Do we emphasize the wrong thing when talking about what makes someone marriage material?

We receive a lot of emails from people in, frankly, horrible marriage situations. Oftentimes it’s an issue where sin or selfishness has been allowed to roam free for a while in the marriage but the couple is really trying to get their relationship back on the right track. Those emails are often easier to answer–I can point them to some good posts, some good resources, like my Honeymoon Course and 9 Thoughts that Can Change Your Marriage – and there’s a relatively clear answer since it’s two people who want to do the right thing and are open to change.

Do you have a hard time asking for what you want?

You can change the dynamic in your marriage and make talking about your own needs easier!

If your marriage is in a communication rut, it’s time for some change.

But sometimes I get emails that are really heartbreaking. People who are married to spouses who have really really bad character. And it tears me apart because reading these stories all I can think is, “Man, I wish you hadn’t ever married this person to begin with.” And what do you do with that thought? I can’t say that to this couple because it’s not helpful. They are married, and it’s tragic they are married to someone who genuinely does not have any interest in curbing their selfishness for the sake of the marriage or their spouse.

So it got me wondering–what kinds of messages are we telling in the church that so many people can marry these “great Christians” who turn out to be terrible spouses? Obviously at some point we have to make our own informed decisions, but I do worry that sometimes we are told things that aren’t quite true and it causes us to miss some red flags.

My daughter and I tackle this in today’s video:

In the video we talk about this main contrast: emphasizing words or emphasizing actions.

I’m concerned that we’re told to find someone who talks the talk but doesn’t necessarily walk the walk. Because if he or she can sound like they know all the answers, they MUST be a Christian, right?

I don’t agree with that one bit. Yes, we need to understand the Bible. But the fruit of the Spirit is how we identify true believers. And that’s important to understand when looking for someone to marry!

I think too many churches today end up elevating doctrine over character and fruits of the Spirit. That’s wrong. That’s unbiblical. 

I’ve written a ton about this in the past, so I wanted to link to some of my favourite posts if you want to read more about how to find a great spouse:

Choosing a Good Spouse: What to look for

First off, let’s start with the things that you need in a husband!

The 4 Things You Need in a Husband

The 4 things you need in a husband--the rest doesn't matter as much! Marriage advice for dating, engaged, and single women!

These are real things that get to the heart of the matter. A great place to start assessing their character is to watch for these four things!

Is He Worth Falling in Love with?

When Should I Fall in Love? The two things you need in a guy before giving your heart away!

If 4 things to look for was too many, I’ve made it even easier. Here are just 2 things. Just 2. This helps you figure out if a guy is worth dating!

Choosing a Good Husband: Red flags to avoid

So we’ve gone over the good things you want to look for, but what kinds of red flags may show you if he has BAD character? Both are important, so let’s jump into the other half now:

How to really get to know someone’s character

Here’s the truth about figuring out if someone has good character while you’re dating. Because it’s not always easy–but it’s so important. And basically: If you have to convince yourself he’s not the wrong guy for you, then he’s likely the wrong guy for you.

10 Things to ask a friend who is about to get married

If you have a friend who is about to walk down the aisle, and you’re afraid that she may be making a mistake, here are 10 questions that can help her see if her relationship is built on something solid. And it will give her a chance to think through these things, too, if she hasn’t yet in the wedding-planning frenzy!

How to prepare for marriage–not just the wedding!

You may date someone and have a great time, but you can’t really know someone unless you do life together. Too many couples don’t do life; they put on their best behaviour, and so you marry without really understanding what the person is like. Here’s how to identify the red flags!

How can we start a wider conversation about looking at people’s character, not just their beliefs?

In all the church scandals that have been happening in the last  year, there’s one big commonality. Warning signs were there for all to see for years, but people couldn’t believe that these pastors were actually bad men because they gave such great sermons and they had such great doctrine. 

That’s not what Jesus said. In the New Testament, we learn that someone is a Christian not because they believe a whole bunch of stuff about God, but because they come to Him in repentance, confess what they’ve done wrong, and decide to live life with Jesus as Lord. Because of that, they receive the Holy Spirit who bears fruit in their lives.

If someone is bearing no fruit, they aren’t a Christian! Jesus said:

I think too many churches today end up elevating doctrine over character and fruits of the Spirit. That’s wrong. That’s unbiblical.

And later, Paul writes about what really matters in the Christian life:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Character matters. I think too many churches today are too busy trying to be this “exclusive” in club, where we’re the ones that have the special track on what God is really like, and so we end up elevating doctrine over character and fruits of the Spirit. That’s wrong. That’s unbiblical. And that’s often why people will make such bad marriage choices. We’re never taught to judge character. We’re just told: “Make sure he’s a Christian and he knows his Bible!”

That’s important, but it’s not enough. Character matters. Now let’s start teaching that again!

Don't marry him just because he says he's a Christian! Character matters more.


What do you think about the way we talk about what makes a good spouse in the church? What are some of the BEST pieces of advice you ever received? Let’s talk about it in the comments! 

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