Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32
Marriage is a good gift given to us by a good God. He designed what it should look like and causes the union between a man and woman. God is the architect, engineer, and builder of marriage. That’s why Jesus and Paul both refer back to the creation account to justify how we should view marriage today.
However, in our culture, marriage is increasingly seen as an outdated or even failed institution. For instance, in 1970, 89% of all births were to married people, now the percentage is only 60%. And what’s even more telling is that in 1960, over 72% of American adults were married, but in 2008, it was only 50%. Not only that, today more than half of all people live together before deciding to get married. What does this tell us? It proves that there is a deep ambivalence and skepticism of marriage.
This stands in stark contrast to our fighter verses where Paul actually elevates the significance of marriage. He makes the radical claim that human marriage is a picture of the ultimate marriage between Christ and the church. What this means is that we need a greater vision of marriage. John Piper said, “There never has been a generation whose general view of marriage is high enough. The chasm between the biblical vision of marriage and the common human vision is now, and has always been, gargantuan.”
Marriage is not meant for everyone. The Bible talks about singleness being a good gift from God too. But, what everyone needs, married or single, is a vision of marriage that is beyond ourselves. We need to appreciate that marriage is meant to show us what it looks like to live in a covenant relationship of love. Marriage is not ultimately about being or staying in love. It’s about making promises and keeping promises. And to the degree this occurs, marriage reflects the character of God and his commitment to his people.
What this means is that in marriage, as in so many other parts of our lives, there is always more than meets the eye. God is doing something bigger than just meeting your desires for companionship, intimacy, or children. God wants every marriage to display the good news that Jesus laid down his life for his bride and will never fail her.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor who resisted Hitler in Nazi Germany and was eventually executed by Hitler. While he was in prison, he wrote a wedding sermon for his niece. Listen to his powerful words:
Marriage is more than your love for each other. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility toward the world and mankind. Your love is a private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, and office. Just as it is the crown and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man…It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.
May God’s vision of marriage sustain the love within every marriage. And may God’s grace sustain each one of us, no matter our relationship status, to continue putting the gospel on display through our lives.