Christian marriage is grounded in the dust of our origin, our being male and female, our being made in the image of God (cf. Genesis 2:18-25). It isn’t a lofty ideal, a religious concept, a legal concoction, or a romantic illusion. It’s about food and drink, house and home, bed and table, children and community. And it embraces the fullness of who we are– the good, the bad, the ugly.
God originated marriage when He recognized that being alone wasn’t good for man. Man needed a unique companion, a counterpart, a suitable helper. And despite the magnificence of their creation, none of the animals were acceptable (cf. Genesis 2:19-20). So, God put the man to sleep, and from the death of sleep, He took a rib out of the man’s side and made a woman. While Adam lost something, he gained much more in return – a woman like him but different, equal, yet separate. When the man saw the woman God made for him, he said, “Finally! She’s like me. The bone of my bones, the flesh of my flesh. I’ll call her ishah (woman), for she was taken out of ish (man).”While Adam lost something, he gained much more in return - a woman like him but different, equal, yet separate. Click To Tweet
With this divine creativity in place, a pattern was set that Christians now follow: a man leaving his father and mother to join his bride and a woman leaving her father and mother to join her bridegroom. Creation echoed – the two become one flesh. And within the confines of marriage, they can enjoy sex, be naked, and without shame (cf. Genesis 2:25).
We sometimes miss this picture of the two becoming one flesh. But you don’t have to be much of a Bible scholar to recognize how much God enjoys this image of marriage. It’s the chief picture of the passion of Christ for His Church and the Church’s passion for Christ (cf. Ephesians 5:31-32). And it’s why God wants every marriage to be a picture of Christ’s unconditional, ardent love for the world.
Of course, being married isn’t a romantic ride. It’s hard work. Talk to that stubborn crowd who have been married for fifty or sixty years. They’ll tell you. You don’t always live happily ever after, but you live, you get on with it, and hang in – for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health. And you do this by keeping all four feet anchored in the dirt of creation and all four hands harmoniously at work. Loving, cherishing, forgiving, until one or the other, or both of you, drop dead in the arms of Jesus.You don’t always live happily ever after, but you live, you get on with it, and hang in – for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health. Click To Tweet
It would be nice if Christian marriage came with a lifetime bumper-to-bumper warranty, but it doesn’t. Married life is improv theatre without a script (though Christians have God’s Word and His Spirit). And you can’t trade each other in for a newer, shinier, spiffier model when one of you breaks down along the way (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
It may have happened, or it might yet happen, that you wake up one morning, open a sleepy eye, look at the other person on the pillow beside you, and say to yourself in a moment of introspective panic, “Horrors! What have I got myself into?” You may not want to be in the marriage, and your mind may wander to greener romantic pastures. That’s why we wear rings (and maybe why, as we grow older, our fingers get fatter, and we can’t pull the rings off!). They remind us of our promises and why we should be resolved to stick with them, not because we feel like it but because that’s what Christian married people do. They stick with it and each other, the way Christ sticks with His Bride, the Church.
I know it’s not diplomatic to speak this way today, but we haven’t improved marriage one iota with our politically correct silliness. What we need today is real marriages. Ones our children and grandchildren can look at and emulate. We need wives to be the body of the household and husbands to be the head of the household (cf. Ephesians 5:21-33). If you’re a husband and wife, you’re the body and head joined as one. Is the body more important than the head, or is the head more important than the body? Both need each other. Both must submit to the other out of reverence for Christ (cf. Ephesians 5:21). So, draw on each other’s strength as you work, play and worship together.A Christian marriage only needs two pieces of furniture – a bed and a table. These are the places of communion in marriage, where the stuff of marriage takes place. Click To Tweet
A Christian marriage only needs two pieces of furniture – a bed and a table. Everything else is optional. You don’t need a TV or a LazyBoy recliner. But you need a place to sleep together and a place to eat together. These are the places of communion in marriage, where the stuff of marriage takes place.
When I was a pastor and couples came to me for a tune-up because their marriage wasn’t getting the mileage it used to, I asked two simple diagnostic questions: Do you eat together? Do you go to bed at the same time, presumably to the same bed? Their answer was often no or hardly ever. No communion. It’s like a Christian who never prays, never sings songs of praise, and never shows up at church except for Christmas and Easter. In the army, they call it AWOL. Don’t go AWOL on your marriage. Tend to your bed and your board. Eat together, pray together, sleep together, commune together.
You’ll notice that communication and communion have the same root. Most marriages don’t need more communication. Sometimes, when couples communicate more, they dislike each other more. Marriage requires more communion. The best marriage talk is pillow talk and table talk. So, guard your bed and your board like a hawk. Don’t let anything or anyone get in the way of these two things.Deal with and receive each other through Christ, for He’s the centre of your marriage, not you. Click To Tweet
You should also recognize that Christ is the centre of everything in a Christian marriage. Notice I didn’t say, “Make Christ the centre of your marriage.” You don’t put Christ anywhere that He hasn’t already put Himself. Nor do we make Christ anything that He isn’t already. Nor did I say, “Put Christ first,” as though He were a priority among your other priorities. He already is the centre, the focus, the source, the Word, the One who called you into existence, and the One who reconciles you to Himself.
As citizens of Christ’s kingdom, worship Him at your table and His table, in your home and in church. Deal with and receive each other through Him, for He’s the centre of your marriage, not you.
To help your spouse do this, you should ask and answer these questions: Is my spouse more like Christ because s/he is married to me? Or is my spouse more like Christ despite me? Has my spouse shrunk away from Christ because of me? And do I free my spouse for God’s use or hold my spouse back?Yes, you’ll step on each other’s toes, but don’t let it stop the dance. God never stops the music. Click To Tweet
Most importantly, forgive one another regularly and recklessly. Jesus pours the good wine of His forgiveness with a generous wrist. Your cup runs over. Let the overflow flow over to each other. Yes, you’ll step on each other’s toes, but don’t let it stop the dance. God never stops the music. Love and live in the freedom of forgiveness that Christ atoned for you.
Never ever sideline forgiveness. As Christ has forgiven you, forgive one another. Take out the garbage in your marriage – frequently. Don’t let bitterness or anger accumulate – don’t sweep it under the rug or hide it in the basement. Don’t try to cover it up or pretend it isn’t there. Confess your sins to each other (cf. James 5:16), and in the name of Jesus, forgive each other as Christ has forgiven you, for Christ dropped dead for your sins on Calvary’s cross.
And that, somewhat succinctly stated, is what Christian marriage is about.
© Scripture Union, 2023