I can tell you this, what I am about to say isn’t popular; it doesn’t even occur to many in relationships because of its apparent impossibility, but hear me out.
I want to dive into what biblical love is, and how that is supposed to function in marriage.
If the words of God are truly the authority in our lives, then they should dictate the standard for Christian marriage.
If we truly delighted in God’s command not to conform to the pattern of the world, and to walk by the Spirit, wouldn’t we hunger to be more like Christ in all aspects of our life, instead of settling for the minimum? I would argue that many Christians today have not fully grasped what their God is capable of doing in their lives. There are many faucets of God’s working power in the Christian life, but I want to re-examine the Christian marriage and truly go after God’s intent for it.
In the beginning, God created all the heavens and earth and he finished with creating humanity. He even created them uniquely from the rest; they both bore his image and were placed in a special relationship with him. Human relationship was also special in the garden of Eden; it was harmonious and good and involved two individuals that sought to accomplish God’s decree to subdue the earth together. This changed though when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, sacrificing what was sustaining their harmony.
They surrendered their potential to love one another fully because they had believed a lie that God was withholding a better thing from them.
They rejected the Author of love and embraced an obedience to the father of lies. Into the world entered sin and what immediately came was broken relationship. Eve’s desire would be for her husband, but her husband would rule over her, in a way that opposed what God had created “very good.” This propelled humanity away from the beginning when God was near and love was natural. A lie told humanity that they ought to walk in a different way than God designed, in a way that opposed life and embraced death. It would take a new way, filled with truth and life; it would take Jesus to restore what was lost.
The good news is that Jesus’ work is finished. Sin has been defeated, truth has been revealed, and Jesus is leading his children to follow after a new way. Sin has become powerless to the one in Christ and the way of love has been revealed. The call for Christians now is not to incorporate Jesus into their workplace, their hobbies, or their marriages, but to give him every piece. The world sets a standard of a marriage that is in bondage to sin and disunity. But Christ has finished his work and offers freedom to captives. He also demonstrates both how he loves his bride, and how his bride ought to love the One who they’ve been betrothed to. What then for Christian marriages? What does Christ’s life, death and resurrection change from the pattern Adam and Eve set for the rest of humanity? Everything.
Biblical marriage is not a man being completed by his wife. It’s not a wife needing his husband to be okay. It’s not finding one’s purpose in another.
Marriage is a covenant between a man and woman founded on the love of Christ.
Yes, a wife or a husband is a gift from God whom should be enjoyed, but if marriage isn’t eternal we must begin to ask ourselves what eternal significance God might intend for us in marriage. They should never be at the cost of glorifying God. If a Christian’s chief end is to enjoy God and glorify him in doing so, then marriage can never primarily be about sustaining a feeling of happiness, but about representing and enjoying Christ. Like I implied before, God is a good father who gives good gifts which are to be pleasurable in this life, but the gift is never greater than the gift Giver. Here’s how good God is: When you healthily pursue representing Christ well, your marriage will inevitably be better. This is because Christ is the best lover, and when we primarily desire him, we get to better enjoy his gifts the way they were designed to function. This includes marriage.
The way to a Christ-like marriage though is often hindered because Christians have traded a biblical picture of love for a worldly one. The world says when two people come together that harmony cannot be sustained and that fighting is inevitable. In the world, marital intimacy is automatically accompanied with fleshly tendencies.
Intimacy was designed to accompany holiness, not oppose it.
Let me make a quick distinction, I do not believe conflict is bad, because naturally two individuals who are different and have differing opinions will experience much conflict. But, I do believe that any attitude of bitterness, offense, unrighteous anger, or annoyance toward a spouse is one in which God calls us to die to. This doesn’t mean we can’t rejoice in the good things God has produced out of our bitterness. It just means we ought not to allow the sin even when It can be used for good. When we proclaim that these attitudes are normal and inevitable for a marriage, we are agreeing with the world’s definition of marriage and subconsciously choosing to diminish the truth of God. The truth is that biblical love leaves no space for these attitudes and actually associates them with the flesh. I am in no way saying that anyone who has experienced or experiences these attitudes is to be condemned, or even that one ought to consider their marriage ungodly if these exist; but I am saying that agreeing that these are normal for the Christian marriage opposes the truth of God. The truth of God is what sets people free, why don’t we go after it instead of letting experience dictate the potential of our marriage? All I’m after is to break down the walls of marital possibility so that God is more greatly glorified, his people are more greatly edified, and his gifts more greatly enjoyed.
The power of God has more to say about a couple’s marital potential than the world ever could.
So what is God’s intent for marriage? God made it simple. He gave two commandments that still take precedent in marriage. We are to love God with everything and our neighbor as ourselves. What is this love though? Scripture says it’s patient, kind; it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (1 Cor. 13). So love looks like something. Paul describes it in understandable terms, but why have we still painted a different picture for our marriages? I would be a fool to say I walk out this love perfectly all the time, but I would also be a wrong to say that Christ hasn’t worked in me to exemplify it many times. What if this simple passage became not just a marital theory to be dreamed of, but a standard for the Christian marriage?
God has not called husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church without giving them the power to do so. In the same way, wives are not called to love their husbands with submission and without power.
I am not against any of the following practices (I have received marital counseling with my fiancé), but marital power doesn’t come from individual strength, counseling, mentoring, etc. It comes from Jesus, from Christ in us who is our hope. I believe that when we normalize a worldly pattern of marriage we are opposing God’s empowerment by the Holy Spirit.
The way back to God’s original intent for marriage isn’t a checklist of pious acts, a decision to try harder, or heeding of one’s own strength; it is by the grace of God, in the power of God, for the glory of God.
God is a mountain mover, he’s not bound by the normal physicality of the world. He has a hatred for sin and a love for righteousness. He authors truth and dismantles lies. His work for humanity is simple, it is to believe in Christ and his Word. The truth about love has been revealed in Christ. God dwells in and empowers his children to be like him, living out his truth. The question is will you define your life by a worldly love, or a heavenly one? Will you let his truth set you free beyond the limitations you’ve set for your own life? Let us and all others who choose to marry found our marriages on Christ and see where it takes us. Let us have faith and grow until Christ comes again. Let us continually hunger to be like Christ and love our spouse with his love.