Many Christians believe that changing aspects of who we are is a central component of transforming into a more sacrificial Christlike person. They feel a need or pressure to sacrifice themselves—who they are, what they want, how they feel—for those they love.

In many cases, one partner gives in more readily than the other. Some even embrace giving in as their main purpose in marriage.

A woman named Sandra compared her lifetime of marital sacrifice to Christ’s sacrifice of His life on the cross. “Sacrifice is what Jesus did,” Sandra said. “It’s what a Christian does. It’s what a spouse does. For me, wearing a wedding ring is like carrying a cross. I do it all for them. I must die to myself.”

Only twice in the entire Bible are we told to do something every day. Hebrews 3:13 says we are to “encourage one another day after day” (nasb), and Luke 9:23 says believers are to take up their cross daily. So isn’t sacrificing yourself—who you are, what you want, how you feel, for those you love and for God—what a loving spouse and faithful follower of Christ does? After all, sacrifice is a main theme in the Bible:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son. John 3:16

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

By this we know love, that he [Jesus Christ] laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

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In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

People think that because of their worthlessness outside of Christ, they need to continually sacrifice…

The Truth is that we are Called to Sacrifice

The lie, however, is a twisting of the truth. And that distortion leads to an unfortunate sequence of beliefs and behaviors: People often mistakenly interpret “die to self” and “carry my cross” to mean that they need to see others as more important than they are, as fundamentally of greater value. Thus, people think that because of their worthlessness outside of Christ, they need to continually sacrifice—to keep giving regardless of their well-being and regardless of how much it hurts. Somehow, the result of all of that is supposed to bless the Lord and bless others. But as we’ve already shown, the common results lead to statements like these:

  • “I’ve tried to be faithful and sacrificial, but there’s no ‘me’ left.”
  • “I don’t even know who I am anymore, what I want, how I feel.”
  • “I feel dead inside.”
  • “I’m exhausted.”
  • “I feel cheated.”

While we appreciate Sandra’s commitment, we don’t really believe God designed marriage to be a means of torture and death. You can’t have a great marriage without sacrifice, but if you miss the true essence of what God is actually calling us to, you end up sacrificing too much of yourself. So how did Sandra convince herself that marriage is a form of crucifixion? These were her thoughts:

  1. God gave His son for us. John 3:16, one of the most popular verses in the Bible, spells out this loving sacrifice: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
  2. We should give our lives for Him and for others. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is unique, but it provides a model for how we should love each other sacrificially: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).
  3. Other people matter more than I do. The previous two statements are rock-solid biblical truths. Sandra’s third idea comes from her own history and life experience, and it worries us. It reflects a common next step in the thought process. There’s a fine line between true humility and its counterfeits: self-doubt, self-loathing, and/or self-betrayal.
  4. I must sacrifice (change/alter) who I am for the sake of our marriage. Paul pleaded with followers of Christ to walk in humility: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). It all makes sense, doesn’t it? Can you see how easy it is to follow this line of thinking? But Paul wasn’t talking about Sandra and her husband. Philippians 2:3 is not a teaching on marriage, a topic that Paul addresses in other letters. Paul is urging believers to respect their fellow brothers and sisters as equals rather than promoting themselves.

Remember for a moment that the author of lies is our mortal Enemy, Satan. His purposes are to steal, kill, and destroy, while in contrast Jesus came for us to have life to the full (see John 10:10). Satan’s goal is to tear us down in order to render us ineffective. Jesus’ intent is to build us up in Him in order to fully empower us.

The battle between the two is real, and we already know who wins in the end. However, if Satan can twist the truth in our minds, causing us to operate outside of the Lord’s design and protection, the Enemy can destroy us as individuals. He may not ultimately win the war, but he wins the battle for our souls. He picks us off one at a time.

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9 Lies That Will Destroy Your Marriage: And the Truths That Will Save It and Set It Free

Taken from 9 Lies That Will Destroy Your Marriage by Robert Paul and Greg Smalley. Copyright © 2020. Used by permission of Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.