by Pastor Rob Bloss
This past weekend I had the privilege of officiating two weddings. While the oppressive heat caused grown men to melt into their three-piece suits, it could not hold a candle to the love expressed by two people becoming one, bound together in the covenant of marriage. Couples on their wedding day look forward to nothing less than happily ever after. But the statistics and personal experience betray the fairytale. The landscape of marriage in our country has experienced seismic shifts in recent decades.
With divorce rates rising, marriages rates falling, and more couples cohabiting and having kids without marrying—even the most romantic and glamorous wedding can’t obscure the obvious question, "Is marriage really necessary anymore?"
Culture has changed, and views about marriage reflect those changes. It should come as no surprise, then, that marriage is largely seen through a consumer-driven mindset. That mindset is based on relationships being about what someone has to offer you, instead of what you can offer him or her. The goal, frankly, is fun, good sex, and getting along reasonably well. It’s a pragmatic view that focuses on what you can get instead of what you can give. It’s the very definition of a consumer relationship. As long as one person is happy with the other’s “product,” they’ll stick around.
Dr. Tim Keller in the book, “The Meaning of Marriage”, argues that “humans have never before held such selfish, idealistic visions for marriage. We want to marry someone who makes us look and feel good, so we set unattainable standards for potential mates”. No wonder, then, that marriage has come to appear so oppressive and hopeless. Marriage is for “two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love, and consolation”. We have lost God’s meaning for marriage. Keller explains: “According to the Bible, God devised marriage to reflect his saving love for us in Christ, to refine our character, to create stable human community for the birth and nurture of children, and to accomplish all this by bringing the complementary sexes into an enduring whole-life union.”
In other words, rather than a consumer relationship, marriage is to reflect the love and lordship of Christ–a living illustration of His nature: unselfish, sacrificial, faithful, forgiving, honest, and genuine.
Marriage is a gift. So is singleness. Each of us have been uniquely created in the image of God, to be loved by Him and to love Him back. To find fullness and purpose in Him. Marriage will not complete us and should not define us…but it is a good thing that God has designed for us!
God has designed marriage specifically to be a vehicle for change. Spouses are supposed to help one another mature toward the person God intended them to be. Besides, why would we want to stay 'just as we are,' anyway? We all have flaws and need to grow and change. And marriage is a key institution God uses in the process of sanctification to transform individuals and, therefore, the culture. From God’s perspective, to be married is to grow and to be transformed.
I’ve performed over 150 weddings in the course of my ministry. I don’t know how many have failed, or how many continue to flourish, sharing in the same kind of love that Christ pours out on His bride, the church.
My first marriage ended. I grieve that loss, the forfeiture of God’s best design. I repent of my selfishness and sinfulness. But I rejoice in God’s grace and the offering of second (and third, fourth, fifth…) chances to desperate, broken souls like mine. I rejoice in my wife, Darci, and am grateful for her constant encouragement and challenge to settle for nothing less than being who I am called to be in Christ.
We can’t ever fully trust another human being to never let us down. We’re all inherently sinful and have flaws. With the promise and reward of oneness, there is risk. Without Christ at the center, without His grace and our surrender, our only means of minimizing that risk is to avoid commitment and keep our options open. That mindset will most likely lead to a consumer relationship, which will almost guarantee we never achieve the sort of intimacy a marriage needs to not only survive, but thrive.
And yes, God does want your marriage to thrive! We all know, or eventually discover, that it can be hard. But I’ve seen the difference one faithful spouse can make in bringing about real change. I’ve seen the power of Christ to breathe life into a dead marriage. Don’t settle. Don’t bail. Don’t lose heart. There is help. There is hope.
So, go ahead, as the Lord wills, and put (and keep!) a ring on it. And may you, no matter what, abide in the center of His circle of grace and love!
P.S. I’m excited to let you know that we have just booked noted authors and speakers, Dr. Tim and Darcy Kimmel, for a Grace Filled Marriage Conference on Saturday, February 8. We want to help you invest in your marriage and build your home on a rock-solid foundation.