What Kind of Legacy Will Your Marriage Leave Behind?

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:12-13

This has been the spring of disasters. Three hurricanes devastated the Caribbean Islands and the eastern United States. An earthquake left tremendous damage in Mexico. Most recently, fires have been destroying homes, buildings, and thousands of acres of land in northern California. Tragically, all have caused many deaths.

Two people who died in the fires in California were Charles and Sara Rippey.* They met in in Wisconsin in grade school and had been together ever since. After attending the University of Wisconsin together, they married in 1942, just before Charles left to serve in the US Army during World War II.

Charles and Sara celebrated their seventy-fifth wedding anniversary this year. He was one hundred years old and Sara, who had suffered a stroke, was ninety-eight. They died together last week in their home in Napa, California.

Mike Rippey, one of the couple’s sons, said that his dad appeared to be heading to his mother’s room when he was overcome by smoke and flames and died. “My father certainly wouldn’t have left her,” Mike Rippey said.

What an example of true, sacrificial love the elder Rippeys left for their children, and for us. It is an example of the love Jesus describes in John 15:12-13: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It is the kind of love Jesus has for us as described in 1 John 3:16a: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”  

If we have experienced Jesus’ love for us, we should be ready to love each other that much as well. We are told in 1 John 3:16b: “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” As believers, there is no closer brother or sister in Christ than our spouse with whom God says we are one (see Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31).

It is this kind of love that will hold a marriage together no matter what comes in life.

None of us know what is coming our way next. Jesus warned us about this in a parable we find in Luke 12:16-21: “And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” 18 Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” 21 This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

God tells us the same thing in James 4:13-15: Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”

Sabra and I have both experienced a health crisis where we thought we might lose the other.

Early in our marriage, Sabra had to be rushed to the hospital, so sick that she slipped into a coma. The doctors told me they did not know what it was but would treat it as best they could. She was so sick they didn’t know if she would survive. They said as soon as they knew something they would let me know. Thankfully, after several hours of prayer alone and with many family and friends, Sabra came out of the coma.

Forty years later, I was the one being rushed to the hospital. I, too, slipped into a coma. Sabra was told by the doctors that while they knew what it was and were treating it as best they could, my chances of survival were not good. They suggested she call family and friends and tell them to get to the hospital quickly. After the prayer of many, God graciously allowed me to survive.

Though our lives are very different now because of the lasting effects of my illness, Sabra and I are still able to share life and serve God together. We understand what Mike Rippey concluded about his parents that he “couldn’t imagine how either parent would have navigated life if just one had survived the flames.”

Of course, God would have helped either of us move forward with our lives no matter what had happened. But He graciously allowed us to remain together. And He also used these times to remind us of some very important truths.

God reminded us there is more to this life than any illness or disaster can take away from us.

Paul wrote it well in Philippians 3:7-8: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ.”

God reminded us there are only two priorities that matter.

Jesus tells us what the two greatest commandments are. We read in Matthew 22:37-39: Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

When we understand this we are free from the trappings of our culture. We are free to love Him who loved us so much as Paul describes in Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Then we are free to love each other, and to love others. We are told in 1 John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.”

God reminded us that we can serve Him together without fear.

He tells us in 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

We can serve God trusting Him completely that He will guide us, direct us, empower us, and provide everything we need. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” What a wonderful freedom that God gives us to serve Him together.

All of these important truths allow us to leave the legacy God desires through our marriage–a legacy of love and commitment.

Charles and Sara Rippey made headlines because of their lifelong commitment to each other. They were devoted to each other for over 75 years, even dying together while serving each other.

This strikes a chord in all our souls. This is because of what God says in Ecclesiastes 3:11a: He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.” This means that in every person there is a God-given awareness that there is something more than this transient, sin-stained world.

We discover that something when we give our lives to Jesus as Savior and Lord. Then we can serve God together as a couple and honor Him with our marriage. And we will leave a legacy for those who come after us that no fire will be able to destroy.

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♦   Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God taught you through it individually and as a couple.

♦   Talk about the legacy you want to leave as a couple. Discuss ways you can work to make that happen.

♦   What are some times in your life God has used to help you grow in your walk with Him and each other. What did He teach you through them? How has this helped your marriage?

♦   Close your time together in prayer. Ask God to help you use your lives and marriage in such a way that you will leave a legacy that will glorify God and help others.

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Until next week, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,

*Article “He tried to reach his wife of 75 years. Both died in blaze,” www.apnews.com.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Photo by Melanie Mauer on Unsplash, (CC0), cropped/text added.


About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.