What image comes to mind when you hear the word “marriage”? A white dress? A ceremony? Joint tax returns?
Maybe. Hopefully, if you are a Christian, there are other things that come to mind as well. Things like “covenant.” “Vows.” “Sickness and health.” As Christians, we believe something different about marriage, and we should. Marriage takes on a sacredness because of faith that is otherwise not there. But in the midst of that sacredness, we can still drift in our understanding of the importance of marriage.
It’s not that we deny what we believe to be true about marriage; it’s just that these little half-truths start to creep in and, when they do, they have the tendency to grow. Small errors are like that; as the Bible says, it’s the little foxes that spoil the whole vineyard over time (Song of Sol. 2:15).
What are some of these half-truths that we should check in our understanding of marriage? Here are three examples:
1. Marriage is the goal.
Marriage is great. Better than great. It’s so great that my wife and I regularly pray for our children’s future spouses because we sincerely want them to get married. You might do the same thing. And yet marriage is not the goal.
It’s not the goal for us, and it’s not the goal for our children. While we might desire our children to be married for several reasons, that cannot be the overarching desire in our hearts for them or for ourselves. If it is, then we are saying without saying that any life that is not united with another in marriage is incomplete. And that dishonors our personal union with Christ. It also fails to recognize that God’s will for everyone, whether single or married, is to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.
It’s wonderful to be married. And it’s fine to want to be married. But marriage cannot be the goal. If it is, then we are worshiping at the altar… of the altar.
2. Marriage brings fulfillment.
Here is another half-truth. It’s a half-truth because because it’s only partly true. Marriage does bring a degree of fulfillment in many ways. But then again, that’s the danger of a half-truth.
True fulfillment in marriage, or any other environment, only comes after we find satisfaction in Jesus. Otherwise, we are putting a burden on this relationship that it wasn’t meant to bear. If we do so, we will constantly be looking to our spouse to fill some hole in ourselves. And if we are doing that, then we will be incapable of selflessly serving the one to whom we are married.
It all starts back with Jesus. He is where we find our true and ultimate satisfaction. Only when we do will we be able to find true enjoyment in our marriages.
3. Marriage is about a husband and a wife.
Again, yes and no. Marriage is certainly about a husband and wife. And I understand why we particularly emphasize this truth right now, in these cultural days and dynamics. But we should also remember that marriage is not ultimately about a husband and wife; it’s ultimately about the gospel. This is the greater purpose God has instituted marriage – it’s so that in our marriages, we might be a walking, talking, living, breathing illustration of the relationship between Christ and the church. This is our greater end.
Friends, it’s wonderful to be married. I hope you agree. But the wonder of marriages comes, somewhat ironically, when we are first and foremost fulfilled in Jesus and look to Him and Him alone for our greater end and purpose.