Image by Lel4nd via Flickr

I read an interesting article, “You Never Marry the Right Person.” That article sparked debate in comments from readers. I added my own comment, and then realized it might make an interesting post on my blog. For what it’s worth, here’s my comment, expanded a bit for my own readers:

What if we’ve been looking at marriage out of context for centuries and missed the big picture, straining out gnats and swallowing the camel? This is way over-simplified, but points worth considering:

1. Adam and Eve are two halves of mankind in God’s image. His purpose for mankind is to rule and serve His creation (rule/serve being synonymous) in partnership with Him. (Gen. 1:26) That purpose is the same today. Everything in life, including marriage, feeds that purpose.

2. In biblical perspective, Jews and Gentiles (non-Jewish peoples) are also two halves of mankind in God’s image. Just as Eve completes Adam, so Gentiles complete the Jews. Two halves make the joined, completed whole. The two shall become one.

3. According to Jesus, there are only two things that ultimately matter in the grand scheme of things: love God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul; and love your neighbors (even enemies) as yourself. (Mrk. 12:28-31, Mat. 22:40) The word for love in these commands is agape. This is God’s plan for every human being; and until we individually learn to follow it, we’ll have great difficulty in our marriages, our faith, and every other relationship.

4. The physical union between Adam and Eve foreshadows the spiritual marriage between Jews and Gentiles—mankind—united in agape, one in spirit and purpose (Phl. 2:1-1): that is, to rule/serve God’s creation, united in Christ, in partnership with God. This is the “mystery” that Paul speaks of in Eph. 5:32, of Christ and the true church.

5. Marriage is the best model of that (but not the only model). Other marital aspects are important, but secondary: sex/ romance (eros), creating a family, etc. Those are simply small-scale versions of the bigger family of God and man.

6. When the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, he didn’t answer on their terms. He answered on God’s terms, the big picture; and it went right over their heads. His answer: What God has joined together (mankind), not whom, can’t be put asunder. (Mat. 19:6, Mrk. 10:9) Specific pairings of individuals in marriage isn’t the be-all-end-all of God’s plan/purpose; agape (neighbor love) is.

7. This is what produces the “bride” for Christ and the “wedding supper of the Lamb.” In the ages to come, when the church (of mankind united) finally reigns united with Christ, there’s no more individual marriage because it will have served its purpose. (Mat. 22:30, Mrk. 12:25, Luk. 20:35)

Ironically, I think we inadvertently worship marriage (both from the fairytale perspective and the church perspective) instead of God, and thus divorce Him. So it helps to hold on to His bigger purpose and outcome to keep things in context. For one thing, it would help countless devastated Christians who can’t understand why God didn’t save their marriages. These folks tend to either resent God or suffer terrible guilt for not having enough “faith.” It would also help single people who have been made to feel like second-class citizens of God’s plan. Same for childless couples who feel like outcasts.

We usually hear that marriage is “set apart,” but that’s not an exemption from neighbor love. I think that’s how marriage so often becomes one of the most abusive relationships of all. Marriage is, first and foremost, a neighbor relationship. It comes with secondary “perks,” but if it doesn’t lead the couple toward agape, it isn’t serving God’s purpose with man.