There is a very low vision of marriage and family in society. People's attitudes towards marriage have changed and it has become very self-focused, centred around pleasure, success, gathering of material wealth... People are in it for what they can get out of it.
The idea of covenant, commitment or sacrifice has been lost. We live in a selfish, self-centred world that lives to be entertained. What we need is the vision of marriage from God's Word. God has a great vision for it. He sees something awesome and of great value in it...
We need to understand God's original idea so we can walk in it and so that our marriages are empowered to be what God intended them to be. So why did God create marriage? What was His purpose for creating it? What does He want our marriage to be?
From God's Word, the Bible, we can understand the following:
- God instituted marriage
Genesis 2: 20-25,
The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept. Then He took one of his ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. Then Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she will be called Woman, for she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they will become one flesh. They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Marriage was God's idea. He came up with it. God made woman for man as a suitable helper. His design is for one man and one woman to commit themselves to each other for life.
- God does the joining together
Therefore they are no more two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man put asunder...
When people get married, something supernatural takes place as God joins two people and makes them one person. They are now no more two but one flesh.
The mystery of becoming one flesh is something that God himself does.
- Marriage exists primarily for the glory of God
All things were created by Him and for Him.
(that includes marriage!)
The primary purpose of marriage is to glorify God. The primary purpose of marriage is not for us to get a mate or companionship; it is not for romance or procreation or fruitfulness etc.. (even though God does meet our needs in marriage) Its first purpose is to give God glory.
As individuals, our main purpose is to glorify God so why should it be different with our marriages? Our purpose together should be to live for God's glory.
We believe there are mainly two ways God is glorified in marriage:
1. Marriage is a witness to the world
Marriage is to display to the world the covenant keeping relationship that Jesus has with His bride – the church, and her faithfulness towards Him. Marriages are meant to be a reflection of the love of Christ for the church to the world.
God is showing off with marriage! This is valid for Christian and non Christian marriages alike (whether they know it or not). Obviously, the more Godly the marriage, the better it reflects Christ and the church.
2. Marriage is an avenue for spouses to become more like Christ
Marriage is also meant to conform us - as His children - to the image of Christ. It is to separate us to God and make us more like Him. God uses marriage - and everything else in our life - to make us more and more like Jesus.
Husband and wife can cooperate with God as they view marriage as a sanctifying tool that the Lord uses to shape them to His image.
Now let us examine these two ways marriage is used to glorify God in more details.
Marriage is a Witness to the World: A Model of Christ and His Church
Wives, be submissive to your own husbands as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head and Saviour of the church, which is His body. But as the church submits to Christ, so also let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, and that He might present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I am speaking about Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Married couples are a picture of Christ and the church. Marriage gives glory to God and points people towards God. What people see is a model of Christ and the church. It is a witness to the world around and also to the children that see it modelled 24/7. They get the right image of Christ and the church and it helps them develop their own relationship with God.
So God has a great view of marriage. His standards are way above our own and He uses us to show the world the reality of the love of Christ for the church.
Marriage is temporary (for a lifetime), but in eternity we move on to the reality of the heavenly marriage of Christ and His bride. Our earthly marriage is a shadow, but then it will be the real thing, the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Now you understand why satan is doing all he can to destroy marriages - ultimately it is not even about us, it is an attack on the glory of God. His real aim is the separation of Christ and the church.
This also gives us understanding as to why the husband is told to love his wife - by loving her he is demonstrating the love of Christ for His church. And we now also understand why the wife is to submit to her husband - by submitting to him she is demonstrating how the church should submit fully to Christ at all times. So the loving and the submitting are not conditional and do not depend on whether the other spouse is behaving well or fulfilling their role properly. Our loving or submitting is our way of glorifying God by displaying the beauty of the relationship between Christ and the church.
This is incredibly challenging, but it is also an enormous privilege to be called to this.
* TO HUSBANDS:
A husband should meditate on how much Christ loved the church and the passages of Scriptures that show how He gave Himself for her... (eg. Romans 5:8 - "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.")
Husbands, you have the power to represent Christ to your wives! You have the opportunity to make your wife experience what it means to be loved by God!... You can display to her the grace that Christ gives to His church - grace and not condemnation for her failures... You are called to care for her and cherish her in spite of her shortcomings and also to lead her to a place of greater sanctification with the help of God's Word. You are responsible for your wife's spiritual growth and maturity!
* TO WIVES:
A wife should meditate on how the church is to submit to the Lord who loves her in everything... (eg. James 4:6-7 - "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.")
Wives, you have the power to make your husband's job and calling a pleasure or a nightmare. You have the power to make his life wonderful or miserable. You can have an attitude of respect and admiration towards your husband or you can despise him with your words, your actions and even your thoughts...
Let the mental image you have of your husband be of someone you greatly admire and look up to, the same way the church would look up to Christ. Let your words to him be words of affirmation and encouragement; and be grateful for the good things he does for you. Let your actions demonstrate that you follow his lead, that you support him and do not come against his plans and endeavours.
Marriage is an Avenue for Spouses to Become More Like Christ
Everything God orchestrates in our lives - as believers - is designed to make us more and more conformed to the image of Christ. It is not different with marriage. Marriage is a wonderful avenue for God to shape us and prune us to be more like His Son.
God's goal is to make us more like Jesus, and it should be our goal too – so that we can cooperate with Him in the process. Do we want to be more like Him?
We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
What is our ultimate good in God's eyes? Let's look at the next verse:
For those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Our ultimate good is to become more like Him: that we may be like Jesus and act like Jesus in everything. So the second purpose of marriage - for Christians - is to conform us to the image of Christ, and this gives Him the glory.
Some of you may think that your spouse is not compatible with you, that he/she does not meet your needs or that you don't meet theirs... but if this is the case then it means you have the wrong view about marriage. Marriage is not ultimately about being "compatible" or even meeting each other's needs. There is no perfect spouse that can meet all your needs, and there is no perfectly compatible couple. In fact most spouses are usually very incompatible.
There is a saying that say "love is blind". It is true that love does make us blind to our spouse's imperfections and our incompatibilities and we overlook them before marriage. But there is always a point in time when we wake up after the big day and we have to face reality - this is not the person I want them to be or I thought they were... For some it can be after a few months of marriage or maybe a few weeks or even a few days. But by then there is no turning back...
So then, that's your opportunity to learn to be more like Christ. That's where you have to choose to either point the finger at your spouse and count all their faults, or point it back at yourself and ask God to make you more like Christ. Usually when we ask young people why they want to get married to someone, these are the usual replies: "This person makes me happy" or "He understands me" or "She makes me feel wonderful", "He listens to me", etc.. The focus is always on what we can get from the other person, rather than what we can give.
God's purpose is to make us change our focus to what we can give to our spouse, rather than what we can get from them. This is what it means to be like Jesus. Our goal should be to display Christ-like qualities towards our spouse. What are these Christ-like qualities? Mercy, grace, compassion, forgiveness, unconditional love, etc...
So if we really want to be more like Jesus, we should be full of mercy, full of grace, compassion, forgiveness and unconditional love...
What is unconditional love? Unconditional love means loving someone who does not meet all the conditions. God loves us even though we do not meet all the conditions.
What is grace? Grace is giving somebody what they do not deserve. God gives us grace everyday as we do not deserve His goodness and blessings.
What is mercy? Mercy is when we do not give someone what they deserve. God shows us mercy all the time as He forgives us our sins and shortcomings.
We are so grateful to God and we praise Him and sing songs about His unconditional love, His grace and His mercy towards us. But for us, when it comes to our spouse, we expect him/her to meet certain conditions before we can show them love and affection; we want them to be good enough to deserve our kindness to them and we want revenge when they hurt us or upset us. This is the opposite of unconditional love and this is definitely not the way God deals with us.
You know, if our spouse always behaves perfectly and holy, what opportunity do we have to be like Christ? What chance do we have to offer them the unconditional love that God has given us?
The only way we can learn to love unconditionally, is when we learn to show grace and mercy to our spouse, especially when they do not deserve it and do not meet all our conditions. We can only learn to love unconditionally – like Christ does – when we love a person that has flaws and doesn't always give us what we need.
Another area where we can learn to be more like Christ in marriage is in the area of humility. Jesus was God but He made Himself a man, but not only that - He made Himself a servant to be able to reach out to us. He was willing to humble Himself and empty Himself of His own glory to get down to our level. By making Himself like us, His desire was that ultimately we would become like Him; that we would follow Him and learn how to humble ourselves as well.
Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls.
Unfortunately, what we see too often in marriages is two spouses who - instead of humbling themselves and letting go of their ego for the sake of their spouse - try to prove to their spouse that they are better than them and smarter than them continually. Their goal is to win every argument and be the best at everything. Their life is spent competing against each other.
There is probably nothing more destructive to a marriage than that. We are not called to compete against our spouse, but to humble ourselves like Jesus did. We need to forget about being right or winning arguments. We need to forget about our pride. Let your spouse win the argument for once!... And what you will win is peace and fellowship, and you will become a little bit more like Jesus...
PRIDE VS HUMILITY
Pride loves to talk, reveling in every self-exalting form of self-expression.
Humility asks questions and loves dialogue.
Pride is quite content with what it already knows.
Humility has never found someone it couldn't learn something from.
Pride assumes I don't need help.
Humility assumes I need others.
Pride assumes I already understand everything I need to.
Humility assumes there is always more to learn about everything.
Pride sinfully judges others by assuming they will respond negatively or unhelpfully if I am open.
Humility would rather be open and vulnerable than closed and independent.
Pride uses conversation as broadcast time.
Humility uses conversation with a spouse to explore new worlds.
Pride doesn't need a spouse, just an audience.
Humility puts energy and effort into listening.
Pride only has eyes for itself.
Humility that leads to intimacy takes an interest in one's spouse as a gift from God.
Pride denies what the gospel reveals about our seriously sinful condition (Prov 10:19; Gal 5:17)
Humility treats a spouse as a fellow traveller on the road to biblical wisdom.
Pride feels strong and quite capable of going through life without God.
Humility believes what the gospel says about our desperate need for God and his grace - after we're saved as well as before.
(source: Love That Last: When Marriage Meets Grace, by Gary and Betsy Ricucci)
So marriage is God's design and He uses it to teach us to be more like Him. The more we become like Christ, the better our marriage will get.
When we understand that, and when we realise that our marriage is meant to glorify God, we know that whatever way our spouse behaves - good or bad - God uses even that to shape us more into His image. Nothing is in vain. What we have to do is cooperate with Him and continually receive His love so that we can pour it out on our spouse.
We have to be ready to be hurt sometimes, but we have to refuse to dwell on the pain and keep our focus on Jesus. If our eyes are on the pain, they can't be on God. But if our eyes are on Him, He is able to heal the pain and fill us with His love again...
As a conclusion, the main purpose of marriage - according to God's Word - is not about us and our needs. It is all about Him. God instituted marriage for His own glory and the purpose of marriage is to glorify Him. Marriage glorifies God as it displays a picture of Christ and the church to the world; and marriage also glorifies God as each spouse is being transformed to become more and more like Jesus. What a challenge! But more so, what a privilege to be called by God to have marriages that would show His glory to the world!