I once heard an exchange between two young men – acquaintances who had not seen each other for some time. One young man asked the other, “So, what’s new?”
The other answered, somewhat excitedly, “I’m getting married!”
To which his friend responded, “Now, what would you want to go and do that for?”
It was a typically jocular response to the idea of getting married, filled with implications and assumptions about marriage tying one down, restricting personal freedoms and generally changing one’s life in a less than ideal way. But it is an interesting question. Why do people get married?
As a pastor, I am regularly either assisting engaged couples in preparing for marriage or helping married couples improve or heal their marriages. I also often provide pastoral guidance and counseling for single people who hope to be married but wrestle with doubt and disappointment about the prospect of marriage. Occasionally, I preach sermons or teach Bible classes on the subject of marriage. As a counselor, I have read and researched various aspects of marriage relationships and have studied and implemented different approaches to helping people in broken marriages. As a husband, I am daily faced with the challenges and joys of being married. Marriage, marriage, marriage! Despite all of this attention to and involvement in marriage, I sometimes realize that I overlook the simple, God-given purposes for this unique relationship. But that is detrimental to establishing and sustaining healthy marriages. Interestingly, these purposes also indirectly speak to the issue of same-sex marriage. When considering what God has revealed about human sexuality, understanding his design for marriage is both important and very telling.
The purposes for marriage are found in the Bible book of Genesis which assumes the marriage relationship to be between one man and one woman. One of the purposes of marriage is procreation. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:27-28).
God created the first man and first woman in his own image, blessed them and commanded them to produce offspring. God’s creative design requires sex between a male and a female in order to produce offspring. Naturally, two women or two men are unable to have children together.
Another God-revealed purpose for marriage is evident in Genesis 1:28 – partnership. God gave humans authority over his creation and they were to fulfill their duty together. While Adam was the first human being God created, he was in need of a suitable helper, someone who would rule with him over creation. Eve was created to be Adam’s partner in subduing and ruling over all that God had made. This reveals the unique union God designed between a man and a woman to fill the earth with people and families that would fulfill God’s purposes and bring glory to him. Families led by a husband and wife are the foundation of tribes, clans and nations that fill the earth. This is the natural order of God’s perfect creation. Altering the fundamental and foundational relationship necessary for this purposeful and sustained growth of human beings on the earth is contrary to God’s will and plan and is ultimately harmful to healthy human existence.
Genesis 2:18 reveals another of God’s purposes for marriage – companionship. “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” In providing a perfectly complimentary partner for Adam, he at the same time created the perfect companion for him. Of all that God had made and had declared good at the beginning of creation, only Adam’s solitariness was not good. God established marriage as a means to provide meaningful companionship between men and women. Of course, companionship can also be experienced between members of the same sex. But the unique relationship experienced between a man and woman in marriage is deeply fulfilling. The attraction between men and women is powerful and natural – this was God’s design.
A final purpose revealed by God for marriage in the book of Genesis is intimacy – multi-faceted intimacy. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:24-25). The phrase, “one flesh” emphasizes the beautiful and natural unity experienced between a married man and woman through sexual and emotional intimacy. Shared nakedness of body and soul defines the mysterious affection of the marriage relationship which God designed to be experienced between one man and one woman. Marriage also produces a unique spiritual unity that reflects the very nature of God as seen in the Trinity. In marriage, two people become one flesh. In the Trinity, three persons exist as one.
None of these purposes for marriage speak directly against the idea of same-sex marriage. But they do clearly reveal God’s created design for marriage: It is a covenant relationship between one man and one woman resulting in offspring, purposeful partnership, fulfilling companionship and deep intimacy. So-called “marriage” between two men or two women cannot fully achieve these divinely created purposes. Ultimately, same-sex unions diminish the potential for human beings to not only accomplish God’s sovereign and holy purposes, but also diminish the potential for true and meaningful fulfillment. While some in our culture insist that it is less than loving to prevent people of the same gender from entering into marriage, just the opposite is true. In his love and wisdom, God designed men and women to experience perfect intimacy through marriage. Changing that created order is not loving at all.
Consider God’s purposes for marriage and what they reveal about his will for this unique relationship. And if you are married, think about how you are fulfilling those purposes. Does your marriage reflect God’s design? If you are not married but hope to be some day, remember that you are still complete and that God will use you to accomplish his purposes and will provide you with holy, loving relationships in a family that is eternal.