6 Ways You Can Honor Marriage

As the author of Hebrews winds down his “brief letter of exhortation,” he gives a terse command about marriage: 

Marriage is to be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers. (Hebrews 13:4)

Let’s face it. Marriage has fallen on hard times in our society. Apparently, things weren’t all that different for the original audience of Hebrews in the first century, but here in the twenty-first, it feels like this command was given especially for us. Everywhere we turn today, marriage is, in one way or another, slammed, insulted, or otherwise maligned. A simple way for followers of Christ to swim against the cultural current is to obey the command to honor marriage. 

Here are a few ideas on how to do that. 

1. Stay married.

This is the simplest, most clear-cut application of the command, but it’s no less than radical in modern culture. Our society touts, “If it doesn’t work out, you can always divorce.” But God takes a very different view. With few exceptions, He hates divorce. He intends marriage for one man and one woman till death do them part. He doesn’t tell engaged couples to have a “backup plan.” To honor marriage, we should approach marriage with a “no plan B” mindset. Instead of looking for loopholes and biblical reasons for divorce, we honor marriage when we stay married through thick and thin, in sickness and health, poverty and wealth, and all the rest.

My husband’s grandparents were married for nearly seventy-five years when death finally parted them. Theirs was not the most dewy-eyed or sappy of marriages, but they loved each other well until the end. I can’t think of anything that honors marriage for all to see more than a marriage that goes the distance. 

2. Don’t badmouth marriage.

Marriage (or at least the husband) has been the punchline of many Hollywood jokes for generations. How many sitcoms have been churned out which feature a dim-witted, insensitive husband tolerated by a sharp-witted, successful, intelligent, sensitive wife? Over time that plotline has morphed in favor of swinging singles who have no need for marriage at all. Because Hollywood has been serving this Kool-Aid for so long, many of us have partaken of it and allowed it to alter our perception of marriage. 

It’s not uncommon for a newly engaged woman to hear about how hard marriage is and be told to get out while she still can. I have no doubt that most of those jokes are meant to be just that—jokes. However, the underlying message is that marriage just isn’t worth it. While I would be the first to tell someone that marriage inevitably involves conflict, I would also tell them that even those conflicts are a gift of God’s grace. Part of the journey is learning to deal with these moments of conflict biblically, to forgive, admit fault, and move forward together. 

My point is this: don’t belittle marriage. It is the earthly institution which God has ordained to mirror the union between Christ and His Church. Is the picture perfect? Absolutely not. Is it messy? Undeniably. But is it beautiful? The answer is undoubtedly and unequivocally yes. Let us be people who honor marriage by refusing to denigrate it with our words—even in jest. 

3. Encourage marriage.

Because cohabitation has become not only popular but expected, long engagements (sometimes interminably long) have become commonplace. Reasons for this vary: waiting for the right venue, saving up money, waiting until a child or children are older, and probably many more. 

While long engagements may, in some cases, be both necessary and inevitable, in many other cases, they seem to be more a self-serving choice. Holding off marriage in favor of a picture-perfect wedding that comes three years after the engagement ring may honor weddings, but it doesn’t honor marriage. 

We should be people who encourage couples to get married and single people to pursue marriage. I don’t mean that we should go around forcing people’s hands before they’re ready or being the church matchmaker. Nor do I mean that every single person must be married in order to be fulfilled or to have a “real” life. However, chronic adolescence has become so endemic to our society that marriage for some thirty-somethings seems to require too much work. Marriage is honored when we hold it in high esteem and make it something to be desired and valued, not something to be put off in favor of chasing selfish and immature pursuits. 

4. Don’t broaden the definition of marriage.

The definition of marriage has been so grotesquely broadened so as to have nearly lost its meaning altogether. Genesis 1 and 2 very clearly give us the pattern for marriage as between one man and one woman. This is what God calls good. Perversions of this formula He calls abominable. 

I realize that this topic carries with it many nuances and personal connections. All of us can put faces to this conversation, and that always complicates things. Questions abound about which weddings to attend or whether to buy a gift or what to say or which pronoun to use. While it’s not my intent to answer those questions here, I believe the Bible gives a narrow definition of marriage: one man and one woman for life. That’s it. Nothing else is actually marriage, according to the One who created it. We honor the sacred, God-ordained covenant of marriage by sticking with the biblical definition and forsaking all others.

5. Women, build up your husband in public.

If marriage has fallen on tough times in our society, the notion of manhood and husbands has fallen off a cliff. While we must acknowledge the heartbreaking truth that some men have abused power and taken advantage of women, we must not paint all men with the same brush. And we can do one better. Instead of badmouthing your husband to others, build him up. Find something positive to say about him in the presence of others.

A dear friend and mentor modeled this well for me several years ago, long before I was married. But I still remember it. By some accident, my teacher friend’s husband erased all of the information on his wife’s flash drive—a flash drive that contained all of her school files. (This was before cloud storage.) The mistake was no small thing. 

When my friend told me about it, I knew she was not happy. However, she never once uttered a negative thing about her husband to me. She didn’t wonder out loud how he could have done something so stupid or make any passive aggressive comments. She simply related what happened and said that he felt terrible. What a wonderful example of honoring marriage. 

6. Let your marriage picture the gospel.

Marriage is intended to paint the most beautiful of all pictures: the self-sacrificial love that Christ—the Bridegroom and head of the Church—has for His beloved Bride. The wife is to picture the submission of the Church to her Groom. This picture simply cannot be portrayed accurately if the complementary roles of marriage are ignored. This is Paul’s point in Ephesians 5 as he unpacks the respective roles of husband and wife. 

While I know that complementarianism has fallen from favor in many circles, I believe that simple obedience to Scripture and its plain teaching is a profound and radical means of honoring marriage. Let it portray the beauty of the gospel. As a husband loves sacrificially, giving himself for his wife, may he tell the story of how Christ gave up the glories of heaven and His very lifeblood to redeem His Church. As a wife willingly comes under the headship of her husband, may she portray the beauty of the Church recognizing the good and wise leadership of the Good Shepherd. 

Again, this often comes with nuance and difficult “what-ifs.” Sometimes the picture of the gospel is skewed and tainted. It won’t always be a pristine image. But marriage—and more importantly Christ Himself—is honored when we do our best to let our marriages tell the story they were intended to tell.

Whether you’ve been married for decades or are still single, the command of Hebrews 13:4 is for you. Together, let’s be radically countercultural and honor marriage. 

If this blog post by Cindy has been helpful to you, would you consider partnering with us to provide more resources like this to women desperately in need of finding freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ? Revive Partners are part of a team of faithful monthly contributors whose gifts make it possible for Revive Our Hearts to produce biblically rich content to help women be fruitful in every season of life. Learn more by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com/partner

About the Author

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson lives in a small Minnesota town with her husband, son and daughter, and ridiculous black dog. She enjoys reading books, drinking coffee, and coaching basketball. You can read more of her musings about God's Word at biblestudynerd.com.

Join the Discussion