Why Does Marriage Matter?

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Why Does Marriage Matter?

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Why Does Marriage Matter?

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In addition to my responsibilities as managing editor for Beyond Today, I also teach college-age students and serve as a volunteer pastor. In those capacities (plus being married to a wonderful woman for 42 years!) I’ve learned a lot about marriage. What are some things I’ve learned?

Although it was several decades ago, I remember counseling a young couple the night before I officiated at their wedding. I was new to it, as this was the first wedding I would perform. Together we read Ephesians 5:22-33 Ephesians 5:22-33 [22] Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. [25] Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; [26] That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, [27] That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. [28] So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. [29] For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church: [30] For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. [31] For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. [32] This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. [33] Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
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, where the apostle Paul gives marriage instruction for husbands and wives.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord,” Paul tells wives (Ephesians 5:22 Ephesians 5:22Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
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). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,” he tells husbands (Ephesians 5:25 Ephesians 5:25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
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). “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh,” he tells both (Ephesians 5:31 Ephesians 5:31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
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).

We discussed these verses at length, noting what a high standard God sets for both partners in a marriage.

Then in the next verse—as often happens when I’m deeply contemplating the meaning of a particular passage—I saw something I’d never quite understood before.

Concluding his discussion of marriage, Paul writes, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32 Ephesians 5:32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
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, emphasis added). In hindsight this is obvious, but at that moment I grasped for the first time a truth that had been clear to Paul when he wrote about marriage—that marriage exists to teach us about our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Let that sink in.

Marriage is much more than a social arrangement, a physical and emotional pairing, or a financial partnership. It’s also a learning and growing experience meant to help instill in our lives character lessons and spiritual truths that would be difficult to learn any other way. While we might learn these things intellectually on our own, through marriage we learn them through experience—a much deeper level.

What are some of these lessons?

In a world that today esteems marriage far too lightly, marriage teaches commitment. What does it say about commitment when roughly half of all first marriages end in divorce (with far higher percentages for subsequent marriages)? Or, even worse, that so many couples choose to live together without even bothering to marry at all?

Jesus Christ showed His commitment to us by offering the supreme sacrifice—not just emptying Himself of the glory, might and splendor He shared with God the Father before coming in the flesh, but also giving His very life and assuring us He will never leave nor forsake us (Philippians 2:5-8 Philippians 2:5-8 [5] Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: [6] Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: [7] But made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: [8] And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.
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; Hebrews 7:25-27 Hebrews 7:25-27 [25] Why he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them. [26] For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; [27] Who needs not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
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; Hebrews 13:5 Hebrews 13:5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
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).

He is the living example of the kind of commitment partners should share in marriage—and the perfect example of the kind of commitment we should have toward Him.

A second lesson is that marriage teaches us there are things more important than ourselves. As the saying goes, “It’s not about you!” Even the most stubborn people usually—though not always—learn that the universe doesn’t revolve around them. Jesus Christ, to carry out His and His Father’s great plan, came in the flesh to die as a common criminal to “bring many sons to glory” in the family of God (Hebrews 2:10-13 Hebrews 2:10-13 [10] For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. [11] For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers, [12] Saying, I will declare your name to my brothers, in the middle of the church will I sing praise to you. [13] And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God has given me.
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).

If a marriage is to last, the husband and wife must at some point learn that it’s not about him or her, but about them—together—and about “esteeming others better” (Philippians 2:3-4 Philippians 2:3-4 [3] Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. [4] Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
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). We have no greater role model in this than Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5 Philippians 2:5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
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).

A third lesson is that marriage teaches sharing and sacrifice. It’s commonly assumed that marriage is a 50-50 proposition. And while most people might view it that way, a truly loving marriage is 100-100—meaning 100 percent giving to the other person. When marriage partners are focused on the needs, happiness and well-being of the other person, it’s remarkable how well they’ll get along! Neither is focused on his or her own wants above the other, but on sharing and sacrificing.

And what an astounding example of sharing and sacrifice we have in Jesus Christ who gave everything, including His own life, that we might share eternal life with Him in the family of God, when “we shall be like Him” as glorified, immortal children of God (Romans 8:29 Romans 8:29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
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; Hebrews 2:11 Hebrews 2:11For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
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; 1 John 3:2 1 John 3:2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
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; 2 Corinthians 6:18 2 Corinthians 6:18And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
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).

To sum all this up, marriage teaches us to love. And what is God’s defining characteristic that His children should emulate? “God is love . . .” (1 John 4:8 1 John 4:8He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
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, 16). Love is outgoing concern for others—the opposite of self-centeredness.

Marriage is indeed one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Shouldn’t we be treating it that way?

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