Definition of Marriage... “a lifelong monogamous relationship between a man and a women. According to the Bible, God designed marriage to reflect his saving love for us in Christ, to refine our character, to create stable human community for the birth and nurture of children, and to accomplish all this by bringing the complementary sexes into an enduring whole-life union.” (The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy and Grace Keller 2011 p. 16.)
Tim and Grace Keller have given us a great gift in framing what marriage means “according to the Bible”, supported by research in the social sciences, and grounded in their experience as a married couple. The phrase “according to the Bible” might immediately set off fire alarms for many Christian and non Christian alike. Some will quickly discount anything said “according to the Bible”; it is unfortunate that many of us find it difficult to maintain an open mind to things we do not understand. It is a fascinating read for anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of what marriage is and why marriage matters to our human condition.
This definition of marriage, once considered so obvious no one even had to state it,(even though most probably did not reflect on its deeper meaning), is now a provocative statement for many in our polarized society. To define marriage as a “lifelong monogamous relationship” seems out of touch with what really goes on in our culture yet there are deeply profound reasons and affects on our identity and well being. To even consider that “God designed” means that someone other than you has a plan and a purpose for marriage and for your life. This goes right against the current culture impulse that life is about a personal journey of individual discovery and fulfillment and means we have to listen to something other than our own will and desires.
The idea that marriage is “to reflect (God's) saving love for us in Christ” is a statement so full of meaning and import that we skim over it without comprehension, and yet it is a profound spiritual truth that radically changes who we are. It is so important that we take the time to glean what this means because it directly affects every facet of our lives; our health, wealth, and contentment. Any one that desires to experience His saving love needs only enter into relationship with Him.
That marriage affords us the opportunity “to refine our character” may seem quaint and catchy until we reflect on how much living with and loving another human being of the opposite sex demands. We literally cannot stay the same person we were when we got married if we want to stay married. Marriage demands that we grow and change in ways that do not trample on the needs and desires of another human being. Character, in this sense, is a moral condition that includes trustworthiness, loyalty, respect, fairness, caring and responsibility. Any one of these qualities is a treasure to possess as a part of our nature and has obvious ramifications for how others view and respond to us. Of all the character education programs that our institutions provide, marriage is probably the most effective with its intimate connection to our everyday life.
The importance to “create a stable human community for the birth and nurture of children” is well documented by social science research. Most of us are well aware of the disastrous effects of divorce on our children. The operative words here are “stable” and “community”. It means we provide a consistent, secure and safe place for our children to grow and develop in the company of parents who love them and are there for them. This requires of us to put their needs before ours, that we do this together as husband and wife, and in so doing we reflect the sacrificial love of God. The sense of gratification that parents experience from this is rewarding, even overwhelming.
The thought that all this is accomplished “by bringing the complementary sexes into an enduring whole-life union” is difficult to understand. Complementary here means that male and female are different but equally necessary and provides what the other lacks in a way that completes us. That is a mouthful of meaning. In a simple sense it means that we need each other in a similar way the physical world is composed of atoms. You and I and everything else in our physical world is composed of atoms. .The opposing charges of electrons and neutrons serve to attract and hold each other together forming an atom. Opposites attract and complement each other; the very nature and composition of our universe is based on this principle and so is our marital relationship. An enduring whole-life union
is the result of a successful marriage. To have another person who is different and unique commit their life to you is a blessing beyond expression, it is an experience so sublime, full of disappointment and wonder that poets struggle to capture it.