Marriage is a covenant. In the Bible, the word covenant means “to cut.” You don’t make a covenant, you cut a covenant. Every time a covenant appears in the Bible, blood is involved. Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). That means sacrifice is central to the idea of a covenant. It is a sacrificial, permanent relationship in which something is to stay together.
The wedding vows we take are covenant vows. When we say, “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health,” we are stating the vows of a sacrificial covenant relationship.
Unfortunately, our society has turned marriage from a covenant relationship into a contractual relationship. A sacrificial covenant says, “I surrender my rights and I assume responsibilities.” A contract says, “I protect my rights and I limit my responsibilities.”
In doing so, we act as if marriage doesn’t require sacrifice. We’re wrong.
A covenant marriage is built upon two individuals who roll up their sleeves and say, “I’ll do whatever it takes to make this marriage work. We are going to stay together.”
That’s why a sacrificial covenant mentality is central to building a lasting marriage. Whatever the issues are in the relationship, both individuals are going to stay together. Both are dedicated to fixing it. Both will sacrifice to save it.
I like to compare this mentality to the difference between someone who owns a house and someone who merely rents one. If you’re renting and your house is discovered to have a serious foundation problem, you’re not going to shell out $40,000 to fix it. It’s too expensive. You’re going to move out. You’ll find something else.
But if you own the house — if it’s your family home, if all your memories are there — then you’ll probably pay that expense. You’re all in because you’re an owner. You value the home. You do whatever it takes to keep it secure.
A couple with a covenant marriage thanks God for the good times, but when the bad times hit, they’re still dedicated to protecting the “home.” They aren’t renting. They don’t have one foot out the door.
In one University of Chicago survey, a sociologist surveyed a group of self-described unhappy couples. They were miserable in their marriages. But five years later, she discovered that 85 percent of these couples were still married and decided to stay together. So she studied what they had in common.
The first thing they shared was a strong work ethic. They didn’t mind putting in sustained effort to improve their marriage.
The second thing was the friendships they shared. They had friends who didn’t value divorce. Instead, their friends pushed them to improve their marriage.
The worst thing to have in your life when your marriage is struggling is a friendship with someone who talks you into strip clubs, or happy hours or letting go of your marriage. You need godly friends during bad times.
Marriage is a sacrifice. It’s hard work. It’s a sacrificial covenant vow that says, “During good times and bad, I’m all in. It may not be a walk in the park, but it’s worth it. I’m dedicated to serving you. I’m dedicated to making our marriage work.”
That covenant mindset is the secret to a lasting marriage.