Increasingly, in our culture today, more and more people are asking the question: Why bother marrying? In other words, if marriages break up so frequently, and lead to such pain and devastation, why not just hang out, date, live together, or otherwise have your sexual and relational needs met without bothering to marry? What’s the point? Now, depends on the stats you read, if you get married today, the odds of your marriage going beyond a few short years, is one-in-two or one-in-three. Either way, those are not great odds. So, why would you want to take this risk?
Of course, any observer of culture knows that this “new” non-marriage, free sex or cohabitation solution is really no solution at all, and leads to even more pain, hurt and rejection in lives. So, it’s important for us to get clear exactly what marriage is.
The vast majority of people, still today—especially those of us that are Bible-believing Christians, understand marriage as the life-long union of a man and a women. Of course, for those who don’t strongly adhere to biblical values and are riding the wave of the redefinition of marriage, for them, this institution can also include a man and a man or woman and a woman.
Yet, in the midst of all the “definition” controversy, what’s crazy is that little or nothing is usually said about the actual purpose of marriage. I believe that if we were to clarify that purpose, we would have a better understanding of marriage itself and be able to enjoy far greater success in these relationships.
And, for single Christians, if you know clearly what God designed marriage for, you’d be far more successful in your dating years and in finding a great marriage partner and partnership that will go the distance and thrive! But you’ve got to know what marriage is for, even before you start courting or dating. The epidemic of broken marriages and relationships in our culture (among some other reasons) is often just evidence of a huge misunderstanding about what marriage really is!
But, first, I want to mention what marriage is not. Although, many people today believe that the purpose of marriage is fulfillment or happiness, that is not the case. That is a self-centered motive that can be very destructive. Yes, in marriage you will experience happiness at times, or often, during your marriage. But, believe me, there are seasons when you’ll experience great discomfort, pain, or conflict in marriage. You see, happiness is not to be the goal in marriage; it’s to be the byproduct of doing relationship God’s way, by lovingly sacrificing and serving your spouse. But, if you believe the main purpose of marriage is happiness, you’re setting yourself up for failure and divorce.
In our book, Straight Talk to Christian Singles, we begin to discuss the purpose of marriage, in a chapter called “Kingdom Marriage.” This type of marriage is definitely a high calling, one that we as Christian believers are called to. So, Kingdom marriage is just marriage based on God’s original intention for this life-time covenant commitment.
Let me paint a big picture of marriage based on different purposes. There are three types of marriages: secular marriage, Christian marriage and Kingdom marriage… as the Johnson’s say in the Kingdom Marriage chapter of our book.
So, I’m going to quote Lyn Johnson from Straight Talk to Christian Singles, because I can’t say it any better. “In a secular or regular marriage, in the world, it’s about ‘how can I get my needs met? I need to find this other person because he or she is going to meet my needs.’ On the other hand, the motive for a typical Christian marriage is, ‘I really want to meet my husband or wife’s needs. I want to be loving and kind to my spouse, and make sure that I am caring for, and meeting his or her needs.’ However, Kingdom marriage takes the definition of Christian marriage much further—it’s about ‘how can the two of us stand side-by-side and discover why God has put us together and then actually fulfill His purposes. We want to impact the world for Christ, so how can we stand together and actually make a difference for the kingdom of God in the world?’
‘And, of course, in Kingdom marriages, as we’ve got our eyes on God and His purpose, we are going to be caring for each other, and we’re going to get our needs met. But the primary goal is to impact the world for Christ through our marriage.’”
Now, I want to briefly highlight some main purposes of healthy kingdom marriage that honors God. You see, as believers in Jesus, our world view is shaped by what God says about this topic. After all, he designed us, as His creation, to function a certain way, and if we don’t follow His owner’s manual our relationships will fail. But He desires marriages to thrive… and they can. My wife and I have a… now, six year marriage, that is only getting better, and my parents have a 55-plus-year-marriage that is still going strong and inspiring others.
In the beginning of the Bible God says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). In other words, He designed man and woman to join together for life as one, with one love, completely knowing each other to the very core, and with a joint purpose on earth.
Of course, there are exceptions… we find singles are often concerned that they are called to be single or celibate for life. First, let’s set the record straight… that’s definitely not the main calling of man or woman—that’s an exception. The 1 Corinthians 7 passage in which Paul is discussing or even suggesting singleness for some, is understood by most theologians to be written during special circumstances for God’s people, a time of extreme persecution. The spirit of Scripture overall, is about God’s calling of marriage, about His creation of people for marriage.
So, get this straight–if you don’t desire to remain single for life, then you don’t have the gift of celibacy! If you did, you wouldn’t have a desire to marry the opposite sex. God is not a cruel tyrant that will give you a desire you can never fulfill. (Of course, some desires can go awry, and we don’t have the time to dig into that here.) But for most Christians, that love and pursue God, He’s put that longing for lifelong marriage in their hearts. And, if you desire to marry, then, according to Psalm 37:4, He wants to give you the desires of your heart.
Now, of course, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a season of singleness for all adults. Every Christian will need to navigate a season of their life, whether long or short, of living unmarried, and learning how to enjoy life and thrive within the context of great relationships with others and with God. You are not a second class citizen as a single person in the church. You can be fully whole, satisfied, and joy-filled in Christ, during your single season. So, you don’t have to suffer some inferiority complex around the families and married couples in your church. (Believe me, Claudia and I both struggled through these challenges in a long single season, and learned to live confidently and thrive.) Jesus, the greatest man that ever lived, was single. And so was the Apostle Paul, the author of the bulk of the Bible (at least for a number of his adult years).
This season is a great time for you, as a single person with greater time and life freedom, to deepen your relationship with God, clarify your life purpose, become involved in missions and ministry, and serve others. However, you will only succeed in your journey to prepare for a Kingdom marriage, if you understand God’s design for marriage.
*[In my follow-up blog, I’ll go into more detail about the five main priorities for your future marriage on planet earth, and how you can choose a life partner and marriage that pleases God and makes a difference in the world. You can find the video version of this blog here.]