October 8, 2018
Weekly Reflection – Christian Marriage, a Template
Christian marriage, at least in the West, has undergone a dramatic shift during the past fifty years. What at one time was a spiritually driven covenant has more and more in recent times become only a civil contract with little attention to how God plays into the relationship. “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder” has often been replaced with, “By the power given me by the State of Arizona, I pronounce you married.”
So, here is my take on what a Biblically based Christian marriage should look like.
The marriage union, sanctioned by the community of believers, is instituted and ordained by God as the lifelong relationship between one man as the husband, and one woman as the wife. The Apostle Paul affirmed this directive when he wrote, “Let marriage be held in honor among all.” (Hebrews 13:4) From a Christian perspective, marriage is actually a three-way relationship. There is the husband, the wife, and God.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians about the husband being the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. It takes all three for the marriage to become what it was created to be (realizing that there is a range of historical perspectives as to what the meaning of “head” is).
The marriage bond is understood to be sacred, holy, and central to the community of faith. While Jesus never married, He certainly taught the importance and sacredness of lifelong marriage. He quoted from both Genesis 1 and 2 (Matthew 19:3-5) that God had created humanity as male and female, (Genesis 1:27) and that in marriage “the two become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
Then He added: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:6)
Marriage is a relationship that must be entered freely. It is permanent. It is open to children, and it is stabilized by faithfulness. It is not just a contract, at least not in the manner a marriage contract has often come to be seen in in the West today.
Today the understanding is often that “If you do not live up to the terms of the contract, I am out of here!” Rather, marriage is a covenant of love, a covenant that has no “escape clause,” one in which the parties give themselves to one another for their whole lives.
We cannot foresee the future. In fact, within this context, we do not need to foresee it, for we choose always to honor our spouse and never abandon him or her, regardless. Idealistic? You bet’cha! Achievable? Absolutely.
Christian marriage is a call to love. It is the big ideal of God. And it is not all glassy-eyed romantic notions, as wonderful as those experiences are. Living out the marriage is marvelous, but it is never without trials. As with all trials, we are called to carry our cross.
One person I heard of arises in the morning and regarding their spouse, somewhat jokingly says, “Good morning, cross.” The idea is that Christians do not sit on their cross. They pick it up and carry it, but with the understanding that last week they probably served as the cross of their spouse.
The marriage covenant has historically been viewed as analogous to Jesus’ covenant with His church as instituted at the Last Supper. One might call the words of Jesus at the Last Supper His “marriage vow.” And then he consummated the marriage soon after that, on the cross.
So we have consecration followed by a period of joy, and then the suffering comes later. It is said that every noble thing in life will be tested. So, we are called to build our house on a foundation that can stand the testing that will surely come.
This foundation is a rock that is underpinned by several layers, including the church, family members, prayer, kindness, and faithfulness over time, etc. I have a quotation on my office wall that focuses on this: “Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1)
In marriage, God has called Christians to a holy vocation. Each married Christian needs to nurture and honor that call by proactively loving the other person. (Remember Ephesians 6) I sense that we also need to be aware of the distinctive primary roles in a marriage that have served humanity from the beginning. The man is called to be the primary guide, protector, and provider while his spouse is to be the wife, mother, and homemaker.
Together, they form a family structure that is stronger than either of them could be as an individual or if they tried to duplicate one another’s roles. Of course, there are times and situations where the roles might need to be shared or reversed (and each party is undoubtedly capable of filling the other’s slot), but that does not negate the original proven design.
Nowhere else in all of life can one better practice Jesus’ command to “Love one another.”! Will you give it a try this week?
Blessings and peace,
GOD MADE US A FAMILY
We need one another.
We love one another.
We forgive one another.
We work together.
We play together.
We worship together.
Together we use God’s word.
Together we grow in Christ.
Together we love all men.
Together we serve our God.
Together we hope for heaven.
These are our hopes and ideals.
Help us to attain them, Oh God,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Resources: Lecture on marriage by Houston’s Fr. Drew Wood, Man of Steel and Velvet by Andelin, various resources on the Internet, and personal experience.
Read more reflections, Making Life Choices