We cannot state it often or plainly enough. Marriage is the clearest sermon of the Gospel which can be preached. Our society has been rather successful at introducing us to strange notions of marriage, then convincing us that these strange notions that they attempt to call marriage are actually normative. It seems that it would be more accurate to say there are a whole lot of mirages out there and very few marriages. When lost souls are wandering in the desert of self-centeredness, it is easy to mistake the mirage of immediate gratification for the lasting pleasure and glory of the covenant of marriage. Our society is clearly parched in this desert, and thus the moral decay we see is not surprising; divorce, affairs, homosexuality, and all the less-than-savory deviants of marriage are all the natural outflow of selfish desires being gratified in selfish ways. Marriage, which ought to be the clearest portrait of selflessness, has become a chew toy in the jowls of selfishness.
In the Christian community, we mourn the woeful state of our society, and seek to advocate for change. However, we must understand that marriage is not to be defended merely for the sake of marriage; we are to defend it for the sake that it is a declaration of the Gospel of Jesus. Too often we shake our heads at how the world is making a mockery of marriage, yet we allow the same selfishness to send its poisonous roots deep into our souls. Our selfishness is of the much more sanitized variety. We keep a can of Christian Lysol ever handy, so that we can douse our stench of selfishness with a mist of pious spirituality.
Here is the reason I bring all this up; as a young Warrior Poet in the making, I can’t help but see that though the secular culture is perverting what marriage is supposed to be, our selfishness–as harmless as it may seem–is just as deadly to this sacred covenant of marriage. When selfishness is allowed to define our attitudes, decisions, and actions we are setting ourselves up for a mirage, and will not find the oasis found in a selfless, Christ-centered marriage.
Marriage is a portrait of Jesus laying down His life for His bride (the church), and the bride joyfully yielding herself to please and exalt her beloved Hero. He won her heart through His very blood being shed. Now she lavishes her love upon Him. He provides for her every need, and she lives a life that brings Him honor. She longs to serve Him and please Him in every way, and what she discovers is that He always “out-serves” and “out-blesses” her. She seeks to bless Him, and yet He pours innumerable blessings upon her. As Psalm 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits…” (KJV).
Is it not, then, a great travesty of truth when our culture says that marriage can be discarded with a simple 90-day legal procedure? Or that people should be allowed to love “whoever they want,” thus same-sex mirages should be legalized? Is marriage simply about a warm-fuzzy love? Is marriage just an opportunity to live with someone whose presence you enjoy? What happens when you are tired of that person, or they no longer meet your needs, or you no longer love them? Was the promise they made a real marriage covenant or was it simply another mirage of self-centeredness? Is it really marriage if it is two men or two women? Hey, why shouldn’t marriage include more than three, like, say, 17? I think our society’s treatment of marriage is indicative of our desire for self-gratification and a sense of importance or belonging. C.S. Lewis, I believe, once said something along the lines of “our earthly love is really a desire to be loved.”
Essentially, the current arrangement of things ensures that you can gratify your desire to be loved, without having to love in return. If you want to be loved, get married. And then, if the person you married demands that you also love them, by accommodating and serving their needs, well then, go get a divorce (after having an affair with some goon promising that he loves you ever-so-much). Or, why endure the risk of promising undying loyalty to someone by getting married? Why not just enjoy someone for as long as they make you feel good, and then “move on?” Or, why not fight, hammer and tongs, to “redefine marriage” to be whatever arrangement you want it to be, that way there is no need for you to give up your wants and desires and submit them to God’s commands and ordinances? Why not, hey?!
But, what is God’s love like? He loved us even when we were His enemies. Thus, true, heaven-born love is not merely the itch to be loved, it is the ability to love, no matter how the other party responds. It is loving even when financial trouble hits, or arguments arise, or difficulties are faced, or sickness invades, or when your needs are overlooked, and even in the good times! Love gives the best it has, expecting nothing in return; gladdened by the mere prospect of delighting the beloved.
So, the world is a wreck when it comes to showcasing God’s nature, Gospel, and love in and through marriage. It can only ape love, and cannot seem to manufacture the genuine article. It is a mirage indeed! However, many Christians are no better when it comes to understanding and living in such a way to demonstrate the Gospel in and through marriage. The Bible says, “Marriage is honourable in all [meaning, everyone must hold marriage in honor], and the bed undefiled” (Heb. 13:4a). So, why does marriage need to be honored by all? Because marriage is a Gospel-sermon – a Bridegroom promising, covenanting, and vowing to never forsake a bride; and a bride promising to remain loyal to her Beloved ‘til death. Sounds so sweet, simple, and beautiful.
So, why do we humans mess it up so badly? I think it is because we have a low view of God’s purpose for our lives. Everything in all creation (marriage, after all, was created by God) was created by Him, and FOR Him. Meaning, marriage is to awaken within us a greater understanding of who God is. Every grain of sand, every blade of grass, every creature, every human, and every marriage is intended by God to be signposts unto His glory, nature, and goodness. When we treat marriage flippantly, we are, in actuality treating God flippantly.
So, here is where your toes might feel a throbbing sensation as the boot of truth stomps on them. We despise this world’s perversion of marriage, but do we despise our compromises of marriage? I mean, we spend long hours alone at a coffee shop with the cute guy or gal from youth group. We talk teasingly and flirtatiously with every attractive member of the opposite sex. We do all manner of things, that, if a married person was doing that with someone other than their spouse we’d be concerned that they were dangerously close to compromising or violating their marriage covenant. Our modern Christian singles culture teaches us to disregard the sacredness of marriage, and “sample the fare” of the eligible singles around us. Everything you do outside of marriage is setting precedent for what behavior you believe is acceptable outside of marriage. If it isn’t wise for a married man to hang out alone at a coffee shop, sharing his heart, making eyes at a woman who is not his wife, why would it be ok for an unmarried man to do the same?
Here is the encouragement: begin to treat marriage with the sacredness that you desire to treat it with once you are married. While guys and girls can have wholesome and God-honoring friendships outside of marriage, they must recognize that they are not in a marriage. We may not be trying to “redefine marriage” like the homosexual lobby is, but are we trying to blur the lines of what is okay to enjoy outside of marriage? Rather than seeking to win the love and affirmation of some strapping gentleman, why not begin to give your undivided love to God, and allow Him to teach you to live to love your future spouse selflessly? When you vow to be faithful to your future spouse alone, you will not be making good on that promise if you desire to still flirt, dress sensually, and “go out” with other guys! Selfishness is the itch to gratify self. Selflessness is the desire to bless another with your self. My desire is to live in such a way that before marriage and during marriage, I live with singular loyalty unto one woman. I want to be a one-woman man, all the days of my life. If I wouldn’t do it in marriage, why would I do it before marriage. If it is unacceptable outside of marriage, then, if you are single, it is unacceptable outside of marriage.
The world can chase after all their mirages, but they will never find the oasis of marriage. May the saints of God rise up, and endeavor, by the power of His life within to showcase the glory of Christ and the Church. Christ is united unto ONE Bride. The Church is loyal unto ONE King. May we, whether single or married, also be loyal unto ONE spouse; not blurring the lines for the sake of self-indulgence. Rather, may we realize that our lives and marriages are one glorious opportunity to make Christ known in all the earth. In doing this, we will taste the cool water of purity, and no more be dissatisfied by the mirage of self-defined and self-gratifying indulgence.