Does the Fight for Marriage Really Matter?
In recent months, marriage has taken center stage both on the national level and in discussions among believers.
Last week, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and joined 30 other states that have already done the same. North Carolina went so far as to ban civil unions recognizing marriage as the only legal domestic partnership.
After this historic vote, President Barack Obama declared his support for homosexual marriages citing his opinion had evolved through the years, which, in turn, set off a rapid-fire response of both praise and condemnation from all sides.
We can all agree that marriage has become a hot-button topic of our nation especially in this key political year. But lest we believe that the heated debates about marriage are limited to politics and secular news agencies, consider the discussions happening within the churches. Recent topics have included divorce, cohabitation, sexual behavior in the bedroom, sex-trafficking, prostitution, and should we even throw in the “S word” . . . Submission. Each of these topics has an affect on the marriage and sexual relationship between man and woman.
Many will look at the debates in both arenas as fighting against a particular behavior or group of people. In our churches, we may see ourselves determining how close to the line can we really get without going too far or adjusting our beliefs because of an experience in our own families. Is the biblical model of marriage worth fighting for? What is the harm in allowing individuals to decide what their marriages look like? Does it really matter?
My answer to this question is a firm, loud, and resonating battle cry of Yes! The biblical model of marriage is worth fighting for, not just for the sake of families, but also for the sake of the gospel.
God created marriage for many reasons that benefit us as human beings. Marriage provides relationship, procreation, and intimacy. But, he also created marriage as a way to display the message and essence of the gospel in a way that mankind could get it. As Mary Kassian stated in a recent address for True Woman :
God created manhood, womanhood, marriage, and sex because He wanted us to have symbols and images and language powerful enough to convey the idea of who He is and what a relationship with Him is all about. Without manhood and womanhood, marriage and sex, we’d have a tough time understanding concepts like desire and love, commitment, fidelity, infidelity, loyalty, jealousy, unity, intimacy, marriage, oneness, covenant, family. We would have a tough time understanding God and the gospel.
Marriage is a picture of the gospel that offers a beautiful, real life, 24/7, with skin-on, portrayal of Christ’s work of redemption, the relationships within the Trinity, and the image of God.
Is there any wonder why the evil one is on a constant attack to distort what God intended marriage to be? His ways haven’t changed since his first attempt to distort God’s instructions in the garden. (Gen 3)
How exactly does marriage portray all this? We can trace that picture throughout the whole of scripture. But for today, let’s just consider Ephesians 5:22-33. These verses, that conclude the fifth chapter of Ephesians, serve as a continuation of the command in verse 1 to “Be imitators of God.”
Vs. 22-24 – “Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord . . .” If we are to imitate Christ in submission to our own husbands, the best place to see what that looks like is Philippians 2:5-8 where Christ’s willful submission to the Father is so beautifully described. The phrase “as to the Lord” in connection with the remaining verses sets marriage as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church. That puts a whole new meaning and purpose to submission. It is not just a good idea or even step one in “Seven steps to a happy marriage.” It is much loftier than that. The biblical model of marriage places wives as a picture that parallels the relationship of Christ to church.
Vs. 25-31 – “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. . . “ The love of a husband is to be a sacrificial love that imitates the sacrificial love of Christ for us. But, even further, note that Paul goes on to speak about the one flesh relationship. Marriage brings men and women into such an intimate relationship, that it is as if they have become a single person. A husband does not wish to hurt his own flesh and thus does not wish to hurt his wife because she is “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” (Gen 2:23) Just as the wife reflects the relationship of Christ to the church, so too does the husband. Christ loves and gave Himself for the church because the church is, in fact, His body.
Vs. 32-33 – “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” It is only through the work of God can one understand how a wife chooses to submit and respect, or how a husband can lead and love with a sacrificial love.
Only as a marriage is built on the foundation of truth and the model given by God, can we then understand that it is not about us but about Him. God has staked His name and reputation on the picture that marriage portrays.
Anything that distorts that picture, whether homosexual marriage, questionable sexual behavior within the marriage, cohabitation, divorce, adultery, a failure of the husband to lead or a wife choosing not to graciously submit, distorts the picture of the gospel displayed to the world. It does not change the gospel, but it does change the message that we, as believers, are able to declare to a lost world.
President Obama stated that his view has been evolving toward his conclusion to endorse gay marriage. Before we, as believers and the church, critique him for such an evolution, perhaps we should take a check of our own stance and beliefs. Has our view of marriage begun to evolve as well for the sake of not alienating others or to placate the uncomfortableness of our own less than ideal experiences with the resulting consequence of distorting the pure picture of the gospel God created? Are we okay to let a biblical model of marriage become adapted so as not to offend under the guise of being able to reach others for Christ?
As John Piper tweeted just this week, “Muting unacceptable truth as a means of evangelism cannot build the church which is the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”
We are called to declare truth and God’s truth for marriage and the relationships between men and women are no exceptions. This is not a cultural issue that can evolve over time. Yes, the biblical model of marriage is worth fighting for . . . .not just for the family but, almost more importantly, for the sake of the gospel.