George Booker
A New Creation

18. Marriage and Family Life

It must be remembered that marriage is the most exalted parable of the spiritual relationship between Christ and the Church, his “Bride”:

“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 Savior. 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 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Eph. 5:22-33).

Marriage was never intended by God merely to be an end in itself, however great its benefits. Rather it is intended to be a living “parable” or replica of the relationship of Christ and the ecclesia, or church.

It ought to be the ideal of every marriage to reflect the relationship of Christ to his bride — the ecclesia. Is this what others see when they look at your marriage? Can they see the pattern of Christ and the ecclesia — one in which the headship of the husband is respected and the submission of the wife practiced; one in which the wife is nourished and cherished — being herself holy and without spot and blemish?

This ideal is in marked contrast to the breakdown of marriage in the world around us. Nearly all Western societies are experiencing an increase in divorce rates. Educators and social workers are attempting to pick up the pieces from the broken homes. The task is immense and growing. Many of these children end up in special education classes with learning problems; others find their way into detention homes, and later into drug rehabilitation clinics or worse.

These problems are the result of a world that does not know God. For the disciple there is a better way. Marriage is not a temporary arrangement until something better comes along. Many of the mistakes of yesterday we can, in part, correct, but marriage is not like changing a job or trading in a car. It is a lifelong relationship.

“The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth” (1 Cor. 7:39).

For this reason marriage should never be undertaken lightly, nor without a commitment to its lifelong permanence.

The relationship of Christ and the ecclesia as a pattern for marriage provides a continuing exhortation to right conduct. Does Christ betray the ecclesia? Is he unreliable so that the ecclesia cannot trust him? Does the true bride take another husband? Far from being unfaithful, Christ continually seeks the wellbeing of the ecclesia; and the true ecclesia for its part steadfastly remains loyal to him.

God sets before us a pattern to be followed, an ideal for which to strive. He has designed that two might become one, one in concern for the other’s welfare, one in submission to the other’s need, one in objective in raising a godly family. He requires a binding together in holiness and humility, a uniting epitomized by a total loyalty in their physical union, a uniting that reflects in its beauty the uniting of His Son with his own beloved.

When God’s perspective is appreciated, His concern for the state of the mind in this matter is understood. As a yearning in our thoughts after mammon is called covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5), so a seeking in our hearts after another partner is adultery (Matt. 5:28). We are to have our hearts set on a right course, with our eyes looking to the ideal pattern and desiring in our inner man to emulate it. Right conduct in this matter is to be more than outward compliance. It is to be governed by more than fear of ecclesial censure or public shame or financial complication. Right conduct is a matter of recognizing and controlling even our thoughts, as we earnestly strive to live out a relationship that reflects the pattern of Christ and the ecclesia.

“Woman was taken from man’s side... ot from his head — to rule over him, not from his foot — to be trodden down, but from his side — to be his companion, from under his arm — to be protected, from near his heart — to be loved.”

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