Celebrate Marriage

May 2016

Bernie PowellJesus answered, “Surely you have read in the Scriptures: When God made the world, ‘he made them male and female.’ And God said, ‘So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one body.’ So there are not two, but one. God has joined the two together, so no one should separate them.”        ~Matthew 19:4-6

Marriage is one of God’s wonderful gifts to humankind! As the oldest institution of our race, it is the foundation of all other social structures. When we miss the mark on marriage, the other aspects of a stable society start dissolving.

What is marriage? In God’s plan, the definition is clear: One man and one woman joined together as one by a lifelong covenant and by sexual union.

In this plan, we celebrate the security that comes with a lifelong covenant. We celebrate the pleasure and delight that comes with sexual union. We celebrate the complementarity that comes with bringing together male and female. And we celebrate the loyalty in devotion to one partner only. These are four crucial elements in God’s plan.

All four elements work together for the blessed oneness of marriage. This creates the environment where humans can grow and flourish, and where mutual love and respect can grow deeper with each passing year. Leave out one of these, and marriage is crippled from being all God has intended. Worse yet, concentrate on only one to the exclusion of the other three, and you have an experience that is no longer nourishing, but actually toxic.

Celebrate? Did I say celebrate? Yes, it’s unfortunate that Christians at times seem so preoccupied with warning against the destructive distortions of sex and marriage. So much energy is expended in the warnings that we can forget to celebrate the glory of this splendid gift. Not that we ever have perfect marriages. Even the strongest marriages still have rough edges to work on. Yet even a struggling marriage can be grateful to God for this great gift.

Nevertheless, when we want to lift high the marriage banner, a necessary part of that celebration is to warn against counterfeits. The book of Hebrews puts both into balance:

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.     ~Hebrews 13:4

With the current media spotlight on LGBT issues, it is easy to forget that the “straight” distortions of marriage have had an effect that is just as corrosive to healthy marriage, if not more so. Casual divorce, premarital sex, abuse, spousal withholding of intimacy, adulterous affairs, pornography, the commercialization of sex, values-free sex (mis-) education, denigration of women or of men – and so many similar trends that are both widespread and tolerated with a foolish “open-mindedness.” These must be called out if we are to honor marriage.

Yet calling out is not enough – not even half the story. We must show the positive alternative. We must celebrate marriage as God intends. That includes speaking the positive truth about marriage, but much more: We must live it. When we do, the Bible says we are imaging the love of Christ and the church.

Hollywood sows confusion by demonstrating distortions of God’s plan that are unrealistic, but glitzy. Let Christians sow glory by demonstrating healthy marriages that are realistic and gritty.

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