Marriage Is Not Ultimate

I recently caught up with a college friend in town for a mutual friend’s wedding. Now in our mid- to late-20s, we talked about love, significant others, and marriage. We expressed fears and anxieties, hopes and dreams. We asked the typical questions: Is this “the one”? Are we compatible? Will she accept me? Will I be happy forever with her? All of this got me thinking about how much the YOLO ideology has affected the minds of young Christian singles when it comes to marriage.

We live in interesting, strange times, especially in regard to marriage. Some of what I see is positive, but most is downright upsetting. Seeking to escape the enslaving small-mindedness of caveman traditions, our generation fights to redefine and delay marriage at the same time. While the LGBTQ community demands their so-called right to marry, heterosexuals devalue it by delaying marriage for as long as possible.

Though the sages of our age encourage heterosexuals not to marry early, most still want the benefits of marriage. There’s an inescapable desire for love, commitment, sex, and deep intimacy. Carl Ellis exposes the irony:

A casual observer of today’s Western culture would be hard-pressed to miss the prevailing trends toward marriage devaluation. As increasing numbers of heterosexual couples are opting to do “married people things” absent the marriage commitment (e.g., cohabitate, have and raise children, etc.), marriage itself is viewed with considerably less favor than a generation ago.

In the midst of all this comes the push for “marriage equality” in same-sex unions. Why is this community swimming against the prevailing marriage devaluation stream? They seem to appreciate what we no longer value—a legal, long-term commitment to one person. Do they know something that our society has forgotten? Are they wiser than those who see marriage and the nuclear family as “obsolete institutions”? If so, this is a just indictment against our civilization.

So our generation will fight for LGBTQs to marry, but they won’t value marriage. It’s like children throwing a tantrum for something only because they can’t have it. They cannot comprehend the value of what they so desperately want; therefore, if allowed to have it, they make a mockery of it, treating it like a toy that can be discarded the moment it becomes boring.

Devalued by Christians

It’s easy for Christians to point the finger at our neighbors and accuse them of misunderstanding and devaluing marriage. But we are also guilty. We often worship marriage and (therefore) devalue it, too.

Worshiping something not meant to be worshiped is the same as devaluing it. Since the NBA Finals are in full effect, humor me for a moment. Let’s say San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich decided to put Tony Parker at center and Tim Duncan—arguably the greatest power forward of all time—at point guard. At their correct positions, they excel; if they swapped positions, however, their value to the team would plummet. Why? They’ve been put in positions they have neither the talent nor physique to fulfill. Popovich would be cruel and foolish to ask Parker and Duncan to fulfill these positions.

Our depraved natures want to make athletes, sex, money, possessions, family, education, and marriage ultimate. But creation only works when it plays its proper role. The fall testifies to the fact that when humanity attempts to replace and become “like” God (Gen. 3:5), the result is chaos.

Media, romance novels, and porn all place artificial and impossible expectations on manhood, womanhood, beauty, sex, and marriage. We either consider our lives a failure if we don’t marry, delay marriage searching for the “right one,” abandon multiple marriages convinced we keep marrying the “wrong one,” or abandon marriage altogether—all because of misplaced expectations. We idolize creation because we misunderstand its original purpose: the glory of God (Ps. 19:1).

Marriage Matters

Proverbs 18:22 make it clear that marriage between man and woman is important—not only to us, but also to God. A man who finds a wife does well, the verse declares, and he “obtains favor from the Lord.” Indeed, Genesis 1 tells us it isn’t good for man to be alone; thus, God gave Adam a wife.

Moreover, Song of Solomon paints a beautiful picture of love and marriage. Marriage should be celebrated, enjoyed, and permanent until the death of one of the parties involved.

Marriage isn’t ultimate, but it shouldn’t be entered into halfheartedly, either. I don’t think time prepares you for marriage so much as Jesus does. As we fixate supremely on him, our broken expectations begin to change. We no longer look for the prettiest, wealthiest, most impressive, spouse. We already have all we need in Jesus. A right view of the gospel can give eternal depth to the shallowest bachelor or bachelorette.

Ultimate Marriage

During a wedding reception I recently attended, I soaked in the joy that filled the room as we celebrated the marriage of two Christians, and I began to ponder heaven’s celebration when we’ll see Christ face to face. Wonderful as it is to be united with a few college friends to celebrate this occasion, it pales in comparison to the party on that great day as God’s redeemed from every language and people will unite at the feet of our great Groom.

Ultimately, marriage “declares the glory of God” by reflecting the marriage between Jesus and his bride, the church. Only in him can I be “chained up to my master’s throne” and freed to live, breathe, work, and marry for his glory.

As a single Christian man, I understand the urge to selfishly pursue a “trophy wife” to hide my insecurities and have my “best life now.” In college, a dear friend introduced me to Elisabeth Elliot’s writing. While reading her work, I learned that marriage is not the pinnacle of my existence. I’m simply called to pursue a woman who loves Jesus (a wonderful gift in and of itself) and to love her the way Jesus loves his bride—sacrificially.

We must all abandon the selfish temptation to only marry girls more dazzling than models and men more dashing than Prince Charming. That’s an illusion, anyway. But Jesus is real and infinitely more satisfying. He is ours, and we are his. Rest in that truth.

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  • Mark

    Written from a single man, I appreciate your words to me, a single man. Singleness in my depraved state is to live for myself, and I still have the notion of finding a spouse, but like LeCrae’s song “Special” bumps in its chorus: “I was praying for a ten, but I found the one. And no girl compares to my virtuous love. Cuz what we got is truly something special…”

    Its something I have to ponder and pray about is to shy away from the superficial standards of this world and see those Proverbs 31 ladies who will someday wear a crown.

  • ayo

    Thank you for sharing this. A much needed reminder of who Christ is!

  • Kandace Rather

    This is so good! I have worked with birthmoms who either want to abort or want to keep their baby. It can be two extremes-abort because they do not value life or keep in order to worship the baby as someone who can meet their needs for love and acceptance. I understand this all too well.

  • Michelle

    Wow this is amazingly written. I hardly comment but just had to because I am going through this right now. We need to remember to place our value in Jesus because it is so easy to make other things your God especially the person you love. Thank you so much for this piece!

  • Michelle

    Also this part was my favorite: “So our generation will fight for LGBTQs to marry, but they won’t value marriage. It’s like children throwing a tantrum for something only because they can’t have it. They cannot comprehend the value of what they so desperately want; therefore, if allowed to have it, they make a mockery of it, treating it like a toy that can be discarded the moment it becomes boring.”

    • Lori

      I think that part was too dismissive, too crass. We’re talking about a generation of people whose parents’ marriages ended in divorce much of the time. They have grown up seeing straight people devalue marriage. Maybe they push for gay marriage not to further mock marriage, but because they really, truly want, on some level, to see marriage done right. And in their experience straight people have failed at that, so maybe, they hope, gay people can do better.

      I’m not saying they’re right. But I’m saying we should be slow to assume that those we disagree with are motivated by malice.

      • KC McGinnis

        A great word, thanks. Always tempting to assume the motivation.

    • Kevin

      There was a report in the news a few weeks ago that one of the leaders of the LBGT community stated their end game was to ultimately destroy marriage and the family as it is currently known. This was also a point that Karl Marx makes in the “Communist Manifesto”. The idea that there are rights associated with the marriage relationship at all does offend extremists. I seriously doubt that most people that support same-sex marriage are aware of or support these extreme positions, but the cross currents in the culture regarding marriage are real and something worth considering.

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  • John S

    I view the LGBTQ (?) push for marriage as being about LGBTQ, not marriage. I think they want to be seen as normal and equal to anyone. It’s about validation of their lifestyle and pride. I don’t think they care that much about marriage. Perhaps the legal benefits but not marriage itself (this is a generalization).

    I agree with the premise and most if not all the points of this article. However for married people marriage is penultimate in this world, by virtue of it’s direct and massive statement about the ultimate – Christ.

    So anytime someone cautions about loving marriage too much, idolizing it, I can agree but I would also bring a caution to that caution. Too many Christian men allow the tyranny of the urgent, job, children, church, pastoring – some of the best and important things – to nudge their wife out of her seat of honor at the right hand of Christ (in a manner of speaking, not literally!).

    In other words, of all things we should be very careful when speaking of someone making too much of marriage, even though it is possible it may not be easily discerned. How do I know if my friend’s passionate and ongoing pursuit and love affair with his wife is being done out of a greater love for Christ or not? That’s some deep water to swim through his heart. The motive is what should be discerned, since a glorious expression of love for Christ IS loving your wife.

    However, when you love your pastoring or kids or job more than your wife that is often easily seen, and the wife will be the first to tell you. Ok not sure I’m making my point well so I’m out…thanks

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  • Nick

    I think it was John Piper, talking about the one eternal marriage of Christ and the Church, who said that if you’re a believer and you have the reality, what difference does it make if you’re part of the symbol that is passing away?

    In other words: earthly marriage is good, but earthly singleness is also good. And in death, both of these things end as we go to be with the eternal Bridegroom.

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