Marriage: Sacred and Public

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.

7 comments

  1. Sorry, you’ll be wondering why I liked this. My son knocked the phone with his foot while I was feeding him. I did a post recently giving young Christians marriage advice. Quite different from yours.

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    1. That definitely would have confused me. Happens to me often too, those little feet are often poorly timed 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I decided to come back and read it properly. I think Christians who believe like you do should consider having a label of your own for marriage. Marriage obviously exists in many other religions and in a secular context, and often Christians of your mindset seem to think they have the right to define it for everyone. You can easily follow this heterosexual model of dominance and submission in the privacy of your own homes, but it’s a bit weird when it’s described as something that people ‘should’ be doing.

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      2. Perhaps, since marriage has had a longstanding definition by Christian terms, it is non-Christians who should create their own label to fit their purposes.
        And because we as Christians operate under the assumption that things are not relative, if we believe something to be ordained it is only appropriate to describe it as a “should”. It seems especially important to define out terms considering the recent attempts for churches to recognize “marriages” that do not fit these criteria.

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      3. It’s just a label for a relationship contract, and ceremonies of some form exist in all cultures. Just because humanity has been stuck in a vat of ignorance for centuries and hasn’t acknowledged in most (but not all) societies that homosexuals can have just as binding and positive relationships, doesn’t mean a relationship contract for them would mean anything different. It’s a word, in one language. Conservative Christian marriage, you could call it. I have a love marriage for papers – I often shorten it to marriage but I don’t tell other people that they should only marry if they need a quick solution to immigration paperwork.

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      4. It seems like your comments are outside of the scope of this post. I was addressing how Christians ought to view marriage. If you do not know and submit to Christ, certainly his ordination of marriage would be meaningless to you.
        You seem to be more concerned with the political concept, I am speaking in terms of ontology, not legislation.
        While I do have my opinions in regard to legislation, I chose not to address politics within this post.
        Since you’ve confessed in the past that you are uninterested in reading the bible in its entirety perhaps this 45 minute sermon would be a better place to start, and if you approach it with the logical Principle of Charity maybe you will have a better idea of where I’m coming from.

        http://www.imagodeicommunity.com/sunday/sermon-archive/your-questions-about-the-bible-week-4/

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      5. I agree with you. It’s just that you expressed concern about people redefining marriage, while taking the liberty to redefine it for people like me or people of another religion. Thanks for the link, I’ll have a look. And I often read the bible and have obviously much more in my Christian past, in our previous conversation I stated that I had no wish to dedicate my time to a cover to cover operation.

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