Summary: Discover how God’s design for marriage restores hope for marriage.
We are beginning an eight-week effort to restore hope for marriage. In my reading, research and counseling, I’ve discovered many have lost hope for marriage. If the statistics are correct, one out of two marriages end in divorce. Those that stay married are not necessarily experiencing God’s intended blessings for marriage. Some are unfaithful; others stay married because of their kids or their religious belief.
Those who are not yet married ought to be concerned. Those who are married and discontented or struggling need to be on guard and mentored. Those who are married and are enjoying God’s intended blessings for marriage need to be mentors. Although there are no perfect marriages, there are many marriages with great hope and true fulfillment.
Few people enter marriage understanding God’s design for marriage. Some marry in order to start a family. Others marry because they fear being alone in life. Some marry because the woman is pregnant. I know a couple planning to be married, where the man is not attracted to the woman physically but to her business abilities only. On the other hand, many marry based purely on physical attraction.
Entering marriage for the above reasons doesn’t destine a marriage for disappointment or failure. The picture a couple has of how they are to relate after the wedding will far greater influence the success or failure of the marriage. Some wives get their picture of marriage from fairytales, soap operas and their discontented female friends. Some husbands get their picture of marriage from locker room stories, their drinking buddies, or television sitcoms. And the picture of our parents’ marriage always influences our marriage.
Unless we have God’s picture of marriage and are building our marriage according to God’s design, we cannot expect to experience God’s intended blessings for marriage. After all, God made man and woman and designed their union with the potential to fulfill many of our needs and desires in life. But that potential will only be realized when the husband and wife relate in marriage according to God’s design.
Our text is Ephesians 5:21-33. Paul begins by talking about the marriage relationship between husband and wife, and then he goes back and forth between talking about the marriage relationship and the relationship Christ has with His church. In verse 32, he drifts entirely to the relationship Christ has with the Church. And he closes the thought in verse 33, speaking about the husband and wife relationship again.
What Ephesians 5:21-33 does, then, is give us the picture and the practice of God’s design for marriage through the picture and the practice of Christ’s relationship with His Church. Let’s look together.
First, God designed marriage to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and His Church.
Dr. Martin Luther King was once asked, “Is it true that black people are lazy, oversexed and got rhythm?”
To which Dr. King replied, “Yes, it’s true. If you tell people for two hundred years that they are lazy, oversexed, and got rhythm, sooner or later you will produce a generation of them that meet these standards.” America has given black people a terrible picture of themselves, and they are living up to that picture now.
Sometime ago, I read an interview that asked why Asians were generally high achievers in America. The answer pointed to hard work and the belief of the original immigrants that America was the land of golden opportunities. But the reason why American-born Asians remain high achievers was because they inherited this picture of Asians as high achievers in America.
Paul J. Meyer noted that anything accomplished physically or relationally must first be accomplished in our minds’ eyes. Our mental picture always determines our actions and achievements. That is why the picture we have of marriage is so important to the success of our marriage.
If you were to draw a picture of your current marriage or the marriage you want to have, what would that picture look like? Obviously, our marriage is influence by children, job stress, illness, financial stress, etc. But if you could look at your marriage alone, would your marriage, and for those who are not married, would your parents’ marriage, resemble a frustrated fairytale, two silent ships passing in the night, a parent-child relationship, or a semi-successful American dream?
Paul gives us a hopeful picture of what God designed marriage to look like. God designed the marriage relationship to reflect the relationship between Christ and His Church. The wife is to the church as the husband is to Jesus Christ. There is no superiority or inferiority implied; both the head and the body are important, simply order that brings harmony and love that brings the best out of the other.
Let’s bring this picture of marriage to a place where we live. And that’s what Paul does.