by Ricky Chelette
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
In this simple but profound verse we see the Creator of the Universe clearly laying out His design for human union: One man, one woman, created as a complement to one another for life. It was and is God’s design for the foundational unit of all community — marriage. Yet we live in world where even the church has redefined the sanctity and beauty of this most sacred building block of society.
I am grieved by the numbers of youth and adults who enter my office only to reveal they are the product of a divorced home. It seems we have taken the mandate to “hold fast” to mean something other than “hold on” because even within the church, divorce is almost as common as marriage. In fact, recent studies have shown that the divorce rate among church goers is almost the same as those who are not involved in the church — a sad commentary on this most sacred of unions. No wonder our world is so confused. No wonder our children are insecure. No wonder people have huge issues with attachment, commitment, and bonding. All of these essential human understandings are to be exemplified and developed in the confines of a loving, committed, life-long, marriage. There simply is no more powerful community and no more powerful bond than that of a family. There should be no more powerful commitment than that of a husband to his wife and a wife to her husband.
If we believe the Scriptures are true and we read them as the unfolding revelation of God to His creation, we see a clear picture of the primacy, efficacy, and supremacy of marriage. Marriage is not merely a convenience of comfort that takes place to placate the sexual desires of man or woman. It is not merely the union of two individuals for the purpose of companionship. It is not simply the coupling of two people to procreate. It does include all those things, but it is something even more glorious than that. Marriage, properly understood and Biblically practiced, is a living example of the complexity of the Father, His love and care for us, and His desire to connect to us in living flesh. It is a constant reminder of the need for us to submit our selfish desires for the good of another and helps us to see our need to submit ourselves to the Great Bridegroom, Christ. It is a picture of the relationship that God has with His people lived out daily in the lives of those committed to each other for life. Marriage is more than a simple “I do”; it is a cosmic revelation of the Creator to His creation that screams “This is my beloved and my beloved is mine!”
From Genesis to Revelation you see marriage as the example of God’s reflection of Himself to humanity. Both the man and the woman are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), both reflecting the characteristics of the triune God.
When Adam was created, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:19), and God made a woman, gave her to the man, and they became “man and wife” (Gen.2:25). Simply put, there is no other way to define marriage. It is, by order of the Creator, the union of one man and one woman for life. It is the foundation social unit upon which God builds communities. Marriage between one man and one woman is to be for us a picture of the love and union that God has with His people and reminder of the relationship that God has with His bride, the church.
The problem that most post-moderns have with marriage is not the fault of our present culture. Sure, conservatives and moderates alike rail against the current cries to redefine marriage in any number of creative ways that are outside God’s design, but the real culprit in the marriage discussion is the church herself. Unfortunately, regardless of our current rants, the church has allowed marriage to be dictated by the whims and moans of sinful humans who relentlessly choose tranquility over truth, peace over perseverance, and satisfaction over sacrifice. The church has generally done a terrible job of upholding the sanctity or marriage and the permanence of that vow to God and our beloved spouse. As a result, the church now functions as an agent of the state in the performance of the wedding ceremony, stripped of its real power to confirm a marriage. We treat divorce like we treat telling a little lie — not that big of a deal and something which is easily forgiven and forgotten — while the ravages of those broken vows wreak havoc on the lives of all affected. We allow “no fault divorce” to expedite the process rather than insisting on hard work, commitment and perseverance to make the marriage work. We are eager to push “falling in love” and then “falling out of love” as normative, when the scripture defines love as a decision of deep and heartfelt commitment made regardless of whether or not the feelings always follow. Love is not easy, often not tranquil, often not even peaceful, but it is commanded of those who choose to join their lives together in holy matrimony and become one flesh.
I am afraid that we have allowed romance and Rolling Stone to define marriage for our younger generations and they have come to believe that marriage is restrictive and less than ideal. But the Word of God would say otherwise. The church needs to spend more time and energy teaching the incredible beauty of sharing and committing your life to one person of the opposite gender for life. We need to teach that it is a commitment to work hard, love hard, play hard, persevere hard and never, ever, ever give up. We need to teach that saying “I do” is simply the beginning of a life of commitment and compromise. We need to help people understand that marriage is not about me, my needs, my wants and my desires, but it is about serving the other person’s needs, wants, and desires in a way that helps them be all that God has created them to be. We need to teach that marriage is a beautiful way for God to refine us and show us how incredibly selfish we really are and how our hearts need to be changed. We need to teach that marriage is a wonderful way of God revealing His amazing grace in our lives as our spouse loves us unconditionally and with reckless abandon!
Marriage is God’s idea, not man’s. It is a beautiful and glorious commitment between a man and a woman for a lifetime of sharing, growing, caring, loving and serving. We have lost that in most modern marriages and it is no wonder our youth have such difficult times trusting in the faithfulness of God, believing in the steadfastness of the Father, or embracing the truth of His teachings. I pray that God would grant the church and her leaders forgiveness for not teaching, preaching, and living out Biblical truth regarding marriage and call all those who claim the name of Christ to embrace the vows and commitments we have made before the Father to build strong marriages “till death do us part.”