Mae West once said, “Marriage is a great institution but I’m not ready to be institutionalized.” Humorous as this is it reflects what a lot of people in Canada today think about marriage. How often have I heard unmarried young people defend their involvement in a sexual relationship by saying: “Look, we love one another. What difference would being married make? After all, it’s only a piece of paper.” Is that right? Is that all a marriage is—just a piece of paper?
Marriage as an institution was created by God and has its roots back thousands of years. We first read about marriage near the beginning of the Book of Genesis. In Genesis 2:24, we are told, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” This is history’s very first description of marriage. So, why did God create marriage? What is a marriage supposed to be? Is it just a piece of paper or is it supposed to be much more than that? Let me suggest a few reasons why God created marriage:
1. God created marriage to strengthen commitment. Now I know what you may be thinking—you can be committed to another person outside of marriage. And this is true—to a certain degree. But there is something about the wedding ceremony which presses home the commitment in a person’s mind and heart. I thought I was committed to my wife before we got married but let me tell you, when I stood beside her in that church with all my family and friends around and with God as the great Witness, I knew then that this was serious business. Let’s face it—all marriages go through hard times. There are times when it might be almost easier to bail. But at times like that it’s the memory of the commitment that you have made in the sight of God and in the presence of others that can help see you through.
2. God created marriage for companionship. Do you remember what God said in the Garden of Eden? He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Eve was made to be a companion for Adam and Adam was made for Eve. Throughout our lives, all of us experience friendships on many different levels. And these friendships are important. There is no human relationship, however, as close as the one between a husband and a wife. And that’s the way God intended it. Incidentally, God intended the sexual relationship between a husband and wife to be an expression—an outpouring—of the intimacy that should exist in a marriage.
3. God created marriage to provide a secure foundation for children. Children need to feel secure. They need to feel physically and emotionally safe. Marriage helps to provide this. Author Matt Slick has said, “Marriage helps to secure the family bond thereby providing a more secure environment in which . . . children may grow. . . .” Certainly, marriage is no guarantee of safety and security. We all know children who grew up in two parent homes that were the embodiment of dysfunction. Nevertheless, to quote Slick once again: “When a husband and wife are bound by a public promise to stay faithful to each other, to remain dedicated to one another even through sickness and poverty, the marriage bond is a much stronger one.” The sense of security this provides to children is very important to their emotional development.
4. God created marriage to provide a picture of Christ and His bride, the Church. The Apostle Paul saw in the marriage relationship an image of the relationship between Christ and His Church. Paul said that just as Christ laid down His life for His bride, the Church, a husband is to model servant leadership and a sacrificial spirit in his marriage. A healthy marriage and the love and commitment found within it is a model of the love and commitment that exists between Christ and His Church.
These are just a few of the reasons why God created marriage. From it, I hope you get a sense of the importance of marriage as an institution. So, the next time someone says to you, “What’s the big deal about a marriage—it’s just a piece of paper,” remind them what that piece of paper represents.