A Vision of Marriage and Family as the Great Mystery of Union
We(Western culture)have lost the vision of human relationships that supports a stable, secure society.
"For the first time in its history, Western civilization is confronted with the need to define the meaning of the terms 'marriage' and 'family.'" So states author Andreas J. Kostenberger who, with the assistance of David W. Jones has written God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation.
As Kostenberger observes, "What until now has been considered a 'normal' family, made up of a father, a mother, and a number of children, has in recent years increasingly begun to be viewed as one among several options, which can no longer claim to be the only or even superior form of ordering human relationships. The Judeo-Christian view of marriage and the family with its roots in the Hebrew Scriptures has to a certain extent been replaced with a set of values that prizes human rights, self-fulfillment, and pragmatic utility on an individual and societal level. It can rightly be said that marriage and the family are institutions under seize in our world today, and that with marriage and the family, our very civilization is in crisis."
“In one sense, the statistics tell the story. The great social transformation of the last two hundred years has led to an erosion of the family and the franchising of its responsibilities. The authority of the family, especially that of the parents, has been compromised through the intrusion of state authorities, cultural influences, and social pressure. Furthermore, the loss of a biblical understanding of marriage and family has led to a general weakening of the institution, even among those who would identify themselves as believing Christians.” (Albert Mohler)
These are sobering statements and the condition of our marriages and families should be a call to action, at least in the Christian family of churches where statistics indicate the family is no better off than secular families. The popular discussion of cultural wars with Judeo-Christian values pitted against secular ones seems to have swung decidedly in favor of the secular.
One does not really need to look to the experts or statistics to tell us we are in trouble. Just look at your friends and neighbors, their family and your family. Ask yourself, “Is this the way it is supposed to be?” broken marriages, broken lives, unfaithfulness, betrayal, drug abuse and overdoses, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, abandoned and neglected children, bankruptcies, bailouts, and broken promises; and the list goes on with incidences not decreasing but increasing even among the economically advantaged, the socially responsible, and the believing Christian. It makes no difference, we have all been affected by a cultural virus that is destroying us from the inside out.
Christians, of course, call this virus sin, but in this postmodern anything goes don't offend no authority but me world no one really uses this word to describe anything serious or complicated. After all, you cannot trace sin in an MRI to show where and how it effects the brain, as if that “explains” anything. We are so seduced and enamored by our technological prowess. No matter how exquisite and complex the description is there is a difference between something that describes and something that explains. And the only thing that explains our self destruction is sin, or in other words, you and me making our self master of the universe. It is our break with God and the subsequent path of independence from the created order that leads to the chaos we see in marriage and family relationships and in the individual lives it affects and in the society we form.
To paraphrase a well known verse of scripture(Proverbs 29:18), without (true) vision (hu)man perishes. The Christian vision of marriage and family is rooted in God's union with his creation (hu)man. All of Christian vision of reality flows from God, in Jesus and the Holy Spirit, having union, becoming one with, (hu)man. And all of human destructiveness begins with separation from that union. What a breath taking vision this is and we can scarce dare to believe that this is true. Even those calling themselves Christian don't seem to believe or even know that they are supposed to believe that this is true, yet the story told in the Scriptures is precisely this. Everything Jesus did with his life, with his disciples, with those he encountered, with those he healed, with his death, resurrection, and ascension was and is so that we may be one with God and with one another (Jesus' prayer in John 17). This is God as love and it is the driving creative force in all of creation and marriage is an expression, a human to human experience of this profound reality. This is central to what makes marriage unique and special. Consider what Paul says about marriage in Ephesians 5 21-33 where he seems to barely distinguish Christ's relationship with us as our Lord and Savior and our relationship as husband and wife. In verses 31-32 he says “As the Scriptures say, 'A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.' This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” We are the Bride and he is the Bridegroom, he marries us and we become one with him like we become one with our spouse in a loving union. Such a vision of marriage is central to what makes it so unique and special and one our contemporary society, Christian and non Christian, has largely lost.
We usually focus on evaluating marriage by how well we get along or how happy we are, or how we manage finances, or how secure we are with one another. Those things are important, some very important, but unless we understand something of marriage as a great mystery of union, becoming one in a dance of love, we can never fully experience security and happiness with each other because we limit who we are. Once one begins to grasp,have a vision that each individual marriage is part and parcel of a divine dance of loving union and communion, it changes how we view ourselves and one another. This high, uplifting, challenging, hard to believe vision of marriage helps us focus on something beyond our selves, something bigger and greater, a mystery we are taken up in that elevates us as divine beings “what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:4-5. We have our vision to see what is really happening, what marriage and family relationships really are, who we really are, and we no longer settle for less.
There is much that needs to be done to help stem the destructive tide that is sweeping us away but one thing we need to do is hold fast to such a vision of marriage.