For Better, for Worse

This past weekend I had the privilege of officiating at a wedding in a township church in South Africa.  The marriage ceremony took place as an addition to the Sunday morning service.

The vibrancy of the singing was contagious and the warmth of hospitality humbling.

In African culture there is no such thing as RSVP!  If you attend the wedding – and all are welcome – you join the feast afterwards. And there’s always enough food.

I reminded the wedding couple, and the church, that the Bible has a lot to say about marriage.

Present

Marriage is a gift from God and not a human invention.

God said in Genesis 2:24,

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

God himself designed, instituted and ordained marriage at the beginning of human history.  Before there were schools, businesses or churches, there was marriage.

By this, we can see that marriage is foundational to human society.  Marriage is very important to God, and necessary for the good of society.

If marriage was a human institution, then we could change or alter it. But because marriage is from God, we need to respect, honour and treasure marriage as God intended.

Because marriage is a gift from God, it also means that it’s not just “a piece of paper”.  Marriage is not simply a legal contract or a form you sign, but an ongoing companionship and commitment.

God created the world and pronounced that it was good.  But in his good creation God saw something that was not good.  It was not good that Adam was alone.

God called all the animals he had created and told Adam to find a suitable helper.  None was found and so God created Eve out of Adam’s side or rib. She was a suitable helper to Adam.

The word suitable means matching or complimentary, but different.

Eve is not the same as Adam.  She is different.

Adam, the husband, is to be the loving head of the home, setting the direction and responsible for its spiritual growth.

Eve, the wife, is to be the helper and nurturer.  Not pulling in her own direction, but submitting to her husband, so they pull in the same direction. A ship with two captains always hits the iceberg.

Now Adam is no longer alone.

Therefore, we can say one of the chief purposes of marriage, besides sex in a committed relationship and children, is companionship and friendship to prevent loneliness.

Consequently, deciding who you will marry, is very important.

You shouldn’t marry just based on looks, or sex or money.  You should marry someone you are good friends with and someone who will make a great companion.

Matthew Henry, a well-known Bible commentator, wrote:

“Eve was not created out of Adam’s head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.”

Promise

There was a chart-topping song a good few years ago with these words:

“You and me baby are nothing but mammals, so let’s do it like they do it on the discovery channel.”

But we are not animals.  We are human beings created in the image of God.

We are not ruled by our instincts, desires or lusts, but can make rational decisions and exercise our wills.

If we are Christians, we are ruled by Christ and his Word.

What you do at your wedding ceremony is rationally promise to commit yourself to your partner.

You essentially say, “I choose to love you.  I, a human-being and not an animal, promise to love you every day from now on. And I will act on that decision.”

Marriage is not based purely on feelings.  You might not always feel in-love, or hear the birds sing when you see each other, or see the sparkle in each other’s eyes.

Marriage is not based purely on physical attraction.  It’s good that you are physically attracted to your spouse, but in future years you might both gain a few kilograms, lose some hair and find more wrinkles.  Does that mean the end of your marriage?

No.  Marriage is based on a promise and commitment to the other person.

We are not animals ruled by our passing feelings or fleeting whims.

We are human beings created in the image of God and have power to choose and act on our decisions.

Why do so many marriages fail?1

Because we human beings are self-centred.

We, by default, ignore God and we want to please ourselves. This is the essence of sin.

Limp Bizkit’s summed up our natural way of thinking in their song “My Way”:

“This time I’m letting it all come out, This time I’ll stand up and shout, I’m doing this my way, It’s my way, My way or the highway.”

Picture

Marriage in the Bible is a picture of Jesus, the groom, and his people, the bride.

God has sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world that has ignored and rebelled against him.

Jesus came into our world and died on a cross.

The Bible says that the consequence of sinning against an infinitely perfect God, is death.

Jesus died, not for his own rebellion, but for ours, so that we may be forgiven by God.

Only when married couples have put their confidence in Christ, is their marriage built on a secure foundation.

Only when married couples have experienced the unconditional, unmerited and undeserved forgiveness of God, are they able to conquer self-centeredness and extend that same forgiveness to each other again and again.

Jesus is compared to the bridegroom who loves his bride so much that he is willing to die for her.

One day the marriage of Christ and his church will be demonstrated for all to see, when Christ returns in his Father’s glory and calls his people to be with him forever.

Are you treasuring your marriage or future marriage?

Are you keeping your promise to forsake all others and to be faithful to your spouse?

Are you extending the same forgiveness Christ has extended to you?

Would you pray, with me, that we would live as people ruled by Christ, and not like animals ruled by our passing, self-centred feelings?

 

  1. Divorce can be a complex issue and the Bible does permit divorce in some cases. See my articles, “When does the Bible permit divorce?” and “Till divorce do us part” for more on the subject.