As a minister, two ceremonies in particular have always brought me great pleasure—baptisms and weddings. I've done some of both, and I find them profoundly moving because of what each represents.
At its core, baptism represents surrender of the self and complete commitment to God. Interestingly enough, the wedding ceremony similarly represents surrender and commitment—surrender of the self in giving one's life to another and the commitment to sharing everything that one has with his or her partner for life. Both are formal commitments and binding agreements.
Both are also ceremonies revolving around love. Baptism reflects God's love for us in extending His mercy and forgiveness toward us, washing away our sins by the sacrifice of His Son who gave His life for us, and it reflects our love back in giving our lives to Him in return. A wedding similarly reflects the commitment of two people who have chosen to commit their lives to one another in love.
These are a few of the thoughts that I've pondered as I've considered the meaning of the apostle Paul's words in Ephesians 5 where, after describing the roles of husbands and wives in marriage, he says, “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.
American King James Version×).
Yes, there's certainly much more to marriage than just saying “I do.” Paul tells us that the marriage relationship is to teach us about Jesus Christ's love for His people, the Church, and their devotion to Him. It's a beautiful picture telling us that love is definitely a two-way street.
Why is marriage so important? Unlike other relationships, it's one that God Himself created when He joined together the first human beings, Adam and Eve. As Jesus Himself explained: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,' and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6 Matthew 19:4-6 4 And he answered and said to them, Have you not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall join to his wife: and they two shall be one flesh?
6 Why they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
American King James Version×).
Marriage does involve two people becoming one—again, a beautiful picture of the loving commitment a couple makes in joining together in marriage.
God is love (1 John 4:8 1 John 4:8He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
American King James Version×, 1 John 4:16 1 John 4:16And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.
American King James Version×)—which summarizes His nature, character and motivations in everything He does. And to help us grow spiritually to become like Him in every way, He has given us the institution—the learning experience and classroom—of marriage. Through marriage we are to experience, learn and make a part of our very being, nature and character the deep love that sums up the nature of the Father and Jesus Christ His Son.
Learning this kind of outgoing love toward another person doesn't come naturally. But again, God gives us another wonderful tool—His Word. In it He has a great deal to say about marriage and about how to learn what it means to truly love others. God wants us all to enjoy a happy, rewarding and fulfilling marriage, and we at The Good News want to help. When you put into practice the tips and advice in this issue, you'll be on your way toward experiencing that blessing in your life!