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AND THE TWO SHALL BE ONE - by Bob Weber - Elder and Evangelist, Chatham Church of Christ

Marriage is an essential social institution that should be preserved and protected. Most families inherently understand this instinct for preservation, especially with the presence of those most likely to suffer the ill effects of destroying the union, children. Society has tried hard over the last several decades to allow for the dissolution of marriages it has deemed irretrievable? more than simply allowing this, it has promoted a lifestyle of individualism which has cast marriage in a negative light, something that hinders personal fulfillment. Intuitively, however, we have recoiled at the fallout. Divorce rates have skyrocketed? outofwedlock births have increased? large numbers of children live with only one parent. Our intuitions keep nudging us: marriage should be preserved. However there are more reasons for doing this than often meet the eye. Woven into the very fabric of creation, marriage is less what we do and more who we are. It is such an essential part of the created order that it cannot be passed over as merely something humanly created or understood merely as part of one’s personal value system.

Because the very fabric of the created order is woven with the warp and woof of marriage, it transcends the theological borders of all faiths. Most of the major religions of the world contain teachings that define and regulate this important part of our nature. The narrative of creation in Genesis 2:18-24 gives the traditional Judeo-Christian position on marriage. It tells us that God created the first humans as equal but complementary, that he created distinctly male and female, and that he created a union of one flesh by which they might live in harmony. The narrative interjects a comment for readers and hearers to provide a clear vision about the nature of marriage, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh,” (Genesis 2:24). God created this union as an essential part of human existence.

Several other passages in the Bible affirm the essential quality of this created institution. When questioned about divorce, Jesus refers his listeners to this Genesis account (Matthew 19:4-6). He posits the notion that this original creation trumps any human manipulation of what God has done. God made them male and female from the beginning, and they shall become one flesh. Because marriage is essentially a creation of God, man must not destroy it.

The Apostle Paul, writing in 1 Timothy 2:13, uses the same tactic by arguing from the standpoint of the created order to explain something of the relationship between men and women. What God established in those first days of creation provide us with necessary insights into the nature of who we are. This created order argument goes a long way in helping us understand why
we have encountered problems. The rebellion of Adam and Eve against God, which occurred in Genesis 3, complicated this because it distorted not only humanity but marriage as well. Humanity’s attempt to rise above the nature of creation distorted God’s intentions for us, and we continue to do so at great risk to ourselves and others.

We have this affirmed in other ways. Whittaker Chambers was a spy and member of the communist party in the 1930s and 1940s. He turned against that way of life and in his book, "Witness", he observed an interesting phenomenon among his fellow communists. Despite rejecting the institution of marriage as a philosophy and way of life, these social iconoclasts still experienced emotional trauma when relationships broke up. While rejecting the very thing their instincts told them was the right thing, that is, staying together, they still found it difficult overcome the instinct to preserve their intimate relationships. Ideology sought to conquer what was intuitive, natural, and historically trustworthy. Need we even comment on the viability of communism’s philosophy as a legitimate way of life?

Although this writer does not consider science to be a definitive indicator of what is morally and spiritually correct, science does in fact affirm that intimate relationships should be preserved. The biochemistry of sexual intercourse defies the very notion of the temporary hookup. Chemical bonds produced by sexual intimacy create trauma when we ignore or break what intimacy produces. Two of the many chemicals produced during intimacy are involved. One creates in the male a desire to protect his partner, while another that creates pleasure for both also creates a strong emotional tie. Destroying this physical connection leads to psychological
anguish. Permanency is thus reflected in the created order as we learn more about the human body scientifically.

That marriage is essential to who we are can also be seen in the relationship God has established with his people. In the Old Testament whenever Israel severed their relationship with God, the prophets described it not only as idolatrous but adulterous. One of the prophets, Hosea, was even instructed to marry a certain woman, and when she was unfaithful, her adultery became a metaphor for Israel’s lack of faithfulness toward God. God’s relationship with his people is linked inextricably to notions of faithfulness, intimacy, and longevity. The analogy works because marriage is so ubiquitous and because people understand and have experienced the pain
of severing such a close tie. Further explanations are superfluous. We understand adultery because we are creatures who marry and are given in marriage.

In the New Testament the marriage metaphor is further extended to refer to the relationship of Christ and the church. The Letter to the Ephesians (5:22-34) provides the most extensive treatment of this. Christ’s relationship to his people parallels that of a husband to his wife. The wife represents the church? the husband represents Christ. This constitutes the most apt analogy once again because marriage reflects the created order. Each partner fills a roll created by God, and in the church those roles become duplicated. Despite many in today’s climate who seek to redefine and rework the very notion of marriage, they will ultimately fail because people cannot change what God has created without repercussions? we can pervert it, but perversions of it soon enough surface for what they are.

In the final analysis marriage reflects something of the one who created it. As an artist might be identified by his particular works or an automobile by the details of a particular manufacturer, so we see the fingerprints of God indelibly affixed to the institution of marriage. It doesn’t take a CSI investigator to see the marks. Marriage identifies God as one concerned with fidelity, loving care, and sacrifice. Most impressively we see the marks of fidelity in the way God makes covenants with his people. God is faithful, and he demands no less from his creatures. One of Jesus’ greatest promises was that he would be with his people to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). In the Book of Hebrews (13:5) the writer draws upon the Old Testament heritage to remind his readers that God “…will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The Bible attests to God’s faithfulness. The covenant of marriage reflects the one who made it because it was designed for permanence and faithfulness. We are not surprised that the same writer of the Book of Hebrews (13:4) reminds his audience that marriage should be “…held in honor by all.” We conclude that preserving the sanctity and beauty of marriage preserves what essentially defines us a human beings: creatures made in the image of God, beings made to join in permanent unions, and individuals who grow best when we observe the rules embedded within the created order of the universe.

 

(c) Copyright 2007, Chatham Church of Christ