There is no such thing as a perfect marriage.
With that said, Southern California Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, along with dozens of other couples at his megachurch renewed their marriage vows on Sunday.
"We live in a broken world and because none of us is perfect, there is no such thing as a perfect marriage," Warren told thousands at Saddleback Church. "Every marriage is broken. You can't take two imperfect people and make a perfect marriage."
Warren just celebrated his 35th wedding anniversary. His marriage to Kay hasn't always been smooth sailing. The biography Prophet of Purpose: The Life of Rick Warren, by Jeffery L. Sheler, reveals that the couple suffered intensely from misunderstandings and other marital problems at the start of their marriage and had to go through counseling.
"Every marriage goes through rough waters," Warren said, adding that anyone who says they have a perfect marriage is lying. "It's important for you to periodically renew your commitment and remember your vows that you made."
In an atypical worship service on Sunday, complete with a wedding arch adorned with flowers on stage, Warren recited an eight-minute recommitment vow, thanking Kay for believing in him every time he took a risk and vowing to stand with her for the rest of their lives. In her vow, Kay expressed gratitude for his support and love when she was being treated for breast cancer and recommitted herself to be faithful to him.
Ahead of the vows, Warren acknowledged the difficulty of keeping marriages healthy and strong especially in today's society.
"Literally, everything works against marriages staying together. Nothing in our society works at keeping your marriage together," he said. "If it's going to stay together it's going to be because of you."
Outlining the significance of marriage, the renowned pastor described marriage as "a lab for learning to love."
"God put you on earth to learn two things: to know and love Him and to know and love other people," he said. "If you don't know how to love you've missed the primary purpose of life."
Distinguishing love from attraction, he explained, "Love is when you give up yourself for the benefit of another person."
"It doesn't come naturally," Warren noted. "Love is a choice. Love is a commitment. Love is not a feeling. You love because you choose to love and if you stop loving it's because you chose to stop loving."
Citing a New Testament passage that he believes is the most abused and misunderstood in the Bible, Warren said marriage is not about domination or equality.
Ephesians 5 calls husbands to give their lives for their wives, not dominate them, he explained.
"I get to sacrifice the most. The leader leads by example, not by domination," he said, noting that Jesus did the same for the church when he went to the cross.
"Marriage is not about competing with each other; it's about complementing each other."
Warren and Kay led dozens of couples in an informal "remarrying" ceremony over the weekend. One of the primary goals of Saddleback Church is to strengthen marriages. Nothing, Warren said, can be strong unless the families in it are strong.
"I doubt there is another church that invests more time, energy, and money in supporting marriages and families. We offer literally hundreds of specialized small groups, programs, audio series and books by our staff, pre-marriage counseling, and tens of thousands of hours of marriage coaching every year."
With thousands on site and thousands more watching the service live online, Warren made it clear that, "God's number one goal for your life is not to make you happy but to make you holy. And the number one purpose of your marriage is not to make you happy but to make you holy, to make you like Christ."
"If you will stay together and you'll keep working and you'll put Christ at the center and you'll make Him the glue that holds you together ... you will not only grow more like Christ, you will experience a joy that is impossible to experience when you don't have Christ at the center of your marriage."