Why in the world of a Single’s ministry blog are we going so far as to study the topic of marriage?
While the Apostle Paul counsels in his first letter to believers in Corinth that “It is good for them to stay unmarried,” he goes on to say, “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)
…seems a reasonably compelling argument and yet, surely there must be other reasons that singles or single-agains should consider and think about what it really means to be married, right?
It turns out, there are!
And there is some really good information to be shared if marriage is in your future and even if it isn’t.
In our last blog, we explored the season of engagement.
If you missed it or any of the previous posts on dating and/or would like to review them again for context, you may do so via this link.
Through our continuing study of the series, Single. Dating. Engaged. Married by pastor and author Ben Stuart, we learned that engagement is the period where a couple should be ‘focusing upon increasing levels of commitment and vulnerability that help them to plan life as a couple.’ And how “Engagement isn’t just about planning a wedding. It’s about planning your marriage. Your conversations and experiences during engagement set the stage for the rest of your life together.”
Now I recognize that this topic may be uncomfortable for some; especially for any who have zero interest in being married or who feel as though, while they’ve remained faithful, they are beginning to question if God has forgotten them and certainly for any whose marriage has recently ended. But I encourage you to keep reading. There is something important to be learned here; whether for yourself and/or for others in your life that you love and for whom you desire the best.
Ben Stuart reminds us, marriage is intended to be both a picture of Jesus and a pursuit of Jesus.
What does this mean?
There is A LOT to it but a short explanation includes that Jesus is part of the Holy Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
One God; yet 3 individual beings.
Equal in value. Each with a significant role.
When a couple gets married, they are meant to emulate this.
Marriage demonstrates two individual people becoming “one” for the rest of their lives while maintaining their individuality.
So not just in the way they are connected but also in the way that they function.
One way a married couple can maintain their individuality as they function is in their missional orientation; their unique pursuit and understanding of Jesus. The purpose for their faith.
As Ben says, “Christian marriage should reflect a picture of Christ’s love for His church, and Christian marriages should be a pursuit of Christ’s purposes on earth. …a mural and a mission.”
Like each of us through our seasons of singleness, marriage reaches its full potential and stands the test of time only when it conforms to the Creator’s plans for this life stage.
As a pastor, teacher and author Gregory Brown describes, “Marriage should demonstrate the perfect love and submission in the Godhead. It should also reflect the perfect sacrificial love of Christ for the church and the church’s submission to Christ. People should be encouraged and challenged by watching a godly marriage. They should see something of the glory and the greatness of God.”
The Apostle Paul speaks to this type of submission within marriage in another letter that he wrote; this time to early believers in Ephesus. You can read about it in chapter 5 of the book of Ephesians. The whole book provides great instruction but he speaks directly to Christian households in chapter 5, verses 21-33.
As you read it, consider how it guides each of us in the church, as the bride of Christ to submit to His Lordship. Going wherever He asks, doing whatever He directs when He directs us to do it.
To illustrate submission to His lordship in action, Ben uses the Biblical example of a great husband and wife team on mission; Aquila and Pricilla, first introduced to us in Acts 18.
While each of them first had to form and commit to an individual mission, ultimately, through marriage, they ‘combine forces’ and ‘continue on their adventure together.’
Consider, for a moment, Ben’s take on this. He says, “Every human being, it seems, has two deep longings; belonging and mattering. We want to be part of a community where we are loved and part of a cause bigger than ourselves. Everyone’s wired this way. The deepest communities are formed around a common cause. The stronger the cause, often, the stronger the bond of community. This is true in the military, sports teams, businesses, ministries and it’s true of marriages.”
Marriage is a unique, special and more intimate type of community where two have become one.
Ben goes on to say, “The strongest marriages are marriages that are on mission together. Commitment to a common set of values. But not only that. In addition to a common set of values, each couple in marriage should also have a strong vision. Creating a mutual vision takes additional effort. Yet, the stronger the vision, the stronger the marriage. We are meant to grip hands and run together into the mission that God has given us.”
The example of Aquila and Pricilla shows us several qualities that were true of them and common to all who are on a mission for Jesus.
3 Characteristics of a Marriage on a Mission for Jesus:
- Though new in town, Aquila and Priscilla welcomed Paul into their home and tent-making business in Corinth. They partnered with, provided for and sheltered him for a year and a half so he could continue to spread the Gospel to both Jews and Greeks in the area.
- Multiple examples are evidence of their willingness to have others in their home so that they may learn the Word of God together.
- Willing to Try Something New (They are GAME!)
- Priscilla and Aquila roll with the changes and don’t lose sight of their mission when they are banished from one area and are forced to settle in another.
- When the heat gets turned up there, they set sail with Paul when he decides to go preach in another place. (Ephesus).
- Shortly after their arrival, when Paul decides to head back to his home base in Antioch, unfazed, they continue supporting and growing the ministry of the Church.
- In time, they are joined by a gifted young teacher named Apollos. Though he was a good preacher, his theology was a bit off in his understanding of Christian baptism; he was quite talented but inaccurate.
- Rather than berate him or put him down, however, Aquila and Priscilla see a problem and immediately ask the question; “what can we do to be a part of the solution?”
- Because their primary mission was for the Gospel to go forward with integrity and power, they lovingly corrected Apollos in a redemptive and edifying way.
- Faithful to the End
- Priscilla and Aquila regularly set up church in their home (wherever their home happened to be).
- They were fellow workers in Christ Jesus who “risked their necks” for Paul’s life.
- They continued on beyond Paul to encourage the next generation, Timothy.
- …willing to go wherever the Lord called them to be servants to whomever He willed and for as long as He would have them do it.
This is what a faithful marriage on mission looks like; faithful service to our great King until He calls us home.
But the truth is, whether we are single or married or somewhere in between, we can model and do these things too.
In our study on the season of singleness, we learned that the primary purpose for this period in our lives is to pursue an undistracted devotion to the Lord. Each of us was not just made by God; we’re made for God.
And God has a purpose for your singleness or whatever stage of life you happen to be in.
Some find a mate with whom they can pursue a deeper relationship and go on mission as a couple for Jesus. For others, a spouse is not in the cards. In truth, however, whether you are single, dating, engaged or married, we begin our yearning and pursuit for Jesus as individuals.
And it is in and through Him that we find our purpose.
So please let me encourage you to lean out in faith for whatever God has in store for you.
You don’t have to be a great theologian or even a pastor in order to serve.
Your marital status isn’t a qualifier either.
The great story of the Bible is not of a relationship with a spouse but of relationship with our King.
Make the commitment to answer His call and serve Him faithfully, fully trusting in His plans and direction for your life.
Read the Bible. Getting in to the Word of God puts us in a mindset to get in to the work of God.
Listen for His direction and call upon your life; recognize and acknowledge the gifts He’s given you and how you are to develop your mission from them in service to Him.
Again, Ben Stuart shares, “When you believe that, every day, God has good for you to step into, it infuses even the mundane with meaning.” Consider that you may be the only (representation of) Jesus someone gets to experience through your interaction with them on any given day.
Immerse and surround yourself with good, solid community. Study together, be entertained together, serve together and pour in to others.
Our world needs more people who understand that they are ministers to their communities; people who, when they see a problem, ask, “How can I be a part of the solution.”
As Ben teaches, “Pursuing the cause of Christ with the community of Christ brings with it the great joy of camaraderie that is often missing in normal workday life.
There is nothing in this world quite like being part of the greatest of all communities, chasing the greatest of all causes.”
Do you want God to be glorified through Jesus Christ by the life you live?
If so, then use whatever talents and gifts you’ve been given by God to serve others and find ways for them to meet, know and follow Christ.
Our time in this world is short in the context of eternity.
Let’s make the most of it – to the Glory of King Jesus!
Right here with you,