The (Missional) Vocation of Marriage
A lot is currently being said about marriage these days due to the recent publication of two books on marriage by two famous (and/or infamous) pastors. I won’t link to one of them because I just don’t think it would be helpful, but I will link to the other one because (while I haven’t read it) I imagine it’s probably helpful in some ways because I really respect the author.
But, over the years I have developed a some thoughts that I (and others it seems) have found helpful when it comes to the vocation of marriage. Now, I don’t fancy myself an complete expert when it comes to being married, just ask my wife. But, in the midst of our struggles the following thoughts have aided us in putting our marriage, and all that goes with it, within a helpful mission-centered framework (how’s that for a catchy phrase?).
I think for us to begin talking about marriage we have to go back to the creation. Most people do too so this isn’t anything new. But, I want to take a bit of a different look at the image of God and it’s implications for our vocation as individuals and more importantly, together as a couple.
In Genesis 1 we read, “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. On the 5th day he created mankind and said, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Okay, again I am not telling each of you anything new. You, me, all of us are created in the image of God. Of course, there are many different implications to being made in the image of God. The most obvious is that we are His beloved creation, worth more to Him than we can ever imagine. Worth so much that God chose to become man himself, walk among us in the dirt and suffer death on the cross. This is an amazing beautiful truth that I am not sure we will ever really comprehend.
But there is another side to being made in the image of God that I think we can sometimes miss. If being his beloved children shows us who’s we are, this second piece speaks of who we are to be as his children.
In order to understand this side better, it might be helpful to use a alternative word to “image.” Perhaps the greek version of the word is more helpful. That is “eikon.” (All this “eikon” talk is
stolen taken straight from Scot McKnight’s book Embracing Grace)
For many of us, the word “eikon” brings some more tangible ideas. Some of us may associate this with religious icons, or pop icons (like Michael Jackson) and those of us who spend our time in front of computers will associate this with the little images that we click on to open up applications like our web browser or wordprocessor.
In each of these cases, the icon is not the object of focus. Rather, what these icons point to is the thing that is important. A religious icon serves the purpose of pointing the worshipper to God. A computer icon serves the purpose of pointing to, or being a shortcut to a computer application.
As beings who are created in the image of God, we serve a similar purpose and role in this world. We are not meant to be God, but rather we are meant to point to God. We are not meant to be the creator, but we are meant to point to the Creator. Following the computer line of thought, if you double click on us, that is, if you look at our lives, you should see God. (Cheesy, I know, but it works right?)
But, here’s the thing: Image bearing doesn’t stop with at people being individuals.
The Bible continues in Genesis and says that the man and woman are to become one flesh… Two become one. And because of this, in a very real sense, the married couple makes one eikon of God.
I think the implications of this are huge.
When we look at marriage in our culture there are many different definition of success. A good job, a family, a great sex life, beautiful grandkids, a wealthy retirement and other culturally-based goals.
But, I believe that according to the Bible, the mark of a successful marriage is when two people come together and their lives continually point others to God.
This then is our vocation: To join our lives together and spend the rest of them pointing others to God. So, my wife and I judge our marriage based on how well we point others to God. As God called Israel to be blessed and be a blessing, as God calls the church to be blessed and be a blessing… So God calls the two of us to come together as one, not only to be blessed but to be a blessing and point others to God.
We raise kids with this goal, we neighbor with this goal, we argue (yikes) with this goal, we shop with this goal, we spend money with this goal, we date with this goal, we live in community with this goal, we do everything with the goal of being a shared eikon of God.
If we wake up when we’re 80 and we can say, by the grace of God, we’ve done this. I’ll be happy.