The present cultural narrative concerning marriage has been written, and in some ways, biblically committed Christians have been cast as the villain. But it doesn’t have to stay this way. To change the narrative, we need a compelling alternative to the current trajectory our culture is on regarding marriage.
Unfortunately, we have become typecast as only caring about one issue – albeit an extremely important one. In reality though, there is more than one issue to worry about. The average marrying age is getting older and older, divorce rates are far too high and many have chosen to simply not marry at all – just to name a few.
We lament that the narrative around marriage has been written, and along the way we got booted from the author’s desk. If we were given back the pen, what would we say? If we want to provide the redirection our culture needs, we must have a clear vision. An important place to start is by answering the question, “why did God give us marriage?” Here are four reasons.
Overflow of God’s love
God is love (1 John 4:8). He possesses full and complete love within Himself and that love overflows into his image bearers. We have been created as relational beings, after the image of God, because God is a relational being Himself. When God was in the process of creating in Genesis 1-2, the common refrain, "And God saw that it was good" is repeated multiple times. Until He created man, and He said, "it is not good..." The shift in this phrase should catch our attention, and lead us to ask, "what was not good?" The answer, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper fit for him (Gen 2:18)."
God exists in Trinitarian community, and He has created us to exist in community as well. The relationship God forms between Adam and Eve points to one of marriage's most basic purposes. He saw that it was not good for man to be alone, because God's first image bearer could not fully express the image alone. This is a good reminder that relational connection is important for our marriages. Do not neglect your spouse, because you were brought together to mutually express the divine love of God through intentionally investing in your loving union.
Filling the earth with God's image
The first command God gives to His new image bearers is to "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth… (Gen 1:28)." The mission of God (Missio Dei) is linked with the image of God (Imago Dei), because we are called to fill the earth with God's image and glory. Jesus gave the command to his disciples to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... (Mt. 28:19)." We are sent to make disciples, to turn people's gaze toward Christ.
We are called to make disciples of all nations, and we are also called to make disciples of the little image bearers in our home. We are called to bring the gospel to the far reaches of the world, and also make it shine before the eyes of our kids. The chief aim of missions is to see God's original intention fulfilled. This is also one of the primary purposes of marriage, the multiplication of God-worshipping image bearers. One of the reasons God has given us marriage is so He can multiply His image and fill the earth with His glory, and the way we disciple are children is integral to that vision.
Christian marriage is not about me, but about us. It is an essential institution for human flourishing. A culture and society that gives up on God's design for marriage will inevitably see the ripple effect through the breakdown of other essential institutions.
We have made marriage more about individual fulfillment, which undermines one of God's initial reasons for giving it to us. In The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller writes, "Marriage used to be a public institution for the common good, and now it is a private arrangement for the satisfaction of the individuals. Marriage used to be about us, but now it is about me."
When we see that marriage is about more than simply our own fulfillment, it tells a compelling story about the way God designed marriage to work. When marriage is not about the individual, they are ready to serve and sacrifice for their spouse. When marriage is not only for the couple, but for the good of their church, their neighborhood, their school district, their children and for all of society, then one of God’s purposes for marriage is fulfilled.
Picture of Christ and the Church
One of the central Scripture passages about marriage is found in Ephesians. As Paul is working his way through the practical implications of the gospel, he comes to marriage. He explains, among other exhortations, that marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. Paul calls men to "love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25)." He goes on to say, "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph 5:32)." Our marriages help us further understand the gospel message, because marriage paints a picture of Christ's love for the church.
Our marriages provide us with an opportunity to deepen our own understanding of the gospel, and further reveal the gospel to those around us. God gave us marriage to be a living picture of His relationship with His people, and His love for them in the gospel.
As we pick up the pen, I pray we give voice to God’s purpose in marriage - in word and deed, that our marriages would be fiercely committed to loving relationship, the discipleship of our children, the good of our cities and the message of the gospel.