One of the most unusual verses in the Bible about marriage might be 1 Corinthians 7:29 (NLT).

But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage.

Wrongly interpreted, this passage could lead to terrible applications. If we don’t understand and apply this verse correctly, we will miss out on much of God’s intention for our marriage.

Paul is inspiring us to enjoy our marriages in ways that benefit us for all eternity rather than merely in this life only. He warns us not to be short-sighted. There is a real danger, even in Christian marriages of selfishness and internalizing our world with little consideration for what’s outside of our front door.

This is where Christian couples should not be shortsighted and become preoccupied with their marriage only. Working toward building a happy marriage is a credible goal, but we shouldn’t be devoted to marriage above all things. If not marriage, then where should our focus be?

Paul asks us to be in focus with Christ and all that He desires for our world.

God gives us many benefits and pleasures in marriage. These benefits should gladden us and free us to serve Christ more. They shouldn’t deaden us to a lost and suffering world outside our marriage. A great danger for good marriages is to become so consumed with enjoying all the blessings of marriages that we begin to ignore the need all around us. 

If I’m living in my own world, I’ll easily turn a deaf ear to those around me. I’ll be consumed with using all my time, energy, and money to serve my spouse and myself. I will spare little to no time to serve others.

Author and teacher, John Piper, instills the wisdom of living with a wartime mentality. Live as though you’re serving on a battleship most of the time, not as though you’re on a cruise ship for fun. There is a spiritual war for souls being waged all around us. As a married couple, we should care for one another’s souls but also for many others’ outside our marriage.

How can our marriage best serve the world?

As a Christian married couple, consider another perspective. View yourselves as a team called by God to serve this world. Yes, there’ll be much serving inside the home but consider a higher level of serving outside of the home. Contemplate: 1) What’s best for our team? How can our team best serve this world?

There might be times when a couple decides they need a night at home to spend together because they’re both exhausted. But there may be other nights where they could invite a new couple in their neighborhood on a double date to welcome them to the neighborhood. It’ll take much wisdom and prayer to decide how to best apply this in each marriage, but it’s an important conversation to have.

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I have a friend in full-time ministry who says, “Don’t sacrifice your marriage. But marriages do make sacrifices.” We must learn to strike this balance.

Serving Others with Balance is Important

John and Nicole are a couple with a child who has special needs, which is very hard and oftentimes exhausting. In addition, their daily work schedule includes full-time ministry where Nicole particularly enjoys sharing the love of Christ with people (she has the spiritual gift of evangelism). However, when John and Nicole have an opportunity to plan a date night and hire a babysitter, Nicole frequently spends the majority of her time conversing with the server about their church, ministry, God’s love for the world, and seldom focuses her energy on John. Disagreement follows and the date night ends up not being an evening either one fully enjoys. John feels discouraged and shared, ”Our work and ministry is to share God’s love with people all week! I need an hour or two a week to just talk and connect with my wife with no distractions. Otherwise, I miss her full attention and presence. If Nicole wants to go to the restaurant on her own for lunch or dinner and share away, I’m fully behind her with that approach.”

I rarely, if ever, want to counsel Christians to not share the message of the gospel. But in this case, I believe John has a very valid perspective. Nicole is potentially sacrificing connection with John in ways that might become detrimental to their long-term marital health. Seeking wisdom from a mentor couple or counselor would help John and Nicole navigate this stalemate.

Steps Toward Joint Purpose

Another couple, Greg and Kelly, recent college graduates are coming out of a season of long hours of studying and writing papers for their coursework. They met during school and married recently. Several months after the wedding, Greg started playing pick-up basketball at a local gym to keep up with his weekly exercise. He met many unchurched people and sensed a vision and a burden to minister to the men on the league. He decided to invite them over to the house for a weekly meal and Bible study. 

He made one new husband mistake; he didn’t ask Kelly. She didn’t respond well. “I don’t want people in our new home! I did all of that outreach while in college and I’m married now. I want to enjoy as much time alone with my husband as I can!” Kelly doesn’t feel her spiritual gift is one of hospitality and doesn’t like the idea of cooking for strangers.

After further discussion and prayer with Greg, Kelly began to see the drive and passion within Greg to love the men and their families well. They came up with a plan together to cook two meals a month, then asked the men on the league if they could bring food the other weeks or contribute to takeout. Eventually, Kelly came to know the wives and girlfriends of the men on the basketball league – forming wonderful friendships.

Practically Speaking

Maintaining a balance of “us time” and “building into the lives of others time” has its challenges in our busy days and weeks.   I would encourage every Christian couple to talk, pray, and plan. Ask God to give you wisdom about where you can serve together to advance His cause on this earth.

Holding on to Marriage too Tightly

Deep down we might not really believe or trust God’s purpose and direction for our lives as enough to sustain us. We feel we must grasp tightly to all we can glean in this life and leave little time or space to see beyond the walls of our home. This approach of inward focus, rather than outward focus, limit your growth as a couple.

Our marriages should be a high priority in this life, but not the highest. Christ is our guide. He must be at the forefront of all decisions. I believe deeply that He wants us to enjoy the gifts of marriage, but He wants the blessings of marriage to free us to serve more in this needy world. Don’t let fear hinder you from serving others. Rather, let God’s great love launch you out into the world with a heart of compassion, ready to serve together as a married couple.

Copyright © 2020 Olan Stubbs, used with permission.