As the Supreme Court wrestles with the issues of gay marriage and DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) this week on their docket, we’re getting a look into where the conversation on marriage has gone within our culture. As we really delve into the issue, we uncover the reality that our society has a faulty understanding of what marriage really is. This begs the question, what is it? Is it having a family? Is it finding a soul mate? Is it finding happiness or curbing loneliness? Is it a social contract, for the benefit of society as a whole? A source of stability or protection? A platform for love? Some of these are a part of marriage and make up important characteristics and benefits of marriage, but none provide a complete definition.
Paul tells us that 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” (Eph. 5:31-32). The first thing that jumps out is that Paul calls this a mystery, but he then explains it in light of Christ and His relationship with the church. But what does this mean? It means that the function of marriage is to give us categories of thought to understand and grapple with the love that Jesus has for us and our own role as His followers. To put it another way, pastor and author Tim Keller states, “…marriage is instituted by God. It was established by the God for whom self giving love is an essential attribute, and therefore it reflects his nature, particularly as it is revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ.”
Therefore, all of the components of the design are necessary: male and female becoming one flesh. Otherwise, we miss out on God’s nature, miss seeing God for who he really is. Of course our default human condition, and so the default of our society, is to dislike when others tell us what to do, especially God. We don’t trust the designs and specifications He has for us, so we push the boundaries and will He has for us, and we have done that with marriage. And when we blur His designs, whether through mixing up or confusing gender roles, denying the models of masculinity and femininity, confusing the number of people involved, failing to embrace selfless love (wives not submitting, husband not sacrificially serving) we directly tarnish and misappropriate, and miss out on, God’s nature.
Thus, as Christians, we uphold by grace the institution of marriage by our own marriages – marriages that hopefully reflect (albeit imperfectly) God’s design of a husband and wife laying down their lives for one another as Jesus did for us. In a world filled with the pain of adultery, divorce, homosexuality, polygamy, etc., we uphold God’s design, so that people will hopefully, “taste and see, that God is good.”