Throughout history, and still in parts of the world today, some Christians may sadly have no choice about the person they will marry, and may even be forced by family or society to marry against their will. However, if God has blessed you with the privilege of choosing whom you will marry, it is your responsibility to make a good decision. After all, every Christian’s first responsibility is to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), and after you are married, for the rest of your life your husband or wife will probably be the most significant influence on your walk with Jesus.
We are not alone
Thankfully, we are not alone in making this decision: God wants to help us! The Bible is “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path” (Psalm 119:105), and gives us enough instructions to “thoroughly equip” us “for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17) – which obviously includes the good work of marriage!
God only has some very basic rules for us about whom we can marry. Marriage is between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24) who are not closely related to each other (Leviticus 20:17) and who are not already married to somebody else (Romans 7:2-3). God’s final rule is that Christians may only marry other Christians (1 Corinthians 7:39; 2 Corinthians 6:14). As long as we stay within these rules, then God has given us the freedom to marry whoever we like (1 Corinthians 7:39)! However, as with any decision, it is important to pray to God for wisdom (James 1:5) and to receive advice from other people (Proverbs 15:22).
How we should live together
Once we are married, God has much more to tell us about how husbands and wives should live together. Therefore, to make the very best decision about whom to marry, it is a good idea to think carefully beforehand about God’s pattern for marriage, and to discuss it with the person you are thinking of marrying. It is also important that we don’t spend so much time wondering whether the other person is “right” for us that we forget to ask whether we are “right” for them! Here are some of the most significant things to think through.
When you are married, it will be your responsibility to love your wife unconditionally every day, just like Jesus loved us and gave His life for us (Ephesians 5:25). This will mean putting her interests before your own in every decision, and being ready to sacrifice anything, however small or big, that keeps your wife from flourishing as a Christian (Ephesians 5:25-30). To do this well, you must be committed to listen to her carefully and discuss matters with her thoughtfully so you can understand her better and better (1 Peter 3:7). If you are not ready, with God’s help, to do this faithfully for the woman you love for as long as you both shall live, you are not the right husband for her.
When you are married, it will be your responsibility to love your husband unconditionally every day (Titus 2:4) and submit to him just as the church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5:22). This will mean being ready to stand beside him loyally and support him in every decision, even when you think he might be wrong (Ephesians 5:22-24). To do this well, you will need to put your trust fully in God (1 Peter 3:1-6). Unless you are ready, with God’s help, to do this faithfully for the man you love for as long as you both shall live, you are not the right wife for him.
Of course, Christian men and women are sinful people living in a sinful world, and this will not change after you are married. Throughout your married life, you will both need to regularly give and receive each other’s forgiveness (Colossians 3:13). It is a good idea to look for evidence of this in your relationship beforehand.
The non-Christian world today puts a very high priority on physical attractiveness. Of course, this is important between husband and wife (Song of Solomon) because of the new responsibilities you will have to each other after you are married (1 Corinthians 7:3-5), but be careful not to give appearance too high an importance: “charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
In summary: think of marriage as a triangle, with Jesus at the top corner, and the husband and wife at the two bottom corners. As the husband and wife get closer to Jesus, they will also get closer to each other. If God gives you an opportunity to choose whom to marry, choose someone who will help you to get closer to Jesus. That is the kind of marriage that will flourish.