A Reflective Essay on the Meaning of Marriage

The Following is a Reflection Paper I Wrote for Class

The Meaning of Marriage is one of the better marital books which I have read in recent years. I felt that the writer did a good job at presenting both the theology aspect and the practical nature of the subject. I think what intrigued me the most was that, after quoting various psychologists and marriage counselors, one of the main internal reasons why men and women are foregoing marriage today is not because of too much love, but the lack of true Biblical love for the other person.

The author directed a significant portion of this book to the reason why more and more individuals in the United States are likely to forsake the marriage covenant and just simply move in together. One of the main reasons they would give for doing this would be somewhere along the lines of wanting to get to know the person before they are willing to “fully” commit themselves. However, as discussed in this book and evidenced throughout the vast amounts of research, the main underlying reason is so that they can enjoy the benefits of being in a relationship while at the same time managing their lives as an independent single.

This then leads into the fact that, whether they admit to this or not, if someone better comes along then they have no obligation to stay with the former partner. The issue then is that this evidence shows a self-focused view of the relationship. Rather than being life-locked to one person and seeking the benefit and well-being of the other individual no matter what may happen, this view has distorted the concepts of both attraction and attachment by making them about what I can do for me. What this shows is that this form of relationship is not a love of anyone but self. The partner is self-seeking in their pursuits.

Biblical love stands in stark contrast to this shallow concept of how the world views love.  As Christians, we are to be an exact copy of the Godhead in every area of our lives. People often wonder why God has not revealed Himself visibly to us in the twenty-first century, but they miss the fact that God is revealing Himself through His Church right now. This truth is meant to be both exciting and somewhat frightening as we begin to contemplate its meaning and application throughout our daily lives.

As God is generous, so we too are to be generous. Yet how often do we struggle with greed, materialism, and seeking to hoard everything to ourselves? As God is kind, so we too are to be kind. Yet how often do we attack people on social media and speak poorly of them when they are not around? Finally, as God expresses [present tense continuous action] His love for His people, so too are we to express this kind of love for our spouses. This becomes scary when we begin to think about all the ways we fall short of accurately proclaiming the glory of God in and through our lives towards other people.

Marriage Advice

I was asked in a marriage group a couple weeks ago to give just one piece of advice to both younger married couples and those looking forward to being married relatively soon. At the start I wondered how I could boil everything down into one singular point, but then it hit me. I turned in my Bible and read a familiar passage to us all, yet one which is rarely seen in this light. The passage was Matthew 19:7-8 which says,

They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so…”

We have all read this passage probably a hundred times and we could spend ample amounts of time on the common things such as when Jesus corrects these guys on the fact that Moses never once commanded for divorce to occur, but merely allowed it to happen under certain circumstances. However, one thing that we usually read over in this passage is who is receiving the rebuke. The interesting thing is that Jesus is not, at least in this passage, rebuking the adulterous spouse. Yes, they have their issues and our Lord will never condone their actions, but He is rebuking the spouse who seeks to file divorce.

This may be hard to wrap our minds [and even harder for our hearts] around this but it is necessary for us to hear what Jesus is communicating and unhesitatingly apply His unconditional love in our lives towards our spouse. Many of us will get down on the world’s case for suffering and even encouraging so many divorces, but even in the “Christian” circle we do the same things. For how many of us would seek to be released from a wife or a husband who continued breaking our hearts repeatedly? We often say our love is unconditional and we may even get married in a church and recite all the Biblical vows, but I believe it is a shame to the Church of Christ that so many of us believe deep down that love has a limit.

Whether we would vocalize that statement or not, the truth is seen in the fact that so many Christian marriages end in divorce. We may not say it, but we too often believe and live in a way that will not allow another person to hurt us too many times before we take off. However, this is a problem because it is a poor reflection of our Savior and God. We are all eternally grateful that He did not just take off after being hurt so many times. We are all incredibly thankful that He still sticks around even though we continue [present tense continuous action] to rebel against Him. How often do we reject Him and fornicate our lives with idols, yet His love remains? This is the God we are called and commanded to represent appropriately and accurately to the world at large.

We serve the God who commanded His prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute and to remain faithful to her even through her unfaithfulness to him. Why? It is because marriage is to reflect God and His love for His people. Even though Gomer had affair after affair continually breaking Hosea’s heart, he remained. This is love. I admit that marriage is hard and it would bring me to tears, and quite possibly depression, if my wife were to be found unfaithful, but I would never leave her. I would never seek to be released no matter what offense has been taken against me because how I love my wife in my pursuing of her reflects how much I am becoming more and more like my God.

If I would leave then I would be representing God in a bad light to all people — believers and non-believers. To summarize this main point which I shared in the marriage group a couple weeks ago, I must always recognize that my spouse is not the problem — I am. If my wife says something to me or makes a comment which has the potential of causing an unholy reaction in me, then I must at that moment remember that the problem is not with her, but with me. The sinful reaction is not coming from her or her comment, but from my hardness of heart. Yes, my wife has her issues like all of us, but the Lord in this passage is challenging me personally to view my own hard heart as the reason for the possible sinful response.

Marriage is the Beginning and End of Biblical Revelation

Something I had not previously thought about was the fact that the entire Bible is centered upon marriage. This is another reason why is it so crucial to remain faithfully committed to our marriages because we are representing not only God and His love for His chosen people, but also the relevance and applicable nature of the Word of God. Timothy Keller speaks of this truth when he says,

At the climax of the Genesis account of creation we see God bringing a woman and a man together to unite them in marriage. The Bible begins with a wedding (Adam and Eve) and ends in the book of Revelation with a wedding (of Christ and the Church). Marriage is God’s idea. It is certainly also a human institution, and it reflects the character of the particular human culture in which it is embedded. But the concept and roots of human marriage are in God’s own action, and therefore what the Bible says about God’s design for marriage is crucial.[1]

Therefore, since God has such a high view of marriage, how much more am I to maintain a high regard for marriage? The marriage covenant between a man and a woman is something much greater than myself and is also a thing which will not last forever, at least between mortal man and mortal woman. The human marriage has always been a picture of reflecting the Bridegroom and the Bride — Christ and the Church. It is a construct of eternal implications in which we take part in while we remain in this world. This is to affect me both personally and as a leader.

On a personal level, this helps me to have a better view of my marriage with Caitlin. I am able to see into every single conversation we have, action we take, and even my thoughts that I have about her and see how they are either related or unrelated to the Godhead. If unrelated, then I know I need to change. If related, then, I know that even though whatever it is may be small, I am confident that I am in line with God’s will for my marriage and am walking obediently to His commands.

As a leader, and more specifically a pastor, holding a high esteem for marriage will be of tremendous benefit to all those in the congregation I someday lead. The reason it will be a benefit is because my wife and I will maintain a healthy and godly marriage for others to look up to and learn from while at the same time the marital content of my preaching will be driven by great joy and delight which will exalt the love of God in our lives to those who hear. This exaltation of God will result in more and more people being challenged and encouraged to walk with and trust God in their marriages and to seek to glorify Him in all things. Maintaining a passionate joy in preaching the Gospel and proclaiming the goodness of God has some amazing side effects in the lives of other people.

She as My Helpmate

Finally, Timothy Keller makes one more point in which I would like to highlight. He wrote,

So here is Adam, created by God and put into the garden of paradise, and yet his aloneness is “not good.” The Genesis narrative is implying that our intense relational capacity, created and given to us by God, was not fulfilled completely by our “vertical” relationship with Him. God designed us to need “horizontal” relationships with other human beings. That is why even in paradise, loneliness was a terrible thing.[3]

Within the last month, my wife and I have been apart more combined days than ever before in our entire marriage. Although I love my wife very much, my first thought was that I would be able to get so much more done than normal because I would be able to just sit at the computer and quickly type up all my papers. However, what I found out was that when she is gone, I am less productive. Last month I came to the realization that I really do need her in my life. I need her love and support, and, like Adam, I need her companionship.

I must admit that I do much better with her here at my side and this paper is actually evidence of that fact. I took a whole weekend trying to write this paper while she was gone and got nowhere. Today, however, I sat down with her in the same room and was able to crank out every word. I am even more thankful to the Lord for her and now see her as an even greater blessing in my life. The Lord knew what He was doing when He brought me Caitlin and I am forever grateful.

As a leader my love for and value I place on my wife will have much impact on the men and women we serve. I pray every single day that the Lord will make our marriage to be the truest reflection of His love in this world and I believe He is raising us up to have an eternal impact in the lives of His saints. We do not yet know where He will take us or to whom we will have the joy of serving while in pastoral ministry, but I am confident that a godly and mature marriage can only bring blessing to any body of believers because people will have greater trust in my leadership, it bodes well for having godly children who love and seek the Lord, and when people see the Christlikeness in our marriage they will crave for the work of God to happen in their lives. This will bring them to us and we will then drive them to the Cross.

[1] Timothy Keller and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (New York: Dutton, 2011)., p. 13.

[3] Ibid., p. 111.

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