Today, I’d like to begin a series of weekend posts about the basics of marriage (yes, I’m starting something new on the last weekend of the year—in your face tradition!). For some of you these posts may sound vaguely familiar, especially if you are part of our adult bible fellowship on Sunday mornings. But with Liz’s help, I’ve re-worked (am I allowed to say digitally remastered?) these lessons for the web. I hope that it will be a helpful as you end this year and start the next!
So, the purpose of this series is to present you with a bird’s eye view of marriage. I want to look at where a good marriage should be heading and give some practical insights into the journey towards those goals. These insights are comprised of truths that God has graciously taught (and often retaught) Liz and me over the years. This material is heavily influenced by Gary Thomas’ Sacred Marriage (so if it’s helpful, you should probably buy his book!). Here is where we’re going:
- Holiness More Than Happiness (part 2)
- Holiness in Love (part 2) (part 3)
- Holiness in Honor/Respect (part 2) (part 3) (part 4)
- Holiness in Service (part 2) (part 3) (part 4)
- The Big Picture: Complementarianism
- Headship 101
- Submission 101
- Putting It All Together
Holiness More Than Happiness 1:
The idea that marriage was meant to be easy was created and propagated, I strongly suspect, by single people. Corner your average 20 year old college student waiting to take his girlfriend to dinner and try describing the marriage relationship as a fight for holiness. He’ll probably toss your description out as something only a long-married, emotionally-drained, and romantically-substandard man would say. Surely, God wouldn’t have intended for marriage to be difficult. Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the soul-mate bond of love and friendship sprinkled with the glorious toppings of laughter and intimacy? To be sure the dating scene is challenging and you’ll probably experience heartache and stress during those years, but if you can make it past all that emotional mayhem (and the wedding day of course) married life will be a happy state of joy for as long as you both shall live. So why all this talk of marriage as a struggle?
What’s strange is that we have no such compunctions about describing the Christian Life as a struggle. We accept and believe that having a relationship with God (who is the ultimate perfect companion) is difficult (Paul describes it as a good fight [2 Tim 4:7]). Yet, we turn around and somehow expect that the joining of two sinners in a life-long bond is supposed to be easier and more fulfilling than our relationship with a perfect God. Hmmmmm. Makes you think, right? I suppose there are many reasons for this misapprehension of marriage, but perhaps the most inimical is cultures mantra that marriage is, above all else, a vehicle for personal happiness. Find “the one” who “completes” you and you will find life-long happiness. While this supposition makes sense to those who don’t know Christ, believers should have more understanding. No temporal thing is the primary vehicle for happiness in this life or the next–not money, not peer relationships, not power, not anything. God brings happiness via who he is, what he does for us, and how he relates to us. Indeed, the ultimate purpose for all things is to glorify the eternal creator God, including marriage (1 Cor 6:19–20; 1 Cor 10:31). God designed it to mirror and shed light first on God the Father’s relationship to God the Son (see the future post on Complementarianism 101…when I write it :-) and second, the relationship Christ has with the church (Eph 5, Rev 19:6–9). At its heart, marriage was created to reflect the triune God relationally. Thus, as an example, a husband’s protecting and providing love throws light on the God who loves and protects (Eph 5:25–30; cf. Matt 5:16, and John 13:35)
So if marriage was created for the overarching purpose of glorifying God (and not only to promote happiness), how does this change the way that we view it on a day-to-day level? How should we think about it?
Wait for the next post to find out :-)