended comparison between marriage and the church. As he conceives of it, both marriage and the church are two God-given institutions that shed light on one another.
Paul's metaphor has given my husband and me a framework for thinking about our relationship with the church. In fact, many of the biblical principles underlying marital commitment have helped us to better understand our commitment to the local church. As we continue to learn what it means to live faithfully in Christian community, here are four guiding principles that remind us why both marriage and the church matter so much to God.