“Federal agents don’t learn to spot counterfeit money by studying the counterfeits. They study genuine bills until they master the look of the real thing. Then when they see the bogus money they recognize it.” John MacArthur, Reckless Faith.
This fascinating and oft quoted insight into training US federal agents to pick counterfeit notes could be applied to most anything that has the genuine, the real, and the pretender, the spurious. Know the real and you will pick the counterfeit; sounds easier than it is – but with practise …
Marriage isn’t what it used to be, or is it that we have forgotten how to discern the genuine? Have we lost our feel for it? Maybe if we know what it is we’d more easily pick the counterfeit, and be less influenced by the current fog of definitional confusion.
If we only hark back to some halcyon day of Pleasantville vintage, we will soon be told (and not without reason) that that time is gone, as are most of its inhabitants. Unrealistic, misogynistic, economically unviable, sexist.
(Must have been a very difficult time to live??)
However if we allow Scripture to define marriage, and not any specific era no matter how good, bad or ugly, and if we know what God’s word presents we may have new clarity of vision - something worth believing in, something of value, something genuine, even beautiful, and something for our children to believe in.
A theology of marriage could assist us. What does this look like?
Three themes emerge from scripture, in particular Genesis: unity, differentiation and creation.
Male and female come from the unity of the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is differentiation from unity/union in its ultimate expression.
When man and woman are joined this differentiation never looks more like God in whose image we are created. But the reason for the unity isn’t merely mutual in focus – it is creatively focussed, other orientated. Children are a reason for, not an incident of marriage. The life of God that was manifested in the creation of man – male and female – is now manifested in the creation of progeny.
Marriage is therefore not merely a sociological inevitability and necessity. It is more profound than this view could ever, or will ever, be. Much more.
It is little wonder Paul likened marriage to a mystery he saw in the ultimate groom, Christ, and his church.
What came from the very nature and being of God will return to God – in our union with, and being in, Christ.
Marriage doesn’t depend on its institutionalisation, for its validity. It is more than a social contract, re-definable at our whim. Because of where it came from, and where it is going it isn’t up for grabs. At our peril.