By, Isam Itson III
Matthew 19:4-6 – “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Now that the engaged couple sitting in front of me has some insight into how Christians are meant to spend their lives, time, money, and energy whether or not they are married, we are finally prepared to discuss how married people are intended by God to live and work together as members of the body of Christ.
Christian marriage is two, whole people, living as one whole person, submitted to the sovereignty and purposes of God, revealed in Jesus Christ. The couple works with each other and on behalf of each other, at home and in the world at large. And as husband and wife, they work with other members of the body of Christ blessing the church and honoring God’s love for the people they encounter in their daily lives.
How do two people live as “one flesh”? The best example I can think of is Olympic Ice Dancing. Every Winter Olympics I see couples perform incredibly complex routines that are a combination of gymnastics, figures skating, and ballroom dancing. The man and the woman are both amazing athletes. They are strong, fit, and flexible. It is obvious from their performance that they are disciplined, experienced, and dedicated. They execute tricks that could easily leave one or both of them paralyzed. Their performance is only possible because they are each willing to humble themselves and work together for the sake of winning a gold medal.
In the same way, husbands and wives are meant to move as one person in pursuit of God’s purpose for us from the beginning and affirmed in our redemption in Jesus Christ.
Genesis 1:28 – And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
We learn from the manner in which God created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1 that rulers take personal responsibility for the well being of others at their own expense. Everything God did from day to day was done for the sake of the living creatures, including humans, that would live on the earth.
According to the blessing that God spoke over humans in creation, God has made us for cooperative and creative leadership over creation, in submission to himself. Cooperation demands mutual consideration and submission to one another out of reverence for God, in Jesus Christ. We are fulfilled as human beings when we spend our God given time and energy in mutual submission to our God given purpose of helping each other nurture the lives of our fellow creatures.
Like the ice dancers, married couples bring what God has given them as individuals to their cooperative work in submission to God. They use what God has has given us each of them, to help each other, fulfill their responsibility as children of God and co-rulers within God’s kingdom, helping people help other people, in the name of Jesus.
We honor God’s gift of ourselves to one another, the church, and the world when we work together as husbands and wives. We serve one another, and together we serve others, in recognition of our cooperation in submission to God in Jesus Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 5:21 – Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
We submit to God, and then we submit to each other. Christ is the head of both of us. We give ourselves completely to Christ for the fulfillment of God’s purpose and to the praise of God’s glory. Toward that end, God gives us to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, and members of the church. In marriage, the husband and wife embody that same depth of commitment to God and each other in their home. Together, the husband and wife share one life dedicated to honoring God’s purpose for creating humans as his cooperative co-rulers in the earth.
Ephesians 5:25-31 – “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ ”
Ephesians 5:22-24 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
We are meant to move as one person in pursuit of God’s purpose for us from creation and affirmed in our redemption in Jesus Christ. With grace and humility we honor our God given boundaries of time, energy, personal integrity, and maturity in relationship to each other as we move through life together.
Husbands love their wives in the same way that they love their own bodies and Christ sacrificially loved the Church. We are called to love our wives as if they are a part of our own bodies and critical to our survival. A wife is meant to help her husband fulfill his God given work of loving God and loving his neighbor as himself, in the same way that she devotes herself to loving God and loving her neighbor as herself.
The wife helps her husband live for God. The husband helps his wife live for God. They sacrificially encourage each other’s service to others, in obedience to God, and in mutual submission, out of reverence for Christ. According to the scriptures, this is the foundation and goal of a marriage between two followers of Jesus.
If you are a Christ follower who is married to another Christ follower, how do you encourage your spouse to discover, develop, and engage their unique, God given contribution, to the church and society at large?
If you are not married, how are you helping others, and allowing others to help you, discover, develop, and engage your unique, God given contribution, to the church and society at large?