One of the greatest problems today plaguing marriage is the idea that one gets married to boost their own happiness. It’s this faulty understanding that has led to the rise of divorce, and even homosexual marriage which champions the idea that, “If it feels good, do it.” However, the purpose of marriage isn’t to make us happy.
If you asked a random person on the street (or social media) what the purpose of marriage is, they would say self-pleasure. Perhaps they wouldn’t say this in so many words, but in their actions and ways of speaking about romance and relationships, this definition becomes clear.
But no where does the Bible describe pleasure or happiness as being the end purpose of marriage. God created marriage, and described it’s purposes in the Bible, so if it’s not in the Bible, then it’s not one of the purposes of marriage.
So what are the purposes of marriage?
While there are many, I think they can all be summed up in the following 3 categories
1. First and foremost, marriage is supposed to reflect the relationship of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:23-25)
2. Companionship (Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 7:2-3)
3. Raising godly children (Genesis 1:28)
Happiness, or pleasure, is not one of the purposes, and yet (and perhaps this is just me since I study marriage as a hobby) it seems like the “marriage isn’t for our happiness” idea has been beat to death, and I’m kind of tired of it. Is it just me, or have you heard this message too much too?
If you perhaps haven’t heard the idea that marriage doesn’t equal happiness from Christian sources, then perhaps you’ve heard it from the world.
An article in the Daily Mail reported that marriage could go “extinct” in just the next 30 years. Whether or not this claim is accurate is besides the point, though. The point is our culture doesn’t like marriage. Instead of marrying, most couples simply act married, living together, perhaps having children, without actually getting married first. I would not be surprised if marriage became the exception rather than the norm. Some predict that we will instead see “constellation” relationships become the norm in the future, where couples have a series of long-term relationships with children from each.
Marriage is increasingly being seen as a bad idea. Marriage is boring, marriage is oppressive, marriage kills romance. Why ever get married when it shackles you with all kinds of terrible side-effects? Dating is seen as exciting and fun, while marriage is dull, and difficult. It’s much better to just be in a long-term relationship, free of the commitment of marriage. You get all of the perks of dating with none of the negatives of marriage, right?
Plus, you never know if you’ll get tired or fall out of love with the person you are currently with. Throw in the increasingly popular view of Evolutionary Biologists that we did not Evolve to be monogamous, but that it is actually beneficial to our species to have many sexual partners, then it’s no surprise that many are asking why get married and cut off your ability to experience many different romantic partners. Much better to not marry and never have to go through divorce. Breaking-up is much simpler.
Of course, those who do forgo marriage in favor of life-long dating are not any better off. They are not experiencing real love and romance the way we were designed to receive it. They are instead experiencing a diluted and empty form of that which can never really fulfill. They’re filling up on candy, rather than the 3-course gourmet dinner from a 5-star restaurant. Sooner or later, that candy is going to make you sick, and it can never satisfy like dinner.
Romantic love was only ever meant to be experienced in marriage, and when you remove it from marriage, it is merely a cheap counterfeit which will crumble into dust.
But didn’t we just say above that marriage is NOT for our happiness? In a technical sense, yes, marriage is not for our happiness, but I’m tired of hearing how bad marriage is. Plus, the reality is, in a practical sense, yes, marriage actually is for our happiness.
No one marries for love anymore today.
Alas, the vast majority of relationships today are mere business contracts.
Huh? Uh…Reagan, I think you need to check your calendar. This is 2016! Love has been liberated in the Western world. Marrying for love is the only reason people marry. People marry for any other reason unless they are part of a cult, and abusively forced to against their will.
When you think of a relationship leading toward marriage that is “just a business contract,” what comes to mind? Well, probably something like what was mentioned above. Either an uber-conservative cult, or maybe the archaic systems of arranged marriage, betrothal, and courtship from days gone by.
We recall from history when marriages often very much were just business contracts. Kings would have their children marry in order to form a political alliance between their two kingdoms. Other families married for status, or land, or wealth. It has become so cliche to watch movies today that take place in the medieval era that feature a romance plot where one person or another is being forced to marry someone against their will.
What a tragedy! “But I don’t love him!” we will hear a character say. “I don’t want money! I want to marry the man I love!” Touching. I wonder, though, just how historically accurate are these plots? If arranged and forced marriages were so common, and marrying “for love” so alien, then probably most people saw being forced to marry someone they did not “love” as normal, and expected, just as today we expect everyone to go to college after they graduate. It’s just what you do. But this is beside the point of this article.
What is promoted in these films, and our culture today, is the notion of marrying “for love”. Marrying for any other reason is generally looked-down-upon in our society. I would agree with this idea…if it weren’t for the fact that our culture has so misunderstood love today.
Now, when people talk about “marrying for love,” they are really just talking about a business contract.
Huh? What? I think you’re stretching a bit here, Reagan!
I wrote a blog post awhile back entitled, “Submission: The Biblical Call For Wives To Make Sandwiches for Their Husbands”. While such a title is tongue-in-cheek, there is actually some real practical truth to this title.
As we are informed in Ephesians 5:22-24:
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”
This passage fits so nicely with this blog series because it is full of military language. The word that is translated to “subject” or “submit” in other translations is the Greek military term “upotassw” (hoop-ot-as’-so). Upotassw means to subordinate; reflexively, to obey: be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.
When used in a military context, upotassw means “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”
So what does all this mean practically? Well, it means that a wife should “submit” to her husband as though he were her commanding officer. She should follow his leading. Therefore, if we really believe what the Bible is saying here, and Paul is saying wives should be subject to their husbands this way in everything…then yes, if her husband tells her to make a sandwich for him, she should. Yikes! Pretty scary if you’re a wife, no?
Not so fast though! Douse your torches! Put down your pitch forks! There will be a time for burning me at the stake later, I assure you, but just be patient for now for it is not this day.
When we look at this passage in Ephesians that has become so infamous, and has been so often abused, it quickly becomes obvious that Paul has a great deal more to say to husbands than to wives, yet we usually don’t consider this. Only ¼ of the verses (3) in this passage address wives, while 9 verses address husbands. Interesting. What is Paul saying that is so important I wonder?
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
The husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head of the husband (1 Corinthians 11:3). The wife takes her orders from the husband, and the husband takes his orders from Christ. This doesn’t mean that the husband is an intercessor for the wife in her relationship with God. Just like her husband, she still has direct access to God through Christ. However, she also has a special call to obey her husband. Why? Because the goal of marriage is to reflect Christ and the church. Marriage isn’t about the husband or the wife, but about Christ.
We also learn that there is a practical purpose behind this method as well when Paul instructs husbands. Husbands are to “give themselves up” as Christ gave himself up for the church.
The husband’s orders are not to boss his wife around and ask her to do whatever he wants, like make sandwiches; rather, the husband is to sacrifice his own comfort and desires for her good.
In other words, when you think about it, husbands should submit to their wives too. Not in the same way that a wife submits to her husband, but as a sergeant who will stay behind to fight off the enemy to allow the men under his command to escape to safety. The husband isn’t really submitting to his wife, but to God, but the end result is the same: he lays down his life for her.
True leadership, the leadership Christ displayed, is sacrificial. The husband should submit his desires to what is good for his wife. If she is hungry, he should make her a sandwich! Yikes!
How can I, or any husband live up to the command to love our wives as Christ loved us? That’s a pretty hefty responsibility. The truth is we can’t, not on our own. We need reinforcements. The only way we a capable is through God’s help.
If the submission of a wife to her husband is stereo-typically encapsulated in the “oppressive” image of a sandwich request, how can we encapsulate the image of how a husband is to “love” his wife? Well, since Christ is our example, the picture is clear: the cross. If husbands say “go make me a sandwich,” perhaps wives should be saying to their husbands, “go die on a cross for me.” Haha!
Practically speaking, though, I think it is probably unlikely that I will need to physically die on a literal cross for my future wife. More likely, I will have to live for her, live for her in a way that requires dying to self, which is much harder in many ways than just “catching a grenade” for her and dying physically. What are some practical examples of what this might look like?
I could try and come up with some of my own examples, but I don’t think I could express it as well as Eric Ludy did in one of his sermons. When Paul told husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, he was saying that husbands should be each of the following:
- The Advocate (The Defender)
My wife needs to know that I will stand for her, protect her – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I will be the first-sufferer. As Jesus stood in the gap for me, it is my great privilege to give up my life for my beloved. Nothing touches my Bride!
- The Fan (The Biased)
I am incurably biased in favor of my wife. She is the most precious, most beautiful, most talented, most virtuous, most everything-else-that-matters woman that ever existed! I am her biggest fan! I could never breathe a negative word about her to anyone, and I can’t help but brag about her marvelousness! You go girl!
- The Boaster (The talker-upper)
I am blind to my wife’s weaknesses. As far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t have weaknesses. In fact, I can only see that which ought to be praised. I’m her self-appointed bragger. I’m her built-in P/R department. Have you seen my wife? She’s simply amazing.
- The Partner (The Helper)
If my wife needs a hand, look no further than my own. In fact, take my hand, my other hand, my right and left legs, my back, and my two shoulders, too. Put your burdens on me, dear wife. I’m built strong so that I can serve you. If a baby is crying let me go help them. If a room needs to be picked up, you stay seated and let me get it cleaned up. If a dish needs to be scrubbed, I’m on it. We are in this thing together.
- The Student (The expert, the PhD.)
If there is something to know about my wife, then I’m going to make sure I know it. I desire to be Earth’s resident expert on my wife. I must know her longings, her dreams, her fears, and her insecurities. And I don’t just know my wife for the sake of gaining random trivial data, but for the sake of serving her better as a husband.
- The Friend (The loyal-no-matter-what)
If hard times come, I will still be here. If accusations come against you, I know the truth. If you lose your health, I’ll remain by your side. If you lose your physical beauty, my devotion to you will not wane in the least. I am here, always and forever, and I consider it a great privilege to call you my dearest friend.
- The Counselor (The bringer of Truth and perspective)
When my wife is struggling to see straight, it is my privilege to be the one ready to supply God’s Word. When shadow sweeps across our living room, it is my opportunity to turn on the light of Scripture. When anxiety knocks, I must hit it in the teeth. When foreboding baits, I must strike hard and fast with the sword of Truth. When false accusation, mockery, and lies fill the airwaves, it is my privilege to trump them with the power of a Heavenly Perspective.
- The Encourager (The one who always sees the Silver lining)
No matter what, I have words of life for my wife. I must never be the source of anxiety or depression, but rather the source of life. Even in the darkest hour, I must see the victory of Jesus, and I must labor to fill her mind with thoughts that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy, and of good report.
- The Thoughtful (The considerate, the gift-giver)
I must labor to keep my wife always in my mind’s eye. I must think about how she can be strengthened, encouraged, blessed, and built-stronger. I must think of special, meaningful ways to express my adoration, my respect, and my love. And I mustn’t skimp on these expressions.
- The Affectionate / The Intimate (The Lover)
I must be the sort of husband that is trustworthy with my wife’s innermost feelings, thoughts, and concerns. I must be trustworthy up-close – to handle her heart with the utmost care, to handle her inmost person with heavenly delicacy and softness. I must be the man she wants to love and be near, not the man she is just supposed to love and be near.
- The Empathizer (The Sharer of Sufferings)
When my wife is hit with any difficulty, tribulation, or trial – I will carry it with her, and if at all possible, for her. I feel her pain, because her pain is my pain. Her heartache is my heartache. Her concerns are my concerns. And her sufferings are my sufferings
Eric Ludy Sermon entitled “The 5 Arts of Intimacy”.
I was in awe after hearing Eric Ludy describe this list. He is exactly right, and I want to be all of these things for my future wife. This is the “mission” that this blog series is about—to become each of these for my future wife. I am so far away from where I need to be in these areas. I’m not even married, and I felt almost hypocritical just writing down those first-person descriptions, saying I am all of those things when I am not. Obviously, most of them can’t actually be carried out until marriage, but I could be doing more to prepare now for that eventuality.
Each one of the descriptions in this list are examples of what Jesus does for us—The Church, His bride. It’s my job to reflect Jesus’ love for the church with my love for my wife. This is what Ephesians 5:25 means when it says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Who knew one little verse could mean so much!
It’s such a huge burden that sometimes I just want to run away entirely from the idea of marriage. It would be so much easier to just live a single-life where I only have to look out for myself, right?
Of course, even if I were to remain single, that is not the correct way to live. We’re ALL preparing for marriage, or should be. We’re betrothed to Christ, and the temptation just to live for self would not make me a very good “Bride” either (it feels so awkward typing that as a man).
The truth is, a life devoted to self is not a better way to live. To believe such is to believe a lie of Satan. The sacrificial life of Christ, as difficult as it may be for our worldly minds to believe, really is the best life we can possibly live.
And yes, it may seem impossible to live up the responsibility that husbands are called to, but that’s because it is—for us—but not for Christ. Christ is ultimately the only one who can truly love, and protect, and provide for a wife the way she needs. Therefore, we need to seek first the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33), and allow Christ to work through us. It’s so easy to forget this truth, and yet everything hinges on it. This is the high ground that must be taken if we are to hold off the Enemy.
What fears do you have about marriage? How are you seeking to love your future spouse even before you have met them?
I’m back! I am finally writing new content for my blog. I actually have been writing new blog posts for several months now, but am just now beginning to release them. For some of you this might be good news, for others, bad news. You are welcome and I’m sorry to those whom it may concern.
I’ve written quite a bit about how we as unmarried folk who believe God is calling us to one day marry should be preparing for marriage now. I’ve written about how we should love our future spouses now, and not wait until we are actually married.
Well, I think I should probably put my money where my mouth is. So, I’ve decided to start a new series talking about what I am doing to try and prepare myself for marriage. This is kind of scary for me, because I’m not used to really talking about myself so much on this blog, and also because I will suddenly have a lot more accountability. No slacking off!
Additionally, even for those of us who have the gift that Paul had for singleness…we are all still being prepared for (or should be preparing for) our future marriage to Christ (more on this in future posts). While some of us may not participate in an Earthly marriage, we the body of Christ are destined for a future marriage, and preparation needed for that eternal marriage is very similar to the preparation needed for a temporary marriage.
I’ve decided to title this series “Mission Marriage Mondays” because I will be detailing my “mission” to become “prepared” for the “mission” that is marriage…on Mondays.
Additionally, I like the more militaristic sounding word “mission”. Thinking of preparation, and marriage itself, in such terms helps solidify the serious nature of such an undertaking for me, and the necessity of taking intentional steps toward reaching a goal. In our culture today we don’t really think about marriage or love as being something we can practice for.
When I was little, I vowed never to get married. Love was all mushy-gushy, and unmanly. I couldn’t get married and look like a softy! After all, girls made no sense, weren’t good at sports, and of all the colors in the rainbow, they had to like pink. Pink! No, I would never get married.
I was told by adults “That’s what they all say” and that, “You’ll want to when you’re older.” I scoffed at these remarks. These people had no idea how dead-set I was against getting married. Yet at the same time, a sliver of fear would creep into my mind. What kind of trauma could possibly make me want to get married as I increased in age? I would not let this happen. I promised my 5 or 6-year-old-self that I would not get married, no matter how much I may want to in the future. Image was everything, and I was too tough to ever desire the mushy-gushy.
I grew up. While my thoughts and feelings toward marriage and females slowly evolved and changed over time, the end result was the same. I didn’t want to get married. The idea of being tied down to a family was very unappealing. I liked the idea of being alone and on my own my whole life, and it was much more appealing than having to deal with the responsibilities of marriage. It was a very selfish mindset.
I had also become quite accustomed to being different. Love was so cliché. I didn’t want to fall in love and be married like everyone else. That was too mainstream (I was a hipster before it was cool to be a hipster.)
While I knew marriage was kind of an important thing, I didn’t see the beauty in it. It still seemed like way too big of a commitment for me to make. However, I was not alone in my belief. I hadn’t met a single other guy who liked the idea of commitment or marriage, yet by high school, they all had girlfriends. They were dating without even so much as a hint of desire to commit. They were dating for themselves, never considering how to will the good of the girls they had claimed. It was all about taking as much as they could out of the relationships, having fun, and creating new perverted conquests to brag about during lunch or in the football locker room. I got a first-hand idea of what the world’s idea of love was, and it disgusted me.
When I was growing up, I always thought of love as girly. Our culture portrays love with big red hearts, warm fuzzy feelings, and physical displays of affection. These are all things girls are generally more easily drawn to. Girls like to draw little hearts on their school books, and more readily enjoy romance in movies or books. “Love” and being “manly” seemed to be diametrically opposed. This is a big reason why my young self vowed to never marry.
Love in our culture is shown as being soft. Being nice. Not hurting anyone’s feelings. This is the kind of love that comes more naturally to females.
Certainly, this feminine side of love is real, and important. However, this is not all love is. Love is also masculine. Love isn’t always elegant, nice, or pleasurable. Love is sometimes harsh, tough, and uncompromising. Love is manly.
This of course doesn’t mean that all women are tender whereas all men are hard and uncompromising. On an individual level, people—men and women—differ and vary quite a bit. In general, however, there is a distinction. There are two sides of love, one side women more readily express, and the other side men more naturally express. We all need both.
However, in the church today—and the culture as a whole—the masculine side of love is often ignored and even demonized. Frequently, this “manly” side of love is criticized as being “unloving” or “un-Christ-like” and this is because we only see the feminine side of love as being legitimate. It’s just fine to tell men to “get in touch with your feminine side,” but you don’t so often hear women being told to “get in touch with their masculine side.”
We need to all embrace the fullness of God’s love, both the masculine and feminine aspects.