How do you define marriage? In a world surrounded by so many different voices telling you what to believe, it wouldn’t be a surprise if that question generated fifty different answers, even among Christians. Is it just two people living together and having children or does it involve something more profound? Let’s be honest, even if you did have a good answer to that question, is that how you are living out your own marriage anyway?
God’s Word ordained marriage at the very foundation of humanity, describing it as a union where the two “shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). That is not simply a reference to the physical union which takes place at the consummation of marriage, but something more profound. The pathway to God’s creation of Eve began with the recognition by Adam that there was “not found a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:20). Adam was not only placed in the garden by God to enjoy it but given a task to “work it and keep it” (Gen 2:15) and to do so he needed a suitable helper. Only after the creation of woman was Adam, with the complementary role of Eve, able to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion” (Gen 1:28).
However, we should not take this to simply mean that mankind in general, for the purpose of procreation, required a helper. Certainly, this was a requirement to fulfill God’s command, but we shouldn’t lose the fact that Adam specifically needed a helper suitable for the task God had given to him to accomplish. This person was Eve. As we look across Scripture there are multiple examples of marriage relationships used by God to accomplish His purpose in redemptive history. Men and women with different personalities, gifts and abilities who were united in marriage to be used by God for His glory. The complementary nature of men and women is not only true in a general sense, but it is evident at the very personal level, where we see marriage relationships formed in a way which demonstrates how a married couple uniquely complement one another within individual marriages. Consider for a moment how the character and personality of Joseph, a man we know very little about, was used by God to protect and defend Mary during a time when she was most likely mocked, ridiculed and rebuked after being found pregnant during the betrothal period. A man who humbly accepted the life God had ordained for him and his beloved Mary. His perspective did not revolve around a life of me, but a life of us.
God never designed marriage to be an add-on, but an integrated part of our life. Marriage is not just a sidecar designed to be another attachment in your collection of life accomplishments and treated in the same way an academic collects degrees or a firearm enthusiast collects guns. It is a point in time where the lives of two people are surrendered to one another and joined together to form a “one-flesh union” by the essence of not only their physical intimacy, but their shared life together. It is living together in the life God has ordained for the accomplishment of His purpose in the world. We may understand this in principle, but do we understand it in practice?
It is unfortunate many professions today cause most couples to spend more time away from their spouses than together. It is all too easy under these circumstances to form a mental belief that “she has her career and I have mine” or “this is my calling and that is his.” Our culture allows us to easily forge a path where marriage is viewed from the perspective of what is good for me instead of what is good for us and if we don’t make time for our marriage the chasm between these two views will widen. Marriage has no place for a life devoted to self, but it does have a place for the denial of self. Husbands are to love their wives in the same way Christ loved the church, which means loving the church even when it despised and rejected God (Eph 5:25). Wives are to love their husbands, which includes humble submission, not only when it is convenient, but on a continual basis (Eph 5:22; Titus 2:4). If you read those last two sentences and focused more on the command to your spouse than yourself, pray for a spirit of self-denial. To be a godly husband you must first understand the divine rights Christ surrendered in His love for the church. To be a godly wife you must first understand the submission of Christ to the Father in taking on humanity and experiencing God’s wrath on the cross.
Marriage is not a sidecar, it is the integrated life of a man and women whose love and submission demonstrate the work of Christ for our salvation. If we fail to make time for marriage, we will miss the profound nature of such a beautiful part of God’s created order.