My wife and I just celebrated our 32nd marriage anniversary. Considering this experience, and the fact that I have read more than my fair share of marriage books, both secular and Christian, I have discovered that one of the defining characteristics of all successful marriages is that they are sacrificial and deferential to their partner. So what do I mean by “viciously competitive”? Romans 12:10 sums it up, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” In a sense, this verse is endorsing a competition to outdo the other. Think about how many marriages would be positively impacted if spouses had the attitude of out-serving or out-loving their spouse. Can you imagine a husband saying, “Aw shucks, you beat me again, you loved me more than I loved you, you always beat me…that is not fair?” When we are other focused and sacrificial in our marriages we are more likely to have a successful marriage.
Marriages struggle when one or both of the spouses become self-focused. We “keep records of wrongs” (c.f. 1 Corinthians 13:5) or a tally sheet to ensure things are fair and equal. James Hunter says, “Anyone who ever said marriage was 50/50 probably wasn’t married very long.” [1]  If you are not 100% committed to making your marriage work, as though its success is 100% dependent on you, then your marriage is in trouble. Make a commitment here and now to live as if 100% of your marriage’s success is dependent on your ownership through God’s help and support. Remember what Jesus says in John 15:5b, “for apart from Me you can do nothing.” You must only worry about your part, how you will outdo serving, honoring, and loving your spouse. You can only do so through God’s help and relying on Him to deal with how your spouse responds and how “fair” it is.  
[1] James C. Hunter, The Servant, xvii

by Michael Burner

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