Married for God
Published 2016 (2007 in UK)
Married for God is not another self-help book for married people. Rather, it is a radical way to look at marriage. It is the biblical approach to marriage.
Marriage is not a man-made idea; God created marriage and it exists for Him and His purposes: procreation, faithfulness, and order.
God created us male and female for a reason, and we are to use our "maleness and femaleness in joyful service of God in the government of His world." God made woman to be "a helper rather than a companion." In addition, the sight of the woman was a delight to Adam, which brought them together in the "shared purpose, intimacy with a common goal, and companionship in a task that stretche[d] beyond the boundaries of the couple themselves (what the author refers to as) . . . sex in the service of God."
God made men and women equally in His image, and entrusted them equally with the responsibility of governing His world. Equal, but complementary.
Couples may serve God by "bringing up children in the hope that they too will serve God." This is how God populates his "garden" with "more gardeners to care for it." There is a section on barrenness because some couples cannot have children. God knows this, and He permits it, as painful as it is; but childless couples may still serve and honor God, which Ash discusses.
The Bible does not have a negative attitude toward sex. Of course, couples should never have a high view of sex either - that would be idolatry. Sex is not for our self-fulfillment. But we should maintain a healthy view of sex with a "passionate heart of intimacy that overflows in blessing to others." Marriage is outward-looking.
Marriage is the example of God's relationship with Israel or Christ's relationship with the Church. A wife submits to her husband as the Church submits to Christ, and a husband loves his wife as Christ loves His Church. Submission is a free and willing response, not by coercion. And the commandment (in Ephesians) to husbands is longer and more challenging because it is a sacrificial love that he would give himself up for his wife even to death.
The shape of marriage for the husband is the shape of the cross.
God is a God of order: marriage is a safeguard against sexual chaos (or sexual immorality). Marriage is a public commitment or promise. If you are not ready to make a public pronouncement of commitment to someone, then you are not ready for sex. If you "feel" like you love someone, remember "feelings are an unreliable guide to love."
There are boundaries for marriage. They include:
- being from different families
- one woman and one man
- voluntary union
- public union
- begins with public consent, not consummation
- defined by pubic consent, not private emotion
There is a whole chapter on singleness. Our first obligation is our obedience to God, and whether we are married or single, we can still serve Him. In fact, marriage only complicates our focus on God. But whatever our condition, we are to remain content in our circumstances.
The heart of marriage is faithfulness, or steadfast love.
Faithful, steadfast love is the heart of marriage, for faithful, steadfast love is the heart of the universe. The faithful, steadfast, passionate Lover God calls men and women to show faithful, steadfast, passionate love in their marriages.Genesis teaches that husband and wife become one flesh, and Jesus says that means they are joined by God. When couples divorce, "they tear apart something potentially beautiful made by God."
Marriage is a covenant to which God is witness. This covenant is "a relationship that the parties involved have chosen, (unlike natural relationships of parent to child or brother to sister)." This relationship comes with obligations, where each has made promises to the other and entered into commitments, where God is witness. He holds each responsible to keep those promises made under His sanction. If they break them, they are accountable to Him.
God takes marriage seriously. He does so because the marriage covenant is an echo of the covenant He makes by His own marriage with His people.
Believe it or not, marriage does not exist to meet our personal needs. Our first desire should be to have a marriage that serves God; and the key to a good marriage is one that pursues the honor of God.
I would recommend this book to anyone - married, engaged, single, or those who teach marriage classes - anyone who is interested in having an insightful, deep, and right understanding of biblical marriage.
While I was reading this book, I thought about couples I know today (in the public) who are examples of what faithfulness in marriage looks like. I am in awe of them. The world may look at them and mock, but if you want to know what Jesus' steadfast, sacrificial love for us looks like, look at these couples: (You can click on their names to read their amazing stories.)
The heart of marriage is faithfulness.