Summary: We cannot fully understand or appreciate what marriage is really all about until we see a picture of the way things really are.
“Getting A Clue: What’s Marriage Really All About?”
Mt. 19:1-12; Eph. 5:22-33
Sometimes, to fully understand something we need to see a picture of how things really are. For example, we know our heart pumps life-giving blood that keeps us alive. But it’s only when we see a picture of the heart that we really begin to grasp its’ intricacies and importance. Or think about a backache – ever wonder how a kink in your back can give you a headache? Only when we see a picture of how the spine is connected to the body in multi-faceted ways can we really know what the headache and spine a really all about. So, too, we cannot fully understand or appreciate what marriage is all about until we see a picture of the way things really are – and are not. So this morning we look at the pictures the Bible paints of marriage.
To begin with, let’s look at what MARRIAGE IS NOT. While there are many things marriage is not, I want to stress this morning one item in particular: MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. God designed marriage but does not design everyone for or call everyone to marriage. Singleness is as high a calling as marriage. In God’s eyes, MARRIED PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE A SUPERIOR STATUS TO SINGLE PEOPLE. 1 Corinthians 7 is a wonderful, insightful passage, where Paul talks about the married life alongside the single life. There were some in Corinth who believed that being single was the Christian ideal; so Paul dispels that idea but also affirms heartily that singleness with celibacy is highly valued. He points out that Christians who remain single often display an admirable intensity in their devotion to the Lord. Listen (32-35): “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”
Nicole Doyley, in her most helpful article for women “You Were Made for More Than a Ring” states: “I’ve heard it said a woman’s highest calling is to be a wife and mother. I disagree. I think the highest calling for you is to be in the will of God. I certainly don’t think that Gladys Aylward or Corrie TenBoom were less important than my dear friend who stays home raising her seven children. These women are all heroines who have poured themselves out for other people and changed lives for the good. What is God calling you to do? I know He’s whispering an assignment in your ear and trying to stir a passion in you other than the sexual passion you dream about. He has something for you to focus on other than the left ring finger of every man you meet. He has something for you to be excited about other than the hello of the handsome man in your office…If you re ingle, the goal for you right now is to figure out why you were created and to move forward with a sense of purpose…”(i) She goes on to say that if a woman gets married her highest calling will still be walking in the will of God.
We read Jesus’ own words (Mt. 19:11-12 GNT): “This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it. For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so.”
In other words, SINGLENESS IS A HIGH DIVINE CALLING. Stanley Hauerwas posits it eloquently: “One of the few clear differences between Christianity and Judaism is the former’s entertainment of the idea of singleness as the paradigm way of life for its followers…Singleness was legitimate, not because sex was thought to be a particularly questionable activity, but because the mission of the church was such that ‘between the times’ the church required those who were capable of complete service to the Kingdom…And we must remember that the ‘sacrifice’ made by the single is not that of ‘giving up sex,’ but the much more significant sacrifice of giving up heirs. There can be no more radical act than this, as it is the clearest institutional expression that one’s future is not guaranteed by the family, but by the church.” (ii) Tim Keller affirms this when he states, “Therefore, we are to choose between marriage and singleness not on the basis of whether we want the personal happiness and status of a family but on the basis of which state makes us most useful in the kingdom of God.” (iii)