The Redemption of Marriage
[Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
- Matthew 19:4-6
The redemption of marriage… Really, why is that important? In twenty-first-century America, marriage is almost anything we want it to be. What could possibly need saving? We have almost no idea what we’re doing, but whatever we are doing with marriage, it all has something to do with love. Jesus didn’t actually say that, but surely, that’s what He meant to say. He implied marriage is about love because He’s all about love, right? Right?
Actually, no, that’s wrong. I mean, Jesus is all about love, but that wasn’t what He was talking about when the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus with questions about divorce. Do we all know that divorce is a sin? We never say much about that anymore, but Jesus was really clear that divorce is sinful. If we’re going to talk about Christian marriage, we’re going to have to be honest. Unpleasant, but true…
Consider the words of Jesus to the Pharisees. He refers first to the creation of male and female, then He refers to their union as “one flesh.” Jesus’ own point of reference was the Garden, and what was revealed there regarding God’s creative intent and design, as well as His expectation that marriage would be the union giving the profound human blessing of belonging. When described in Genesis 2, the next verse after the passage Jesus referenced is, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” The man and his wife were fully revealed and had nothing they wished to hide. They were fully known and fully loved, so yes, God designed us to experience deep, profound love in marriage. However, that state of bliss was appallingly brief.
The Scriptures begin with creation, the pinnacle of which is the creation of the Image of God, male and female. What we often fail to note is that the Scriptures also end with marriage, the Bride, the New Jerusalem purified and adorned for the Lamb. (Revelation 21) This marriage marks the end of all the suffering, sorrow, and death born of rebellion against God, both human and demonic. The dwelling of God will be among His people. The Lamb Who was slain will close the door to the miseries of human history, and His Bride, the Church, will be with Him forevermore.
We don’t have words to describe that. The Revelation of St. John is full of rich and glorious imagery, yet, even so, we have at best a hazy vision of what that will be. As St. Basil of Caesarea observed, “The mind is weak, but the tongue is still weaker than the thought.” St. Paul called it “a profound mystery.”
Christian marriage, then, is supposed to be both a preparation to participate in the final union, as well as a prefigurement of the consummation of history at Christ’s return. When we understand marriage as both the means and the image of human destiny in Christ, marriage ceases to revolve around what we want and becomes about what God ordains. No human marriage is without sin, for no human being is without sin. Even so, Christian marriage can only be understood in the context of the beginning and the end – what God intended and what God will accomplish.
In past blogs, I have alluded to Ephesians 5, where Paul writes about marriage. The instructions Paul gives refer back to the fall. “Wives submit to your husbands.” Endless commentary can be found on this, but really, the only thing we need to recognize is that the woman in the Garden did not submit to God’s instructions, which came to her through her husband. She sought to take authority from him so she would be the wise one. Her punishment was to continue to desire control over her husband even as he ruled over her. Paul’s admonition, then, is unrelated to misogyny (as we so often hear) and is instead a reversal of the sin of the woman, a sin that is an exalted characteristic of womanhood today.
Paul instructed men to “love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” The significance of this admonition comes from the man’s willingness to forfeit his responsibility to abide by God’s command not to eat the fruit. The only real reason to do so was because the woman wanted to eat the fruit. The man, who had been pulled almost in half for the formation of the woman, chose her over God. The reversal of that sin would come in the form of sacrificing his life for her good, as Christ sacrificed His life for the Church. In other words, the man let the woman eat the fruit for his good without regard for the consequences. This also is a widespread sin across western civilization, which is increasingly crumbling into chaos.
So much more could be said, and indeed, there is more that I want to write. Always, always, what God desires for us is better than what we will choose for ourselves. We do not possess the knowledge of the Creator Who formed us from the beginning and gave us life, and therefore, the further we move from God, the more confused and disordered we become. Before Christians can speak about, we need to recover authentically Christian marriage for ourselves.
To that end, I am going to take a hiatus from regular blogging and podcasting in order to have time to write the book. This is something I promised to do several years ago, and this project is overdue. In the weeks ahead, I will post the Daily Scripture readings, but my focus will be completion of the book. Obviously, I cannot say exactly how long this will take, but so much of the research has been done that I hope to be finished before Easter. In the interim, you can pray that we are able to find someone to publish it! I leave that in God’s trustworthy hands…
As a society, so many people expect so little from life. We live in a deeply misguided and disillusioned culture, the inevitable outcome of life lived without the knowledge of God – of His love, of His wisdom, of His salvation. We no longer possess reverence for who we are as human beings, for we have trusted the wisdom of those who do not acknowledge God. As St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”
I think we are there. But I know that God is far greater than the mess we’ve made. In fact, all indications are that God is at work and moving among His people. It’s an exciting time to follow Jesus Christ!
In Him –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau
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