Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Eph. 5:12-15
Expressing oneself on marriage according to God‘s order is no light task in this day. Many fears, emotions and conflicting views of life are associated with this topic. Whoever speaks about marriage according to God‘s order is almost exotic today.
What is the orientation point for our marriage?
The following remarks are purposely directed to people who want to measure their lives by God‘s order. We want this to be a testimony to them. It will also encourage them to give account to God and themselves about their concepts of marriage.
In our community we have also had to continue giving account to each other concerning the concepts, goals and realities of our marriages. This is partly because of our experiences and our growing understanding that marriage can optimally encourage or massively hinder fruitfulness in all areas; as well as opportunities for development for both man and woman.
One can object that this is no revolutionary knowledge. But – if this topic is dealt with at all – it seems to happen only in modest ways, especially in Christian circles. And this in spite of the fact that the need is huge.
Ethics according to people‘s needs?
Marriage as a way of life cannot be taken for granted, and this has been so for some time now. Not only homosexuals question the original understanding of marriage and family. It seems that especially in the Western world, the so-called Christian Occident, a basic transformation in the understanding of marriage and family is taking place. New ethics and morals are taking on increasingly apparent forms. This finds expression in the administration of justice and in religious behaviour.
Forty years ago it was absolutely unquestionable that a marriage measure itself at least externally by Biblical norms. Every outwardly uncommitted form for a man and woman to live together was forbidden by law. Now, however, neither society nor the state find anything offensive about even two men or two women officially living together in a marriage-like form. Perhaps they even adopt and raise children.
In Switzerland and other Christian countries, even churches hardly hesitate to encourage such a form of life with their blessing.
The value standards of this new ethic shape themselves according to people‘s needs, by their concepts of self-determination, freedom, quality of life, and harmony. It is actually a completely humanistic ethic because man and his needs are central.
God‘s path to the fullness of life
However, everyone who believes that God is the center of all things; that His Word became flesh; that Jesus is the source of salvation, freedom, and quality of life; that only God‘s word transmits generally valid normative values and that man attains fulfillment and life not through self-determination but solely under God‘s rule – whoever believes this will come into increasing conflict and confrontation with the government, society, culture and often even the church. It is urgent that we begin giving account of what image of God and man forms us in relation to our life together, our marriage and family. What are we conveying to our children? What are we testifying to our neighbours?
God‘s goals for marriage
As I see it God‘s goals and His intention for marriage have not changed since the creation of man. What has changed, however, are the conditions for reaching this goal.
Therefore there is a before the Fall and an after the Fall. The conditions have changed in an unbelievably drastic way.
God‘s original idea
Before the Fall we read that man and woman had free access to God. They saw Him face to face. Their identity and their self-worth were so saturated with the immediate relationship to God, who stood between them and gave each one an understanding for the other, that they were– as we read – naked without being ashamed. Each one was embedded, protected, whole in his relationship to God. No rivalry, no battle, not threats, no fear.
Marriage – a place of vitality
And God told them the goal of their life and their relationship: Be fruitful and multiply in number, fill the earth and subdue it. (Gen.1:28)
God created marriage as a place of vitality and life, which in turn brings forth life and testifies to the God of life.
God intended marriage not as a place for self-realization, for satisfying one‘s own needs, or for self-orientation. He rather intended it as a place where God‘s Kingdom and character are made visible. It is also a place of optimal development for the man as well as for the woman. A place of fruitfulness, of dedication, of respect. A relational reality which mirrors and reflects God, the God of relationship, of dedication, of fullness of life, of security, respect and truth, of freedom and beauty, of love.
Fruitfulness as a commission
Be fruitful and multiply in number…
Fruitfulness, goal and commission are not limited to the conception of descendants. Fruitfulness is not full until we as man and woman so share our life with our own and other children that they become capable of living in body, soul and spirit – i.e. when they become capable of relationships and conflicts, thus becoming a part of life.
Increase through sharing
I believe that increase/multiply does not stress physical increase only. It is much more a case of sharing our life, of distributing, and – wherever we go – of making life possible, promoting and spreading it, until this life from God fills the whole earth. This fruitfulness, to which man and wife (and not just in marriage!) are called, is not only a matter of outward involvement, but rather of the inmost realities of my heart as well. Galatians 5 describes how this fruitfulness is intended, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). This is a description of God‘s characteristics. Being fruitful means that these characteristics are formed within us and become reality in the relationship between man and woman. The more God‘s reality and being grow in our relationships, according to Galatians 5, the more people (our children first) will experience protection, security, orientation and healing through our marriage. People will taste God‘s goodness, His clarity, truth and mercy in our life and thus be motivated to live.
Ruling in God’s name
Another word about ruling and subduing the earth. Words like ruling and subduing intuitively cause resistance in us, especially we who are influenced by the Renaissance. We link them first of all to bondage, exploitation, capriciousness and degradation. The history of mankind massively confirms our resistance to and our rejection of ruling. And yet when the God of the Bible speaks of ruling, this is a completely different matter. When He commissions mankind to rule, it is a matter of that fruitfulness of which we have spoken.
God is a God of life and of fullness, of freedom and truth. God is a God of mercy and is portrayed by the Bible as love itself. Thus to rule in His name can only mean leading people to life, to fullness, to freedom and truth, in brief, making them familiar with the God of relationship.