Two days ago, on August 31, 2014, my brother got married. Being a part of Christian weddings, especially those of family members, will always be a special event for me, but not because I love my family (although I do), or because it reminds me of my wedding and my first, only, and current wife (although it does, and she’s amazing). Watching my brother and his wife start their life together brought a smile to my face and joy to my heart because it reminds me of my upcoming second marriage.
Let me back up a bit and give some background first. In the Old Testament God used ceremonies, feasts, events, and other things to point to Jesus and his fulfillment of them. For example, when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he instituted the Passover. The tenth plague would kill all the firstborn in Egypt, but those who covered their doorposts with lamb’s blood would be passed over (Exodus 12:1-30). This foreshadowed what God would do through Jesus’ death on the cross. I believe marriage, especially Christian marriage, does something similar, it points to Jesus.
In Ephesians 5, Paul describes how the relationship between husbands and wives points to Jesus. He starts by telling the wives: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24 NIV). Now, the word “submit” in this passage causes some to ignore the beauty of the relationship Paul describes. However, in the context of the kingdom of God, everything is a bit unexpected and seems upside down. The greatest are the least, the poor are rich, the humble are exalted, the proud are humbled. We can spend a lot of time discussing submission in a different post. For now, my purpose lies in connecting human marriage with the true marriage it foreshadows. Submission on the part of the wife precisely describes our relationship with Jesus. He is the head, we submit.
The reason for this submission becomes clear in the husband’s role. Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:25-30 NIV). Husbands should practice selfless and sacrificial love because Christ demonstrated selfless and sacrificial love. In this way, marriage becomes a relationship in which both partners continually lay down their lives for the sake of the other. One does so to model Christ’s sacrifice; the other to model submission to Christ.
My Last Marriage
I married my wife on August 2, 2008. Ever since, our life together has been a roller coaster ride filled with joy and disappointment, moments filled with God’s presence and moments of sin. In all this, God continually works on both of us to make us more like Jesus. More importantly though, our marriage serves as a practice run of sorts for the real thing. This means I have a huge responsibility as a Christian husband. My part in this marriage consists of demonstrating and foreshadowing Jesus’ role in our last marriage. He gave himself sacrificially to a bride who didn’t deserve his love or even ask for it. Sadly, I can never perfectly live out this role. If I could, there would be no need for the last marriage. However, by God’s grace, he invited me to fill this role and point my first wife to her final husband. In the same way, my wife (in a way) fills my role and points to Christ by showing me how to respond to him. God gave us to each other for his glory and to point the other back to himself.
For a Christian, his or her first marriage will never be the last. The real thing comes when the Church finally walks down the metaphorical aisle and meets the groom who has been waiting for her since before the creation of the world.