What is the purpose of marriage? In society today there is great confusion about this simple question. Some studies conducted by our federal government look at the functional support of stabile families for children.i An admirable thought. If we are purely a secular society and motivated only by our children’s development, and a desire to succeed on the world stage, this may be a good purpose.
Others consider marriage a covenant, an agreement, a commitment to one another before God, given to His standards and requirements in that covenant. This makes the marriage again about the two people, but places their accountability on a Heavenly plane. That’s nice.
What is the reason we get married? This question more often receives a negative response such as, “Our relationship is not based upon a piece of paper.” In today’s society, there are huge legal decisions and great domestic uproars over marriage. Many think a legal bond authenticates their relationship, therefore marriage is necessary even among same sex partners. They desire legal recognition as equals in the “marriage” community or community at large. This also provides financial benefits. Reason makes marriage about attention and money.
For some, marriage is considered recognition or even a misguided validation of a relationship. People have reasoned that marriage only makes cohabiting morally or socially acceptable? Some desire a more stable relationship, commitment in marriage gives some that comfort.
Is marriage simply to benefit society by providing stability to our children, or public validity of a relationship? Alternatively, is there a greater more challenging purpose?
Mankind’s tendency is to change things to suit our desires. To fulfill personal desires, we choose to ignore obvious truths, intentionally accepting error as normative. We recruit political and legal support to coerce others to first accept, then approve of, and finally promote personal behavioral choices. From social alcoholic consumption to personal sexual preferences, all major social challenges have gone this route. These “progressions” in society greatly degraded national morality.
Christians operate on a different motivation. Instead of self pleasure, a moral obligation to children or a sense of validation we try to approach things biblically. The Bible describes marriage as something wholly different. Biblical descriptions have a direct sense of permanence (Matthew 19:6). Genesis 2:23 describes marriage as bone of bone, flesh of flesh. When Christians join in marriage, we become one person. We enjoy the same motivation, to know and praise God and enjoy Him all our lives.
Purpose and reason for marriage are in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5. The purpose of marriage is to better glorify God with two lives joined. We marry because we can glorify God together better than we can apart from one another. Most people desire relationships with others. Our relationships more often than not turn intimate. Intimacy outside of marriage is sinful (fornication (Galatians 5:19 et al.)). Christians are not supposed to commit fornication, (intimacy outside marriage, Ephesians 5:3). The reason for marriage is given in 1 Corinthians 7:2 – to avoid fornication, marry. Because we desire intimacy it is better to marry than to be condemned for fornication.
Secular purposes and reasons for marriage vary greatly based upon many different influences. Ultimately they rest in individual fulfillment whether physical, emotional, financial or social. Because there is wide ranging motivation, there is wide ranging application and individual commitment naturally suffers. Biblically, only death dissolves marriage (Romans 7:2,3).
Christian purposes and reasons for marriage are all pointed toward God and His desires for our purity to worship, fellowship, serve and commune with Him. According to the Bible, Christians provide a stable environment for children (Malachi 2:14-15). The latest government family studies agree.ii Commitment is vital to marriage (Genesis 24:58-60). Romance is very important to Christians (Genesis 29:10,11).
This is not to say all Christians get it right. Nor is it to say that just because two Christians marry under the right purposes that they will have a perfectly blissful marriage free from stress, or even divorce. Reviewing failed marriages always finds Meeism at the root. Meeism destroys all the relationships and families it takes root in. When one forgets selfless (agapē) love, or never knows the forgiveness of Christ, there is no chance for a successful relationship.
The chief teaching of Jesus is that we love one another as He loves us and gave himself for us (John 15:12; Galatians 1:4). We are to have the same selflessness, forgiveness and love for others as Christ has for us. (Ephesians 5:21-33). Ephesians 4:32 says,
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
To the Christian, marriage is about selflessness, self-sacrifice and forgiveness for the glory of God. Agapē love in a relationship defaults to love and forgiveness. Consider if your relationship were based in this selflessness. When irritated by your spouses action, you immediately think, “But somehow in that action I know you were trying to love me.” Do you begin your arguments with the question, “I know you were trying to love me, but why would you ….”
God loves you, sent His Son to die for your sins and forgave all your sin through that vicarious death. God’s action was out of love. He only asks that you love Him and each other. Do you love Jesus? If not, you cannot know His selfless love and cannot share it with another. He already gave His love for you on the cross.
i Debra L. Blackwell, Family Structure and Children’s Health in the United States: Findings From the National Health Interview Survey, 2001-2007, Vital and health statistics. Health Survey; no. 246, December 2010,Series 10 (Department of Health and Human Services no. (PHS) 2011-1574) Particular attention to “Highlights” area.
ii Ibid. Nuclear families are stable, man and woman marriage.