This week I want us to look at the question: what is the essence of marriage? As I said last week, whether we are married or aspire to be married, it is good to spend some time thinking about the topic of marriage.
In order to build strong marriages, we need to know what the real meaning of marriage is. At its core, is marriage a place to have our needs met? Is the substance of marriage to fulfil our dreams and ambitions? Is marriage fundamentally about taking pleasure in what the other has to offer? These things are important. But are they are the heart of marriage?
Timothy Keller, New York Times bestselling author and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, points out in his book The Meaning of Marriage that in generations gone by people were more comfortable with the idea of living for others. They were more willing to give themselves for the greater good of their families and society. However, today people are more interested in living for themselves.
This individualistic attitude has permeated many aspects of life, including the marriage relationship. People are increasingly entering marriage with a consumer mind and heart. Under these circumstances, marriage is like a contract for our emotional, social, financial, and physical fulfilment. And if we do not get what we want, we can break the contract. After all with a contract, we spell out upfront the conditions under which we can get out of it.
But that is not the Biblical view of marriage. Marriage is a covenant. Last week we made reference to Genesis 2:24 which says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” When you are married, you are one with your wife and you are one with your husband! The original meaning of the word ‘united’ is literally to be glued to something. Referring to this verse Jesus said, “So they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate (Mark 10:9).”
Keller goes on to explain that a covenant relationship is one that is binding on you. “In a covenant, the good of the relationship takes precedence over the immediate needs of the individual.” It is a binding agreement with your spouse, and it is a binding agreement before God who established marriage. It will be driven by the promise you made to your spouse despite the challenges you face. It will have deliberate actions of love even when the emotions of love are running low.
If we come to marriage with an individualistic approach we will undoubtedly be disappointed. Our spouses, no matter how amazing they are, will not be able to fulfil us because this approach to marriage is fundamentally flawed. If we want to build strong marriages that will form a basis for a strong society in Dar, then our posture should be one of laying down our lives for the other person.
You may be thinking that it is so difficult to live for the other person. You are absolutely right! Next week we will look at how God provides help to us so that we can be less self-centred and more willing to give ourselves to our spouses.
Sheshi Kaniki (Pastor, God’s Tribe Church)