What is marriage?
There are a lot of reasons to be confused about marriage these days!
Since the mid 1970s, family relationships have gone through massive change:
- Before the 60s, it was generally accepted that marriage was a life-long thing, but during that decade, people started questioning this idea.
- The contraceptive pill (introduced in the early 60's) created a massive revolution in how people thought about sex.
- In the 1970s, changes to family law made it easier to end marriages.
- From that point, people started suggesting different relationship options: “open” marriages, serial monogamy (Marry - divorce - remarry - divorce - remarry - etc), or just not getting married at all (shacking up, living together, etc).
So here we are now in 2012, wondering what all the fuss is about. What is the big deal about marriage? Is it just a piece of paper that we don’t really need?
God Made Marriage ... and Sex
God’s pattern for relationships wasn’t "hang out - break up - shack up - baby daddy - dump". His plan was GOOD.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
If you read the Bible’s story about marriage, God laid out the plan right at the beginning of everything. There were three steps:
- Leave: Husbands (and wives) make a conscious decision to “graduate” from their families to form a new, separate family.
- Be United to: A public and formal joining-together of a man & woman before God.
- One Flesh: Two become One. Sex is the final expression of the couple's intimate relationship (not the first!).
This marriage relationship is about a life-long union, a close bond. It’s about a relationship that is secure, strong, and loving. Above all, it isn’t broken and reformed on a whim. You can see that in the promises we make in modern Christian marriage ceremonies:
...forsaking all others ... love and protect ... as long as you both shall live...
Marriage is so much more than a piece of paper
When people move in together, the kind of message they’re sending each other is: “I like you a lot, so let’s hang out and see if this goes somewhere. I’m not sure that I want to close off the exits, though. I’m not sure I love you *that* much.” It’s not quite the same solid rock as the marriage commitment, where each member of the couple declares:
I (name), in the presence of God,
take you (name) to be my (husband/wife),
to have and to hold
from this day forward,
for better for worse,
for richer for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
as long as we both shall live...
Marriage is a reflection of God's love for us
God knows what he’s doing, seriously. He designed marriage to mirror the commitment he himself has to us through Jesus.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)
Jesus doesn't get together with us just to have a little fun, and see whether it's going to work out. Jesus loves the church - he doesn't say, "sorry guys, you're far too much hard work. I'm going to find someone else to fulfil my needs." In fact, Jesus loves the church even though we aren't lovely or (sometimes) even lovable. Despite our failings and sin and weakness, Jesus still loves us, no matter what. And God designed marriage to mirror that sort of grace-filled, solid, secure and loving relationship. Husbands are to love their wives in the same way Jesus loves the church, and wives are to mirror the church's love and respect for their loving saviour in how they love their husbands.
Is marriage just an unnecessary piece of paper? Definitely not. It's a living illustration of how God loves - in good times and bad, when it's easy and when it's not, when we lose our attractiveness, and even when we aren't serving each other as we should. As Christians, we have an awesome opportunity to show how awesome God's love is in the way we marry and love our spouses in marriage. To love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live...