American consumers are expected to spend more than $26 billion this Valentine’s Day on everything from roses and chocolate to flowers and romantic escapes, solidifying the holiday as a major boon to retailers in an otherwise quiet time on the calendar.

It was Sir William Gilbert, the English dramatist and poet of the 19th century who was credited with coining the phrase, “It’s love that makes the world go round” – but that’s been the case since the beginning of time.

Romance and marriage have literally populated and stabilized life on earth. History shows that where cultures have embraced and respected marriage, fate and fortunes rise. Conversely, civilizations that mock or disregard the sacred institution falter and fail.

“There is no more lovely, friendly, and charming relationship, communion, or company than a good marriage,” said the reformer Martin Luther. Indeed, marriage provides purpose, significance, incentive, and pleasure.

Yet, marriage is not everything, and wise is the person who recognizes its place and priority. As Christians, we’re warned not to make an idol of the marital union. Few do, but it’s always good to be reminded it’s our relationship with the Lord we should lead with – and by doing so, we become better husbands or wives.

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing,” warned C.S. Lewis. “There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God.”

Those of us who have been blessed by a loving spouse know marriage has changed our lives, but what marriages have changed the world? Here are a few:

  1. Adam and Eve: Genesis may not capture details of a marriage ceremony, but the world’s first people were also the first couple joined in the sacred institution of holy matrimony.

Scripture is clear that Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters, though the flood later reduced the population of earth to just eight people. Skeptics often question how so few could eventually grow the earth to seven billion people. As it is, were the population to double every 150 years (a conservative rate) in the four-thousand plus years many Biblical scholars calculate since the flood, we’d be at – between six and seven billion people.

Incidentally, the first marriage also resulted in the fall of man, of course, a devastating development that drastically and negatively changed the world and necessitated the need of a Savior.

  1. Joseph and Mary: Most only think of Jesus’ parents at Christmas, but it’s impossible to leave them off any list of marriages that changed civilization. Given Jesus’ virgin birth, Joseph was an adoptive father, but how he responded to the news of the Incarnation makes clear he was devoted and devout. The Bible captures no recorded words from Joseph, but we know he provided for His son’s and wife’s needs, and protected his Son from Herod.
  2. George and Martha Washington: Martha Dandridge Custis was a 26-year-old widow when she met the military man, George. They courted several months before getting married, embarking on a union that would survive the American Revolution and all the pressures associated with leading a newly minted nation. Writing to Martha in the swirl of battle with Great Britain in 1775, the future president confided, “I retain an unalterable affection for you, which neither time or distance can change.”
  3. John and Abigail Adams: Long considered one of the grand romances of the generation, the affection expressed in their letters has been preserved. Writing to Abigail, whom he called “Miss Adorable,” we read:

“I hereby order you to give….as many Kisses, and as many Hours of your Company after 9 O’Clock as he shall please to Demand and charge them to my Account…..I have good right to draw upon you for the Kisses  as I have given two or three Millions at least…”

Writing to John, Abigail once penned:

“Should I draw you a picture of my Heart, it would be what I hope you still would Love; tho it contained nothing new; the early possession you obtained there; and the absolute power you have ever maintained over it; leaves not the smallest space unoccupied….I look back to the early days of our acquaintance; and Friendship , as to the days of Love and Innocence…’nor have the dreary days of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the image of the dear untitled man to whom I gave my Heart….'”

  1. Billy and Ruth Graham: Married for 63 years, the world’s best-known and beloved evangelist was described by Duke University professor Grant Wacker as “a man who maintained absolute marital fidelity … an evangelist who lived the way he preached.”

Ruth Graham, known for her spunk and loyalty, was once asked by a reporter if she’d ever divorce her husband. She quipped, “Divorce, no, murder yes!”

Whether on Valentine’s Day or any other day of the year, marriage is to be respected and revered, as well as championed and celebrated. Nobody has put it better than Jesus: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:6).