Who is Marriage For?
Reflections on Marriage & the church from the 2018 Marriage Retreat
Covenantal God, Covenant Community, The Covenant of Marriage.
- God & Humankind – God reveals himself to his people and enters into a covenant relationship (an agreement between two parties involving promises and stipulations) with them. In this covenant, God sets the terms and makes promises knowing full well we will not hold up our end of the contract. In this, we see that he is gracious and loving, and makes good on his promises even though we fall short. Jesus fulfills the covenant terms in our place and gives us the ability to be sons and daughters of the Father.
- Person to Person in the Church – God works in covenants and develops a covenant community. This covenant community is known as the church. When we commit to Christ we also commit to his bride. This is why we take membership vows submitting ourselves to the authority of the elders and our brothers and sisters in the church.
- One Man and One Woman – Within the church, men and women make special covenants with each other in the context of marriage. Marriage between one man and one woman is the primary metaphor used in Scripture to depict the relationship between Christ and the Church. Marriage was designed to be a shadow of the love, commitment, unity, and intimacy that will be shared for eternity by Christ and the Church.
All of these relationships are based on sacrificial love and care. They are built upon covenantal promises that bind the two parties together for better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Often we treat these relationships like we treat our local Publix: we act like consumers going to meet our needs, but as soon as our needs are not met, we’re out. The truth is, God calls us to something different than the worldly consumer standard in our relationship with him, with the church, and with our spouses.
Q. Do you view your relationship with God/Church/Spouse as a consumer or as a covenant partner?
The Art of Reconciliation
When is the last time you apologized to your spouse? There are all sorts of reasons why we may avoid the process of forgiveness and reconciliation; often it simply comes down to pride. But the life of a believer is a life of continual repentance, especially in our marriages.
Here are the 5 steps to a genuine apology.
- I'm Sorry – We have to first acknowledge the wrong that we have done and the pain that we have caused.
- Accept Responsibility – Often we begin with I’m sorry and follow it up with a nice big but.” “I’m sorry but you’ve done the same to me a time or two.” Own your mistake, no buts.
- Making Restitution – If you can make up for your mistake, do so. This is not always possible, but it shows that you genuinely understand the pain/loss that you caused.
- Genuinely Repent – Repentance is simply turning away from one direction and going in another. A genuine apology is always followed by a change in behavior.
- Ask for Forgiveness – When you ask for forgiveness you are saying, “will you absorb the pain and hurt that I caused you?”
We forgive because Christ forgave us. This is not an easy thing and there are points, in marriage specifically, that we must forgive but also may need to remove ourselves from abusive or unjust situations. Above all, we must seek the wisdom of God and learn to be sacrificial and loving in the way that we treat our spouse.
Q. What grudge or debt are you currently holding against your spouse? What of your own sin do you need to accept responsibility for?
Understanding God’s Household
The household of God is made up of a mixed multitude of sinners who have become brothers and sisters through the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. In light of this reality, how are we to treat those whom God has brought us close to in his Covenant Community?
- Setting boundaries to protect your marriage – The enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy families and healthy relationships. We must be aware of this and set up the proper boundaries to avoid the snares of the enemy.
- Having a healthy view of the brothers and sisters in the church – Setting boundaries does not mean that any and every man or woman that isn’t your spouse is dangerous. Especially within the context of the church we must realize that we are brought together for the sake of covenant community to love, serve, and encourage one another.
- No More Marriage – In the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21 & 22 - Jesus returns and reveals God’s creation being restored through his presence here on earth, with his people, forever!) there will be no more marriage. The symbol will no longer be required because the thing it symbolized will be seen clearly! Jesus will be with his bride, the church, and we will know love and intimacy in ways that we could never have imagined! That means that even our current spouses will eternally be our brothers and sisters in God's restored humanity, the New Heavens, and New Earth!
Q. What boundaries need to be set to sustain your healthy marriage? How can you better live into the reality that other men and women in the church are brothers and sisters in God’s household?
The Four Loves
“We don’t fall in love and then get married. We get married and then we learn what love requires.” – Stanley Hauerwas
The Bible uses the word love often, but in Greek, love is a bit more complex than we may realize. There are four words for love in the Greek language, and only three appear in the Bible.
- Phileo – The expression of delighting in the life of the Other. The feeling that my heart delights in this person that I loved.
- Agape – The love that continues to love when the other person is unkind, unappreciative, and undeserving. It is unconditional.
- Storge – The mutual rest of being in the presence of another. an own. The quiet, abiding feeling within us that we are content being with one another
- Eros – The only love not used in the Bible. This love is directed towards another, but is anchored in our own desires. Eros says, “I love you because you have this.” It looks to receive and not give. If it doesn't get what it wants, it becomes bitter and resentful.
The world’s love is Eros. It is consumer-based and consumer-driven. God’s love is completely different. God’s love is sacrificial, self-giving, endless, and undeserved. Our love towards our spouses and towards our brothers and sisters in Christ should reflect God’s love for his people.
“Biblical love is not a feeling to be felt, but a commitment to be kept.” – David Swanson
Q. Is your love consumer driven or is it a reflection of your covenant partnership with your spouse?
Tanner Fox is the Minister for Mission at First Pres. He’s a recent grad of Reformed Theological Seminary and holds deep affection for people, movies, sports and Jesus Christ. As Minister for Mission, he leads the charge to help you love and serve the city and the world. firstname.lastname@example.org