Ask 10 people on the street what their goal in life is, and you’ll get an amazing variety of answers.
The apostle Paul answers this same kind of question for us when he writes, “We make it our goal to please Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). For the Christian, Paul couldn’t be clearer: his “consuming ambition, the motive force behind all he does,” is to please God.
Paul doesn’t just say pleasing God is his “consuming ambition”; he assumes it will be ours as well: “We make it our goal to please Him.”
When something is the motive force behind all we do, it drives every decision we make. And Paul is crystal clear: The first question we should ask ourselves is, “Will this be pleasing to Jesus Christ?”
The Main Thing
The first purpose in marriage—beyond happiness, sexual expression, the bearing of children, companionship, mutual care and provision or anything else—is to please God. The challenge, of course, is that it is utterly selfless living; rather than asking, “What will make me happy?” we are told that we must ask, “What will make God happy?”
And just in case we don’t grasp it immediately, Paul underscores it a few verses later: “Those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
I have no other choice as a Christian. I owe it to Jesus Christ to live for Him, to make Him my consuming passion and the driving force in my life. To do this, I have to die to my own desires daily. I have to crucify the urge that measures every action and decision around what is best for me. Paul is eloquent about this fact: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10).
Just as Jesus went to the cross, so I must go to the cross, always considering myself as carrying around “the death of Jesus” so that His new life—His motivations, His purposes, His favor—might dominate in everything I do.
This reality calls me to look at my spouse through Christian eyes: “From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16). The reason is clear: “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (v. 17).
Part of this new identity is a new ministry, one that is given to every Christian, as it is inherent in the person of Jesus Christ: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (v. 18).
Think about this. The very nature of Christ’s work was a reconciling work, bringing us together again with God. Our response is to become reconcilers ourselves. C.K. Barrett defines reconciliation as “to end a relation of enmity, and to substitute for it one of peace and goodwill.”
Clearly, Paul is talking about carrying the message of salvation. But we cannot discuss with any integrity the ending of “a relation of enmity” and the dawning of “peace and goodwill” if our marriages are marked by divorce, fighting and animosity. Everything I am to say and do in my life is to be supportive of this Gospel ministry of reconciliation, and this commitment begins by displaying reconciliation in my personal relationships, especially in my marriage.
If my marriage contradicts my message, I have sabotaged the goal of my life, which is to be pleasing to Christ and to faithfully fulfill the ministry of reconciliation, proclaiming to the world the good news that we can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. If my “driving force” is as Paul says it should be, I will work to construct a marriage that enhances this ministry of reconciliation—a marriage that, in fact, incarnates this truth by putting flesh on it, building a relationship that models forgiveness, selfless love and sacrifice.