So my one critique from the last post was that I spent too much time laying out my parameters. Sorry. I’ll try and do better.
Now there are just a couple more defining purposes of marriage and I will hit them before moving on to the crux of what marriage is. Take a look at this scripture from Ephesians:
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.-Paul the Apostle’s Letter to the Church in Ephesus, Chapter 5, vv 25-27
Now, I will use this chapter of Ephesians again so let’s get it right, shall we? Paul’s letter to the Ephesians on the whole, and in this chapter in particular is about the church with marriage as the teaching metaphor, but we can still learn a lot about what marriage is to be and how it’s done in this chapter. One defining aspect of marriage is clear in these verses and I think speaks to believers and non-believers alike. We are to make our spouse a better person. Now Christians and folks of other or no faith will interpret the meaning of that statement differently, but I believe the ethic is a good, universal one: marriage is about making us better.
During my fourteen years of youth ministry, one consistent question I ask couples who were contemplating marriage was this, “Are you better as a couple than you are as two individuals?” And I should have asked, “Are you willing to accept the challenge of helping the love of your life become the best person they can be? And are you willing to let them challenge you to become the best person you can be?” Answered honestly, those questions should provoke thought and consideration for those considering the leap of faith that is marriage.
For those of you who are looking for a spouse, don’t look for the person who makes you feel better but for the person who makes you want to BE better! And for those of us whom have already cast the die, how can I help my spouse be who they need to be? I can’t change anyone, but how can I encourage and challenge and cleanse them? And am I open to making the changes that they encourage in me? Am I accountable?
Of course, marriage is a subset of community, so these things apply first to the community, to the Church, but because of the heightened emotional interdependence and intimacy, in marriage it can be very difficult. In the end, however, it seems to be part of what makes a marriage real.