This Saturday Jonathan married Rosemary and I was invited to offer a Bible reflection for the occasion. Let me offer in a nutshell what I shared with them.
In its ultimate expression marriage is God sharing his eternal life with us: we are united to Christ in marital oneness by his Spirit. So Jon and Rosie—who are both in Christ—are now entered into the workshop called human marriage. And in their union they have also become a relational lens: magnifying God’s triune, relational love through their own mutual love.
If you’re a regular reader of this site you’ll know how I got there. If not, let me retrace the basis for what I shared.
We begin with the plurality language of Genesis 1 when God spoke in terms of “us” and “our” when he created Adam and Eve in “our image”. Here God disclosed from the outset that he exists as a relational being—as the Father, Son, and Spirit God. The Father and the Spirit are present in Genesis 1:1-2 and the Son walks into the garden in chapter 3 (presuming, as we find later, that only the Son is “seen” as incarnate—thus a Christophany here).
And the “man” in Genesis 1—first referenced as the singular “him” and a moment later as the plural “male and female”—is also a relational being. In other words we were made as union-based beings: as an “I and other” one from whom offspring may be birthed. The male-female distinctions are unique and complementary elements in an organic and spiritual unity that makes the mature “man”. And while as a bachelor I don’t share in this expression of married wholeness I am still whole, through my faith, in the greater marriage of Christ and the church.
And this “I and other” relational reality is bonded by the presence of Spirit who unites us. His work of bonding-by-love is an active and ongoing reality that pours out of God’s own being as the God who “is love” (1 John 4:8&16).
The next stage of the marriage theme in the Bible comes in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That is, the defining relational reality for a given man shifts from being a son to becoming a husband with the physical bond of marriage that looks to bearing children, both physical and spiritual (as noted in Malachi).
The next element—and one that startles us when we first notice it—is that this Genesis 2:24 text sets out the greater marriage of Christ and the church that I noted already: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it [Paul had just cited the Genesis 2:24 text] refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). So that human marriage is subordinate to a divine-human union consummated by our union with Christ by faith.
The finale of this inclusive progression of God’s creation purpose is the wedding feast to come: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).
Sandwiched throughout the rest of the Bible are references to God’s marital plan—of the Father finding a bride for his Son: “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name” (Isaiah 54:5). Or “Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number” (Jeremiah 2:32). And again—here in marital imagery tied to Israel—“I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine” (Ezekiel 16:8). The whole of Hosea also traces the same theme. God has given himself in covenant—to be “a God to you and to have you as my people”—with covenant meant to be read in marital terms rather than as a mercantile contract that features mutual benefits rather than relational bonds.
So there it is: we were made for marriage. Other Bible metaphors are used to speak of our bond with God—such as sonship, engrafting, or friendship—but none is as inclusive or as revealing as when God’s heart expresses itself in marital terms.
And now Jon and Rosie are on their way, learning more about who God is and what he ultimately wants for us. As Jesus shared in Luke 20:34-35 human marriage is meant for this age. Divine marriage is meant for eternity. Let’s start to live, then, as lovers whose hearts are fully responsive to the One who made us for Himself.