God's Intent for Marriage
God’s Intent for Marriage
“For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
In reading this passage, we often fail to see the importance of what Jesus is saying. The focus immediately goes to the “exception clause” and its meaning. Thus, the focus is on when divorce is permissible and prohibited. While that is a critical discussion that is both complex and controversial, we miss the main point of Jesus' statement.
The Pharisees came to Jesus to test him by asking him when it was permissible to get a divorce. For them, just like for us, there was a great deal of controversy and debate. The Pharisees that followed the Teaching of Shammai argued that the correct interpretation of the statement “found some indecency in her” in Deuteronomy 24:1 referred only to sexual unfaithfulness. Others, who adhered to the teaching of Hillel, argued that it allowed for divorce even as trivial as a wife burning her husband’s food.” By approaching Jesus with the question, they hoped to get Jesus embroiled in the controversy to undermine his popularity.
In response, however, Jesus turns the table. Jesus points out that they missed the whole point of the law. Rather than focusing on the legality of divorce, they should be focusing on the nature and intent of marriage in the first place. Jesus refers back to the original command for marriage given in Genesis 2. In quoting Genesis 2:24, Jesus points us back to the divine mandate of marriage in which we discover the nature, priority, purpose, and permanence of the marriage union. In the statement “a man …be joined to his wife,” God set forth marriage as a binding relationship between one man and one woman, which is the basis for forming the family unit. Scripture remains consistent throughout the Old and New Testament that this is the only divinely recognized marriage, and any other relationship (common-law, live-in, same-sex, incestual, etc.) is a violation of God’s intent and a sinful distortion of it (see Leviticus 18 and Romans 1).
The priority of the marriage relationship is revealed in the statement, “A man will leave his father and mother.” In other words, there is a fundamental change in one’s family allegiance from the parents to the spouse. When a person is married to another, they form a new family that has a higher priority than all other relationships. The only relationship one is to have that supersedes this relationship is the relationship one has with Christ (Luke 14:26). Second only to our relationship to Christ, we are to place our highest value upon the marriage over and above any and all other allegiances and priorities (e.g., career, hobbies, even our own self-interests and needs).
He further points to the purpose of marriage in the statement, “They shall become one flesh.” While this hits at the physical union found in the marital bed, this is to serve as a visible representation of a far more profound and organic unity. Literally, it reads, “And the two shall become one.” This uses the language applied to the unity within the Godhead (Dt. 6:4). The marriage becomes the reflection of the trinity in which three distinct persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) share one divine essence. So now the husband and wife become one and, in so doing, become the reflection of the divine image to the fullest. They not only share one life but one purpose in which they work together (Genesis 2:20) to accomplish God’s intended purpose for them as a single unit, which includes advancing and proclaiming God’s kingdom to the world.
Last, we see the permanence of marriage. The word “joined” has the idea of being glued or bonded together so that they are inseparable. While divorce is a reality in a broken and fallen world, it is not God’s original intent for marriage. Marriage is a permanent and lifelong bond.
Just as Jesus reoriented the Pharisees' perspective to remind them of God’s original intent, we also need to reorient our perspective to God’s purpose for marriage. Marriage is not a social institution invented by humanity to alter and redefine as the winds of popular culture dictate. Marriage is a divinely established institution to be preserved, guarded, and valued for what it is meant to be: A reflection of God to the world.