My wedding was everything I hoped it would be, but I didn't deserve it. On a cozy evening in January, I walked down an aisle of twinkle lights and eucalyptus leaves. I was grateful to be surrounded by a small number of family and friends who helped make that night a reality. I was adorned in my dream wedding dress. White lace glided across the floor as I took steps closer to my love. For me, the dress meant purity and righteousness, but I knew it was only a sign of these things. The dress itself could not be perfect, nor could it bestow upon me perfection. After a few hours of celebration, the purity of the white dress dulled. Sweat from dancing, makeup smudges, and scuffs of dirt from the streets of Nashville exposed the limitations of the dress as a symbol of righteousness. Still, my heart was directed to the endless purity of Jesus. He is the only one who is holy, good, beautiful, and perfect. These attributes will never change. And by God's grace, Jesus has clothed me in Himself. I am covered by His enduring righteousness. Like the wedding dress, I am not pure on my own. Though outward appearances are nice, my sin and shortcomings will eventually be exposed. But, through depending on the Spirit of God, I can reflect the purity of Jesus and, when He comes again, witness my transformation into His glorious image.
Before the wedding, some of my friends told me that I deserved marriage. I know they meant well by saying this, but this thought unsettled me. In one sense, they were wishing their friend love and happiness, but in another sense, they were referring to a "righteousness" they assumed I had acquired myself. Perhaps they thought about my virginity, my work for the church, and my general tendency toward a mild and meek character? You know, the stereotypes for the "good Christian girl"? I realized their assumption pointed to a false belief common within the Christian community: the marriage gospel. The marriage gospel is the idea that we will acquire marriage if we have earned it. God will bless people with this gift once they have demonstrated a moral ability and inner purity to be an acceptable husband or wife. One thinks, "I have to have it all together before I get married." There is definitely wisdom in this thought, as we should strive to lessen the level of baggage we bring into a relationship. But, we will never be perfect for our spouses.
The marriage gospel is not the gospel. Rather, it reflects the influences of traditionalism which hold marriage and social stability as the chief end for all. Though marriage is a good thing, we must be wary of changing the gospel to suit our desires. What is the gospel as defined by Scripture? The gospel is the saving work of Jesus Christ applied to sinners. We were wicked, corrupt, and rebellious in every way. Despite our faults, God chose to save us before the foundation of the world. The eternal Son took on flesh and came to earth to be our perfect representative. He was light in the darkness, revealing the fullness of God and restoring His kingdom. Jesus lived, died, and rose from the grave to end slavery to sin and give us the ability to love God. Through faith in Him, we are forgiven of our wrongs, obtain His righteousness, are adopted into the family of God, and receive the gift of eternal life. Because we have been redeemed, all of our lives should be dedicated to serving God, becoming more like Christ, and reflecting His love in our lives.
If our chief end is God, how does marriage help obtain this goal? Marriage is a means to glorify God through serving and loving another. This task is challenging. It requires setting aside one's own wants and committing to satisfying someone else's needs. But, it is also fulfilling; in the image of our Maker, we were designed to be servants. Marriage is also a picture of our union with Christ. Ephesians 5:31-32 says, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church" (CSB). The intimate connection between a man and woman in marriage is a mirror of the oneness between Jesus and the Church. In this union, there is justification, sanctification, and an eternal relationship with God. But, in the intimacy of marriage, there is also heartbreak. A union between sinners, earthly marriages may involve deceit, adultery, disappointment, or abandonment. But, even in this distress, marriage is a witness to our relationship with God. Here, we can see more clearly the gospel–the great lengths God went to pursue the broken and the great violations we continue to commit against the Lord who loves us. But let us praise and give thanks to God, our covenant keeper, who has established a bond with us that is stronger than our sin.
God desires for women and men to reflect His love through marriage. However, we are in a fallen world. Some who hope in marriage will not experience it. The impact of a sexually driven culture, the women to men ratio in churches, and undealt-with trauma are just a few issues that can make marriage difficult to acquire. But, God has ordained both singleness and marriage for His redemptive purposes. These purposes include your sanctification and His glory. Singleness is not a shortcoming but another opportunity to grow in God. Regardless of the gift you have, there is a call to trust in God in all circumstances and praise Him every step of the way. Don't be discouraged by your faults or the season in which God has you. Watch your heart for jealously when you react to hearing about yet another proposal of someone you feel didn't "deserve" it. Pray that God will help you rejoice in the gifts of grace He bestows to all and lead you to humility before His unmerited favor. We are all sinners; the only things we have deserved are death and eternal separation from the Father. But God in graciousness has not only saved us but has given us earthly opportunities to radiate His glory.