It requires nothing less than the power of God’s Spirit to woo us from our alternative value systems of self-fulfilment and self-satisfaction and enable us to live by the divine priority of self-sacrificing love.
The call, then, is for Christians to be countercultural both in our thinking (grasping the importance of marriage from a theological perspective) and in our lifestyle (living out what we profess).
The grand chronological creation overture in the first chapter is re-viewed, but now with man at the centre of the created order. But whereas all of creation is described as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, chapter 2 introduces something that is ‘not good’. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Human beings are made for relationships, and the foundational human relationship is between a man and a woman in marriage.
Adam declares that the woman whom God brings to him is ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’.
Despite this, the majority of young people still want to get married, and the significance they place on it is reflected not only by the cost of the average wedding (£21,000 in 2014) but in the delay that now tends to happen before marriage, with 80 per cent of those marrying previously cohabiting – often as a way of testing their relationship before making such a major commitment. This is also seen in the delay in having children, or deciding not to have them at all.
It is a sad reality that many Christians struggle under the same relentless pressure that non-Christians face in their marriages.
Nevertheless, the most convincing evidential argument for marriage being both right and good as the Creator’s gift, rather than a human construct or merely a cultural phenomenon, will be the quality of our Christian marriages. The marriage debate takes us to the core of biblical theology: to the nature of humanity created in the image of God and as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and his church.
The ‘hook-up culture’, in which one-night stands and other casual sexual encounters are encouraged, appears to be an evolution of a mindset that values sexual freedom and choice, but seeks to dissociate it from commitment and even the emotional engagement of traditional couple relationship. This process arguably began in the 1960s with the availability of reliable contraception but, more recently, developments in communications technology have catalysed this consumerisation of sex, with apps like Tinder making ‘hooking up’ more akin to online shopping.
We have also seen the Ashley Madison phenomenon, a dating site specialising in extramarital relationships (its tagline is ‘Life is short. Before its website was hacked in July 2015 and millions of users’ personal details were leaked on the internet, the company was set to float on the London stock exchange at a valuation of up to £134 million.
Biblical patterns It is no accident that God’s gracious gift of human marriage is revealed at the very beginning of the Bible narrative.