There’s a bumper sticker that says, “Marriage is finding that one special someone you can annoy for the rest of your life.” That’s funny, in a too-close-to-home kind of way, but it falls a little short of the picture of marriage we see in Scripture. But if you change just one word, you won’t be far from the Biblical mark.

Marriage is finding that one special someone you can SERVE for the rest of your life.

A key Biblical text addressing the nature of marriage is found in Ephesians 5. That passage begins in verse 21 with this radical statement: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” God has the audacity to tell a bunch of “me first” folks like us to sacrifice for our spouses. He tells us to put their needs above our own. He dares us to treat the other as the more important member of the pair.

The motto of a healthy marriage is “you before me.” The husband seeks to make the needs, preferences, and goals of his wife more important than his own. The wife makes the same sacrifice for her husband.

To paraphrase President Kennedy, “Ask not what your spouse can do for you. Ask what you can do for your spouse.”

This “you before me” attitude has application in all areas of marriage. It affects how you communicate, how you make plans for the future, and how you respond when your spouse makes a mistake. It affects your spending habits and your approach to household chores. It even affects possession of the TV remote.

I’m convinced that the Ephesians 5:21 command to submit is the hardest thing to do in marriage, and the most important thing. If we get this one thing right, 99% of everything else falls into place. If we get away from this, and we both start looking out for number one, we are headed for all kinds of conflict.

We tend to approach marriage (and life in general) selfishly. In a typical marriage, everybody is looking out for number one. He takes care of himself, and she takes care of herself. But in a Biblical marriage, as an expression of his love for Christ, he takes care of her. And as an expression of her love for Christ, she takes care of him.

You before me.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.