Monday, March 12, 2012

Marriage By Design

Marriage is a designer relationship.  Regardless of how the Johnny-come-lately designers wish to redefine this designer relationship, the original designer has created a unique relationship, different than any other relationship experienced by humanity.  His design has worked marvelously since the beginning of time.  Sure, there are people who attempted to live this designer relationship and failed, but it is always because of the neglect, of one or both parties, to follow the guidelines of the designer.  Truly, if one doesn’t follow the recipe, then the cake comes out of the oven, noticeably different than the picture in the cookbook.  We cannot blame the designer, if we don’t follow the plans for His design.  Hopefully, we aren’t na├»ve enough to believe we can mix ingredients willy-nilly off the shelf, throw the mix in the oven and expect it to come out looking and tasting like the carefully designed and tested original recipe?  I would hope not!

Why then would we expect that a unique relationship like marriage, designed by God, would turn out successfully, without following the design of the relationships creator?  As a disciple of Christ Jesus and a Bible believer, I look to the Bible for basic information on everything and do my best to allow my Lord to give me direction for my life, including marriage.  What I find is, that the first marriage described in the Bible is in Genesis 2:15-25.

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.  And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.  And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.  And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.  And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.  And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
This is God’s basic requirement for marriage. It is one man and one woman, under the authority and design of God, for life.  He did not include an escape clause if life got hard (divorce).  He did not give control of the design to any human government, either civil or ecclesiastical.  He did not give the authority to declare a couple married, to any of the above governments.  Human cultures and governments have taken God’s design and placed it under the umbrellas of either civil or ecclesiastical powers to be valid.  I maintain that a marriage does not require or benefit from a license granted by church or state.  An embossed piece of paper or a pronouncement by pastor, priest or probate does nothing to cement the union of marriage.  If the man and woman do not have the commitment to each other and God’s design, no piece of paper or ceremony will make it stronger.  Rather, the license appears to many that have it, as a sentence of confinement.  Somehow our culture has gotten the idea that the license and ceremony, in some way, make the marriage valid and concrete.  Sadly, the statistics for the last seventy years show that to be false.  The divorce rate in our western culture has continued to climb unabated.  For a time, those in churches and religious in their lifestyle held the line on fidelity, but now there is virtually no difference in the divorce rate between secular and religious.  Such statistics prove that neither license or ceremony have any validity in securing a stable marriage.

What has changed is that we have allowed our culture, secular and religious, to redefine and attempt to redesign that which God gave us as a designer relationship.  For us to have the designed results, we must follow the designer’s plan (recipe).  God designed marriage to be the closest thing to a heavenly relationship possible on Earth, but for many, many, people it is closer to Hell than Heaven.  The marriage relationship is the only institution created by God, before the fall of mankind into sin, yet it endures.  Marriage endures in a sinful world and because of sin; married people have problems that would not have existed before the fall into sin.  The answer to this problem is not to redesign the relationship, but rather to adhere as closely as possible to the original design of the first “designer relationship”.  We are foolish, indeed if we can expect God to bless our design over His own design for marriage.

Let’s look at God’s designer relationship as found in the Bible, for a pattern for ours.  In the scripture verses above and everywhere else in the Bible, we find that there are only two people in the relationship, one man and one woman.  According to the scripture, even in-laws are not in the marriage, hence the instruction for a man to leave his parents and cleave to his wife.  The two become one flesh, both in their sexual union, and also as starting a new family unit.  Here is what we see in Genesis 2 in order of occurrence. 
1.      God made the man and put him in the Garden of Eden.
2.    God gave the man a job (dress and keep the garden).
3.     God gave the man a commandment.
4.    God acknowledged that it was not good for the man to be alone and committed to making a helper for him.
5.     God made from the ground, a sampling of all the creatures listed there, for the Adam to name them, but there was no one like Adam to be a helper for him.  Humorously, I think this was to dispel the later myth that a dog is aman’s best friend.
6.    God put Adam to sleep and removed a rib.
7.     From the rib, God made the first woman.
8.    God brought the woman to Adam.
9.    They were both naked and unashamed.

God, not being the author of confusion, would have us learn from the order of His creation for His design for marriage.  Because of what we see in this list, we are able to join with other scriptures and come to a good understanding of His designer relationship.
1.      Note that God made Adam first; He gave him the task of dressing and keeping the garden, along with that was the commandment about the two trees in the middle of the garden.  This reveals to us that in God’s design the man has the role of leadership and ultimate responsibility for the relationship.  See also the words given by God for the Apostle Paul to write to the Corinthians and for our benefit:  1 Corinthians 11:3 “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Corinthians 11:7-9 “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.  For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
2.    No matter how many men think that they are independent and self-sufficient, God has another opinion and He said that it is not good for the man to be alone.  His opinion is the one that counts and God designed women to be very important in a man’s life.
3.     The woman (Eve) that God created for Adam is unlike any and all of the animals in creation.  Both Adam and Eve are created in the image and likeness of God.  She is most like Adam, different, but complimentary.  That’s why the pieces of the body fit together.  That is why skills are not duplicated but compliment each other.  That is why personalities are unique and different, not the same.  They are to be a blessing to each other.
4.    The woman is to be the helper of the man in his God given tasks, not pursuing a separate career path.  He leads, she helps.  In today’s world, one of the biggest design errors is the lack of direction or mission for the man.  Too many flounder and the women are unable to help.
5.     The man and the woman were of one flesh, by way of original creation.  The man was made from the dust and the woman was made from his flesh and bone.  They and all subsequent couples become one flesh again, via copulation, not a license or pronouncement of any external authority.  If the man and woman do not have the commitment to each other and God’s design, no piece of paper or ceremony will make it stronger. 
6.    “They were naked and unashamed”.  Sexual relations between spouses are not in any way sinful, dirty, immoral or any other negative description that can be conceived.  Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”  Marital sex ought not to be a public exercise, but private.  Within that privacy there is a part of the designer relationship that reflects the intimacy and delight of Christ with His people.
7.     The relationship between the couple reflects not only the intimacy that exists between Christ and His people but also the love that He has for His people and their glad submission to Him.  Ephesians 5:32-33,  “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”  Men are to love their wives as Christ loves His churches; standing in front to protect, provide and embrace them.  Women are to treat their husband with the same respect, fear and admiration that they offer up to Christ.  Failure on the part of either party detracts from the effectiveness of God’s design.

In light of the above information, we may come to these conclusions:
·       Marriage is a divinely created institution for the benefit of mankind.  It is between one man and one woman only.  Old Testament saints that were clearly and certainly, under the blessing of God, were also frequently polygynists (sometimes commanded to be so), but each marriage was between one man and one woman.  In this type of situation, the designer relationship is unchanged; it is just that men may, for certain purposes have multiple such relationships. 
·       In our world today, there are many individuals and large groups that would attempt to redefine marriage to include relationships between same sex couples.  This is not new to our time.  Such relationships existed even in antiquity and up to modern times across the world.  It is not the business of governments, either civil or ecclesiastical to be involved in the personal lives of private citizens.  Many good and honest people are involved in such relationships.    I would like to see our culture exclude giving particular benefits to married couples that are not extended to couples in other styles of relationship.  I do not want to see marriage redefined, to enable all to have equal benefit under the law.  I am neither advocating nor attempting to control the type of interpersonal relationships available to consenting adults.  We should be able to exercise our liberty to proclaim the Biblical concept of marriage without forcing others, by virtue of legal authority to conform to our point of view.  Liberty for one requires liberty for all.  Accepting the Biblical rule must be a matter of conscience.
·       Marriage licenses or ecclesiastical approval are not required for a couple to be genuinely married under God.
·       For God’s designer relationship to be successful we must operate according to His instructions.  This involves His order.  Men must have a mission and purpose that the women can support them in.  Men are to be the leaders in their families and not foist that responsibility on to the shoulders of their helpers.  Helpers are to help, not direct or criticize.  Be a blessing, not a barrier.

Final thought:  When a man and woman come together in this designer relationship, it is their personal integrity that keeps them together.  Do not rely on hopes of changing someone or legal status to make a successful marriage.  Make the commitment, celebrate with friends and family, then go on and live your life to the fullest.