I don’t often write on marriage specifically. Perhaps it feels too personal or too intimate to relate what I know about marriage, because so much of it is from my own personal relationship with my husband. It seems there is all together too much that we share that should remain intimate, what should exist only between a husband and wife, as sacred and mysterious.
There is so much out there written about the intimacy of marriage, in a way that seems to obliterate the intimacy all together. I think Elisabeth Elliot (as usual), perfectly explains this,
You can’t examine a burning coal by carrying it away from the fire. It dies in the process. There is something deadly about the relentless scientific probe in the mechanics of sexual activity–the lights, cameras, artificial organs and instruments, the note-taking observers and the horrifying detailed reports published for the world’s delectation–to say nothing of the volunteers who participate in the collective experiment, willingly exhibiting themselves for the cause of science and reducing this precious gift not merely to banality but to a bodily function as devoid of meaning for the human being as it is for an animal. (Let Me Be a Woman)
There is too much written about the sexuality of marriage that should exist only within the sanctum of husband and wife.
Consequently, there is too little attention given to the public realm of marriage. Or perhaps, more accurately, there is too much of the wrong kind of attention.
Marriage contains its mysteries, its intimate beauty, known only between husband, wife, and the God who created this paradoxical unity. But it also contains a public office, an ordained purpose, and one that seems to me to be wholly misunderstood and thoroughly abandoned.
The push to redefine marriage by human standards is perhaps the greatest example of this.
And certainly, The Church has no place redefining a standard that God has ordained for a purpose.
When we make the decision to enter into the ordination of marriage, we have placed ourselves in positions of responsibility.
Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal–it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell, May, 1943)
While it does, certainly and ideally, exist with human love, marriage is not ultimately about our love, it is about God’s love.
Marriage exists to provide a beautiful, tangible picture of the covenantal unity that exists between Christ and his Church. The oneness that exists within marriage between man and woman, distinct and opposite humans who together are the image of God, is the oneness that we have together as the Church with Christ because of his great love.
Marriage exists to magnify God, to reiterate his love for us, and his covenantal unity with his Church.
The husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his Bride: The Church. Loving to the point of death, leading and sacrificing.
The wife submits to her husband, as the Church submits to the authority of Christ, gladly being under the authority of the one she loves, happily and faithfully following his lead. (Ephesians 5:22-23)
You cannot subvert these roles, nor assign them to the same sexes and still maintain the glory and purpose that God ordained within marriage. When this design is ignored, marriages fail to fulfill the very purpose for their existence.
When a husband fails to lead with love and sacrifice, the picture is marred.
When a wife fails to willingly and faithfully submit to her husband’s authority, the picture is marred.
When “marriage” becomes defined as a union between anyone regardless of sex or number, the picture doesn’t exist at all.
It is not that this design is difficult to understand, it’s rather plain, almost simplistic. But it is challenging to accept, it requires that we, The Church, submit to the word of God in Christ (as exemplified in a wife submitting to her husband).
We who are married, hold a holy office with innate responsibility. God has ordained marriage to describe the profound mystery that exists between Christ and his Church. This ought to be the sole aim of our life together, to continually glorify and magnify Christ and to point repeatedly back to his love, his sacrifice, his perfection, and his mercy.
Because this perfect, beautiful God died for us; he turned those who had pierced his hands with animosity and hatred into his Bride, his Beloved. We are one with Christ. What a spectacular, beautiful thing.
That is the story marriage tells.
So let’s tell it right.