The Offense of Selfless Love


Ian and Larissa, like many other couples, met in college. They were both believers in Jesus Christ, and pretty soon the relationship got serious. Ian began shopping for an engagement ring. They planned to get married in December 2006. However, 10 months into their courtship, while Ian headed to work in Pittsburgh, the white station wagon he drove was involved in a horrible crash.

Larissa got the call to come to the hospital, and one of her first thoughts was, Please don’t let it be a brain injury. But in God’s sovereignty, it was a traumatic brain injury, and Ian had to undergo surgery. Physically, he would never be the same.

Suddenly Larissa’s life was turned upside down—to say nothing of Ian’s. Their hearts had been knit together in love, and now she was faced with the uncomfortable truth that the man she loved would no longer be able to do what couples took for granted: cook dinner, drive her somewhere, even hold her in his arms.

Counting the Cost

Unlike so many others, Larissa’s first response was not to bail out when the times got tough. She was involved in Ian’s rehabilitative therapy. It was clear, however, that a full recovery was not possible. And yet this remarkable couple continued to “date” one another, and Larissa knew of Ian’s continuing desire to marry her.

Larissa resolved, however, not to make that kind of commitment if Ian could not communicate with her. As the agonizing therapy and limited recovery continued, Larissa and Ian saw their friends getting married, and their joy for friends was tempered by sadness over their own circumstances.

As Ian worked at his therapy, their communication slowly improved, although with less clarity and detail than before. Larissa knew, however, that Ian would never walk out on her if their roles were reversed. She also knew that God would be faithful in the midst of their marriage.

So, four years after the accident, Larissa and Ian tied the knot. Larissa admits,

Marrying Ian meant that I was signing on to things that I don’t think I ever would’ve chosen for myself—working my whole life, having a husband who can’t be left alone, managing his caregivers, remembering to get the oil changed, advocating for medical care, balancing checkbooks, and so on. The practical costs felt huge, and those didn’t even touch on the emotional and spiritual battles that I would face.

Following Christ  

Yet Larissa Murphy is finding God more than faithful. Larissa says that although her husband cannot do the secondary tasks common to marriage, he still does the primary one, which is to provide spiritual leadership. And Larissa is providing something just as striking: an example of Christ-like love.

And so everyone rejoices with the miraculous Murphys, right? Wrong. Responding to Amy Julia Becker’s post lionizing this couple, some commenters offer only two cheers—or even fewer.

“It’s a sweet story, but makes me uncomfortable,” a poster identifying herself as “Ann” says. “Maybe especially because it’s been so publicized. Is it fine they made this choice? Yes. Did Larissa need to marry Ian? No. It is one thing to stay with a spouse if they suffer a disability during marriage, but that type of commitment is not required prior to marriage.”

Another reader, “Bethany E.,” expressed doubt whether the marriage of Ian and Larissa is really a joining of equals: “It’s hard to get that . . . from watching the video, as the only time we see Ian talking, he’s expressing things that an 8-year-old with Down syndrome could express. There’s a huge difference between knowing that God loves you and having the mental and emotional capabilities to be a spiritual leader, as Larissa says Ian is.”

“Tamara,” meanwhile, stated, “This made me very sad. You can show Christ-like love to someone without binding yourself to him/her in marriage.”

The Offense of the Cross

What’s behind this unease? Certainly no one praising Larissa says her radical act of love is required by God for everyone facing similar circumstances. We have different gifts and callings, after all.

Such discomfort about Ian and Larissa may reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of Christian marriage. The Bible portrays marriage—especially when entered into by believers—not as a contractual agreement between two parties, but as a covenant relationship before God. Ian and Larissa Murphy know this.

“We know that we have made a covenant to each other, just as Christ made to the church,” Larissa says. “The church that he made that covenant with is so imperfect, and sorrowful, and disabled. Just like our marriage. This church, and this marriage, are hemmed in by Jesus and eagerly long for heaven. He is their author and sustainer.”

Perhaps if more Christians viewed marriage this way, our rates of marital breakup would differ more markedly from those of the world. Marriage is not a contract in which each person expects to receive equal benefits in return. It is a covenant meant to mirror the relationship of Christ and his church, in which each partner lives selflessly for the good of the other (Eph. 5:25-32).

We talk a lot in both church and in culture about the virtue of being radical. Friends, this kind of self-giving love is radical. Maybe that’s why something so obviously good is also so offensive. Truth be told, we don’t really want to be truly radical most of the time.

This shouldn’t surprise us. We talk about “the offense of the cross.” What’s offensive about it? Simply this: The cross tells us that we are lost, ugly, helpless sinners whose only hope is in the grace and mercy of a God who took the punishment that we richly deserve. Our pride is offended when we learn we contribute nothing to our own rescue.

I’m not sure that Larissa would characterize her actions as selfless or even as sacrificial. After all, she and Ian love one another, and love sometimes requires radical things. The question is not whether she was required to do this, or whether we would be. The question is whether we are ready to love selflessly, the way God loves us.

If we do, don’t be surprised if others take offense.

  • Hannah

    I read the original post at Her.menutics as well as the follow-up conversation and I think some of the “offense” had less to do with Ian’s disability and the Gospel than with the fundamental questions surrounding the nature of marriage. What was in question wasn’t that marriage requires sacrificial, covenantal love, but what else does it require? and how do we as a society (a church) determine if a certain relationship meets those requirements?

    Because we of all people cannot say that sacrificial love alone is enough to establish a marriage–this is the very argument in favor of gay marriage and one that we quickly dismiss. Marriage is about more than sacrificial love. But we also cannot say that simply being biologically male and female is enough either because we don’t sanction marriage between children and young teenagers. We also believe that marriage also requires a certain maturity and competency.

    I think this is what many comments were directed toward: what elements are necessary to constitute a marriage? did this marriage meet those requirements? and was marriage the best/only way to express sacrificially love in this situation?

    And these things were in question primarily because the video was promoting Ian and Larissa as a fabulous example of Christian marriage–not selfless love, but marriage. The commentators were simply responding to whether they believed that was the case or not.

    • Sam

      Hannah, I did not feel pressured into thinking that their marriage was the ideal marriage at all.

      What it does show is that marriage shouldn’t be input=output. So the video isn’t showing an “ideal marriage”, but it is showing how wrong the input to output ratio is in our own ideas of an “ideal marriage”.

      • Hannah

        Let me clarify–I was sloppy with my last statement. I agree with you that the video is not portraying an “ideal marriage.” Still, the subtext ties marriage so closely to Larissa’s expression of self-less love that it blurs the distinction between what marriage is (covenant–and as a result, what must be present to enter into that covenant) and what is necessary to make that covenant successful (self-less love.) But these two are not the same thing. While marriage requires selfless love, not all selfless love requires marriage.

        I also completely agree that Larissa’s commitment and faithfulness to Ian should be celebrated! It is rare to find such steady persistent love. But, to be fair, the discussions surrounding the video aren’t questioning this as the author suggests–they are questioning whether faithfulness and self-less love are enough to constitute and necessitate marriage. Which is another conversation entirely.

        • Melody

          On the contrary what I saw in the bulk of the comments was mean-spirited opinions. There is no reason for people to have that strong of a reaction unless they were feeling convicted.

          Realistically what did people want her to do? Take care of him and then go on to marry someone else? Then maybe they could take care of him like a nice Christian couple as though he was a non-person without feelings. Of course all kinds of people would have opinions on that scenario too.

          We forget that this world is not our home and the road in front of us is more about the spiritual battles unseen. Unfortunately most just think about getting a fair deal in this life for themselves.

      • Michelle

        Regardless of where we stand, it is fair to say that the video alone did not provide a lot of information! Some key facts, like the exact extent of Ian’s injuries, were unclear and left me wondering (granted, I don’t know much about brain injuries). The filmmakers could have added more details.

        Hannah, I think the questions you voiced (“what elements are necessary to constitute a marriage? did this marriage meet those requirements? and was marriage the best/only way to express sacrificially love in this situation?”) are really important to ask.

    • David

      Hannah, are you married?

      You are missing three important details in your analysis of Ian and Laryssa’s situation: context, context and context. Come back with your ideas when we find a woman who meets a mentally challenged man and then desires to marry him; in this case, you may have some good points.

      • Hannah

        Yes, I’m married–happily for eleven years through joy and heartbreak, struggles and victories.

        Again, my point is not to question Larissa’s selflessness. My point was to question Chris Castaldo’s interpretation of the objections voiced by the comments at Her.menutics. Castaldo interprets them in a very harsh light–that they were motivated by a misunderstanding of the Gospel and selfless love. That reaches too far.

        Ultimately many of the questions had more to do with the context of the marriage and needing more information (like Michelle suggested the video glossed over some very necessary details about Ian’s capacity to enter into a covenant.) These questions were obviously significant enough that Ian and Larissa had to obtain consent from a judge before they could marry

        • Melody

          They had to obtain consent because our country is ridiculous and unfair.
          The comments were mean. One person questioned why shouldn’t gay people be able to get married if those two can. Seriously?? Some were saying that he talked like a mental handicapped 8 year old and progressed to a fact.

          The fact of the matter is that people, even Christians, are more willing to accept the Bachelorette as the basis for a relationship than this couple.

          Why do people think that we are ENTITLED to all the details so that we can pass judgement? Was there some reason to question her character, judgement or leading by GOD? Why aren’t we willing to look in the mirror instead?

          He is not in a coma. He speaks slowly but his answers are relevant to the questions. Why should he put himself on camera longer so that mean people can be satisfied that they have a right to get married?

          The thing that makes me really really sad is that everyone forgets that what you say about people on the internet can be seen by them. You may not have to face them but your words are still accounted to you.

          • Hannah

            I’m sure that there were some very mean comments hurled around the internet but the ones that Castaldo quotes in this article as proof that people were offended by Larissa’s selfless love are not necessarily mean. They are simply observations about a video that did not fill in the gaps.

            And yes, that information is VITALLY necessary to understanding Ian and Larissa’s commitment to each other. So much so, that the question had to be answered in court. I’m not saying that Ian was incapable of entering a marriage, but that the backlash on the internet has more to do with the video not answering that question, of not providing enough info and leaving the viewer very confused about the exact nature of their relationship.

            And yes, the viewer is entitled to that information if simply because the burden of proof falls to the film’s producers. They chose to make Ian and Larissa an example of selfless love and promote it on the internet, so they must be prepared for the questions that come from a very unorthodox situation. And we must be careful not to negate those questions as illegitimate or somehow lacking an understanding of the gospel.

            Which is what Castaldo does in this article and what I originally objected to.

          • College Jay

            I agree with Hannah completely here. When a video is being circulated as an implicit example of a Christian marriage, then people have the right to scrutinize its effectiveness as an example. Let me be clear: this is not the same as criticizing Ian and Larissa’s marriage. They are married, and they are clearly a radical, loving, selfless couple, but should they be held up as an example?

            Questions about Ian’s ability to lead are very relevant to this discussion. The video made it appear as though Ian is in a state of perpetual childhood. There are also very relevant questions about his ability to physically consummate a marriage. We cannot ignore the fact that marriage is a joining of two people as one flesh. This is a primary — not a secondary — function of marriage. It’s what separates marriage from other platonic, loving relationships.

            When you share deeply personal things on the Internet, in many ways you are holding yourself up as an example. Desiring God is definitely holding up Ian and Larissa’s story as an example — and as somewhat of a marketing tool for John Piper’s book, which makes me uncomfortable as well. While many of the comments have been vicious and inappropriate, a lot of them are asking good questions. If Ian is indeed as childlike as he was shown in the video, then that raises questions about whether he can truly be fulfilling the roles that husbands were meant to fulfill.

            Again, if Ian and Larissa were a private couple that I simply knew at my church, I’d be very offended by any comments criticizing them. But Larissa has chosen to publicize her marriage, and while it is indeed a beautiful story, it is being set up as an example, and the implicit message of that example is, “If you wouldn’t do the same thing as her, you’re not as Christ-like or Gospel-centered as you should be.” Chris Castaldo obviously believes that message. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be critiquing the people who raised very good concerns.

  • Paul Cummings

    My wife and I like thousands of other couples watched this video a couple of weeks ago and we were certainly moved by the amazing power of Christlike selfless love displayed…and a while later as we discussed it I asked “do you think I could have done that if you had been in a wreck?” to which she calmly replied…” at 22? No, I don’t think you could.”. She is right as well…this is where I wonder aloud…would a man (given our differences in physiology) be able to forego sex forever in a marriage? In my self analysis I truly don’t think that at 22 or maybe even 32 (I am 40 now)…if I had never been intimate with a woman could say “I am ok with that never happening…”

    • Melody

      Paul is that stated or assumed?

      • paul Cummings

        I’m totally assuming…I could be wrong…but I was going “worst case scenario” just to make me truly see my own selfish drives…

  • Mel

    The story made me uncomfortable too. Because I don’t think I could do that in the same circumstances. I know there are no guarantees. I know I could get married and the person could become a vegetable or die after a couple months. But to walk into a marriage knowing it would never be what people typically equate with marriage…I don’t think I would be that brave. I don’t think I would trust God that much. It’s an amazing story. But I understand why it made those people sad.

    • Dave

      Mel, you have missed the whole point of the article! Selfless Love!

      • Mel

        I saw the point. It made me uncomfortable and I said why. Did you not understand my point?

        • Dave

          That’s just it. I understand it…. “But to walk into a marriage knowing it would never be what people typically equate with marriage…I don’t think I would be that brave.” This is what culture says. Me, myself and I. You say me and I in your comment over 10 times. It’s all about you.
          It’s not about Larissa, she has done what God is pleased with which is putting Him first then Ian and then her!
          And this… “I don’t think I would trust God that much.” What does that mean???

          • Melody

            Dave she was being honest and you want to shoot her down and keep her feelings and thoughts to herself. Seriously?

            Yes she owns her feelings and thoughts with I and me. That is how you are supposed to do it instead of trying to speak for other people.

            I’m wondering if your hammering on her means that you are positive that you could behave so faithfully?

            Larissa said that she prayed for it to not be a brain injury. It sounds like that was something that she didn’t want to be brave for either.

            • Dave

              Hey Melody, I did not mean to “shoot” anyone down. Far from it. If it seemed that way I apologise to you, Mel and anyone else I have offended.

    • Mandi

      Mel, I think you hit it on the head. This story makes us uncomfortable, maybe not because it challenges how we view marriage, but because Larissa is showing a huge amount of trust in God. Many of us will never have to be that reliant on God in our lives, and I am with you in wondering if I have the kind of relationship with Him where I would be able to step out in faith like that.

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    • Monica

      I don’t think that any of us are offended by this story. Offense is the wrong sentiment here. We are perplexed, in awe, confused, and feel deep sympathy, but we are not offended. When we hear this story, I believe that most of us try to picture ourselves in this situation and we are either humbled by it, or we shudder. Though we try to live like Christ, and display unselfish love, we are still very human and we live and feel through our humanness. I can look at this story from a distance and say “Good for you.”, but I’m not so sure that I’d be saying the same thing if Larissa were my daughter. I’d want to scream and plead that she not do this. And, I’m not so sure that Larissa can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ian would have done the same thing for her. I don’t think that anyone can say what they would do until they’ve been there.

  • R. Delaney

    Remember the days when you heard a story like this and the natural response was amazement at the selfless act and respect for the person(s) involved.

    Such an offense says more about the one offended than the situation they are offended by.

    So I suppose the right thing for Larissa to have done is (even if she did help during his recovery) say “buh bye” when he recovered as much as he could, then find her a healthy man. Nice

    Why is it only after the marriage ceremony that such a commitment be required? “Oh, too bad Ian, if this had only happened AFTER exchanging our marital vows, THEN I would be here to love you and take care of you.” Does romantic love get an exception from 1 Corinthians 13?

    Larissa is to be commended, not lionized. This generation has lost sight of self sacrifice. If you’re a Christian, you need to trust God the same way Larissa does…

  • http://None Patrick

    The question is not whether what they chose to do was the only Christ honoring way to act in their situation. Larissa could have chosen to not marry him and not sinned. What their story does is highlight the kind of love and commitment that Christian marriage really is founded on. Many people marry in the fog of hormones and infatuation.

  • Susan

    The thing is, most of us go into marriage thinking life will be great and our spouse will treat us well. Then, when the marriage is tested, from within or without (which will surely happen) we find out how committed we really are. “I didn’t have any idea how abusively angry my husband was going to be. I want a divorce.” we say, failing to recognize that God allows suffering for our own know, the hart times when we are utterly miserable. Human nature says “Flee this suffering at all costs!”. God wants us to be faithful. THIS then becomes a picture of God’s faithfulness toward us even though we stray.
    Larissa got to see before marrying the suffering that most of us don’t encounter till after tying the knot. She definitely had to count the cost. She went into that marriage with her eyes wide open, knowing that she would be her husband’s servant and he would never be hers. God bless her! How many of us would be that selfless?

  • j

    My wife has stuck by me following a traumatic brain injury.
    The person that she married is different from the one she is married to now. I was a ‘strong’ man for most of my life; 9 years in Special Forces under fire dozens of times and wounded seriously two of them; during 2o years in law enforcement I was put in the hospital often. (I guess somebody more intelligent would have quit…)
    I survived all that – then almost 4 years ago an artery in my brain burst (possibly due to repeated head trauma). Doctors told us that the chances of my survival were in the millions at the time, but by God’s grace I did – and I walk and talk and read and am blessed to minister to others.
    In Christ we live and breathe and have our ‘being’.

    I wouldn’t blame my wife if she walked out – she got a ‘bum deal’….
    Emotionally I’m not the same, physically – not even close, mentally I am blessed – but have problems with my memory.
    I live in constant pain, both from the head injury and wounds I received.
    My vision, balance and coordination are all compromised and I have frequent seizures since the ‘event’…
    My wife has to drive me around and take responsibility more than she should.
    I fail her and my family in so many ways, not only physically now but also because my own sin guarantees it.
    My wife has a very demanding job in the medical field and works around some very difficult people, yet she has the respect of not only her subordinates but also most of her peers and ‘superiors’.
    She proves that ‘love’ is not what you feel – it’s what you do.
    It’s a God enabled determination to bless the person or persons in front of you.
    It takes lots of guts…
    Most people look at ‘love’ as an investment and they expect a return to show in their ‘bottom line’.

    My wife is a better person than me – out of all the people I have met in the course of my life and notable individuals I have encountered – after Christ she is my hero.
    I know that God gave her to me and I am humbled to call her my wife.

    • christy

      “God-enabled determination to bless the person in front of you”…this is also an amazing testimony to God’s love working out in the midst of our failures and frailties…Trusting our lives and our futures in the hands of the Almighty God…is one of the most difficult things to do…to let go of the “me” and say “You, God..” , You are God over my life, You, God, are the maker and creator of my days,You, God, are the author of the romance of my life,You are the giver of peace, of wisdom, of courage, of dedication,of selfless-love….that we are willing to step out in faith, willing to trust God with all..the good,the hurt,the joy,traumatic events,poor health, good health, the bad, the ugly,the success,the doubt, the anger and the failures in our lives…and say “You, God, are good and faithful”…. that is when God is glorified in the “offensiveness” of choosing to follow Him in every aspect (and despite every aspect) of our lives… just some imperfect thoughts from reading “j’s” post and others..

  • Susan

    Awesome tribute to your wife, and the Lord, j.

  • David

    We are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ as Christ loved the Church; that is, we are to lay down our lives. There are no caveats or exceptions, “what you do to the least of these (Christians) you do to Me (Christ)”. What is the confusion about the motivation and the cost?

    We have believed a lie in America and must come back to the truth that GOD love “does not seek its own”… ever.

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  • SirBrass

    I’m a single guy, but hope to be married some day (to whom I have no idea). But I look at this and think, “If I were to be in Ian’s position, I wouldn’t blame the girl for walking out, but I really would not want her to.” Call it selfish, but if you love someone, you don’t want them to walk out on you, no matter how understandable, if you’re somehow injured or hurt in such a traumatic way.

    The way I see it, Larissa didn’t have to marry him. But she and Ian were already having their hearts knit together by God. In that circumstance, it was indeed Christ-like selfless love that motivated her to stay. That’s not always going to be the case, but it was in this one.

    If we feel uncomfortable because we wonder if we could do the same in Larissa’s situation, then good. It’s good to acknowledge where we’re weak. Just don’t stay there and criticize. Look at it as a challenge, even if that situation never happens to you (and pray it does not. Just because the Lord will put us through trials is no reason to ask for specific, devastating ones… He knows what trials each of us need to go through, so leave it up to Him), seek to develop and grow towards that kind of maturity.

    We set our sights on Christ as we grow in our walks, but that doesn’t mean the LORD won’t provide us with other godly examples from our own fallen yet justified ranks. I see this couple as one such example. Their trials are their own, but their maturity and determination are things which are to be commended and set up as examples of what it means to be Christ-minded.

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  • pohyoke

    I am a Chinese from Malaysia. I wonder what I would say if that is my daughter( as the case of Larissa) or that is my son ( as the case of Ian)who has to make the decision as to marry or not. I have the impression that Larissa was 22 years old, please correct me if I am wrong, when she married.To us, that is really a very young age as many would still be in universities or colleges in Malaysia. I would be asking questions like:Can they not have a deep, platonic friendship for the rest of their lives instead of getting married? Is it not enough that she supports him materially(she can even set aside a certain percentage of her salary for him), spiritually and emotionally even though she’s not married to him? In our country where there is little support for the mentally challenged, can my daughter manage the next , perhaps 50 years of her life taking care of him..and what if she ever gets ill herself? Do I want my son to be a burden to anyone else? I don’t know the answers and I really don’t know what I will say to my child but I will have to hear very clearly from God, in order to say ‘yes’ to the marriage.

    • Stephen

      Pohyoke, I don’t really have answers to your questions, but to clarify the story as it has been presented, I believe this is the general timeline: Larissa and Ian met/began dating when she was about 21 (Ian might be a couple years older? I don’t remember). At 22, Ian had the accident. Larissa, along with Ian’s family and really their whole church community, cared for Ian for 4 years before they were married. It’s pretty clear that these kinds of questions were considered long and hard by Larissa and the friends/family involved.

  • Pete Gross

    One question that has not been addressed here is Ian’s love for her. What type of love is required of him? Is he able to really enter into a covenant relationship if he interacts on the level of a grade schooler? Why would we encourage marriage for him? Ultimately, is it not selfish of him to ask her to marry him in that state? As the man, how can he be the leader in his home?

    It seems to me that sacrificial love on her part is beautiful and laudable, and as a married person, to be emulated. However, focusing on her love misses the point.

    To those who question the difference the ceremony makes, it makes a huge difference. How many engaged couples do you know who have decided for one reason or another to call the wedding off, and while we may be saddened, there is no need to involve church leaders (for possible discipline). Yet if the same thing happens one day after the wedding, we would rightly call it sin, and exhort them on the nature of the marriage covenant. (Use the same argument for a sexual relationship before or after the wedding day). The ceremony makes a difference.

    • Hannah

      Yes. The ceremony is everything. We’re talking about a marriage which is a distinct societal covenant with distinct responsibilities and privileges. Selfless love can exhibit itself in many different ways, but marriage is a unique expression of selfless love and we must be very clear on what it is and what it is not.

  • OnlyFro

    well, i already angered everyone i know on facebook with this question, but it seems like a logical extension of this article:

    instead of having an accident, what if ian had turned out to be abusive? does “selfless, sacrificial, Christ-like love” still apply in that situation? for the sake of the argument, let’s say that this hypothetical abuse happens after the marriage vows. does larissa stay, with the help of her family and church? or does she run away and let the cops handle the rest?

    • Tanya

      Well, abuse and disability are two VERY different subjects. I certainly don’t think you can compare the two (I’d be intrigued to hear your reasoning for why abuse is a logical extension of the article). Abuse is definitely not what the o/p was about. However, I’ll try to answer your question.

      If she was in danger, it would be important for her safety to get away from him physically whilst he is dangerous. If Ian was to repent and master whatever was causing the abuse, as long as Larissa was safe, there’d be no issue with her returning.

      If he didn’t… well it’d be tricky. No-one should force her back into danger. Forcing her to be under the same roof as him just because of vows would be utterly ridiculous, and a grave failing on the part of those who attempt it. It may be appropriate to lay charges in either circumstance (which could either shock the man out of the behaviour, or make sure they are kept away from their victim).

      Divorce… I think some people are willing to condone it for extreme circumstances like this, but I would hesitate. After all, the marriage covenant is a serious one, made before God, and should not be arbitrarily broken. If it were me, I wouldn’t divorce, but would make sure to stay the heck away and keep everything documented with either a trusted friend or a minister. You never know, it may take months or years for an abusive person to repent and change their behaviour.

      Sorry it’s so long, hope it helped.

      • OnlyFro

        i appreciate the long and thoughtful reply! but you still responded in the expected way – deciding larissa’s actions by considering only the needs of larissa. why are we proud of her for loving a disabled man, but never consider how the abusive man needs to be loved? i would suggest that the disease inside the abusive man’s heart is much worse than any physical affliction.

        i suggested that this was a logical extension because first we are called to love our neighbor, and then we are also called to love our enemy. both of these loves should be selfless, sacrificial, and Christ-like. you said that “if she was in danger, it would be important for her safety to get away from him…” why? how does this show any love for him? what if instead of taking people away, the church sent more people in? what if brothers and sisters moved into the relationship, close enough to protect her, close enough to affect him? that kind of love might require sacrifice…

        thanks again for your patient and thoughtful response!

        • Lauren L.

          OnlyFro, please carefully consider the difference between choosing to serve and being victimized. Larissa is not being victimized.

          There are so many points to bring up here, but perhaps you might agree with this one most: An abuser absolutely needs help, mercy, grace, and love, but the way he receives all this should not be the same thing that enables him to continue in his sin, which is the presence of his victim(s.) I think Tanya offered a wise solution in separating until repentance occurs. A wife can continue to show love from afar through prayer.

        • Tanya

          Hi again

          I think it is important to love both the victim and the abuser, so yes, I agree that it absolutely is important to get people alongside both parties and love and support them through the issues.

          I stand by the importance of taking someone who’s being physically abused away from their abuser. Why? Because bruises, broken bones, internal injuries etc all suck. No-one should have to endure those. Especially not from someone they love, and who claims to love them back. In these circumstances, I think it is more loving to both parties to remove the victim. For the victim, it’s fairly obvious. For the abuser, it’s so they don’t cause any more harm and damage the relationship and their partner any more, to shock them and show them what they’re doing, and remove the temptation from them. It may be loving to them, it may not. But we should NOT stand by and insist a victim stay in a dangerous place. All too often physical abuse is accompanied by manipulation, or promises it won’t happen again whilst continuing to get worse. It’s not loving to anyone involved. Further, it’s a terrible witness to those involved, and society at large to allow any kind of abuse to continue. But most of all, abuse is not condoned by God. Nowhere in the Bible does He command married people to beat each other.

          The church can indeed get involved. I’m not suggesting they tear the couple apart, but that the victim be seperated from their abuser until it is safe to return. I’ll say again, it is not loving to the abuser to keep them around a temptation they’ve proved they can’t resist.

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  • Susan

    I think it’s wrong for strangers to this marriage (you and I) to be questioning critics of it. All such discussion is speculative. We’d be better off giving them the benefit of the doubt (if you have doubt).
    The only people who can accurately speak to any of the questions raised are those who know the couple personally.

    • Hannah

      I would agree with you if the marriage were not being publicly promoted by the people closest to them. When they decided to use Ian and Larissa as an example of selfless covenantal love, they also had to be prepared for the conversation and questions that logically result from a very complicated situation. It’s not enough to say: “just trust us on this one” without defining and giving clear evidence that this relationship can actually be a guide for other marriages.

      • Susan

        Well, one thing’s for sure. Ian and Larissa are sinners too, so there will be problems. It certainly does show the character of Larissa though, that she would knowingly sacrifice what so many of us go into marriage assuming will be better about our lives. A selfish person would not have made her choice. She knowingly entered marriage in a very much serving role. Why can’t we just acknowledge that and reflect on the Christlikeness of that little bit of her that we can see and not question it? A better way to think might be to ask ourselves what we might learn from her example that would challenge our own actions and way of thinking about our spouses. Do we live mostly to fulfill ourselves or do we willingly ”treat one another as more important than yourself”?

        • Hannah

          Yes, I agree that Larissa reflects a selfless love that can only be classified as Divine. And we do learn this from her.

        • Karen Wind

          This definitely does show Larissa’s character, but what about Ian? All this talk about sacrificial love and no one has considered that the true sacrificial love here would have been him letting her go, not burdening her with a lifetime of being a caregiver. This is completely their issue though, not for an outsider to be judgemental about; to me the issue here is the church using this as some kind of example, yet another instance of impossible standards being set so that people will have doubts as previous comments have shown that they are “Christian enough” to do the same.

  • Susan

    I was thinking too about the fact that she is very attractive and sweet. Many men would be interested in her but she chose to marry the man she loves (someone whom perhaps no other woman would fall in love with in his current state). She was laying aside how others would view her. After all, don’t we tend to marry someone who in some way boosts our self-image (even if we wouldn’t want to admit it)?

  • josh

    Has not enough been said?

    Let us pray for their marriage, other marriages and the institution itself.

    And Larissa, I should hope you never find these posts but if you do, take heart! May God continue to bless you and sustain you!

    For those who have issues with the material presented and questions therein, please seek out DesiringGod or the production company in private, certainly not in a place where she could see and be discouraged.

    I understand this is a blog/in public but for sake of the Body of Christ, please be sensitive!

  • Sophia

    this is an amazing testimony of God working in a radical way. I love what the man says in the video about marriage not about “prospering economically” but about the covenant of love between Christ and the church. This is beautiful and I can’t imagine what their lives are like on an everyday, but it is such a beautiful message that love is selfless. I am almost envious that even in their situation they are able to be in a beautiful relationship, while many of us seem to jump on the marriage bandwagon without ever understanding the purpose of marriage.

    I’m so encouraged by this!

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  • Frank Turk

    Chris — the best sermon for traditional marriage written this year. Well done.

    I have one fact-checking item for you to bank for future reference. You wrote this:

    Perhaps if more Christians viewed marriage this way, our rates of marital breakup would differ more markedly from those of the world.

    Barna and less-careful statisticians would agree with you. However, there is a secular study which, I think, needs to be more visible as we have this discussion in a world where Marriage is being discarded.

    A 2002 study by Larson and Swyers published in “Marriage, Health and the Professions” and cited in the National Review in 2006 spells it out that couples who attended church as often as once a month had divorce rates less than half of that of couples who attended church once a year or less.

    Committed Christians are divorcing at a lower rate than society, and at a lower rate than nominal Christians. We should bank this, and see that our faith is not in nothing, and does not have no substance. It’s important especially in the discussions we will be having in the next 10 years about the difference between our version of marriage and the world’s.

  • Curt

    That was beautiful!!!

  • Ella

    This video fills me with awe at their courage. If more people allowed themselves to be less inspired by Hollywood and more inspired by testimonies like the Murphy’s as well as true biblical truths on marriage and books like Piper’s, I am sure that the tragically high divorce rate among Christians would sink rapidly. I find nothing questionable or wrong or negative about this small documentary. Rather, it is so beautiful, delicate and precious. So inspiring, challenging, and definitely an offense to the western ideal and fantasy, to my utopic and secular-media-inspired view. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy.

  • Wendy Alsup

    I couldn’t do it! But the Lord hasn’t asked me to either. I think He provides supernatural grace to do what He wants us to do. I imagine Ian and Larissa would both give testimony of this.

    Perhaps in general we’ve over analyzed this. We’ve mixed up “could I do this” with “should I do this”? Should we do this? It’s an irrelevant hypothetical question. If any of us end up there, I think we’d see we COULD do what God called us to do, though His direction may be different for two different couples despite similar circumstances.

  • http://facebook cb

    YUK! This makes me embarrassed to be Christian. This poor, misguided woman will never know the joy, struggles, and satisfactions of a real marriage or family. In her profoundly misinformed decision she condemned herself to difficulty, sadness, and even misery for life.

    • Melody

      cb are you kidding me? Difficulty and sadness comes from being with a completely insensitive and selfish person that projects their idea of what life is supposed to be like on everyone else around them. Completely ignoring the pain they cause everyone they come in contact with. Those people still don’t figure it out even when living to a very old age. They sit alone in their houses wondering why no one calls or comes to visit. You may not see it right now. But some day it will come unless you let Holy Spirit change your heart.

    • Frank Turk

      I know. Jesus feels exactly the same way about the Church, Right?

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  • Vinod Anand S

    For all those who find this video uncomfortable and say that Larissa could have avoided this, let me ask one question. What if Christ Jesus had this thought when he was ready to die for us. We would never be saved. We all will be in miserable condition. He was uncomfortable to the point of sweating blood.

    We also want to know that God does not require the same kind of sacrifice from everybody. He knows every one, in and out, even before they were created. So He is just and kind and provides them with enough strength for each one’s trials. He has already promised that He will not test His children beyond their capabilities.

    I think we all should enjoy this video and thank God for one more opportunity for us to experience God’s love in some ones life such that it offends the popular culture and strengthens the Church. I believe that simple examples like this builds God’s kingdom. I thank God for this video and glorify Him for this.

    A note for cb: Don’t be too embarrassed. No one asked you to. If you don’t like this video, then fine. But don’t discourage others by your pitiful comment.

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  • J.F.


    if people disagree with you, they’re offended by the cross of Christ.

    Perhaps the worst and most ungracious reasoning I’ve seen on the GC website.


  • Mark

    I think that if they had already been married we would all view this completely differently. Larissa was not bound to Ian because they were not married but she chose to be bound to him. While she obviously has praiseworthy character, we cannot praise her for remaining true to her commitment because there wasn’t one. If we call her decision to marry Ian a display of marital faithfulness we are simply telling unmarried people that they are already married. Honestly, I don’t think that I would have gone through with it and I don’t think that it would be a sin. That said, her continued devotion to Ian throughout their marriage will obviously be a good testimony of God’s grace.

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  • Clarice

    The key issue for me in all this is…faith. Larissa and Ian had faith to marry and so they did. I think this pleases God. If they did not have faith, it would have been sin since anything in matters of conscience that does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23) Let’s not underestimate the conscience in these kinds of things–which have no clear biblical mandate attached to them. They were free to marry, and they were free not to marry.

    I think this article might unnecessarily (inadvertently) bind people’s consciences where Scripture does not bind them. Namely, we don’t have to want what Larissa has or model our lives on how she is walking out faith in God.

    Biblical Principles? yes. Human Practices of those biblical principles? no. Let’s not blur those lines.

  • Clarice

    One more thing…

    I’d want to be careful to avoid a kind of gnostic/mystic theology of marriage while also affirming its “picture” and symbolism.

    Larissa hasn’t peaked into God’s character is some kind of other-worldly, “higher knowledge”, “I’m special and you all are sadly missing out” kind of way because she’s choosing a more metaphysical experience of marriage.

    We’ve got to hold these two things together–marriage is both a picture of a heavenly reality AND it’s a physical union between two people. It’s one flesh, literally, isn’t it?

    I think this is why people are asking the question, “well, what constitutes a biblical marriage?” It’s an important question. I’m of the persuasion that JUST spiritual stuff doesn’t make a marriage. The physical element is part of the picture. Without it, there’s something missing, just like if it were JUST physical but without the spiritual (the gospel) something is seriously missing.

  • Hannah

    I appreciate the last couple of comments because they really clarify what is at stake in this whole discussion–the definition of marriage.

    And in this current cultural context, we must be exceptionally careful how we define it. If we are to be the standard bearers for traditional marriage, we cannot gloss over very difficult conversations about (as Clarice out it) both the physically and metaphysically aspects of the marriage covenant. Simply put, we lose all right to object to gay marriage and cohabitation if we are not going to consistently evaluate our own marriages by the same standards.

    Again, I am not close enough to this situation to make a judgment about whether it meets an orthodox understanding of marriage but the questions are legitimate ones and should not be interpreted as somehow lacking spiritual maturity.

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  • kcameron

    God’s heart for us to glorify him and love others and she is doing that in a BIG way. Larissa – Im praying for you now, sister. You are in a situation that makes you desperate for the Father’s love, hand, and grace (If only we all realized we need to be there continually)… and you’ll be here for a lifetime. Love to you. Big virtual hug for your commitment and love. Ian is a blessed man.

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  • College Jay

    With all due respect to Chris Castaldo, the comments he quoted were taken quite a bit out of context. There were indeed some vicious and inappropriate comments about Ian and Larissa made during that thread, but the comments from Ann and Bethany E. were not among them. They raised good points about what marriage is, under what circumstances a person might not be able to fulfill the roles required in marriage, and also how situations like this are often inappropriately held up as Christian ideals.

    “Certainly no one praising Larissa says her radical act of love is required by God for everyone facing similar circumstances.”

    I would disagree. This video has been circulating quite a bit as an example of a selfless, “more Christ-like” marriage. In fact, some of the comments — there’s a user named Tim in particular — have said that that’s just what it is. While I don’t think Larissa intended it to be seen that way, that’s what it has become, and people putting themselves out there for public scrutiny can’t shy away from concern or less-than-applauding feedback.

    I think the more truthful statement is to say that no one critiquing Larissa is saying that she is anything less than a radical, Christ-like, selfless, devoted woman. Even most of the women in the Her.meneutics comment thread were very clear about stating their respect for her. What made them uncomfortable was the fact that this was being held up as an ideal, and thus, a moral imperative, when there are actually some legitimate concerns about a marriage of this kind.

    Marriage is not just about self-sacrificial love. It requires a joining together of two people as one flesh, and to be frank, that requires physical consummation, something which is apparently absent from Ian and Larissa’s marriage. I say “apparently” because the video is very vague about the extent of Ian’s brain damage, his level of physical capability, and although it talks about his leadership, it does not show any of it, making the relationship seem more like a “patient-nurse” type of relationship. Again, that doesn’t make it less self-sacrificial, less beautiful, or less Christ-like, but it does raise concerns about whether it should be held up as an example of marriage. And those who raise those concerns shouldn’t be vilified or have their faith challenged for it.

    • Leah Springer

      I completely agree with this College Jay. You communicated this very well. There are just lots of questions left unanswered, that perhaps the family members and those closest to them can understand.

  • Leah Springer

    You know, I have to be honest about the same reservations some of the other viewers had. But my unease doesn’t come from an offense at the cross, merely the idea that this man cannot communicate with her at all. The video certainly lacks to communicate what kind of relationship they have beside one that demonstrates her certainly Christ-like care for Ian. What needs to be communicated is that they have a relationship at all beyond her being his care-taker. The viewers cannot understand what this relationship is. If I understood she and he had lengthy communication about the deep things of life, and that his mind was sound, and that he was not, as another viewer related, that of an 8 year old, then it would put many viewers at ease. Those facts alone would have strengthened my view that this love is a devotion to a person who is of a sound mind, and that this girl isn’t living an odd reality. I am not offended by her selfless love, simply wondering what I am missing that was not demonstrated in the video.