The following is an excerpt from Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage by Jodie Berndt.
That’s what Abimelech, a Philistine king, said to Abraham when he broached the idea of a treaty, the first such recorded league in the Bible. Abimelech was not a God follower, but he could see that Abraham was trustworthy and that God had blessed him. Abimelech wanted to be part of that legacy.
The Bible is full of similar stories, where onlookers—whether curious, skeptical, or eager—notice how God’s people behave toward the Lord and each other. “Your very lives,” Paul wrote, “are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.”
The same can be said of our marriages. How we walk through life together—for better, for worse—comes with the power to influence our communities, our churches, and our children, including future generations. And every time we “walk in the way of love” (as Ephesians 5:2 puts it), we partake of the gospel and its life-shaping power.
Robbie and I have seen this power at work in our own marriage. Knowing both how sinful we are and how much God adores us is what prompts us to be patient and kind—not just with the preoccupied bank teller or the extra-slow grocery cashier, but with each other. It’s what motivates us to love, even in the hard places. It’s what equips us to forgive.
This power, of course, can shape every area of our lives, including our parenting, our careers, and our friendships. But as Robbie told one of the young men he mentors, “Getting marriage right—learning how to love and cherish your each other the way Christ loved the church—comes with a generational impact. Not only does the gospel impact you and your wife, but because your children will reflect your marriage, it will impact their children as well.”
As you think about your own marriage, consider the message you want to send. Are you being kind to your spouse? Do you have fun together? Are you serving one another, as Galatians 5:13 puts it, “humbly in love”?
Robbie and I count ourselves blessed to have parents who modeled these attributes and showed us what a good marriage looks like. Maybe you feel the same way. Because of the legacy you inherited, you came into marriage knowing what it looks like to treat your spouse with kindness, to serve one another, to forgive.
But maybe that hasn’t been your experience. Maybe you wish you had done a better job reflecting the gospel in your own marriage or that your parents and in-laws had given you a godly example to follow.
Maybe you think you missed out.
Maybe you worry that you’ll never catch up.
Moses might understand how you feel. He knew all about missing out; he wasn’t allowed to enter the promised land, even after leading the Israelites out of Egypt and then shepherding them for forty years in the wilderness. Moses was well aware of the Israelites’ past mistakes. But when it came to creating a legacy going forward, he was nothing if not expectant.
Moses looked at the next generation—the group that had grown up in the desert because of their parents’ unbelief—and said this (Deuteronomy 6:10-12):
When the Lᴏʀᴅ your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lᴏʀᴅ, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
Did you catch that? Take a moment to read it again. The young Israelites were about to enjoy every good blessing—flourishing cities, well-appointed houses, water and vineyards and bellies that would be oh so full—but none of these things were their own handiwork. Instead, they were evidence of God’s provision, gifts he would provide instantly.
Like the Israelites’ children, we all have a legacy—a spiritual inheritance, if you will. Some of us have a strong and godly heritage; others may be taking the first-ever step of faith in our family. We may come from very different places. Going forward, though, none of that matters—not where we have been, what our family has done, what our spiritual pedigree is, or how equipped we may feel.
What matters is that God has a promised land he wants us to enter—a life in which our marriages glorify him and our prayers bear fruit.
“As the Father has loved me,” Jesus says, “so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”
That’s our legacy. It’s a legacy of love. And every time we live out that legacy—every time we put our spouse’s needs and desires ahead of our own, extend forgiveness (even when the hurt is still there), or do any one of a million little things to demonstrate patience and kindness in marriage instead of criticism or contempt—we reflect God’s lay-down-his-life love for us.
Which is what marriage is all about.
Marriage isn’t about “completing” each other or making each other happy. It’s about walking in love. It’s about giving ourselves for one another, even when we are far from perfect or lovable.
And it’s about remembering the greatest legacy-love story of all: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).