Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why Marriage Doesn't Matter......Or Does It 2.0?

The last days have seen every conceivable response to the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.  But are we not missing the point to some degree?  Do we have a healthy understanding of eschatology (end times) as it relates to marriage?  Even if we do, we must continually be reminded. Stay with me for a few minutes and see why, in one sense, marriage matters immensely, in another sense, it doesn't matter at all.

Anyone who knows me or has followed this blog knows my stance on marriage and why it matters.  I will reiterate this to some degree here.  So why am I stating that marriage doesn't matter?  I believe there has been a gross overemphasis on marriage as the status quot for happiness and meaning in life both in this life and the next.  It impacts not only the overemphasis on the need for marriage by homosexuals but also the cultural normalcy in church life as it relates to singleness.  No one teaches a theology of singleness anymore.  I will not do it at length in this post but I may at some point.  It needs to happen often in our day, especially from the pulpit.

We all know that generally speaking the gay marriage agenda has had a dual argument which emphasizes the impact of marriage on civil rights, as well as whether they have the right to the same loving union "before God" as heterosexuals do.  I am not arguing for or against that in this post, though as an evangelical Christian, clearly I have reason to suggest that gay marriage should get a biblically based "bad rap". 

Singleness among the secular/worldly heterosexual culture is actually gaining ground as many unbelievers and not a few professing Christians are loosing an appreciation for the covenant commitment of marriage that was established by God from the beginning as the means by which family is held together and the earth is filled through reproduction.  They are either remaining single by choice because they are placing professional growth over the importance of family; or they are choosing to live together without marriage, a commitment that is not approved by God.  

It is being observed more and more by those observing church culture that singleness in the church is often being downplayed unintentionally.  It is thought that their needs to be more teaching that encourages marriage and family, while not making singleness faux pa.  We must teach both what healthy marriages should look like and what biblical, healthy singleness looks like.

This is applicable to any single, whether you are heterosexual or homosexual in orientation.  The choice to remain single and celibate for any period of time in the face of sexual attraction of any kind must be driven by a love for Christ and a proper understanding of the gospel.  You cannot do it because people say you should.  You must be motivated by a passionate appreciation for all that Christ has done for you and a healthy understanding that this life is not the end all.

Why Marriage Doesn't Matter

The Apostle Paul teaches that in the interest of not having divided interests it is better not to marry.  Here is the passage in 1 Corinthians 7:6-9, "Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.  I wish that all were as I myself am (single).  But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.  To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.  But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry.  For it better to marry than to burn with passion."

In the grander context of chapter 7, Paul is encouraging those who are already single to pursue singleness as it relates to their God-given ability to be singularly focused on Jesus and the gospel.  He is not encouraging singleness for the sake of singleness or selfish pursuits that do not have Christ and the Great Commission (Matthew 28) at the center.  At the same time he brings balance to the thought, acknowledging that God has not granted everyone the gift of singleness and thus celibacy.  Jesus speaks to singleness and celibacy as a gift as well in Matthew 19:10-12.  As I said, I would love to speak to singleness more at another time and flesh out these thoughts further but I must move on as this is not the main point of this post. 

To be clear regarding marriage, we are certainly given permission to be a witness to the love of God in Christ Jesus as married men and women who are raising a family.  That can be exhibited in the form of a strong Christian witness in the everyday life of work and home or it can be in the form of ministry, be it pastoral, para church or in some official missionary role.  While singleness may make flexibility easier, being married does not limit what God wants to do in your life.  If we are not clearly driven to remain single for the sake of being free to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, unhindered by familial responsibility, then we should be getting married.  

In Matthew 22:23-33 the Pharisees are challenging Jesus about the resurrection.  In so doing, they question Jesus about marriage in heaven when a spouse has been married to multiple people in this life.  They specifically reference Deuteronomy 25:5.  Jesus' answer was this, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."(Matthew 22:30).  

Here Jesus is making clear that marriage is a temporal thing.  It is not the main point because it does not exist for all of eternity.  Once a person dies and, if a believer, begins eternal life with Christ in Glory; the marriage relationship ceases and sex as a means of fulfillment and reproduction is no longer necessary.  In effect, in Heaven, marriage does not matter.  So why is it such a big deal in this life?

Why Marriage Does Matter?

So what is the main point?  Why all the hubbub about marriage if it doesn't matter?  Well, basically, because it does matter.  I know, it sounds contradictory.   Here's the thing, in eternity marriage to each other does not matter because we will be married to Jesus.  In fact, if you are a believer, you already are.  You may be thinking, Huh?  Let me explain.

As explained in Genesis 2:18, 21-25 God gave Adam a helper made from Adam's rib and Adam called her Woman.  God said in vs. 24, "therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."  They were to "be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it." (Genesis 1:28)  So at the most basic level marriage is a man and a woman in a committed, covenant relationship between them and God, making babies and managing the earth's resources to the glory of God.  

Now, if there was any confusion about whether this was God's design for marriage, a few thousand years later Jesus comes on the scene and clarifies.  In Matthew 19:3-12, he clarifies his position on marriage, divorce, remarriage, and single celibacy.  In vs. 4-6 He says, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh?  So they  are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." 

 Sound familiar?

Ok, so we know how marriage is defined by God but what is it's purpose in this life?  This is where the Apostle Paul is helpful.  In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul writes what have become some of the most controversial, offensive verses in our feministic day and time.  Unfortunately, many a man has abused these verses and many a woman has wanted to ignore them.  This is because both parties have completely missed the point of this passage of God's word.  That is why they are offensive and controversial; not because God's word is imperfect or bad for us, but because sinful man has distorted it and mangled it's application.

Let me see if I can break it down briefly so as to make clear what the point of this passage is. Ephesians 5:22-24 is to wives.  In it Paul instructs wives to think of themselves not as worthless or inferior to their husbands, but rather as a valued treasure that, in relating to her husband, is intended to reflect the church universal as it relates to Christ.  The church submits to Christ because it is responding to His love for her.  The wife submits to her husband as an act of submission to Christ, because of Christ's love for her.  She is entrusting her husbands role, and his obedience to the requirements of that role, to Christ's authority.

Now for husbands.  Ephesians 5:25-29 teaches husbands how to love their wives.  The answer is we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  As husbands we are to die to ourselves and live with the purpose of representing Christ's love to our wives.  Just as Christ washes His church with His word, we as husbands are to wash our wives with the water of the word. We are to value her as our greatest treasure and treat her as such.  If we do that, she will have a much easier time responding with loving, respectful submission because not only is she trusting her husband to Christ, but she will actually be able to trust herself to her husband.

Paul continues to build his case by quoting both God in Genesis and Jesus in Matthew, writing in Ephesians 5:31 he says, "therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh".  From here, Paul get's to the obvious point in Ephesians 5:32 when he says, "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church."

He is answering the question, "Why does marriage matter?"  It matters because God intends the husband/wife relationship to show the world how Christ loves his church and how the church is to respond to that love.

Jealousy for Jesus In Singleness!

If you are a single believer in Christ, that does not mean you are relationship-less.  You have a covenant relationship with Christ.  You also share in this relationship with a huge family of brothers and sisters in Christ.  Whether they are married or single, we will all share singleness in common in Heaven.  These are the only relationship that will matter in eternity and it starts the moment you place your faith and trust in Him.  Do not think that you are inferior or somehow less valuable.  Every child of God is infinitely valuable to Christ.  He died for you!  For that reason you should be jealous for Jesus in your singleness.

You have a special opportunity in your singleness to impact the kingdom in ways that only a single person can.  Not to take anything away from marriage and family but, there are burdens and responsibilities that a single person does not have to carry.  This makes them flexible and thus uniquely qualified for certain tasks that only God knows about.

You may or may not ever be married.  Regardless of whether we are married or not, we must make every moment count for the kingdom.  We must live vertically, always considering what God's purpose is in all that He places before us.

Jealousy For Jesus In Marriage

When marriage is thrown out via divorce, distorted in the form of abuse or infidelity, or by changing the sex of the parties being married, it vandalizes the very image that God intends it to reflect. That is why we must be jealous for the protection of this covenant relationship.  We must be jealous for Jesus because in a sense, whether husband or wife, as God's children we represent Christ to the world.

Wives represent Christ through willful, loving submission to their husband just as Jesus willfully submits lovingly to God the Father.  Husbands represent Christ's sacrificial love for the church as they sacrificially love their wives.

We must not respond simply with the occasional expression of distaste for "same-sex marriage", but by ensuring that our own marriages are representing this biblical model appropriately.  When we are having difficulty applying biblical principle to our marriage for each other, we must do it for Jesus.

We must always remember that, as believers, our covenant relationship through marriage in this life is always intricately tied to the marriage covenant in which we take part; as part of Christ's bride, the church of Jesus Christ.  In that respect, male or female, Christ is our husband and we should submit to Him out of our love and appreciation for His sacrifice for us.

Our marriage to our spouse in this life matters immensely to Jesus because of it's reflection on our marriage to Him.  He cares that it is successful not just for our happiness, but for His glory!

Make Your Marriage Matter for Christ's Kingdom!  Lift up the name of your Eternal Husband!

In Christ's name,



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