Octavius Winslow once said that of all the idols, man finds the worship of himself the hardest one to abandon. Marriages are under extreme attack in our world today. And the root problem is two fold. First, there is a wide spread lack of the understanding of the holiness of our Lord. And secondly, we prize our selfish desires far above our friends, family, and God. The heart of man is by default so wicked and self centered that in his sin nature, he cares not who is hurt by his sin, so long as he get what he wants.
This is seen most clearly in the low value our society places on marriage, even among professing Christians. Within the past two months, five couples whom my wife and I are close with have decided to call it quits on their marriage. We love these couples dearly. And because we love them, our hearts break with them.
Some of these couples say the reason is that they never really loved the other. Others say that they are not treated like they want to be treated. Still others claim that they have been unhappy for way too long. But all of these claims are merely ways of skimming the surface without addressing the painful truth.
All of these statements could be wrapped up in a more truthful statement. In essence, they are basically saying, “I am the center of my own universe, and you are not meeting the expectations of my universe.” Not only is the marriage destroyed, but so are the lives of potential children and family members. Divorce leaves a trail of heart ache that spans generations. It creates a ripple effect of destruction.
Divorce exists because a proper knowledge of God and the Gospel does not.
The Apostle Paul paints a breath taking birds eye view of God’s intentions when He created marriage. In Ephesians chapter 5, Paul says that wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. In like manner, the husbands are charged to love their wives as Christ loves the church.
Suddenly, we begin to see that the union of marriage has much bigger ramifications that merely being about the happiness of two individuals. Marriage is not about our happiness. Marriage is not about our satisfaction. It never was. Marriage is a living portrait. It is a three dimensional sketch of Jesus Christ and His church.
What did Christ do for His bride, the church? He died for her. While she was in her worst state. While she was unattractive. While she was undeserving. He kept no score card, and He took not into account how He was being treated by her. Putting the good of His bride before Himself, Jesus gave His life for her.
On that final day, at the wedding supper of the Lamb, how will the church respond to the sacrifice of her husband? In glad submission that has been birthed from a heart that is overwhelmed with His love for her despite the hideous way she had treated Him. This is not a forced submission.
As Christians, are the church. We are collectively His bride. We have no doubt been unfaithful. We have served other Gods and worshipped mortal idols, mainly ourselves. And Christ took our place, and instead of rejection offered instead mercy and grace.
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8.
Marriage is a radiant picture of the Gospel. It is the very image of this mysterious union between God and the church. It is a portrait of very lengths that Christ went to in order to secure and love His bride. The word ‘Christian’ literally means “little Christ’s.” And God takes marriage and divorce extremely seriously. Because to destroy the union of marriage is to quite literally spit on the cross of Christ.
If we truly understand and have been pierced by what Christ has done for us through the cross, then we will view our marriage very differently.
Selfishness will be unheard of, because we understand His grace.
Falling out of love would not be a question, because we understand that His love was not a feeling, but a choice.
Hardships in marriage would not warrant abandonment of giving up, because He forgave us.
The feeling of entitlement would be abolished. Because we understand He gave up everything to die for us.
So in the trials and imperfections of marriage, we begin to be molded into the very image of this God we worship. We learn to forgive, as He has forgiven. We learn to show grace and mercy, as Christ has show it to us. Through marriage, we learn how to die to self in favor of our spouse, and thus we become like Jesus Christ! The point of marriage is to conform us to the image of Christ.
The reason divorce exists is because we no longer have a proper understanding of the Gospel. The reason divorce exists is due to self worship. We look down upon the Israelites when we hear the story in Exodus of them making a golden calf to worship in place of God. But we do the very same thing today. Only we place our own feelings and fleeting emotions in place of the golden calf. It is self that we worship. And it is this perverted worship of self that the forces of darkness use to destroy the beautiful image of the Gospel.
For those couples who are going through hardships, Satan will plead with you to put your feelings center stage. The Gospel says take your eyes off of yourself and place them on Christ. Gaze upon the bloody cross, and the price that was paid by the Savior, knowing that it was we who should have been hanging there. Choose to mirror Jesus. Choose to love when love is not deserved. Choose to serve when you are not being served.
For those couples who are considering divorce, do not buy into the lie. It is the same lie Satan placed before Adam and Eve in the garden. It is the lie that happiness will be found outside of the will of God. Instead, place your eyes upon Jesus. John Piper once said that the one way to know if you married the right person was to look at the marriage certificate. God does not make mistakes.
“What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:9.
And when you are rejected or hurt, know that this is an image of how you have treated Christ. Yet His choice to love His bride never wavered. That is the example folks. That is the mystery of marriage. And when you have a husband and a wife who are both looking to Christ as to how they should treat one another, divorce would be an impossibility. Before you cast stones at your marriage, look to the glorious Gospel. He can make all things new. Don’t give up.