This familiar quotation reminds us that there is nothing like a common foe to unite two people together. When your main objective is the same, you can lay aside all sorts of other, lesser disagreements in order to focus on victory. History is replete with examples of the effectiveness of this wisdom. Joining together in order to muster resources, time and energy to wage war against a common enemy is a tried and true battle strategy. Internal squabbles are all but obliterated when the focus is on the external foe.
Despite recognizing the reality of this truism, Christians often fail to apply it to their own relationships. Perhaps there is no greater arena for doing so than in a Christian marriage. When two Christians wed, there should be a recognition that their union is not mainly about themselves. Of course, there are reasons, and hopefully good ones, that they have chosen to be united together. Those reasons, however – they make each other laugh, they share the same affection for baseball, they like spending time together, etc. – are not the critical component of their marriage. Their marriage, like all of a Christian’s life, exists for the glory of God. This means their common aim is to conduct themselves in such a way that their lives individually, and their marriage collectively, reflects the grace and beauty of our Lord. Their marriage exists for His honor and praise – not for their own acclaim and pleasure.
However, as the Bible makes clear, there is an enemy who seeks to redirect the praise and glory that rightly belongs to God. This enemy is not passive in his quest. He “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8). He is looking for lives, and circumstances that can be manipulated into seeking praise for themselves, instead of giving praise to the King. He knows that any honor not directed at God, is honored that is misplaced. When God doesn’t get the acclaim He so rightly deserves, Satan considers this a clear, albeit temporary, victory.
While we may affirm the reality of this situation, we are quick to forget it when dealing with circumstances in our home. Scripture tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but often we behave as it is (Eph. 6:12). And far too often, we think the battle is with the one person, our spouse, that should be our closest compatriot in fighting against our mutual foe. Instead of seeing our loved one as our brother or sister in arms, we see them as the one with whom the battle is against. When we are blinded by our own preferences or inclinations from seeing the true enemy, when we are convinced that we have to fight for our own way, instead of contending for God’s, then our marriage ceases to represent Christ. It becomes about us. And then, in that moment, the glory that rightly belongs to God, we retain for ourselves.
Imagine though how our discussions, attitudes and behaviors would change if we recognized that the one we married was engaged in the same battle as we were. If we saw them as someone who is “fighting the good fight” to claim victory for the King that we also serve. Instead of doing battle with them, we would seek to encourage them in their struggle. Instead of focusing on their failures, we would celebrate the victories. We would not view them as a foe, but instead interact with them as a friend.
We would mutually create strategies and tactics to ensure that the enemy didn’t have a foothold in either of our lives, and our satisfaction would not be contingent on getting what we want, but in how well we jointly serve our King.
It wouldn’t be easy. Few things that are worth fighting for are. But it would redirect our attention from the smaller struggles, to the large one. It would take the focus off ourselves and center it on God. And it would help ensure that the glory and praise in our marriage goes to Whom is its proper aim.