As a single 25-year-old female, I have had many years to reflect on marriages that I look up to and those that I wish not to replicate in my marriage someday.
While I still live at home and have been raised by two loving and selfless individuals, I have seen the brokenness of marriage first-hand. I know what it is like to have siblings from a parent that was formerly married. I have heard slamming doors, screaming matches, and curses like they were my last name. I have felt the bitter turmoil of tears sowed and habits never changed in the eyes and shoulders of those who live in the same home but walk as strangers.
But, I have also seen what true, authentic, persevering and enduring love looks like to the end. I have felt the love of Christ that encompasses every heartbreak faced. I can say with confidence that others in my life have demonstrated qualities and habits I, too, wish to have one day (Grandma and Grandpa’s quirks and sassy comebacks included!).
Beyond what I see, feel, or hear, however, Jesus tells us what we need to know about marriage regardless of how we were raised or what we experienced.
What Did Jesus Explicitly Say about Marriage?
In numerous places in the Scriptures, Jesus gives extensive overviews of marriage and divorce. From the beginning, it is clear that a marriage union is to occur between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24), and one should avoid divorce at all costs (unless caught in adultery) (Matthew 19:1-12). While many will argue that Jesus did not address homosexual relations directly, Genesis 19 highlights the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 explains the detestableness of a man who sleeps with a man or vice versa.
In 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul writes: “The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice homosexuality, or are slave traders, liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching.”
While much more could be said about this topic, my aim of what Jesus says about marriage is not to delve into this point deeply but to briefly highlight what Scriptures note in a range of issues.
When two become one in covenantal bond, this matrimony is a pure image of Christ united with His Church. It not only represents Christ to the world through sacrificial love but shows that Christ should be at the center of that relationship (Ecclesiastes 4:12). As a result, if our marriage is representative of Christ’s harmony with the Church, we must treat our spouse with the same honor and respect as we would treat ourselves (Ephesians 5:28-30)!
In Godly marriage, we love as Christ loved (1 Corinthians 16:14, Romans 13:8, 1 John 4:12), are committed to our partner (Song of Solomon 4:9-10, Ruth 1:16-17), and support one another (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). We know that both sexes are created equal (Genesis 1:27-28), live with mutual honor and respect (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and sacrifice for their well-being (Ephesians 5:25). As Matthew 19:6 concludes, it is for these reasons that they are no longer two but one flesh.
What Lessons Did Jesus Teach about Marriage?
Beyond direct references, however, Jesus also taught many lessons and applications about marriage. And perhaps, demonstrated one of the best models, in His death on a cross for our sins.
When Jesus died for us in our sinful states, He reminded us that true sacrificial love doesn’t count the costs but gives until it has nothing left. It does not put up with abuse, but it looks for the best in everyone and is kind even when matters get tough. Marriage is not easy, but Scripture never says it was created to be simplistic (Matthew 5:45-46). For this reason, Paul often said it was better not to marry (1 Corinthians 7)!
God created marriage to make you more like Christ and give you the closest example of Him united with His bride, the Church (Luke 23:33-34). It teaches us to forgive, be patient, offer grace, serve, and cherish one another (Ephesians 4:2-3, Ephesians 2:8, Ephesians 5:25).
What images, parables, and metaphors did Jesus give related to marriage?
While many images, parables, and metaphors Jesus gave related to marriage, the most prominent one I have found is that marriage is the closest relationship we can enter into that demonstrates Christ’s union with His Bride, the Church, in the coming days.
This Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-10, 2 Timothy 4:8) presents the idea that when Jesus comes back, we must be ready for this glorious day. As part of the wedding feast, a marriage is a contract. In the days of Christ, contracts were signed by the parents of the bride and bridegroom as a downpayment. Today, when we enter salvation with Christ, our names are written into the book of life, and our down payment has been made.
In the same manner, John Piper, in his sermon, A Metaphor of Christ and the Church, explains the marriage metaphor this way: “God created marriage to be a metaphor of Christ’s relationship to the Church. Sin has so confused the metaphor as to make it unintelligible. The New Testament once again makes the metaphor transparent. But if contemporary feminist hermeneutics succeed, the meaning of the metaphor will be obscured for many years to come.”
What Did Jesus Not Say about Marriage?
In light of many hot topics that people ask regarding marriage, there are also many things that Jesus did not say about marriage.
Jesus did not say that marriage was the end goal for all people. Marriage is not for everyone, and not being married doesn’t make you any less of a Christian. You can still be holy and growing in faith without a spouse. It is for this reason that marriage does not complete you. You are complete and whole as an individual in Christ. When we skew marriage to fulfill longings in us that only God can fill, we will always end up empty.
Second, while God gave us distinctive roles based on Christ and the Church, husbands and wives should understand that marriage is built on mutual honor and respect. There may be roles specific genders are more inclined to accomplish or drawn to than others, but as Piper explains, “no subjection to another human is absolute.”
“…The husband does not replace Christ as the woman’s supreme authority. As humble servants, husbands love their wives, and wives submit, but submission is not a free pass for crude orders or ‘because I said so’ responses… The husband who plops himself in front of the TV and orders his wife around like a slave has abandoned Christ for Archie Bunker. Christ bound Himself with a towel and washed the disciples’ feet. If a man wants to be a Christian husband he must copy Jesus, not Jabba the Hut.”
The Big Picture: What Perspective of Marriage Should We Come Away with Today?
Jesus instituted marriage as a holy representation of His relationship with the Church. Before sin entered the world, God crafted Adam and Eve with the intent of divine fellowship.
Today, marriage is broken, sinful, and messy, but it is also beautiful, redeeming, and representative of progressive sanctification. What I have discussed here merely skims the surface of the breadth and discussion this topic offers.
Still, it’s my prayer that as you read and study for yourself, you will begin to see the excellence with which God intended marriage to represent, and strive for that in your relationships, even if you aren’t married yet, or never will be!
Related Resource: Listen to our new, FREE podcast on marriage: Team Us. The best marriages have a teamwork mentality. Find practical, realistic ideas for strengthening your marriage. Listen to an episode here, and then head over to LifeAudio.com to check out all of our episodes:
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Christin Lola
Amber Ginter is an aspiring 25-year-old writer that currently works as an English teacher in Chillicothe, Ohio, and has a passionate desire to impact the world for Jesus through her love for writing, aesthetics, health/fitness, and ministry. Hoping to become a full-time freelancer, Amber seeks to proclaim her love for Christ and the Gospel through her writing, aesthetic ministry team (Aisthitikós Joy Ministries), and volunteer roles. She is also the author of The Story I’ve Never Told, which is currently in the publishing process. Amber has freelanced for Daughter of Delight, Kallos, Anchored Passion, Crosswalk, No Small Life, Darling Magazine, Called Christian Writers, Southern Ohio Today News, The Rebelution, Ohio Christian University, and The Circleville Herald. Visit her website at amberginter.com.