Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

The traits of a dedicated follower of Christ also create a strong marriage.

The relationship between Christ and the Church gives some interesting correlations when we apply that model to marriage relationships. God’s Word provides supernatural insight into the aspects of a fulfilling relationship with Him. True to the example He gives us, they can also be applied to marriage.

Relational Exclusion. God says, There is no one else beside me (Isaiah 45:5, Exodus 20:3). When we enter into a relationship with God, we are claiming and proclaiming Him as our one and only sovereign God. For marriages, there should be no one else in the relationship other than each spouse and Christ at its center. Nothing should compete with the exclusiveness of the relationship. Of course, there should be no wandering eyes or wondering hearts – just complete trust in and commitment to each other.

Relational Passion. God says, I am a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, Deuteronomy 5:9). When we are passionate for God, we focus our attention and our abiding (John 15:1-7) on Him. When we focus on the things of this world, our passion for God tends to cool. For marriages, the emotional passion they share should be unmatched. The more emotional energy spent on other people and things outside the marriage detracts from the emotional passion for each spouse. Each new day brings the opportunity to fuel and safeguard the mutual passion of marriage.

Relational Priority. God says, Seek first My Kingdom and My Righteousness (Matthew 6:33). When we take our eyes off Christ and place them on worldly interests, we reduce our emphasis on and effectiveness for Christ. When we prioritize Him, He blesses our efforts. For marriages, there should be nothing or no one else (aside from God) of greater priority than each spouse. This does not minimize the other relationships with family, children, friends, or colleagues; it simply defines the level of priority for each. When others outside the marriage demand more time and attention, it proportionally decreases the time and attention for our spouses.

Relational Satisfaction. God says, I will give rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29), I will supply your every need (Philippians 4:19), I will quench your thirst (Isaiah 44:3, John 4:14), I will satisfy your hunger (John 6:51), I will give you eternal life (John 10:28). There is no middle or neutral ground with God. He is all in and asks that we return His full acceptance. Either you are for Him or against Him (Matthew 6:24, James 4:4). For marriages, nothing should provide more intrinsic satisfaction or a sense of wholeness than each spouse. The more fulfillment found outside the marriage, the less satisfaction within. As with the exclusivity, passion, and priority, if before marriage something outside the relationship is more satisfying, please reconsider getting married in the first place.

In giving us the example of the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church, God gave us the precedence to set – and goal to pursue – in marriage. The relationship should be explicitly exclusive, purposefully passionate, protectively prioritized, and sufficiently satisfying.

To better understand God’s goal for marriage look closer at His characteristics. Nothing about Him is mediocre – He is loving, holy, passionate, bold, courageous, kind, involved, strong, detailed, supportive, attentive, committed, patient, affectionate, compassionate, humble, honorable, forgiving, trustworthy, joyful, stable, hopeful, considerate, and so much more.

Since all of these traits are components of a fulfilling marriage, those you find most challenging show you the areas for self-improvement. They do not happen overnight nor do they magically appear right after you say, I do. They should be developed and demonstrated individually long before anyone begins to look for a potential mate. They form the basis of not only a strong friendship, they also forge a strong marriage.

I encourage you to never settle for less in your marital pursuit. More importantly, I hope and pray you settle for nothing less in your relationship with God.