These thoughts are the results of over 5 years married to the most gracious, wonderful, and beautiful woman I have ever known.
The Roman Catholics maintain seven sacraments; most Protestants have only two, which they don’t really take very seriously. While I’m not prepared to embrace the full Roman Catholic understanding, I definitely believe we need to go back to viewing marriage more sacramentally.
In the most classical Christian understanding, the sacraments are means of grace for mankind. It is faith in Christ Jesus our Lord which ultimately saves, but the sacraments empower and enrich the sanctification part of our salvation. Thus Baptism and Eucharist are not simply symbolic rituals but actually have real power for the believer who par takes of them, and according to St Paul real danger to those who partake apart from faith and righteousness before a Holy God.
While marriage may not be an ordained sacrament in Scripture, it is certainly an ordained action for our well being. All of the use of marriage as metaphor in the Word illustrates just how highly marriage ought to be viewed by those who follow Christ. That marriage is an important aspect of our sanctification and growth in the knowledge of God can be easily illustrated. This doesn’t mean marriage is ordained for everyone, but it does mean that to those who. It is given it should be taken very seriously. In a society that under values marriage, as a the Church of Jesus Christ we need to restore a proper understanding of its sacred significance. What follows is a list of the ways that marriage has been sacramental in my life, 5 years from now and no doubt I will have even more thoughts on the subject.
Marriage reveals how self-centered and petty we are. In premarital counseling, the difficulty of the first year of marriage is often a subject of discussion. Many married couples can look back to the first year and the trials they overcame together. The reason behind this is our own self-centeredness. Living together in a covenant relationship draws out our selfish tendencies so the Holy Spirit can purge us of them. This becomes painfully clear when we are quick to anger over the smallest of household operations. What it really boils down to is that we just want our own way that bad. The marriage relationship draws this selfishness to our attention in areas we couldn’t even see it before.
Marriage demonstrates the importance of covenant and unconditional love. Only in a firm commitment to love one another until death does marriages true teaching about unconditional love and covenant relationship hit home. When we find it easy to love, or to accept love this lesson is lost. When, ontheotherhand, love is painfully difficult or we find ourself feeling completely unworthy of love, the message of God’s love begins to dawn on us. When for the first time you receive love from your husband or wife while still behaving in a way you know is completely unworthy of that love, the cross stands in the background with new meaning. When we come to the full realization that no matter how bad things get, our love for each other isn’t going anywhere, God’s unchanging love becomes more real than ever before.
Marriage is an important part of our sanctification. As I mentioned above marriage often puts a spot light on issues we didn’t realize we had. This becomes a key part of the process of sanctification in our lives. A godly spouse becomes our primary source of accountability, and because they see us at our worst our spouses cannot be tricked by the pious show we often put on for others. When we allow our marriage to bring sin in our lives to mind, and then walk through repentance together, we overcome issues we likely would have missed on our own.
Marriage points out areas of unforgiveness and unhealed hurt in our lives . It is always interesting how previous pain and heartache can impact a marriage. Often actual arguments ensue simply because something was said that touched a sore spot. After some reflection and personal growth, it becomes clear that the marriage isn’t the problem. Instead previously unhealed areas or areas where hurt someone else did is still unforgiven must be addressed for the happiness of the home. This healing and forgiveness process is not always pleasant and that is why, when given the choice, we shy away from it. In marriage we quickly realize how much harm we are doing to ourselves and others by hanging on to the past and are forced to confront our own heartache, God is then able to step and heal our broken hearts.
There is a great deal more that could be said on all the different ways that marriage is sanctifying and sacramental, but the point remains the same. God has established marriage for our well being and help, we should treat it with reverence and allow it to do its good and healing work in our lives.