We must consider where we have gone wrong on the aspect of marriage, and we cannot listen to all these chic new interpretations of the Bible that say we have obvious problems in trying to apply Paul’s view of marriage to a modern marriage. If you listen to those voices, they will likely tell you that the Bible is patriarchy and slavery, and its painful heritage will haunt us for as long as we submit to it. They will offer you a solution that waters down the message, makes it palatable, or perhaps brands it as no longer relevant to an enlightened, modern society.
Such criticism ignores the beauty of Paul’s revealed mystery. If Paul could see us now, he’d have the same advice as he had for the Colossians: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). In a secular world, comprehensive dismantling of the Bible is not only allowed, it is applauded. Paul’s intentions are fashionably disregarded in favor of whatever fabrications society can come up with. Paul’s message is clear: he would have us knit together in love so that we can grow in our understanding of God.
Anything outside of the mystery that is God dwells completely outside of the entire Pauline message as well. So, let’s go back and reconsider what Paul said one more time. When he quotes Genesis, he says that the man and the woman will be joined into one flesh and that this great mystery can be applied to Christ and the Church. Just as Christ is the head, so too is the husband; just as Christ’s body is the Church, so too is the wife. They are no longer one. There is no Ichabod Crane nightmare here. The headless horseman could decapitate his pumpkin-head at will, but the Church cannot do so…although I think sometimes we find it convenient to try when Christ is telling us something that we don’t want to hear. But that’s not the message that Paul is relaying. Paul is saying that the secret was always there, but we didn’t understand it. In the beginning, divorce was not an option. Christ said, “It was because of your hardness of heart that Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but it was not this way from the beginning” (Matthew 19:8). Where did people go wrong?
We go all the way back to Genesis and we find that scripture that Paul was quoting: “Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man she was taken.’ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The man had something taken out of him, and when he discovered the fact, he acknowledged and identified the new person—the woman—as she existed in the world. In marriage, he and she became complete as one entity—two separate individuals, but a functional whole. Know what it doesn’t say? It doesn’t say that the man needed a servant. It doesn’t say that the man wanted Eve to make him happy. It doesn’t say that the man knew there would now be a double income in the household. No. The man and the woman became a single unit.
Isn’t that what Christ wants for us—that we would be knit together with Him as one? When we find Christ, we find that He not only becomes one with us, but he makes us complete. We cannot endure to live apart from Him. This is why divorce is abhorrent to Christ. Marriage is the analogy of what Christ wants for each of us with Him. That’s not to say that we should all marry, but when we do, we participate in the reflection of His desires for the people who follow Him. He doesn’t despise divorce because a person chose the wrong spouse (sometimes people do), or because a person grew apart from his or her mate (sometimes it happens), or because mistakes or sins led to a failed marriage (people aren’t perfect). There are a myriad of unfortunate causes that result in divorce, but God hates it because it steals away that tiny glimpse that we were given into how deeply God wants to be present in a relationship with every soul. That’s the mystery of which Paul speaks. If you do marry, then do so with sober mind and pure intent, because you are choosing—of your own free will—to represent the vision that God has for his people. In that godly covenant you will find overwhelming joy, deep satisfaction, and abundant blessings. Please don’t settle for anything less than what the Lord desires to give.