The Second in a Three-part series on Marriage.
During the period of the Reformation 500 years ago when there was great upheaval in the Church as Luther and the other Reformers were shaking things up, the predominant understanding of marriage was that it fulfilled three main purposes:
- To procreate – to fulfill the command to increase and multiply.
- To avoid the sexual temptations of the “flesh”.
- To have companionship through life and avoid loneliness.
However, there is a profound purpose and dimension to marriage that is overlooked in these three points above: Marriage is meant to illustrate and reflect the relationship that God wants to have with his people!
You see, it’s possible to have fulfilling companionship in life outside of marriage. Some of my friends are satisfied being single and have cultivated healthy relationships that meet their needs for companionship. Further, we have many examples of married couples failing to avoid sexual temptation while in the context of marriage. And, naturally, you can procreate outside of marriage.
If you are married, however, you cannot help but illustrate (whether adequately or poorly) the kind of covenantal relationship that God wants to have with his people!
We see this in the Old Testament. The marriage relationship between the prophet Hosea and his adulterous wife Gomer paints the picture of the relationship between God and His people Israel. “In that day,” declares the Lord “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’” Gomer’s adulteries, their divorce, and then Hosea buying her back from slavery only serve to heighten the covenant of marriage that God is offering the people of Israel despite their adulterous nature. The prophet Isaiah also unveils this marriage motif when he writes,“As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”
Of course, this idea of self-giving love, unity and radical commitment in marriage is most fully expressed in the New Testament, as the union between Christ and His Bride. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
So here’s the big point: When a man sees a woman, he gets the flutters, tries to talk to her, falls in love and eventually they get married. It’s a glorious, global human experience… one that is cause for great celebration. It’s full of love, joy and hope. But it’s so much more than that! Marriage is a most profound expression of the God-bearing life that we’re meant to live. Each individual gets to reflect the image of God because we are each individually made in His image.
However, so does each marriage. When two become one we are meant to reflect, in another way, the image of God. We reflect the union between Christ and His redeemed community, the Church. Let’s not take this lightly.