Updated: Jul 4, 2022
Wedding season is upon us! For me that usually means eating way more than I bargained for at the reception and then trying to dance it off during the Cha Cha Slide. It really doesn’t work though, more than anything I just get a side cramp. But outside of that I have a great time! Weddings can bring about joy, excitement, laughter, new dance moves, indigestion, and much more. All the hype that goes into the preparation and celebration of a marriage can surely give you a boost of endorphins, so much so that you can forget to count the costs of it.
What I’m referring to is the spiritual and emotional costs of a marriage. I know I’m going to sound like a Debbie Downer here, but if we really care about the sanctity of marriage as Christians, then we also need to talk about the reality of divorce and its impact. Now if you’re divorced, are thinking about divorce, or have parents who are divorced, please do not take offense to this message. I don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes. I simply want to touch on the significance of marriage and divorce based on what I believe the narrative of the Bible teaches. This, I hope, will shed some light on the subject for those who are considering taking that next step.
To understand why Scripture says what it does about divorce (read Matthew 19), I think we need to first understand the purpose behind marriage.
Let’s set the scene. Mankind was created unlike any other creature, in the image of God (Genesis 1:26 NIV). To be in the likeness of God means we have a particular relationship to Him, one that enabled us to commune with Him. Adam and Eve spoke with God and heard His footsteps in the garden, He was present with them (Genesis 3:8 NIV). Without sin in the world, this relationship was unhindered. Once mankind was deceived and sinned, the relationship with God was severed. An unholy person could not be in the presence of a holy God.
Deception at the Fall caused Adam and Eve, as well as the rest of humanity throughout history, to be confused about their creation and their Creator.
So, the world chose other things to idolize in their ignorance. But God wanted to remind us of His original design in the garden and His love for His creation. He therefore established a covenant, a marriage. *Cue Abraham's entrance, stage right.*
Abraham was a faithful man with whom God had chosen to establish a nation that would be an example to the rest of the world, a nation not ruled by an earthly king but by the Lord - the King of kings (Genesis 17:4 NIV). They would exemplify what it looks like to rely on and trust God for all things (though not done perfectly). The land that He promised to this nation would be a foreshadowing of the new Jerusalem, a restored place for God’s people to reside with Him and to share in His glory (Revelation 21:1-4 NIV). This is a place untouched by the sting of death from sin because of Jesus’ work on the cross. To get people to this place of communion with Him again, God wanted to reveal who He was and what He was about. And to show Himself faithful to His plan for restoration, God committed Himself in a covenant to Abraham and a marriage to His people (Isaiah 62:1-5 NIV). That is why God’s church is referred to as His bride.
Okay, we can take an intermission for a moment. I know this is a part of the story that can sound strange. “So, does that mean if I’ve committed myself to God, then I’m married to Him?” Well, yes. The reason I believe that’s an odd concept for many of us is because our understanding of marriage is typically through a worldly lens. One of our first thoughts of marriage is romance (as marketed by the wedding industry), not necessarily sacrifice or commitment. The image of marriage with God looks like the Lord committing Himself completely to His creation, to the point of death. But it doesn’t stop there, because Jesus conquered death to save us, to restore us back to unity with the Father.
If you can’t already tell, God really really loves you and me.
So, when people would choose to serve other gods, this angered Him. By making this choice, they were unfaithful. They had committed “spiritual adultery,” literally giving their bodies over in sacrifice, worship, and devotion to other gods that did not exist (Exodus 32:8, 2 Kings 22:17, Jeremiah 11:10 NIV). They were essentially divorcing God in their actions, deceived by what they thought would bring them fulfillment. Though only the Lord can bring true fulfillment to humanity. Today, we are not immune to the same temptations, to idolize work, a relationship, or a particular passion project. Remember, an idol is anything you serve more than God.
We are not forced into marriage with Him, God allows us to choose Him. Abraham had the choice to listen to God or deny Him. He also allows us to choose a spouse with the intention of being an example to the world of what unadulterated commitment looks like. Marriages are supposed to reflect the kind of commitment God shows His bride, His people. Hence, why God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16 NLT). If you do not believe you are capable of that kind of commitment to another person, do not get married.
Anyone who’s experienced divorce in their family knows the profound damage that can incur. I’ve witnessed it in my own family and in my friends’ families. The hurt runs deep and its impact seeps into the generations that follow, a now distorted image of commitment. Will their children fear for a messy marriage in their own future? Will they distrust and blame God? This can sound harsh, and of course there is redemption when we submit our lives to God, but understanding the potential effect of divorce ahead of time is part of counting the costs of marriage. The wedding day glamour fades quickly when you are faced with real life conflicts, temptations, frustrations, and disappointments, but still have to choose your marriage, your covenant with your spouse, above your preferences and your desires. And that’s not just every once in a while, that’s daily!
As a Christian, you have to make a conscious decision to remain committed to God daily, it is no different with your spouse should you decide to marry.
Alright, time to take a deep breath. Ahhhhhhh. I think that was needed. This is heavy stuff. If you’re single and interested in marriage, you need to count the costs now. And remember that there is no shame in single-hood. Paul even said, “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs - how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world - how he can please his wife - and his interests are divided” (1 Corinthians 7:32-33). Both singleness and marriage are gifts. Both are unique examples to the world of commitment when lived out in a godly manner. And let’s be honest, both require sacrifice. When choosing marriage though, can you hold to the kind of commitment that God expects? It’s not just about what the two of you want, it’s about what your union represents to others. Please don’t wait until ya’ll are doing the Cupid Shuffle together at your wedding to think about this. At that point, it's a little too late.