Last night I celebrated two of my good friends getting engaged and it was an awesome celebration. It’s always awesome when two people get engaged, but it’s even more so when the people happen to be extremely close friends of yours and also when you know both of them are following Christ, and want to have Christ as the foundation for their marriage. There is something particularly celebration-worthy about two people who were once strangers who are now coming together and will eventually take the vows before God and the congregation of witnesses “And the two will become one flesh.” There is something powerful and biblical and Christ exalting about seeing a man leave his father and mother and combining himself with his bride which forms a holy union that lasts for the rest of their lives!!! I think deep down we all know this is beautiful and right which is why we get so excited to see those we love get married.
Recent studies from Pew and other polling centers show that overall millennials are getting divorced less, which I believe is a direct result of so many millennials having witnessed, and experienced painful causes and effects of divorces in our parents’ generation. You may think that I would praise this fact, and in some respects I do; however, we should note that a huge reason why there are less millennials being divorced is actually because there are far fewer millennials who are getting married in the first place. There are two huge reasons why many millennials do not want to be married: 1. Cohabitation & 2. Self-centered reasons for marriage. The first reason can boil down to financial stress and life circumstances, and the second reason is just a result of a narcissistic society. So to put it simply, some millennials think they can’t afford marriage so they put it off, while other millennials simply don’t see what they can get out of being married that makes it better than not being married, and so therefore, they don’t get married.
Now, don’t get me wrong I of course recognize the struggles many millennials face in getting married, but I suggest there is ONE big shift that helps us put marriage into its proper perspective, and that shift is not an economic or pragmatic one-it is theological. The theological shift which will help you and me think about marriage better, and will help us consider the reasons why we should get married (or should not in some situations) is a very subtle shift, but it makes the world of a difference and here it is… Marriage is NOT about U it’s not even primarily about the person you will marry, but it’s about GOD.
Yes, that’s right, marriage is not actually primarily about the people in the marriage covenant, but it is about the one who brings them into covenant together. When we think of marriage we should not only think of it as a ceremony and union between a man and a woman, but we actually should think of it as a union and a marriage between God, a man, and a woman, and furthermore, the entire purpose of the marriage is meant to be about glorifying and honoring God.
Liz Wann is a contributor for Desiring God, and in 2016 she wrote a helpful article called “Marriage is Not about Me,” in which she evaluates the gift of marriage. Wann writes, “When Paul describes marriage as a “gift” in 1 Corinthians 7:7, he puts the focus off of ourselves, and our small Disneyworld dreams for our marriages, and puts the focus on God and on others. Paul is telling us that marriage is a gift of his grace to us whereby we are empowered by the Spirit to take part in the advancement of his kingdom — for his glory, and to serve the good of others.” She rightly emphasizes we will only be able to truly embrace and enjoy the gift of our marriages when we stop centering the marriage around ourselves and our own needs and wants, and we instead begin to see our marriages as God’s gift to us as a means of grace, in which we grow in Christ-likeness, and by which we show the world the truth of God’s goodness, and love, and mercy. In marriage, we have an opportunity to enjoy the intimacy of another human being as a small foretaste of the intimacy love Christ has shown His Church. In marriage, we have an opportunity to sacrifice as Christ has sacrificed for His Church, and thus live out the reality of the Gospel for another human being. In marriage, we have an opportunity to show a watching world that we don’t just claim to believe in God, but we actually can live out the grace of God for the sake of God. If marriage is all about our own glory and purposes and not God’s then we are actually missing the point entirely.
Now, I haven’t been married long (almost 3 years), but I’ve already learned a few things about how God uses my marriage as a means of grace to shape me and mold me to be like Christ and also to use me for the sake of Christ. There are obviously many other benefits of Christian marriage besides these, but here are three lessons I’ve learned and I hope they help you consider a biblical view on marriage as well.
- The Bible begins with a marriage ceremony (Adam and Eve) and ends with a marriage ceremony (Rev. 19), and this helps put my own marriage into perspective. God created our world and intended for Adam and Eve to live in Eden with Him unblemished, however, they chose to rebel and disobey, and therefore, yes we still have the biblical mandate of marriage but it’s distorted. Sin has completely messed up the way we naturally relate to God and others. This means we naturally run away from God rather than to Him. This also means we naturally run away from our spouses or potential future spouses rather than run to them. Rather than work through issues we try and break out of the marriage covenant which is meant to last for a lifetime. Rather than repent of sin, and sacrifice for our spouse, we all have a tendency to pull away and avoid being vulnerable with our spouse. That’s the bad news, but there is also wonderful news….
The marriage ceremony of Revelation 19 helps us to see that even though we live in a current state of imperfection there is a day coming when all wrongs will be made right, and right now we live out our marriages looking ahead to the eschatological (end times) day when the Lamb (Christ) will be married perfectly to His Bride (the Church). When we realize that our relationship with our husband or wife is meant to always point them to that day when Christ returns to take us to be with Him for eternity then it absolutely transforms our perspective on our marriages in the meantime. Rather than seeing our marriages as the pinnacle of our history, or rather than over-emphasizing the brokenness of our marriages and obsessing over what goes wrong, we always look ahead to the ultimate reality that the Bridegroom is to be glorified through the relationship with my wife in the present.
2. Like Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, we actually grow spiritually when we love our spouse and give ourselves up for our spouse.
Culture has decided love is an emotion. So, if you listen to society about what love is then when your emotions change about your spouse for the negative then that’s going to make you want to abandon the marriage covenant. But, the Bible says “God is love.” If God is love then God’s character most clearly shows what love is. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for the ungodly.” Love is therefore clearly seen in God’s action in moving towards us to fix our biggest issue, and He did this by entering into our suffering and even taking on our suffering by sacrificing Himself on the cross. This literally took blood, sweat, and tears, and it was painful. The joy that Christ received when He was reunited with His Father in heaven only came after He walked a dark path to the cross where He took our sins upon Himself. True joy in marriage requires that we, like Jesus, sacrifice and give ourselves up for our spouse. Will this require some blood, sweat, and tears? ABSOLUTELY! Is this reason to shy away from it? ABSOLUTELY NOT! This gives more reason to pursue our spouses, because God the Holy Spirit is growing us spiritually and He is doing it more so in our daily sacrifices than in any other way. Remember, Jesus Himself is the one who said there is no greater thing than that a man lay his life down for his friends- in your marriage you have a daily opportunity to be doing this and learning it more and more.
3. God uses our marriages to show the rest of the world the power of the Gospel.
The truth of the Bible is that the world is dark, because of the sin that lives within the hearts of individual men and women. This means that collectively, our neighborhoods are full of homes that are dark, because of the sin living inside the men, women, and children who live in their respective homes. When God’s grace changes the hearts of individual men, women, and children, the home begins to be a light for the Gospel of Christ. God uses marriages to be lights in the midst of darkness. God intends for a believing man and woman to be living out their Gospel light to the watching corner of their world. As we live in such a way, the Bible says we will have the opportunity to share our light with others and through us God will actually share the Gospel message, and some others will come to faith and experience God’s grace. This means the light spreads, and when the light spreads enough it can literally heal individuals, individual families, individual neighborhoods, individual states, and so on and so forth. Your marriage can be a little light with an incredible illumination.
I understand some people will not or have not yet experienced marriage not necessarily by choice, but by God’s design. God uniquely shows His grace and love to you in the midst of your singleness. I’m not ignoring you, but that is just not my personal experience and not the focus of this specific post. I suggest going to this link: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/four-things-god-says-singles/
In that link you will find a helpful article by Vaughan Roberts which helps you think about your singleness biblically.