MARRIAGE: THE MYSTERIOUS HEART OF FAMILY
Genesis 1:26-28; 2:18-25
1. We lose way too much when we trample over, or let go of, the sense of mystery that lies at the heart of the family.
a. I know there are a lot of things about family life that are as common and mundane as can be, but there is wonder in what it all revolves around.
b. When Paul spoke of what happens when a man and a woman leave their parents and hold fast to each other and become one, he said, “This mystery is profound...” (Eph. 5:31,32). In some sense, the heart of family is a human echo of the union that exists between Christ and his church.
c. When Jesus spoke of it he said, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6). In some unseen way, God himself makes one out of two.
2. The sense of wonder we need at the heart of family life may be renewed by reflecting on the record to which both the apostle and our Lord made reference.
a. Genesis 1:26-28; 2:18-25
b. It is not our purpose right now to take up the debates that go on over the details of creation or the nature of this text; what we are interested in is the light it sheds on the heart of family.
c. When we look at it that way, we discover the ingredients which God uses to do his mysterious work in our families.
1. First, there is dignity,
a. Look at the phrases that are used: “...in our image, after our likeness...male and female he created them...God blessed them...” (1:26-28). These are the biblical expressions of human dignity.
i. Relationship is possible for us because we are beings made after the likeness of God. Man–that is, the male and female together–reflects the image of the one who said, “Let us make man in our image...”
ii. Because we bear the image of the creative God, as male and female together we have reproductive capacity–we can “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth...”
iii. Since we are like the Maker of all things, we are blessed to be his representatives in ruling the earth and in using it and all its creatures in such a way as to be accountable to him.
b. God has given us a special dignity and he uses it to build families.
i. As our Creator does, we can reason, conceive of things not seen, and make moral choices that impact our souls.
ii. There is something higher in us than in any animal: we are not made to merely “breed” after our own instincts, with no obligation to our mate and no lasting connection to or responsibility for our offspring.
iii. We are made in the image of God: every human being is worthy of honor and respect–and we need a way to live that expresses that fact.
2. So, next there comes mutuality.
a. It was the LORD GOD who said “It is not good that the man should be alone,” and who determined to “make him a helper fit for him” (2:18).
i. “Fit for” means “corresponding to,” and “helper” means one who supplies strength in the area that is lacking in the “helped.” (ESV S.B. 54)
ii. A suitable helper for aloneness can not be found among the creatures over which man has dominion, for they are neither his equal nor his kind; the answer for aloneness has to be his equal, but complementary to him, not just like him.
iii. The Creator, therefore, takes woman out of man and fashions her so that neither she nor the man are complete without the other (2:21,22).
b. The mutuality implied by this design is crucial for understanding anything else the Bible says about the heart of family.
i. The mystery about it is such that neither a man or his wife can find what either is looking for unless they both do.
ii. Both are obligated to a will stronger than either of theirs, and each must be devoted to something of greater significance than either of them.
iii. The responsibilities they will have in their family will all have to be mutual and voluntary–each willingly doing what he or she can and should to supply what is lacking in the other.
3. Such a relationship requires primacy.
a. The text says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother...” (2:24a).
i. The point is not that parents cease to exist, but that a man and his wife are to experience their full humanity in each other.
ii. When a man and a woman marry, they enter a kinship which has obligations that override even their duty to their parents, and they are to leave their parents in the sense of putting the welfare of their wife or husband before that of their parents.
iii. They have left their parents’ household and established a new family, and that is to be demonstrated by through priorities and behavior.
b. This is a whole lot more meaningful matter for the heart of family than you may think at first glance.
i. Think of the maturity a step like this requires...and think of the sense of fairness that it demands.
ii. There is a spiritual aspect to it, too: God still has to come first and his will cannot be divided up fifty-fifty.
iii. The mystery of it is that it is how the circle of life continues.
4. In the fourth place, there is loyalty.
a. The key verse continues, “...and hold fast to his wife...” (2:24).
i. “Hold fast” is used in the scriptures for practicing covenant faithfulness. For example, Moses said, “You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him...” (Deut. 10:20).
ii. Marriage is a covenant. “...the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is you companion by covenant” (Mal. 2:14).
iii. It is not just a human agreement, but a relationship in which God unifies two people in a mysterious way not like any other human relationship.
b. Loyalty has to take a specific shape in the heart of the family.
i. It will be exclusive. Someone wrote, “...God creates only one Eve for Adam, not several Eves or another Adam. This points to heterosexual monogamy as the divine pattern for marriage that God established at creation.” (ESV S.B. 54)
ii. It will be permanent. How else could it be loyalty? What else could qualify as holding fast?
iii. It will be loving. As Bradford Swift pointed out, “Marriage is a ‘sacred tool’ for helping us transcend the notion of conditional love....Commitment often means sacrifice; it’s the laying down of one’s life for another.”
5. As a result, there is intimacy.
a. Our text concludes, “...and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (2:24c,25).
i. That they were made for each other is indicated by the fact that she was made from him.
ii. It is reflected in the wordplay of the terms “man” and “woman,” where one is part of the other (in the original it is “ish” and “ishshah”).
iii. And their closeness and loving commitment is expressed in their being the “one unit” God has designed them to be, all in a setting of innocent delight, moral honor and freedom from shame.
b. The complete closeness of knowing all about each other in many areas of life and sharing many parts of life together is the mysterious work of marriage.
i. It is the life-long process of transforming pronouns from “me” and “my” to “us” and “our,” and it’s what makes their relationship transcend all other human relationships.
ii. It is what provides the right and safe setting for children to be brought into the world and raised up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
iii. It is what prepares a couple to share happiness and to face adversity as it comes along throughout their journey together.
1. In 2009, Charles Colson, Robert George, and Timothy George authored “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.”
a. Among other things, they said, “To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love” (p. 5).
b. We whole-heartedly agree, and as a group of Christians we aspire to help do that very thing!
2. One beautiful thing about the mysterious heart of family is that it is itself part of an even more profound and far-reaching mystery.
a. The mention of the closeness of the man and the woman at the end of chapter 2 serves to illustrate the shame and alienation and hurt that enters the picture in the next few verses.
b. God established the family a means of bringing the redemption into the world that he knew would be needed.
c. He sent his own Son into the world through a family so that we could have the opportunity to be in his family (Gal. 3:26-29; 4:4-6).