Apart from the decision to surrender one’s life to Christ, few earthly choices define a person’s relationship with God as greatly as the picking of a spouse. Marriage joins two persons into genuine unity and diversity, man and woman.
We must not, if we are to be faithful to God, follow the blind passion of a moment or the tide of our generation’s reason into choosing a spouse, because in marriage we make more than a bed. We make an outpost of God’s kingdom: a prophetic picture of heaven on earth. Fallen yet redeemed sinners become one with each other because they both have a real union with God and accept a calling to uniquely and sacrificially express their love for God in caring for each other. In biblical marriage, therefore, our deepening affection for God should always manifest itself in an expanding love for our spouse. We should sacrificially be and do that which is good in God’s eyes.
A biblical marriage in Christ within the context of a local church should serve as a place in which God lives and breathes His life into a couple, which reminds us of the resurrection as it propels gospel proclamation by word and deed. Through this union, God in Christ encounters the world’s groaning for the way things ought to be. Marriage is, ultimately, a place of waiting for the new heavens and the new earth as two redeemed sinners remind each other and those to whom they draw near of the true hero: Christ crucified. Far too often, though, the hero is replaced or shoved to the side by the busyness and pressure of the day. The droughts and loneliness of this world can invade a marriage.
We must connect, therefore, the passion in Christian marriage to a growing affection for God, because the chief end of Christian marriage is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever — a purpose in marriage that stretches our affections beyond its natural limits. Just as the man is not the hero, nor his wife, marriage is not the hero, either. Christian marriage covers and fills the highs and lows of life lived together with the grand story of the Scriptures, because God slowly and silently reclaims the most common parts of human life as the gospel permeates a marriage. Our marriages in this world, therefore, must be anticipatory echoes of who we are in Christ. The gospel makes the common clean, and the marriage conveys such within itself and far beyond it. The bride and groom, both seated in the heavenlies — and in Charleston, or any other place on earth — can walk hand-in-hand down the aisle, to their first home, to the soccer fields and to the emergency room with a redeeming taste of heaven in each step.
Because the implications of marriage stretch far beyond the two individuals who commit to each other, the wisdom to marry or to advise others to marry must be driven by how we understand marriage’s purpose. That is, the believer’s choice to marry or not marry must be weighed by the Great Commission and the Great Commandments, like all other decisions. Does the couple understand that they are to make disciples by expressing a genuine love for God and others? Are they already doing such now? Do they currently encourage each other to love Jesus more, or do they hinder each other’s walk? Questions such as these are the real standards. If we choose a spouse with such ends in mind, with such pressures faced and with such hope explained, then we bind the young lady’s wedding ring and the young man’s man band to their common eschatological hope. We invite the choice of a spouse to be connected to the repentance that led us to choose Christ and to keep choosing Him. The initial “I do,” therefore, grows into a reforming refrain: “I am still doing and will keep doing.”
What God has started, He will complete. His salvation enables the choice to marry, and the everyday choices in marriage, that He might bring life until “death do us part.” In marriage, we choose far more than a ring; we declare our King.
— Peter J. Link Jr. is chair and assistant professor of Christian studies for the School of Christian Studies at Charleston Southern University.