Marriage is an institution that seems like it’s been taking a beating over the last decade or so. Like so many other institutions in our country, it can seem like it’s under attack. Efforts to try and redefine what marriage means. People treating marriage and relationships like a game of hopscotch, jumping from one partner to the other. Some almost bragging about how many marriages they’ve failed in. Even more making fun of their own marriages or other marriages for being unloving, sexless, dominated by one spouse or the other.
When the gospel was read some of you immediately may have grown uncomfortable. Talk of divorce and marriage hits close to home. It touches so many. Raw emotions may come out. Dangerous waters to enter into with the potential for offense. Because it’s not just marriage and divorce. It’s not just married people. It’s everyone from married to singles, young to old, men and women. But Jesus didn’t hesitate. He was being tested when the Pharisees asked him about divorce. They were there to trip him up in what he said so they could discredit him. There was a war on Jesus for sure. Still he addressed divorce, marriage, and people. And so do we with full confidence that when we stick with what Jesus says, what God’s Word says, we’ll see marriage the way God wants us to.
God loves marriage and so can we
See his principles
Apply his selfless love
My grandparents were married for 66 years. To the last card he gave her, my grandpa addressed them all with ‘To my lover’. He always gave a little wink and smile when us kids saw that on the envelopes. At devotion time, morning and evening, Grandma would read from a devotion book and Grandpa from the Bible. They were in love and expressed love. There was beauty in their marriage relationship. Beauty in the way they served each other. Beauty in how they cared for each other. Beauty in the love they openly demonstrated. God designed beauty into marriage. Jesus showed that in answering the Pharisees, getting at the beauty of marriage by getting at the principles of marriage. “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.” To know its beauty one has to go back to the creation of marriage at the creation of the world.
In Genesis chapter two, God takes us inside the sixth day of creation when the first man and woman were created. God made them male and female. Gave them breath and life. Then as God led woman to man, the Scriptures detail what happened. Jesus quotes, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Adam and Eve were married showing exactly the way God wanted marriage to be, the principles, the beauty, God’s will. A perfect gift, given to a perfect world.
Amazingly, we still use marriage in an imperfect, fallen world. All the beauty if still there. Men and women get life from God today. Live complementary to each other, that is come together in relationships. Growing up the closest relationship is child to parents. In marriage, new family units are formed when children leave their parents. The parent child relationship is no longer most important. The man and woman become united. They make promises to forsake all others. Choose to be with this one person publicly, freely giving their consent. No matter where, no matter who leads, no matter when, the one man and one woman become married. Then they become as one flesh. Because of their commitment, their public acknowledgement, they then enjoy an intimacy far greater than in any other relationship. It’s part of the beauty God designed into marriage. Intimacy that goes beyond the physical. Commitment allows the two to know each other more than they know anyone else. Share a bond that includes sexual intimacy, which is a good gift from God. Something shared only within marriage. Intimacy shared with others isn’t intimacy. Sexual oneness can’t be practiced outside marriage.
The Pharisees seemed to overlook or ignore marriage’s beauty and came with a practical question about divorce. They wanted to know what Moses allowed as far as reasons for it. Should divorce be easy or a little harder? Does marriage have to last for life? In taking the Pharisees to the time of creation he gave the answer. “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” God unites people. Human beings should not separate that. Ah, but they can. Couples live knowing divorce is an option. If things go south they can always divorce. Fall out of love, can divorce. If the relationship no longer makes sense, divorce. It might be mutual. “Why stay in something when we can get out and both be happy?” Of course, divorce can still get contentious, drawn-out, adversarial, messy. “He owes me because of all the terrible times he put me through. She should pay because of her actions. I want the house. I want the car. I’ll sell your favorite thing for money. You wouldn’t dare.” Mutual or messy, wronged party or innocent, the living, breathing beautiful thing that is marriage is destroyed, ripped apart and trashed. It’s sin, plain and simple. Always.
Jesus turns you back to the principles of marriage. See marriage’s beauty again. “They are no longer two, but one.” Know that if you’ve been divorced, are married now but with challenges, married but getting by, still single and looking, or even a child where marriage isn’t on your mind, marriage the way God designed it is still beautiful. Marriage is still a mirror of how Christ is towards his bride. His bride is the Christian church. All believers. You are his bride. In every marriage, God intends to give you a reflection of Christ’s relationship with you. The beauty of a lifelong commitment. The beauty of doing a million little things for the other person with no condition of love in return. The beauty a building block institution for society. Couples who see new territory together on the other side of challenges endured together. Marriages are places for children to grow up in stable homes. Mom and dad in their bedroom down the hall from the kids. Stability and comfort. A marriage to look at and model someday.
Marriage is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. That means it has incredible beauty. Awesome blessings, principles for the good of society, and also difficulty. Difficulty because the two people are imperfect. Imperfect people who do sinful things. One spouse uses sex as a weapon, holding out to get certain responses or get what they want. They control the intimacy for personal gain. Habits that were once cute suddenly are like nails on the chalkboard. They become the subject of shouting matches, that maybe aren’t really about the bad habit but about something deeper. Resentment can boil over when one spouse works long hours or one spouse spends what the other feels is too much time with friends. Respect isn’t shown when glances at a person of the opposite sex get noticed. Spouses can use one person’s body image against them causing shame. The difficulty is there when children enter the relationship or when the couple can’t have children. Difficulty is there when one commits and the other doesn’t.
God addressed all this difficulty in marriage with Jesus. Jesus and his selfless love. Unconditional commitment to imperfect people. That’s Christ’s love for you. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” Married or single, Jesus comes with his selfless love. Christ made sacrifices for you, doing whatever it took. He came to earth and always obeyed perfectly God’s will for marriage. Jesus was single and he always respected every woman he came across. He respected any married couples and supported them. He never tempted anyone. He did this perfectly. Without condition, before you could love him first, he selflessly loved you and took all your sins. Took those sins and suffered the cross in your place. His selfless love is for you still today. Any guilt you’re suffering because of a past divorce, improper relationship, impure thought, is knocked out by Christ. It’s gone. You’re in a relationship with Christ Jesus. You’re the bride of Christ. He’d do anything for you. His vow to you is selfless love always. Unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.
Can your marriage today reflect that, or your marriage someday in the future? Difficult? Yes, but you get glimpses on this side of heaven. Empowered by Christ you live according to God’s will in marriage. If you’re divorced and reconciliation with your ex isn’t possible, live a God-pleasing life as a single person. If you find another to marry, strive to live a God-pleasing life with them in marriage. Those dating or thinking about dating can learn what loving boundaries God puts on marriage and respect those. We all can support those who are married. Help them love and respect each other. Let people see the beauty of marriage. Show Christ’s love in how you treat your love.
Marriage is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. There is its beauty and difficulty. Beauty in how marriage reflects Christ’s relationship with his church. All love, all sacrifice, without condition, for all time. Difficult because we’re sinful people living in marriage. But Christ Jesus is your Savior, your forgiveness, and your model. Love as Christ loved his bride, the church. Give thanks for God’s gift of marriage. He created it with beauty and shows you selfless love so you can live with selfless love towards your spouse. God loves marriage, and so can we.