WHAT IS MARRIAGE?
It is written in the Bible that marriage is a one-flesh, life-long union between one man and one woman. It includes every aspect of human existence: physical, social, mental, emotional, moral, spiritual, and cultural.
This definition is summarized from Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (While sex may not be precisely similar to that “one flesh” relationship, it is a central and vital part of the in-othering process.)
With all this in mind, there is every reason to believe that a man and a woman who make a conscious, voluntary, lasting, and public commitment to one another and seal it using a sexual act can and should be considered married in the eyes of God.
From the earliest days of Christian faith, Christians have revered marriage or holy marriage as a divinely blessed, life-long, monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, it reflects the traditional view of marriage. It says: “Christian marriage is a religious and public commitment between a man and a woman in the presence of God, planned by God for their mutual happiness; for the help and comfort of one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is the will of God, for the procreation of children and their nurture.”
Many Protestants view marriage as a sacred institution or a “holy ordinance” of God. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians regard marriage as a holy sacrament or a holy mystery. However, a particular set of individuals and Christians share different beliefs not only towards the idea of Christian union, but also towards remarriage, matured age to get married, divorce, gender roles, family authority, the legal status of married women, same-sex marriage, the marriage of in-laws, cousin marriage, and interfaith marriage, among other topics. So that in the 21st century, there can’t be said to be a single, uniform, comprehensive view of marriage among all who profess to be Christians.
IS MARRIAGE MANDATORY FOR ALL CHRISTIANS?
Christian theology has never held that marriage is appropriate for all; for many centuries in Western Europe, priestly or monastic celibacy has been regarded as high as, if not higher than, marriage. Christians that did not marry were expected to refrain from all sexual activity, such as those who took holy orders or monastic vows.
There is nothing in the scripture that states that every single Christian must be married and have children. It’s not there. However, the Creation Mandate found in Genesis is valid and extends to Christians as a whole.
Genesis 1:26-28 says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
We must have children for men to subdue the world. No single individual can fulfill the mandate given to him by God. Therefore, Christians must marry, have children, and raise them to be Christian disciples who perform God’s command to subdue the world. But this does not require every person to be married.
Jesus said that he would make disciples of all nations.
Matt. 28:19-20 says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” It is a different form of the Creation Mandate. While God gave the commission to Adam and Eve, the first human beings, Jesus gave the mandate to the early Christians.
Therefore, generally speaking, Christians have to marry and have children. But not all Christians can do that. For example, Jesus has explained that there are eunuchs for the kingdom of God.
Matthew 19:12 says, “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” A eunuch is not engaged in any form of sexual activity, so these eunuchs for the kingdom of God would not be interested in having children. We can see, therefore, that not every Christian is obliged to be married and have children.
THE BIBLE SAYS YOU CAN SERVE GOD BETTER BY REMAINING SINGLE FOREVER
Not only by following Him “in this season of singleness” or while you “work on yourself.” All of these may be positive habits, but they are not ideal. The Apostle Paul states that the ideal is to live single forever. Being unmarried means forgetting about having romantic or sexual relationships and loving God with all you have. This can make people feel uncomfortable.
In this case, staying single does not mean serial dating or sleeping around, having a romantic relationship without making it official, or being committed. It’s a serious commitment to both Christ and the culture you represent.
It means that someone makes a deliberate choice to remain single and to devote their entire life, time, and being to seeking God and doing what He wants. This is what Roman Catholic priests, as well as nuns and monks, do. Yet you don’t need to be in the service of the LORD before you can take this upon your own life.
So, is marriage a bad idea? No, it isn’t. After Paul says to remain single, the following verse says it’s OK to get married (as the second-best option). I wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the marriage of my parents.
EMBRACING GOD’S PURPOSES FOR MARRIAGE
Many women, whether they accept it or not, want to be married. Most young girls have been dreaming of a white dress and a handsome groom since their early childhood. Even those with career or educational aspirations generally say they’d like to be married someday.
As women mature, those childhood dreams that develop into a desire for genuine love, companionship, stability, aspiration to have children, and cultivate a family. Marriage is the primary means of satisfying the wishes of her heart.
The secular world cultivates these desires through intense marketing. The world sets trends for every detail — the wedding-party attire, the ceremony order, the cake, and even the gift and bill-paying etiquette specifications. Even the tourist industry engages in the sale of honeymoon packages. Despite the influence of secular data, how does a wise woman interpret the wedding ceremony and marriage institution?
Christians ought to analyze any aspect of marriage from a biblical point of view. Christians, more than other men, should understand what marriage is all about. What is the purpose of marriage from a biblical point of view? Marriage was the first human institution founded by God (Genesis 2:24). This lifelong partnership was total and complete, with one man and one woman to become one body. What were God’s intended purposes for marriage? Why is marriage important to God?
PRIMARY PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE
The primary reason that marriage is important to God is that it is part of His orchestrated plan to show the world a view of His love for men and women. Marriage is a way for married couples to express their love for God. The wedding service is not a means to an end in itself; neither is marriage. Marriage is a way of worshiping and glorifying God. Young women who see marriage as their primary objective are transforming marriage and family into an idol. God intended marriage to be a happy state of shared service to Him.
God made marriage a bond, not a contract (Malachi 2:14; Proverbs 2:16-17). It is essential to understand the difference between the two of them. There are three significant differences:
1. The covenant is based on trust between the parties. The contract is based on distrust.
2. The covenant is based on immense responsibility. The contract shall be based on limited liability.
3. A covenant cannot be violated if new circumstances occur. A contract can be terminated by mutual consent.
The marriage covenant between a husband and wife is thus a detailed and lifelong engagement. This form of marriage covenant was instituted by God to offer an image of Christ’s love and relationship to His Church of believers (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 21:2, 9).
Few life conditions test true Christianity more than the intimacy of the bond of marriage. Due to the intimate nature of the marital relationship, the sins of selfishness, arrogance, laziness, and impatience are readily revealed daily. The Apostle Paul vividly portrayed our human nature in 2 Timothy 3:1-13, when he described us as greedy, arrogant, and unloving.
Such tendencies are superimposed on marriage and test Christian character in sacrificial love, loyalty, obedience, redemption, and perseverance. Living together in peace with one’s spouse requires the other party to be wise enough to follow biblical means of dispute resolution and show Christian love.
The wise woman knows that, as she tries to model the relationship of Christ to His Church, she will have to mature her Christian character. Subsequently, she may experience opportunities to illustrate the character in her marital relationship, which eventually enables her to fulfill God’s intent for her marriage — Christ’s modeling and His relationship with His Bride, the Church. Both husbands and wives must seek love as described in Ephesians 5:25-30, a sacrificial, purifying, and steadfast love.
SECONDARY PURPOSES OF MARRIAGE
Once a wise woman accepts God’s marriage’s primary objective, she will experience several secondary meanings or blessings of a relationship of honor to Christ. Many women prefer to follow these secondary motives over the primary purpose of God. Although secondary purposes are excellent and deserving of fulfillment, they should be seen as rewards derived from God’s primary purpose of marriage — modeling Christ’s love for His Church through the Christian character’s development. Secondary purposes for marriage can include:
1. COMPANIONSHIP: affection, devotion, and genuine fellowship, which develops out of oneness of spirit as the model of the unconditional love of Christ by each partner (Amos 3:3).
2. ENJOYMENT: The physical relationship represents the loyalty and affection expressed among marriage partners who have become “one flesh” (Hebrews 13:4).
3. FRUITFULNESS: The gift of children in a marital relationship allows the relationship to replicate itself physically. It is an example of “oneness,” which results in marriage (Genesis 1:28; 1 Peter 3:7).
4. PROTECTION: The husband protects his wife by laying down his life for her. The wife is to protect the home, and the parents together protect their children and raise a godly seed (Psalm 112:1-2).
When secondary reasons for marriage are put above the primary reason, it often results in resentment, fearfulness, and disillusionment. For example, a woman who has made the primary goal of marriage fruitfulness would be devastated and unfulfilled if she ends up not having issues of her own.
A woman who has made companionship or pleasures her primary purpose of marriage will want to be fulfilled through other relationships or outlets if her husband does not fully meet her every need.
A woman who wants security and safety may feel afraid or unsafe when finances are restricted, and resources are limited.
MAINTAINING A GODLY PERSPECTIVE OF MARRIAGE
Maintaining a godly view of the purpose of marriage provides the basis for a healthy marital relationship. Marriage is a spiritual endeavor rather than being dependent on financial status, bearing a child, or securing a specific job. Being able to accomplish God’s predetermined pattern and purpose for marriage would inspire wise women to cultivate a Christ-like character.
God intended the marriage relationship to be the hallmark of the Christian home. The love relationship between husband and wife will offer the most transparent picture of the love of Christ. The model provides for children, the Church, and the world will effectively be drawn to Christ’s love.
It is not written anywhere in the Bible that all Christians should be married. But the chapter of Ephesians refers explicitly to the form of the relationship established by the husband and wife. Instead, in the New Testament, Jesus begged to remain as single and pure as he did. He suggested marriage only if the person cannot resist the sexual urge for women/men and get married and do so only with the wife, rather than having unholy and unholy thoughts about others.