Thursday, June 12, 2008

So, What's the Big Deal about Marriage?

Part 1

For readers outside my LIFE class at our church, this post (and some subsequent ones) may need a brief explanation.  In the class we are looking into what is happening in our culture and in what some have called Christian subculture, with regard to the shift away from marriage as it has been defined for centuries.  One recent example that occurred after our study began comes to us from California.  When four individuals on the state Supreme Court can redefine marriage for the entire state, it should cause us to pay attention and to graciously respond.

As our class delves into this topic, we plan also to examine singleness and dating, and what is best for society when it comes to divorce and remarriage.  If we are indeed ambassadors for Jesus, then with careful attention to how Christians act in the world today, we want to thoughtfully consider how these areas impact the perception of God in society.

Each week in class I lead off these messages with a statement of hope, not condemnation.  As we look at the Scriptures to see what God intends, we also immediately acknowledge that the vast majority of us have been affected in an adverse way either by broken relationships, abandonment, emotional separation, or divorce—all against a cultural backdrop that devalues meaningful sexual relationships that last.  The purpose for our class study, and for publishing these thoughts here, is not at all to condemn, but to provide hope.  It is the hope of genuine, fulfilled, joyful life with God through Christ.  It is the hope of grace, mercy, forgiveness and restoration.  It is the hope for a new day.

So, what is the big deal about marriage, and why do followers of Christ care so much about the institution of marriage?  We believe that ultimately God’s purpose for marriage is that His glory would be portrayed to a watching world.

God's Purpose for Marriage: His Glory Portrayed

Here is a basic definition.  Marriage is, and always has been, intended to be a lifelong covenant relationship in which the glory of God is portrayed in the joining together of one man and one woman for life, as they grow together in oneness and unity through love and respect (Genesis 2.15-25, 15.7-18; Malachi 2.14-16; Matthew 5.31-32, 19.1-12; 1 Corinthians 7.1-40; Ephesians 5.15-33).  Listed below are some of the various facets of God’s purpose and design for marriage, with some scriptural clarifications.

  1. To demonstrate the gospel in the permanent relationship of God with His chosen ones

    • Ephesians 5.15-33: As shown by the analogy of Jesus Christ as groom, and the church (all genuine believers in Christ) as the bride
    • Genesis 15.7-18: As shown in the beginning of God's covenant with Abram (who became Abraham)

  2. To mirror the image of God

    • Genesis 1.26-27: To demonstrate their mutual value, both men and women are created in the image of God
    • Genesis 2.15-25: The image of God, then, is also portrayed uniquely in marital oneness as man and woman are joined together

  3. To complete and compliment (and at times compensate for) each other as husband and wife, and to experience companionship

    • Genesis 2.18-20: To demonstrate their complementary qualities, in the beginning, God designed a woman for the man who would be a helper corresponding to the man (translated into English, the Hebrew reads "...a helper corresponding to..." or "...a helper next to...")
    • 1 Corinthians 11.11-12: At a very basic level, men need women and women need men

  4. To promote holiness and purity

    • 1 Corinthians 7.1-9: God designed sexual intimacy to be wonderfully enjoyed in the special covenant of marriage
    • Romans 1.26-27: To preserve the pattern of God's design for the healthy pleasure inherent in marriage, God intends that sexual intimacy would not take place outside of a covenant relationship between one man and one woman

  5. To multiply a godly legacy

    • Genesis 1.28, 9.1, 9.7: Procreation to populate the earth
    • Deuteronomy 6.1-25; Ephesians 6.4: Affirmation of God’s word and work from generation to generation, training children in His ways

Often misunderstood by many today, God's design for marriage was never intended to put a restraint on us for the sake of killing our joy.  Far from that, His intended design has always been for His glory, and for our good.  When we treat marriage the way God designed it, He provides an exquisite joy for us—in Him, and as husbands and wives.  And therein is great hope!