Marriage: A Love Story in Motion
Hardly anyone ever gets married and thinks that their marriage is a sham of a thing. Hardly anyone ever gets married and plans for the divorce. Almost every couple when they get married have some sort of fairy tale to tell about their love story. In fact, when a couple gets engaged people love to hear the story about their engagement. At an anniversary celebration, people love to hear the story about how the couple met. There is always a story, even if it lacks the fireworks. There is always a story of a love that was sparked and led to marriage.
But as we know all too well, too many couples don’t make it; just one would be too many, but there are far more than that. The love story that led to an altar fades away into a story of disenchantment, discouragement, disagreement and eventually even divorce. The love story fades away and is put on the shelf if it isn’t thrown into the fire to be utterly destroyed.
In an effort to put this love story back together again, to rekindle the love, and to stave off divorce, I want to show you something in the Bible. I want to show you something about marriage in the Bible. And I want to give you an encouragement. It’s an astounding thing when you see what God does with marriage.
MARRIAGE IS GOD’S GIFT TO US
First, at the very outset of his story he gives us marriage. Right there in the second chapter of this great Book he has left for us of his story, he creates marriage and teaches us about it.
Just imagine this. God had created Adam. Perfect. Complete. In God’s image. His will was totally lined up with God’s. But as God surveyed creation that sixth day, he noticed something and even commented on it: “It’s not good for the man to be alone” (cf. Genesis 2:18). There was Adam among all the animals. Each and every animal had their partner and counterpart. But not Adam. It wasn’t good for the man to be alone.
So, God got to work. He did some out-patient surgery on Adam and removed a rib. He took that rib and formed a woman from that rib. And she too was perfect, complete, in God’s image. She was just what Adam was missing.
And now, now imagine this: “[God] brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:22). Just like a father who walks his daughter down the aisle, God escorted this woman whom he had made down the aisle and presented her to the Adam. Adam could hardly contain himself: “This one, at last, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). He was fired up because she was his and he was hers. These two individuals were now one flesh until the day that they died (except, at this point in history they weren’t supposed to die yet).
This is marriage. It is God’s gift to us. He doesn’t want us to go through life alone so he gave us someone to do life along with us. He gave us someone with whom we might enjoy some intensely intimate moments. He gave us someone with whom we might bear and raise children. He gave us, as the book suggests, a friend, a partner, and a lover. This is marriage. ‘Til death do us part. God’s gift to us.
MARRIAGE IS GOD’S PICTURE
From this perfect picture of marriage in the Bible, we see the form and function of marriage fall apart. We see Adam and Eve falling out of their God-given roles. We see the men of the Bible, even some heroes of faith, taking multiple wives and acting like husbands to women who were not their wives.
We see marriage perverted, but that’s just a symptom of the problem. The problem is that sin entered the world and God’s people strayed further and further away from him. We see God’s people committing adultery with other gods. Yes, I chose the word “adultery.” I chose it because that’s the word that God used to use to describe the idolatry of his people. That’s the way God saw idolatry. When his people loved, trusted and worshipped an idol it’s like they were cheating on him. “Adultery” is exactly the word for that.
But God, in love for his people, took them back. In fact, he pursued them. He found them. He redeemed them. He cleaned them up and made them his again. Like a husband, God pursued his wayward wife to bring her home again.
God describes his relationship to us, his people, as if it were a marriage relationship. You can read this marriage drama in Ezekiel 16 or Hosea chapters 1-3. It’s astounding. God uses marriages, real marriages, as a picture of his relationship with us – in its beauty and in its brokenness. He pursues his bride, redeems her from her sinfulness and corruption, and dresses her in beauty once again. He makes her (us!) his and makes this marriage promise: I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord (Hosea 2:19-20). In marriage, God wants to leave us a picture of his love for us. And the picture lives on in our marriages.
MARRIAGE IS A LIVING PICTURE
The apostle Paul pulls the gift and the picture together so that we can see that marriage and this beautiful picture of God’s love belong together. (It’s really the same thing that God does when he teaches us about his fatherly nature and his father’s heart through earthly dads who protect and provide for, raise and rear their children.) See, when you first get into Ephesians chapter 5 Paul gives us some simple, clear and careful instructions for husbands and wives (Ephesians 5:22-33). He doesn’t mince words. He gets right to the point to help husbands and wives know what God wanted them to do.
First, he speaks to wives and tells them to submit to their husbands just like the church submits to Jesus. Immediately, even while he tells wives what to do and how to order themselves under their husbands he gives them a picture to understand what he means to submit. They are to do it “just as the church submits to Christ.” He wants wives to picture their relationship to Jesus while they operate within their marriage.
Then, he speaks to husbands and tell them to love their wives just like Jesus loved the church. Paul just can’t help himself as he teaches husbands to see what sort of love they should show to their wives. He can’t help but go on and gush about what Jesus did for the church and he loved her. Jesus gave his very life for the church to make her holy and blameless as his perfect bride. Even while Paul teaches husbands about love, he can’t help but picture for us the love that Jesus has for each one of us.
Finally, Paul reviews for us exactly what marriage is, taking us all the way back to the Garden of Eden when first God gave marriage to us. He reminds us that in marriage the two become one. The husband and his wife, they leave the home of their parents. They join themselves to each other until death do them part. It’s beautiful. Marriage truly is a gift of God.
And then Paul drops this on us: “This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church” (5:32). After all this talk about how husbands and wives should behave, Paul tells us that he wasn’t really talking about marriage as his main point. In essence he is saying, “Marriage isn’t really my main point. Yes, I’ve been teaching you about marriage. Yes, I’ve been teaching you about how husbands and wives are to live together. But that’s not really my main point. My main point is this – I’m talking about the relationship between you and Jesus! I’m talking about how Jesus pursues us, redeems us and makes us beautifully his.”
Big Idea: In marriage we have a living, breathing picture of God’s relationship with his people.
Paul wants us to see that in our marriages, we have a living, breathing picture of God’s relationship with his people. In our marriages, he wants us to see how God pursues us like a husband pursues his wife. He wants us to see how God chases us down, seeks us out, finds us, and takes us to be his. In our marriages, he wants us to see how God forgives, how he shows boundless love, mercy and grace.
That’s why I love the intentional bit of this book we’re reading. In our Marriage Refresh studies, we’re reading a book called “Friends, Partners, Lovers.” The author makes a big point to talk to us about being intentional, purposefully and measured in our marriages. And that’s exactly what God was in his marriage to us, his bride. He was intentional! He had a plan and then he pursued it. He developed that plan and then carried it out on the cross. And even in our lives, God pursued us, wooed us, won us and made us his. Our marriage to our God is one the greatest love stories every told. It tells how God went to all lengths to make us his. It tells us how God is still pursuing us to keep us as his.
And in marriage, we get to live out the drama of God and his bride. When you pursue your spouse, you are showing the love of God to win back his wife. When you forgive your spouse, you are doing what God does for us every day. When it breaks your heart when your marriages is fractured and broken, you can begin to grasp how God feels when we break our relationship with him through sin. When your marriage is repaired and reconciled, you can begin to understand how glad and full of joy is when our relationship with his repaired and restored.
So, here’s my question: How will you picture the pursuing and intentional love of God in your marriage?
When you play the part of the pursuing and the intentional, then you give the world and to your spouse the pursuing and intentional love of God.
Next time, we’ll start looking at friendship in the Scriptures and what it means for us to be a friend, yes, the best friend of our spouse.