I have the honor and privilege of leading a recently engaged couple in our church through marriage counseling over the next few months. This is actually my first wedding that I am officiating and my first stab at marriage counseling (lucky them). It’s been fun to study through marriage again and its been helpful not only for the sessions we’ll be doing together but of course it’s a great reminder for my own marriage.
Over the years I have grown to see marriage as a “missional partnership.”
Here’s my thought process so far:
Man was created in the image of God (eikon). The purpose of an icon is to point to something greater. Think about the icon you clicked on to open up your web browser (hopefully it was on a mac and you are using Firefox – shameless plugs, sorry). The icon served the function of pointing you to the program. Thinking in terms of man as “icon” we see that at the core, our purpose is to point to the Creator (I guess this could also be couched in “glorify God.” But, for me the language of icon and pointing to the Creator gives me a much clearer image of my role as a human being. (I stole this concept from Scot McKnight and its been a while since I read the book and its likely that I have botched his thoughts here, so Scot, if you read this, sorry!). It should be clear as to how this plays out in the world in a “missional” way. All our being, decisions, interactions with the world should point to the character and being of the Creator himself.
If man was created to point to the Creator, than when a man and woman join together to be come “one flesh,” they need to be an “eikon” together. The base goal of marriage should be that we reflect the Creator as a couple in the way we interact with each-other, make decisions, love each other, love others, love our kids and our neighbors, etc.
Charlie Peacock elaborates this point well in his book “A New Way to be Human” (Which, by the way, contains perhaps the best few chapters I have read on the topic of marriage – and I’m pretty sure you can find it used on Amazon for $1.68. Don’t let the price fool you, it’s good).
“Does the marriage say to the community and the world, “We’re a team, committed to each other and whoever and whatever Jesus is committed to. In as much as we’re married to each other, we’re married to [Jesus] first, to His ways, to his agenda in the world. We let no other story control our ways but His. We are grateful to follow Him and serve together as coheirs of life.” (p.145)
I would venture to guess that so few of us live like this and view our marriages like this. The same consumerism that leads us into mass amounts of debt from purchases that will “make us happy” is the same consumerism that runs rampant in our marriages. Far too often (myself included) we view our marriages from a consumer perspective.
Sadly our attitude is, “What can I get out of it.” We might even think, “What can we get out of it.” But, marriage is not about what a husband or wife or even couple can get out of it (at its core at least). Marriage is about two people becoming one flesh and together living out their purpose on earth; to to be a unified “icon” that points to the Creator. Far too many of us are that annoying icon you double-click on and receive a message that says, “the original file has been moved, would you like to search for it?” (or whatever that message says).
Of course, we know that in Genesis 3 this image of God is cracked (again, stolen from Scot McKnight). Sin runs rampant in this world and affects our marriages and all relationships and pretty much all of life. That’s why marriage is so hard. We can’t ignore that the Fall never happened and fool ourselves into thinking that this whole “one flesh” thing is easy.
Perhaps that’s why there are so many divorces in the Christian world. We don’t take the fall seriously enough and we’re shocked with things go painfully wrong and we’re completely unprepared for it. (Of course, there are lots of other reasons, but I think this might be a base one).
Another thing I that was very helpful for Melanie and I when we got engaged was this simple bit of advice: “The word ‘divorce’ cannot be in your vocabulary. Erase it from your mind. It does not exist.” Jesus says in Matthew 19 that divorce was not something that was ever intended for marriage and I believe we should model that original intention and not let it even be a word that exists in our lives. (Of course, we can get into issues of marital unfaithfulness and abuse, but even in this instances, I believe that God calls us to save the marriage at all costs. When it says that a husband is to love his wife and He loved the chuch we have a great example of someone loving something that has given itself away to another in a whore-like way).
What do you think? What has been helpful in your marriage? How can marriage be “missional?”