Then, what should we do as a church?
Marriage is God’s designed and is formed around two principles: covenant keeping and a triune relationship. Divorce is not as common among Christians as non-Christians, however when it does occur it can bring shame to the church and to God’s name. Many Christians buy into the lie that marriage is only about two people loving each other and people can fall in love and out of love, thus the gender of the two people is not an issue and divorce is justified.
God established marriage as a triune relationship between Himself, Adam, and Eve. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is fellowship, unity, and singularity of purpose within the Godhead (Jesus makes this clear in the Gospels). The more united that a husband and wife are to God the more united they will be to each other and the better equipped they will be to serve God’s purpose. They will be fruitful relationally, physically, and spiritually.
It follows quite naturally that the church is described as the bride of Christ. Marriage therefore should reflect Christ’s love, mercy, grace, and submission. The New Testament teaches us to follow the example of Christ and to put the interests of others before our own.
We make a huge mistake entering marriage for what we can get out of it. Our marriage or spouse is not responsible for our happiness or fulfilment. Marriage involves being ready to lay down one’s life, desires, and rights for the other person. Together couples must weather the storms of life and discover that love is not what they thought it was.
One study revealed that marriages last because the individuals in them find their fulfilment and happiness in God. This brings me to the critical point of personal relationships with God. From childhood in the church, we need to teaching identity in Christ. The culture which unfortunately the church has bought into, says identity is in service and rewards, being and doing good, interests, careers and productivity, hobbies, personality, high achievements (in sports, music, academics…), relationships, and the latest lie, gender. But “a Christian identity is received not achieved.” (Tim Keller) Christ has earned our salvation. There is nothing we can do to earn our identity and equally there is nothing we can do to lose it.
We have become accustomed to looking for human affirmation, to our own detriment. God alone can provide us with true and consistent affirmation. Peers, manipulators, other people can lie to us. Parents often fail to provide appropriate encouragement, or dependence on such either undermines our relationship with God or leave us stranded when they die. Our culture opposed to God does not affirm us as image bearers of the living God, which we are even before salvation.
In giving into secular culture with its hopeless views on human origins and value (abortion and euthanasia) and environment issues, the church renders itself powerless to provide a Biblical worldview that will survive into adulthood. The church has rendered itself powerless to provide a believable response to the lies that our culture feeds us through the education system and the media. It comes as no surprise then, that we should not know how to define marriage or provide a Biblical perspective on relationships.
Why chose marriage? Why do we feel a need to be in relationships? Singleness and celibacy are acceptable to God. Again, the church has bought into the culture that promotes sexual activity as essential to human value. Being celibate is a status that all people have in common at some point in their lives, as children and young people, when a spouse dies or a marriage breaks up, by choice, a time of separation or for medical or other reasons. The single person and the one who will not have children of their own is valued by God. God will give them “a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters” (Isa 56:5). Had I not felt so much pressure as a young person, my views on sexuality and marriage would have been much better.
God is so invested in people that He goes out of His way to repair covenants that we readily break. God is a builder of marriages, families, churches, businesses… He never says of us “they are not worth it. This relationship is over unless they come to me.” (Isa 62) No, God pursues us. God sent His own Son to restore the covenant.
So, what should we do as a church?
Value all people regardless of relational status and promote a Christ-centred identity.
Encourage regular church attendance and involvement in faith building activities because this improves the chances of marriages lasting and is important for all growing Christians. All of us need to put Christ first in our lives and learn to abide in God. Just as Jesus was intimate with His Father through fellowship and prayer, we can also know God in a deep way through repentance, forgiveness, faith, and daily fellowship with our Lord in prayer and the Word of God.
Present God’s design for marriage in sermons and home groups.
Develop accountability partnerships between married couples or within Growth Groups.
Provide counselling and marriage building materials and opportunities.