On Saturday, I consecrated a marriage. It was my privilege to hear vows made and to confirm them before God and others. Then, I added a blessing, in the Name of Jesus Christ. What happened there was, is, and will be – until one of those who made a covenant that day dies – a promise that was written down in Heaven. Sacred marriage is so much more than a contract between two people that gives them legal rights. It is not merely an occasion to publicly note mutual attraction “as long as we both shall love” it is a holy act, making one of two.
In the story of Genesis, there is this teachable moment. Read it with wonder! Unlike the rest of creation that had male and female, Adam stood alone. “But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:20-24, NIV) Adam needed a complement to be whole. God made that one who completed the human identity from the same material as Adam. And, in their union, they became ‘one flesh.’ If you only read a reference to the act of sexual intercourse, think again.
Marriage creates a whole new living thing – one man, one woman together becoming one. “Jerry, that is not good math.” True enough, but it is God’s wisdom! God says that ‘me’ turns into ‘we.’ Everything about those two persons that once existed individually is enveloped in a new identity as a unit. Lives blend, personalities mesh, gifts complement, and love grows. Before you snort cynically about the romanticism of that, you must remember that godly marriage of two individuals filled with God’s Spirit is qualitatively different than the ‘marriage’ ideas of our culture. A couple who desires to become most deeply intimate will grow together emotionally, sexually, and spiritually. Perhaps all that sounds too high, too hard for mere mortals to aspire to.
Does the thought of committing yourself to another person to love for life, send shivers down your spine? Good! When Jesus spoke to His disciples of the high view of marriage, of the permanent bonds of marriage, except for infidelity, they too were daunted. Their humanness makes me smile – “The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10, NIV) We begin true marriage with surrender to Christ and earnest prayer for the Spirit to transform us. Our first prayer is not “Lord, change her (him)!” It is “Lord, make me like Jesus!”
Marriage is the place where we learn best to die to Self, where love (the real thing, not the faux thing of infatuation) matures. Those who commit themselves to Christ, who make Him the Lord to whom they mutually submit, can discover the mysterious, amazing, satisfying emergence of a true ‘one flesh’ identity. As each seeks the Kingdom of God intently, together they can find a kind of intimacy too beautiful to describe. Whether you are married a day, a year, or a decade – Christian, you can pray to become one with your spouse. Will you? Will you seek their best over your own? Will you learn to live authentically, growing in grace, forgiving, accepting love, giving love?
Here is a word from the Word. I encourage you not to make the Scripture subservient to your ‘understanding,’ but rather to let this wisdom inform your mind and heart.
“Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage. No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body.
And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.” (Ephesians 5:21-33, The Message)
Jesus be radiantly visible in our marriages. Make them vibrant with love that is beautifully honoring to our high and holy calling as children of God. Amen.