Focus on the Family Broadcast

Celebrating God’s Original Design for Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Celebrating God’s Original Design for Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

In a discussion based on his new book, Marriage Done Right, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly outlines what God's design for marriage is and why that design works better than the alternatives offered by our culture. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: June 13, 2016



Jim Daly: Marriage is about creating in you a more selfless heart. And so often, we have it backward. It’s about me. Marriage is about my gratification—sexually, emotionally, whatever it might be. And here’s the truth of it, your spouse is never going to meet all of your needs in any of those categories. Where you need to find that fulfillment is in your relationship with the Lord.

End of Teaser

John Fuller: That’s “Focus on the Family” president, Jim Daly, sharing his passion about marriage and you’ll hear more from him today as we examine some of the challenges facing marriage and what you and I can do to improve it and why God’s plan is so much better than what we’re hearing in our culture about marriage. Welcome to another “Focus on the Family” broadcast. I’m John Fuller and Jim, this is something you care deeply about.


Jim: John, I do and this is in part, due to the one-year anniversary of the Obegerfell decision of the Supreme Court, where they decided marriage is defined as same-sex marriage, heterosexual marriage and they’ve broadened that definition. So, the burden’s been on my heart. We get a lot of questions here at Focus on the Family. How do we defend traditional marriage? And that’s what we want to talk about.

John: Well, that Supreme Court ruling was so huge and I think we’re gonna be seeing for years to come what that really means. What have you tried to capture here?

Jim: Well you know, the culture war in this space has been a brutal one and I think in many ways, we haven’t fought it correctly. And now we’re gonna have to fight it from a minority position.And I think one of the observations when I was there the day of the Supreme Court oral arguments, I was able to get a ticket and to be present in the Supreme Court when the Obegerfell case was being argued.

I was amazed at how Justice Scalia zeroed right in on it, along with Justice Alito, talking about, hey, you can’t make same-sex marriage legal without discriminating against religious freedom. These two things are gonna collide, especially I remember Scalia saying, especially if we make it a constitutional right. Once that happens, who has the right to discriminate on the definition of marriage?

John: Hm.

Jim: And so, when I was observing that, I mean, I quickly saw and heard that we were in some trouble and Justice Scalia, the late Justice Scalia was quite accurate.

John: Now you’re not saying at this point in time, just to clarify once more, you’re not saying traditional marriage is a lost cause just because of a Supreme Court ruling.

Jim: Not at all, but what we’ve gotta understand is the Christian community within this culture is that we’re in the minority position now.No longer does the culture embrace a definition, a biblical definition of marriage.And the question is how are we gonna begin to convince the culture that a traditional view of marriage, may I be bold enough to say, a godly view of marriage is what we’re gonna need and not to be embarrassed about it.

One thing I want to make sure people hear, so much of the New Testament talks about dealing with the world with graciousness. Romans 2:4, it says right there that it is God’s kindness that leads one to repentance. So, we’ve gotta find a way to express God’s design for marriage in such a way that yes, some people are gonna fight against it because it’s a political journey for them. Others are just not embracing God at all. They’re … they’re not there. They’re atheists. They’re agnostic. And we’ve got to first and foremost, demonstrate that God’s design is the best design in our own marriages.

Jim: And you know, the past 50 or 60 years the transition has been remarkable. I remember being in … in foster care. You know, my mom had died. My dad was not connected to us. We were in foster care. I was 9-years-old and I remember at the Real family’s home, they have a friend of the family who had gotten a girl pregnant. He was probably 18 and she was 17. And I remember he was there at the house workin’ on a car and I was talkin’ to him and he said, “Well, I got only two choices. I’m gonna go to jail or I’m gonna have to join the military if I don’t marry this girl.”

Now think of the culture at that time. So a man who got a woman pregnant, especially a 17-year-old, he only had a couple of options. The judge told him, you’re either gonna go in the military to right this wrong or I’m gonna put you in jail if you don’t marry her. I mean, think of that. That’s how—

John: That’s a lot of—

Jim: –the culture—

John: –cultural pressure–

Jim: That’s how the culture—

John: –to get married.

Jim: –supported it.

John: Yeah.

Jim: And that is gone. And there’s this thing that’s called “conjugal marriage.” You’ll hear it in articles. You read about it.It simply is this. Conjugal marriage just says that marriage traditionally for millennia has been based on this concept of marriage, sex and childbearing, that the state’s interest is all about a man and a woman getting together for life and being committed to raising their children together.

And all the research supports that as the right way to go and for some reason, we’re throwin’ that right out the window.

John: Well, so as you looked back over the history of marriage, what are some of the things that led from that point, where a couple of generations ago the culture was supportive of marriage, to today where marriage means whatever you want it to mean and maybe it’s not even important at all?

Jim: Well, and you know, that idea of conjugal relationship, marriage, sex and childbearing, they used to call it “the iron triangle.” And what started happening in the ’60’s is the disintegration of that millennia long understanding. And so the birth control pill was brought into the culture in the 1960’s. This freed people up for adultery, having sex with no consequence or minimum—

John: No perceived consequence.

Jim: –right, minimum consequence. You can prevent pregnancy which was the problem for them. And then you had after the pill, our own conservative, Ronald Reagan, when he was a governor in California, signed no-fault divorce [law] in 1969.

John: Hm.

Jim: And by 1985, every state in the United States supported no-fault divorce, which I think moved marriage from a covenant commitment to a contract. You know, I’m not happy, so I’m cuttin’ the contract with you. So, divorce became much easier.

John: Hm.

And then in addition to that, so you have the pill, you have no-fault divorce and then you have Roe v. Wade. So if the pill didn’t work, you could simply terminate the life of your child.

Jim: In fact, Dr. Al Mohler, who was on the board here at Focus, once referred to the pill, an abortion as human pesticide, that couples that get together outside of the context of God’s design for marriage find it much easier today to terminate the problem. And that has allowed a delinking for marriage and for its definition.

John: And so, as we look at the past 50 years, there’s been a rapid deconstruction, if you will, of the concept of marriage as God designed it and that leaves us where?

Jim: Yeah, it leaves the Christian community in one position: we have to do it better. And I think of, you know, ancient Rome. When the Lord was on the scene in those 1st, 2nd, 3rd centuries and Christianity was just beginning to blossom, what made it stick out? It was how they behaved. They behaved selflessly. They fed the sick. They built hospitals and hospices. Their marriages stayed together for the most part. I’m sure there was still some divorce even in the Early Church, but by and large, they demonstrated God’s design and God’s character through how they behaved.

Jim: Hey, Paul didn’t waste time in Corinthians tellin’ us what to do.Husbands, lay down your life just like the Lord Jesus Christ did for the Church. Is that easy? No, it’s not. And one of the things I’m finding, John, is how do I do that? Here I am, the president of Focus on the Family and I’ve got to redouble my efforts every day to remind myself to do that for Jean. And you know, for me, being that orphan kid, I learned a lot of protection mechanisms.

And so, one of the things that makes me perhaps effective in my role as the president of Focus, I am a problem solver. You know, bring it to me and let’s find a solution. Let’s get together. Intimacy, emotional intimacy in marriage doesn’t work well like that. (Laughing) Have you—

John: No.

Jim: –found that to be true?

John: Yeah, I think many guys—

Jim: Yeah.

John: –are saying, “Yeah, we feel the same way. We want to fix it and that doesn’t—

Jim: Right.

John: –lead to a closer relationship with our wife.

Jim: Right, so when Jean comes to me and she’s got this emotional-based issue, I’m just kinda building my wall saying, “Okay, all I want to do it solve it. If you do steps one, two and three, I think it’ll get you through. And she’s lookin’ at me like, “I don’t know you. Where’s your heart? Where’s your compassion for me?”And even this morning I did this. We were talking about a very important issue and I had to come back to her and say, “I did not hear your perspective. I just told you what I thought we should do. What is your heart on this?” And it’s so tough because you have to do it with your head ’cause it doesn’t come naturally—

John: Yeah.

Jim: –through your heart. And that’s, I think what the Lord is saying there through Paul, when you’re layin’ your life down. That’s one small example of what we’ve gotta do in our Christian marriages to be better and to demonstrate how God actually did design it.

John: And you’re makin’ a qualifier that I really appreciate. It’s not marriage done perfectly. (Laughter)

Jim: Hey, I want to meet that perfect couple—

John: Yeah.

Jim: –who’s done it all right.

John: You’re—

Jim: Please contact us here at Focus on the Family!

John: –what you’re saying is the times require us as followers of Christ, to live our lives well and that of course begins in the home with the marriage being done well, being done right, according to His guidelines, but not being done perfectly. None of us can do that.

Jim: Right and I think unfortunately, in the me-centered culture that we have today, when we look at our marriages, it’s about me. Am I getting out of this what I need? Rather than, how do I make this about you?

Jim: And I think in part, what the Lord is doing here and it is painful, but as His hand of blessing comes off this country and I know that’s controversial, but as I talk to Christian leaders around the country, there seems to be a growing consensus that the Lord’s gonna take us through a desert experience, that this country is not going to receive the blessings from Him as we once did, in part because I think we’re moving away from Him.

And so, when we look at what do we do as the Christian community, one, we’ve gotta be accountable to each other. We’re very good at holding the world to a standard they don’t even understand. But we’re very lax in holding each other accountable. And it starts in our churches. How do we see our divorce rates decline in the church? Unfortunately, our divorce rates aren’t much lower than the world’s.

So, when I sit down with people who oppose us, maybe a gay activist for example, they’ll say something like this to me: “You guys haven’t done so well with marriage. Why not let us try? We might be able to improve the statistics.” What do you say to that? I remember the only thing I could think of and before I go into a meeting like that, believe me, I am praying earnestly for the Lord to give me answers and wisdom. And I remember in that circumstance, I remember saying to this gay activist, I just said, “Listen, our inability to live it well does not nullify the truth of God’s Word. It simply means we’re pathetic living it at this point.”

And I think what’s gonna happen, folks; get your seatbelts on because the Lord is going to require us to live a life that demonstrates His character. And if we choose not to, it’ll be a separation of the wheat and the chaff.

John: I appreciate so much that heart that you have there, Jim and let me just say real quick. where you can learn more about Jim’s book and other helpful resources, like his monthly newsletter in which he often examines issues in the culture. And if you’re struggling in your marriage, we’ve got a lot of helps there, as well.

One of the things [is] we’re past the 30-year mark in our marriage and I must say that that passage in Ephesians where Paul is saying, emulate Christ. that’s such a high standard. I’m starting to understand more and more every day how in the world I can do that and that is, by letting go of me. That is so hard, though. We’ve made marriage me-centric, as you said. But every day, leaning into Him, I start to understand a little bit more. This is an opportunity to die to self and to serve Dena in ways that 15, 20 years ago, I just wasn’t there. I couldn’t have perceived how I might do that.

Jim: Think of a world where Christian households were living that out. I think it would be irresistible. I’m often thinkin’ about those ’50’s and ’60’s where we all thought the world ran much better because there was moral consensus on things, but there were a lot of bad things goin’ on—alcoholism, wife abuse. There were a lot of things in the ’50’s and ’60’s that were unhealthy.

And the one thing I come back to is, if it was so good, why did we walk away from it as a culture? To me, it represented there was oppression. There was things [sic] going on that were not godly and I think if we in the Christian community can once again demonstrate God’s design for marriage—Marriage Done Right, thus the title—I think it will actually draw the world into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

But we’ve gotta live it and what’s so hard for us is, it’s easier to pick on the world who doesn’t live by a godly standard, than it is for us to challenge each other within the community of Christ to live to a standard that does draw the world to us. That’s a much more difficult thing to do.

John: Well, I think you’re right. What are some other ways, Jim, that we can get the “me” out of the equation and really put the emphasis on, as Paul said, serving our spouse in a selfless way?

Jim: You know, Jesus said something really powerful to Pontius Pilate. He didn’t come and say to Pilate, “I’m here to save the world.” You woulda thought that’s what Jesus would say. No, He said, “I came to testify to the truth.” That has always not haunted me, but caught my attention. Why did Jesus say He came to testify to the truth? And one of the things that I think He’s expecting us as His followers to do is, to understand truth as best as we can.

And I think that’s why He said, “Look at the log in your own eye before you look at the speck in your brother’s. He’s wanting us to look at our heart to say, where do we fall short and where can we improve getting closer to Him and having a character more like Him?And I think marriage, it’s real simple.

Marriage is about creating in you a more selfless heart. And so often, we have it backward. It’s about me. Marriage is about my gratification—sexually, emotionally, whatever it might be. And here’s the truth of it, your spouse is never going to meet all of your needs in any of those categories. Where you need to find that fulfillment is in your relationship with the Lord.That’s where you get the stability and the confidence. And it takes a lot of courage to look at the log in your eye.

And I can remember one of Jean and I’s darkest moments in our marriage was when her brother committed suicide. I remember it like, you know, where you were when Kennedy was shot because of the impact for her and for me. We were up in our bedroom. We had house guests downstairs. It was probably 10 o’clock at night. Everybody had just said good night and we’d gotten up into bed and Jean got the call that they feared as a family, that her brother, Craig, had committed suicide.And I just remember being incapable of responding in that moment. I didn’t know what to say. I mean, it sounds horrible, but Jean said to me, “I’m gonna go downstairs for a few minutes and talk to the friends,” because the irony is, the friends that were there at our home here in Colorado Springs were actually friends of her brother.”

John: Oh.

Jim: And so, it made sense for her to do that. But I thought she was gonna come right back up and we were gonna talk about it one on one. So, I didn’t go down. I thought she was comin’ right back up. And she ended up spending a couple hours down there and I remember just sitting there thinking, “What do I do? Do I go down there and talk with them?” I felt kinda like an outsider. And here the whole thing is about her, not about me. And I failed as her husband in that moment to look outside of myself and say, “I’m getting’ my clothes on. I’m gonna go back down there and the four of us will talk this through together.” But I just sat there by myself waiting for Jean to come back.

And to this day, it’s a tender spot for her, because she feels that I had abandoned her in that moment. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. How do you get out of yourself and your selfishness and engage your spouse in a way that is meaningful to them, not to you. And I got an F in that moment and that’s a big F.

John: What ultimately, these years later, what do you look back and say I learned from that experience? Because that’s one of the hearts of—

Jim: Yeah.

John: –doing marriage well, is not saying, “Oops, [I] had that failure and I’m not goin’ there again.”

Jim: Yeah and I think in part, it’s how do you learn to be in touch with the moment, you know, emotionally like Jesus was when Lazarus died? You know, He’s weeping with them, but he knows He’s gonna raise him from the dead (Chuckling) in just a few minutes. So, why was He weeping? I think He was so moved. The Scripture even says, He was so moved by everyone else that He was weeping.

Jim: And that to me suggests you need to be emotionally in touch with your environment. And we particularly as men, we struggle with that and especially if you had childhood trauma. You hide from that. You build a brick wall. You hide behind it ’cause it’s really hard to open yourself up to that kind of emotion and feel again. And we gotta do it. We gotta do it, because the Lord expects it of us.

John: Hm and as you have learned to do that, Jim and to be more emotionally connected to Jean—

Jim: (Chuckling)

John: –is she more responsive?

Jim: Absolutely.

John: Does she feel like you’re rebuilding from that failure?

Jim: Yeah, definitely. I think she, you know, in her capacity to forgive me, it was there and you know, I try to remember that. When the next time I hit my brick wall is, okay, how do I destroy the brick wall and get over it and say to Jean, “I’m here for you. What do you need from me?”But we need to constantly think about that as married couples. How do I lower my needs in order to help the needs of my spouse? And it is hard to do.I’ll tell you one other great idea is, you know, when you’re arguing with your spouse, think of Jesus standing right next to him or her.

John: I’m not sure I really want to go there, Jim, because that’s—

Jim: Yeah.

John: –intimidating.

Jim: Well, the Lord died for your spouse. Sometimes you don’t want to believe that, you know. You’re always right. You’re the better person. But you know what? When you’re in that argument or that discussion with your mate, think of the Lord standing right there and with His hands on her or his shoulder, in his or her corner. It really changes the way you want to discuss your problem and hopefully, it gives you a heart for your mate, which is what I think God’s after.

Jim: Here’s the bold headline though. Guess what? Marriage is more about your holiness than your happiness.

John: Now that’s gonna grab some people. So, what do you mean by that?

Jim: Yeah, I mean, with holiness, it’s that sanctification process, um … becoming more like Christ. And you know what? It’s really hard, because it works against your human nature. Our human nature bends toward selfishness, toward our comfort, toward everything about me. And holiness drives us toward Christ and Christ’s character, which is selflessness, laying your life down, putting others first. It’s very hard and I think our culture and our marriages are framing things in such a way that we want to make it more about us and about our happiness.

The irony is, when you do that, when you give and when you serve, you’ll feel a much deeper happiness than the superficial happiness that I think we feel today in the culture.

John: Well, and maybe there’s an artificial polarization there because when we live a holy life, we are going to be a happier people, right?

Jim: Well, it’s so true, John. In fact, Cosmopolitan magazine, not a typical reference point for us here at Focus on the Family, but they revealed many benefits to marriage. They said marriage makes the relationship more meaningful and stable. It helps couples act and feel more like a team. It gives financial and other practical benefits and typically, married couples have better sex lives. That’s been true throughout the research over the past many decades. So, those benefits are there and we need to remember that’s the benefit of traditional marriage.

Marriage also helps to socialize men and it makes men more engaged with their family, with their children. Marriage protects women from male sexual predators. Think of this today in our culture. As marriage is breaking down, the rise of sexual predators.

It’s true. Women transform male lust, which is just in our core. It’s the way we’re wired with our testosterone, but women transform that male lust into love, that kind of intimacy love. And they help draw men into that conjugal family, that they feel responsible for their sons and daughters, that they want to provide. They want to protect. They want to be engaged. That’s what women bring to the marriage. It domesticates the man.

John: Not in a demeaning way–

Jim: No, not at all.

John: –but in a way kind of that we were called by God to be.

Jim: Absolutely. Let me give you an example of how that plays out. Jamestown, Virginia in the early 1600’s, when they settled it. Two hundred men came to Jamestown without women or families, just the men and they fell into chaos. They laid around. They were lazy. They didn’t get things done. They just sat around and drank. And you know, they just had no motivation to build the fort, to plant as they needed to.

Then someone came up with the idea, let’s send women to be part of the settlement. And when the women arrived, all of a sudden, the men became more responsible. They built what they needed to build. They planted the gardens. They began to do what needed to be done. In fact, they began to marry the women that were sent and that’s a great illustration of the impact that a woman brings to men. It just does something to us that makes us more family friendly.

And so, Jamestown teaches us that basically, no society can thrive without women and specifically, women who are partners in strong and healthy marriages. They bring a lot to the table to help us as men.

Let me remind those listeners that may have just joined us, we’re talking today about a book that I’ve written called Marriage Done Right and this is at the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

Let me say this before we wrap up today and we’ll come back next time. I want to talk about those positive things in strong and healthy marriages. We interviewed a number of elderly couples and asked them, you know, what made their marriage survive 50, 60, in some cases, 70 years? And I think you’ll love to hear that. So, let’s come back next time, John and talk about that.

Butas we end today, I want to make sure you’re hearin’ me on this issue of biblical marriage. Ninety-seven percent of us roughly, not counting the singles that will go through life single, but about 97 percent of us are gonna be heterosexually oriented. We’re gonna marry someone of the opposite sex and we’re gonna struggle through our relationship with our spouses. We’re talking about that 3 percent that are same-sex attracted and what I want to make sure that you hear from me is, God died for them. We need to remember that. We need to have compassion for them. We need to speak truth to them and that’s what we’re doing today.

No one is gonna hide God’s truth under a bushel, as the Scripture says. Truth is not gonna be redefined, folks. Culture is not gonna redefine what God has laid in stone. We may tinker with it. We may try to redefine it. We may smile at ourselves for being so enlightened and evolved. But you know what? I don’t think it’s gonna prevail in the long run. I think maybe 10 years from now, maybe 50 years from now, maybe 100 years from now, the people of that era are gonna say, “What has been done here is devastating. We’ve got to undo this. We’ve gotta get back to truth.”

And that’s the groundwork I’m trying to lay in the book, that no one’s gonna undo God’s truth, but we need to observe the moment we’re in and be equipped, hopefully, with the examples to talk to your neighbor, talk to your own family members about why God’s design for marriage is the right design.

John: And you’ve committed a lot of your time this past year to write this book, to do marriage right—to do it well per God’s design. And we’re gonna encourage you to get a copy of Jim’s book and to sign up for Jim’s monthly newsletter, as well and request a CD of this conversation to listen again or to share with someone, all when you call 800, the letter A and the word, FAMILY or stop by learn more.

Jim: I hope you have heard my passion for marriage today. We need a good defense and a good offense when it comes to marriage. And Focus on the Family is here for ya in every way. We want you not just to survive in your marriage, but to thrive in your marriage. And to do that, we need to create the resources. We need to disseminate those resources. I hope you can help us. Be part of the team to bring marriage back in to this culture. And you could do that by supporting Focus on the Family and being there for the couples who really need our help.


John: Donate today at or by calling 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And as you make a generous contribution of any amount today, we’ll say thank you for joining our support team by sending a complimentary copy of Jim’s book, Marriage Done Right.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow, as we continue the conversation and explore the benefits of a godly marriage, including what it can do for the next generation.


Jim Daly: You want your children to experience an abundant life? Stay married and stay rooted in Christ in your marriage and your kids will see that. And you could do nothing better for them.

End of Excerpt

John: Another great “Focus on the Family” discussion with our host, Jim Daly next time, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.

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Marriage Done Right

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