Marriage in today’s post-modern context has become an incredibly contentious issue. It stirs the whole gamut of emotions. Some will be angry that for so long it has been so exclusive and restrictive. Some will be disillusioned by it through the pains of separation. Some will be so excited by the thought, having dreamt of their fairy tale ending for as long as they can remember. And some will be joyful being those “lucky” enough to have made it. It is a shame that anything more than 7 years seems to be celebrated as a victory for the so called life-long marriage. Whether it is the rate of divorce, the stain of domestic violence, the controversy with same sex marriage and not to mention the countless stories of unfaithful partners, hollow relationships and broken homes. Marriage has truly fallen on hard times. But this is not what God intended for marriage nor is it how he sees it.
Marriage is from God and for God. It is part of God’s good creation purposes from the very beginning in Genesis 1 and 2. Before any man or woman could invent this idea of marriage, God already had it in mind. God saw that with all the beautiful things he had already created, the man alone was not one of those things. Something was missing. The man needed a helper. And of everyone and everything that it could have possibly been, that role was given to none other than the woman. You see for all the help another creature, another angel, even another man could have been, it was a woman that God saw as fitting and good for the man. This should be humbling for men to know that they are not sufficient in it of themselves for the task and furthermore that women above all else are to be treasured, cherished, appreciated as uniquely able to help fulfil God’s good purposes. And if this is true in the general sense for men and women, how much moreso in the specific sense of marriage.
It is God who brings the woman to the man in marriage and it is together that the man and the woman live out the created purposes of God. Different gifts but the same goals. Their marriage centred on God and the stewardship of God’s creation. The goal of marriage was much more than self-fulfilment, self-satisfaction and self-centredness. The goal of marriage is not to find another person who loves you more than you love yourself. To find this person that will encourage your selfishness. Rather, the goal of marriage was to take care and to work the metaphorical “garden” that God has provided to you as he did from the very beginning to Adam and Eve.
The secret to marriage is not so much about staying in “love” as it is about staying in Christ. For in Christ, not only will you find a steadfast love that transcends so much of what defines our post-modern Hollywood notions of romantic love but in Christ you will also find the power to love – especially when you are not in love or when the other is so undeserving of love. This is what it means to be the Bride of Christ - to know the uncompromising, unwavering and unconditional love of Jesus the groom for us even while we were still fighting him with every bone in our body. It is only when you experience the incredible love of God in this spiritual marriage that our earthly marriages can begin to follow and reflect the magnificence that marriage is meant to be.