Gracia (2)

Gracia Lee and Joel Seah will be married in May 2022. Together with almost 470 Salt&Light Family Night viewers, they posed questions to the panel on building, and keeping, a strong marriage. Photo courtesy of Gracia Lee.

It was a night of earnest questions from engaged couple Salt&Light writer Gracia Lee, 25, and her fiancé Joel Seah, 29, a lawyer.

It was a session of wisdom from a combined 75 years of matrimonial experience from two couples.

And it was a night of laughter as humour lightened the mood. Asked how a person would know if someone is “marry-able”, one panellist quipped: “First, check with ROM (Registry of Marriages).”

In the last instalment of Salt&Light Family Night for 2021, Gracia and Joel were invited to ask questions that soon-to-be-married couples and newlyweds probably have on their minds to panellists Julian and Jane Khoo, and Pastors Jeff and Claudia Chong.

Julian and Jane have been married for 48 years. They have three adult children – a daughter and two sons – who have given them a total of seven grandchildren – two girls and five boys.

Jane and Julian Khoo brought wisdom from 48 years of marriage to the Salt&Light Family Night Zoom chat show. Photo courtesy of the Khoos.

Senior Pastor of Hope Singapore, Pastor Jeff, and his wife, Pastor Claudia, have been married for 25 years. They are partners in life and in God’s work, sharing a common vision to see the Great Commission fulfilled.

Ps Jeff and Ps Claudia Chong shared practical tips and wisdom from 25 years of marriage as well as their years in pastoral ministry. Photo courtesy of the Chongs.

Of the 470 or so participants who logged in that night (November 30), most were in serious relationships – 42% were married, 30% attached and 12% engaged.

Communication, according to a poll in which they participated, was their top concern. They felt communication was both the most important ingredient in a successful marriage as well as something they wanted to learn how to do better.

Here are the answers to viewers’ questions about what to do before marriage and what happens after.

How do you know if someone you’re dating is marriage material?

Ps Claudia distilled it into the 3 M’s: Master, Mission, Mate.

“Jesus is the first criterion. Marry a Christian with the same values.

“Mission is: What is my calling, what do I want to do in my life? For me, it was quite clear. I fell in love with Jesus and gave my life to God. I needed someone who would go into full-time work with me to fulfil the Great Commission.

“Mate is knowing a person in a community. Really know the person as a friend. Know everything about this guy – his faith, church life and family.

“Make sure you, your family and your close Christian friends also know the other party. Don’t rush into it. ”

“Jesus is the first criterion. Marry a Christian with the same values.”

She got to know Ps Jeff better through a mission trip they were on together. “I got to see what he was like when he faced disappointments.”

Agreed Ps Jeff: “The church is a very wonderful place to know people. As believers, we are so blessed.

“If you grow up in a relatively healthy church, you know and are known, you celebrate and are celebrated.”

He shared how he became attracted to Ps Claudia when they were part of a conference in Bangkok. During a particularly long session that ran “almost to midnight”, everyone was waiting to go for supper.

When it ended, everyone rushed out but Claudia stayed behind to talk to the people she was discipling.

“That was very attractive to me. It spoke volumes about the person. This was a person who puts the needs of other people first.

“You serve in the church, you see the highs and the lows. The real person comes out.”

We know about not being “unequally yoked”, but what about being of different levels of spiritual maturity?

“Claudia was very gracious, she waited for me,” Ps Jeff joked.

Ps Claudia clarified: “There are different seasons. When he is discouraged, I am the one encouraging him; and when I am feeling low, he encourages me.”

While Ps Claudia talked about how she has seen wives “demonstrate Christ-likeness in relationships” and pray till their husbands “caught up and started taking the spiritual lead as well”, Ps Jeff cautioned dating couples against counting on this.

“For those who are not attached, it’s dangerous to go into a relationship with this in mind.”

He added that it was not advisable to go into a relationship with someone who is not of the same faith or faith level simply because “he is such a good guy”.

“These are lies we tell ourselves.”

How do we avoid physical intimacy before marriage?

Said Gracia: “With us, what helped was that we spoke about boundaries very early in the relationship, some time in the second month.

“My mum always says that even if it is a very difficult topic, we should still talk about it.”

They also set their boundaries “very high”, mindful of the advice from Gracia’s mother “not to underestimate the power of sexual temptation”.

“Don’t put yourself in a situation where you will be tempted,” said Gracia.

One simple thing they do is to always keep the bedroom door open when they are alone in the room.

“We spoke about boundaries very early in the relationship, some time in the second month.”

“My mother taught me that if you stop (the physical intimacy) at a higher standard, you will struggle less.

“Once you do something more, it’s difficult to go back.

“Never stop trying. If you cross the boundary, go back to each other and communicate. We repent, keep praying because we need the Holy Spirit to help us but we never give up.

“The battle is lost the moment you give up.”

For Joel, having a Christian community for support helped too.

“We meet individually with older couple friends to talk about such things. We go to them when we struggle or when we fall.

“It has helped us, encouraged us.”

Encouraging couples to wait till marriage, Gracia said: “You have your whole life ahead.”

How honestly should we share with the person we are dating about our past?

Ps Jeff encouraged total honesty for couples intending to marry each other.

“You don’t want your spouse to be shocked.

“Ideally, you should share everything you have gone through so you can have a clean slate and full understanding.”

In many churches, the marriage preparation course includes a session where “couples show their hand” and they “share what they have gone through as much as possible”.

Should married couples be in the same church? Which church should they settle in if they are from different churches?

“Yes, settle in the same church. No second thoughts about it,” Jane said emphatically.

Julian agreed. “God made husband and wife to be one. Do we just take it vaguely?

“In church, we have to be together so that we have unity.”

“Find a church where husband and wife can make the most impact in the Kingdom of God together.

As to how to decide which church to be in together, Jane said: “Pray and then the Holy Spirit will cause the both of you to agree.”

Ps Jeff added a guiding principle. He told couples to find a church where husband and wife can make the most impact in the Kingdom of God together.

“When you make a decision, you must have kingdom mentality.

“Don’t choose a job just because it pays more. Don’t choose a spouse just because this one has got longer eyelashes. Don’t choose somewhere to stay because this is a better investment. Or we will not be very different from other people (in the world).

“The church we stay in must be seen in the light of God’s purpose. With this principle, we pray and God will reveal to us.”

What if we are both going through a tough time and have no capacity to support each other?

In such situations, the church community can come in to help, said Ps Jeff.

“You cannot do your family life apart from the church. Your family is part of a bigger spiritual family.

“So, if you can’t help your spouse, your spouse can’t help you, you need someone outside to speak into your marriage.”

“You cannot do your family life apart from the church. Your family is part of a bigger spiritual family.”

Julian and Jane count on their home cell to support them as well as to pray together with them.

“Other than that, seek help from the pastor,” said Jane.

What has helped Joel and Gracia has been their differences.

Said Joel: “We are different in temperament. So what zaps us are different also.

“When circumstances happen to zap her out, I’m not really too tired and I’m able to keep things up and it goes the other way as well.”

Is it Biblical if we don’t want to have children?

When Ps Jeff and Ps Claudia first got married, they tried to have children but “as the years went on it didn’t come to pass”. But he maintained that “children are a blessing from God”.

“We have children so that we can pass on our spiritual heritage, so that it will be in the light of God’s purpose.”  

In planning for a family, Ps Jeff encouraged viewers to consider the reason why they either want or do not want to have children.

“The wrong reasons for not having children would be that you want to have more couple time. Or: We work very hard so it’s a waste of money to have to pay for the children’s education, I want to spend the money on holidays.”

In the same way, couples can have children for the wrong reasons, he said: For instance, because they want to pass on their wealth to the next generation, or so their children can go to the brand-name school from which they graduated.

To have children is to fulfil God’s commandment in Genesis 1, said Ps Jeff.

“We have children so that we can pass on our spiritual heritage, so that it will be in the light of God’s purpose.”  

What can wives do if their husbands struggle with porn?

Ps Claudia agreed that this can be a blow to the security and confidence of the wives and that they would go through a period of sadness.

But she encouraged wives to establish their marriage on God and His Word, and to see their husbands as their brothers in Christ so they can help them out as fellow Christians.

Added Ps Jeff: “One of the lies guys must not believe in is that we cannot have victory over this.”

Having a system of accountability is one way to have victory over pornography. He recommended Covenant Eyes, a software that runs on computers and mobile devices that can monitor Internet activity, and send accountability reports.

“Make sure your wife knows, the leaders around you know,” said Ps Jeff.

He also encouraged couples to allow others to speak into their lives and “ask the hard questions”.

“One of the lies guys must not believe in is that we cannot have victory over this.”

“For instance, don’t look at me talking to a girl who is not my wife in an intimate way and not say anything to me.”

This works both ways. As responsible members of the Christian community, we should not shy away from asking others the hard questions as well.

“Establish that the reason why I ask hard questions is because I love you.”

Asking hard questions is hard on the asker, too, because the friendship is at stake or “if you tell me something, I have to help you clean it up”.

Ps Jeff emphasised that accountability is not only important for younger couples. “We can all fall. We need to watch over one another. We need to ask one another. If we don’t ask, we are not a church.”

Added Ps Claudia: “The higher you go in leadership, the less people will ask and the more intentional you have to be to get people to ask.”

Have you ever considered divorce?

Both the couples have not.

“Marriage on earth is a prophetic act that looks forward to the union of Christ and the church.”

Said Claudia: “We stop ourselves from using that word. There is no exit door. This keeps our marriage strong.”

Julian noted that marriage on earth is a prophetic act that looks forward to the union of Christ and the church.

“So, what we do on earth in this prophetic act of marriage must be respected in the sense that we respect the future.

“When we understand the core substance of marriage, God is pleased with us and when God is pleased with us, things happen in our lives.”


This report is Part 2 of the Salt&Light Family Night episode on what no one warned you about marriage. You can read Part 1 here.

A full recording of this episode will be posted on the Salt&Light YouTube channel at the end of the week. You can watch past episodes of Salt&Light Family Night on our YouTube channel here.


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About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.

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