The year was 1978, my wife and I was sitting in the chapel and listening to a veteran missionary of decades recount her experience with Jesus. At one point in her testimony, she said, and I will never forget this.
“Let me tell you what love is between a man and a woman who love Jesus.” Love is spending eight hours in the back of a chicken truck in order to share the better part of a day with your dear husband. My husband and I decided at one point in our ministry that it would be more beneficial for us to separate in order to reach more people with the Gospel.”
She told us that on occasion one of them would venture out so that they could spend time together. This was not a permanent arrangement, but it was something they did for a time because they believed it was what Christ desired of them.
I don’t want to paint too broad a brush at this juncture, but I do think that in our present self-absorbed culture such an action might be regarded as foolhardy or worse dishonoring to the marriage vow. From the New Testament I have three things to say in that regard and then I’ll finish.
First, the sin of idolatry can include family relationships.
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37) The thing that makes marriage and family what it is meant to be before God is when Jesus is placed first in all things.
Second, the measure of a Christian is the willingness to sacrifice.
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1, 2)
It certainly is not God’s will for all people to make such a sacrificial choice, however, it would be very judgmental and wrong to say that such a sacrifice should never be offered. There is far too much liberty in the Christian life to tell others what they can or cannot sacrifice for Jesus’s sake. There is a higher purpose for marriage than selfish appetites; it is to give God glory and pleasure. The greatest sacrifice is always the greatest form of love. When God loved the world He gave His beloved Son.
Third, Just consider how the Apostle Paul viewed living for the glory of God.
“Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION” — giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.” (2 Corinthians 6:2-10)
The Apostle understood sacrifice very well. In ministry and in marriage the greatest love is found in the greatest sacrifice. Your heart is never more full than when you give. It was after all the Apostle Paul who said, “In everything, I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”(Acts 20:35)