Jimmy Evans is the host of the national TV show "MarriageToday", and lead pastor of Gateway Church in Texas, one of the largest churches in the nation. He and his wife Karen have been married for 47 years.
The 2nd chapter of Genesis isn't just the familiar story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. It's also the story of the first marriage. In this passage, God speaks His first words about this central human relationship.
My wife, Karen, and I were struggling early in our marriage until God helped us understand this passage in the context of marriage. It changed us. It brought us back from the brink of divorce.
In this passage, God gives what I call the "four laws of love." I've spent decades teaching these principles to husbands and wives all over the world. By following these guidelines, every marriage can succeed.
One of these laws is the Law of Pursuit ("Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife"—Genesis 2:24). This law can be summarized with a simple truth: Marriage only works when you work at it. It requires energy and effort. The strength of your marriage depends on how hard you pursue each other.
What does this "pursuit" look like? That answer is just as simple: It looks like meeting your spouse's needs. When we swear fidelity to each other in the marriage ceremony, we are swearing that we won't go outside our marriage to get our needs met. Every husband has what his wife needs. Every wife has what her husband needs.
To put it in consumer terms, when we get married we are saying "I will only shop at one store to get everything I need, and that store is YOU." But I've seen a lot of marriages where the "store" shuts its doors, refuses to answer questions, or gets distracted by other customers. We may be our spouse's one-stop-shop, but sometimes our customer service is terrible.
Service is the keyword there. For needs to be met and mutual satisfaction to be achieved in a marriage, one element must be present in both spouses: a servant spirit.
The proof of this concept is the pleasure and passion we experience early on in our relationships. We fall in love because we are open for business and willing to energetically meet each other's needs. A servant spirit isn't just abundant during the start of a relationship, it is natural!
But when that attitude starts to erode, the marriage gets stale. The biggest culprit is selfishness. A selfish attitude is the antithesis of a servant spirit.
The greatest marriage on earth is two servants in love. The worst marriage is two selfish people in love.
To illustrate these contrasting mindsets, I like to use an illustration that isn't biblically accurate but is very helpful to understand the issue. It's about the difference between a "heaven marriage" and a "hell marriage."
The Heaven Marriage
Picture a scene in the afterlife. All of humanity is seated at an infinite banquet table in the hereafter. Each person is sitting across from his or her spouse. In the middle of the table is a huge feast of delicious foods, but none of us can feed ourselves.
Why? Because everyone at the banquet table has utensils strapped to both of their hands. The utensils are too long to scoop food from the table and return it to their own mouths. So, in heaven, every person at the table joyfully serves his or her spouse across the table. Each tells the other what foods they want to eat, and one spouse scoops the food into the other spouse's mouth.
It is a beautiful picture of the fulfillment that occurs in the presence of a servant spirit.
The Hell Marriage
Remarkably, the hell marriage looks very similar to the situation above. It's still a banquet. A husband and wife still sit across from each other at the table. The food is still delicious and appetizing. The couples have the same utensils strapped to their hands and cannot serve themselves.
But everyone at these tables is starving. They are so busy trying to feed themselves that it never occurs to anyone to feed the person across from them. Every husband is frustrated. Every wife is frustrated. Despite the feast set before them, their selfish spirits have left them hungry. Welcome to hell.
Whether we realize it or not, every married couple is seated at a fully loaded banquet table. Each of us has the capacity to meet all of the needs of our husband or wife. We are equipped to satisfy each other! But this can only happen when both spouses possess a servant spirit because we cannot meet our own needs.
We each need a partner to serve us and fulfill us. This is part of God's law of pursuit. Service is the effort needed to sustain a healthy, happy, satisfying marriage.
Do you want a heaven marriage or a hell marriage? The answer depends on how willing you are to put energy into serving the one you love.
This is an excerpt from "The Four Laws of Love: Guaranteed Success for Every Married Couple" by Jimmy Evans. He shares that God created love and marriage, and He created laws to guide and guard them. When God's laws are honored, marriage is the safest relationship on the earth. Available now at fourlawsoflove.com.
Jimmy Evans is the Founder and CEO of MarriageToday, a ministry and nationally syndicated television program devoted to helping couples thrive in strong and fulfilling marriages and families. He is Senior Pastor of Gateway Church, one of the largest churches in the nation. He and his wife Karen have been married for 47 years and have two married children and five grandchildren.