How Unhealthy Christianity can Wreck Your Marriage

Isn’t making Christ the foundation of your marriage supposed to make things better? Then why are things between you and your spouse going so wrong? Why does it seem your prayers aren’t working? Some who claim to be Christians look nothing like Jesus. And that kind of unhealthy Christianity can wreck your marriage.

Building your marriage with Christ as the foundation is the place to start. But that’s a lot different from simply going to church weekly and praying for your spouse. As helpful as those things are, it’s not enough. If your own walk with Jesus is not changing you to become more and more like Him, your religious behavior may well wreck your relationship.

The Old Testament prophets had very strong things to say against religious people who followed all the temple rituals but did not do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God (see Micah 6:8). Jesus had very strong things to say against the religious leaders (such as the Pharisees) of His day who made an elaborate show of their “righteousness” but inwardly were anything but righteous (see Matthew 5:20, 23).

If your Christianity is not resulting in you learning to love well, it may be wounding your spouse and driving them away from both you and God – and wrecking your marriage.

Here are a few places where Biblical distortions and religious “stuff” have ended up stealing, killing, and destroying marriages instead of fostering the kind of life Jesus intended.

God-Talk as a Cover

Your spouse can see through you perhaps better than anyone else. And that’s actually a good thing.

I’ve known too many husbands, wives, even pastors and other Christian leaders, who may look good on the outside but inside are more like “ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). You may quote Scripture at every opportunity, volunteer at church regularly, teach and preach and pray. All the God-talk is there.

But get close to you and you’re prickly and miserable. The very God-talk you are so proud of you use to manipulate, belittle, and destroy. Wives can use God-talk to emasculate their husbands. Husbands can use God-talk to chew up and spit out their wives. Under the surface your spirit is toxic.

If you’re angry, addicted, or abusive, your Christianity will be no excuse. In fact if you name the name of Christ you are held to a higher standard . What’s it like to be married to you? If loving God has not made you truly love your spouse well, you’re not loving God. You cannot love God and inwardly despise your spouse (see 1 John 4:20).

Perhaps this sounds harsh. But I’ve seen too many Christian wives horrendously damaged by their God-talking husbands through adultery, porn, domestic violence, or sexual manipulation. I’ve seen Christian husbands with their souls ripped apart as a result of their God-talking wives’ relentless criticism or controlling passive aggressiveness.

And your spouse does well to run the other way! Yes, you can change. Just don’t be surprised if your spouse doesn’t want to follow the God you say you serve if you’re acting in this way.

Scripture and Prayer as Weapons

It’s always right to pray. The Bible contains God’s answers to the problems of life. But when you turn those priceless God-given elements of your Christianity into weapons used against your spouse, you end up stealing, killing, and destroying.

One example; a spouse (more often husbands, but not always) using 1 Corinthians 7 to demand sex. Friend, you are not entitled to sex! Expecting that you have a right to anything from your spouse goes directly against everything Jesus demonstrated and spoke. Sex is something you mutually seek to give to each other in intimacy. Anything else is destructive.

Another example; a spouse (more often wives, but not always) getting super-spiritual and long-winded in their prayers, sounding more like the Pharisee than the publican (Luke 18:9-14). Your spouse feels they could never possibly measure up. Your prayer becomes a prideful put-down and pushes your spouse away.

If your prayer and Bible reading is not making you more loving, understanding, long-suffering, courageous, kind, unselfish, truthful, there’s something seriously wrong. The fruit of the Spirit must first be displayed closest to home (Galatians 5:22-23).

Jesus, in Himself, was an utterly appealing invitation to come closer. Are you that kind of invitation to your spouse?

Religious Practices as an Excuse

This kind of distortion may look very good on the outside. It’s quite a sinister trap.

You may give serious amounts of energy to church work or religious practices. Perhaps you’re a Christian leader spending many hours at church or church functions. You devote much time and energy to helping people in need. Or you spend hours and hours alone with God in Bible study and prayer.

But your spouse is lonely. Disconnected. Sad. Neglected.

Jesus spent many hours in prayer. But He also spent long hours walking with, talking with, and being close to His disciples. He spent time with people eating in their homes, celebrating at weddings, touching and healing and connecting with them.

So, wife, you are serving God just as much when you cook your husband’s favorite meal or make love to him as you are when you are praying or volunteering at church. Husband, you are serving God just as much when you invest some hours in taking care of family business or sit across from your wife talking and emotionally connecting with her as when you are studying your Bible.

Religious practices are no excuse for not loving well. Your spouse must get the best part of you.

What to Do?

If you recognize yourself in any of these distortions, make a change now.

A few steps to take:

  1. Bring your own heart before God. Your Christianity must change you. How are you more like Jesus today than you were a year ago? What does the Holy Spirit want to change in you?
  2. Seek to learn to love well. How does your spouse need to be loved? Your goal is not to change them; that’s God’s department. What does loving well look like to your spouse? That may be hard for you, but it’s what God calls you to do.
  3. Who do You need me to be to my spouse? That’s the prayer to pray. Pray it often. It may be God needs you to take your grubby hands off your spouse so He can work. It may be He needs you to offer tender loving care. Or have some difficult conversations. Or listen. Take the time to quietly listen for His answer.

May the marriage you build on Christ as the foundation be truly learning to love well, loving as Jesus does.

Your Turn: What effect have your Christian words or practices had on your spouse? Are there any areas the Holy Spirit is convicting you where you need to change? Leave a comment below.

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