We love to ask couples, “What is the purpose of Christian marriage?” Some of you may already be coming up with all kinds of answers in your head: sex, procreation, companionship, fun. Or if you’re really spiritual, you might be saying that the purpose of marriage is to become like Christ.
It’s not the sex
We believe the purpose of marriage is to be one. It’s not the sex; it’s not the fun; it’s not the companionship; it’s not the sugar daddy or the mommy dearest. It is much more than that: the purpose of marriage is to be one.
Some of you reading this might not be followers of Jesus. If that is the case, we hope you are pursuing what it means to follow him. But for those who are passionate followers of Jesus Christ, as Laura and I are, you know that if he tells us the purpose of marriage, then that should be the purpose. Case closed. The purpose of marriage, according to Jesus Christ himself, is to be one.
Christian Marriage: Oneness or Being One
When we use the phrase being one, most Western minds think oneness, but the two are very different. Oneness is the perception that comes from sharing daily duties together. Being one is a state of the heart, soul, and mind.
When we discussed the difference between oneness and being one with our good friend Terre Grable, who is a professional counselor, she told us about a counseling technique she uses with couples. Terre talks to many couples who have not mastered what she terms the “institutional aspects” of marriage: figuring out who is going to assume which roles within the union (who is going to pay the bills, mow the lawn, bathe the kids, etc.).
We took that idea and discovered that a great way to discern the difference between oneness and being one is to understand the difference between the institutional aspects of marriage and the mysterious aspects of marriage. As we look at couples practicing the institution, we find people who live in the same house, pay the same bills, raise the same kids, maybe even have sex. While practicing these institutional aspects of marriage may bring a feeling of oneness, it does not constitute being one.
This is why so many couples wonder, “Is this really all there is to marriage?” This thought is the breeding ground for affairs. Men and women begin looking for fulfillment elsewhere because they have not become one with their spouse.
While the institution of marriage is mostly practical-figuring out who will pay the bills, do the grocery shopping, mow the lawn, and clean the house—the mystery of marriage is more of an art. The art is revealed as we discover the heart, soul, and mind of our spouse and, at the same time, reveal ours in order to probe the depths of emotion, character, and love, which is truly being one.
It is our conviction that becoming one will never happen in the church, nor will it ever happen in our families, until it first happens in our marriages. Marriage is the model for the church, not the church for marriage. Marriage is the simplest form of church.
• Also see: Sex and Intimacy
Copyright © 2013 Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus, used with permission.