Summary: Marriage becomes redemptive when we understand: 1. It is to be a model of our relationship with Christ. 2. It is where we learn to love and be loved. 3. It is intended to be a source of joy.
I am one of those fortunate people who grew up in a good home that was fairly normal and functional. There was love, my mother was a stay-at-home mom, and my dad worked long hours. We did not have a lot, but we were well cared for. It was not a home without its kinks, but it was a good home where there was humor and good times which overbalanced the problems that were present. I have many pleasant memories of my home. In spite of that, there were times when there were some real fireworks. My parents rarely fought, but I remember one time that my parents came home from a Saturday evening out with several friends. I can still see my mother coming in and slamming the door and my father walking in sheepishly after her. He had obviously said or done something that had really set her off, and to this day I don’t know what it was. But I remember the next morning how strange I felt when our family took our usual place toward the front of the church and my mother chose to sit in the back pew alone. There is nothing like having the whole church know that your parents are having a serious fight.
All marriages have their tense moments, and some have more than others. All homes have problems, some are relatively small and some are more serious. The serious problems are sometimes denied and therefore unresolved, and at other times the conflicts are an obvious and open wound. But in spite of how bad things might be, the good news of Jesus Christ is that we do not have to remain like we are. We can change personally and our marriage relationships can change as well. Even though they have been destructive, they can become redemptive. Jesus is in the business of changing lives and marriages.
As we consider how marriage can be redemptive, the first point we will consider is: It is to be a model of our relationship with Christ. Marriage is intended to be the closest thing on earth we know to God’s love for us. In the scripture we read in Ezekiel, and many other passages, God compares his relationship with us to the relationship of marriage. There is intense attraction and affection, courtship, tender caring, attention, protection, gifts, and strong commitment on the part of God toward his people. We have the same imagery intensified in the Old Testament book of Hosea.
In the New Testament, we have the same comparison where Christ’s love for the church, his people, is expressed in romantic terms and parallels the marriage relationship. Our marriage relationship is to reflect the love between Christ and the church — the same love, commitment, kindness and forgiveness. In the book of Ephesians we read: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:25-32).
This is a great responsibility and a great blessing. As we live together we model the sacrificial, servant love of Christ for each other, and the result is that we experience the same joyful and playful love that Christ has for his people. In other words, our relationship with our spouse is not something that is just between us. Our marriage is to be a living statement to the world of what Christ’s love for us is like — the intimacy, the joy, the commitment and love. This sanctifies the marriage relationship and makes it holy. It also makes it a lot of fun.
The second thing that we want to consider about how marriage can be redemptive is: It is where we learn to love and be loved. Not all of us know how to love and be loved the day of our marriage. We know how to be children, but we do not know how to be adults. We may have learned some real bad lessons from home that say love has to be earned or deserved, and that there are certain requirements that must be met. We may not know how forgiveness works. We have also learned some real bad lessons from the culture in which we live. Everyday we get the message that only beautiful people deserve love. We are bombarded with the message that sex has little to do with love or commitment. And then we have our own issues of selfishness and laziness. It is a wonder that any of us make it, but we learn with the help of our mate. The lessons aren’t always easy, and we may not be quick learners, but step by step and little by little, we begin to get it.