Man was never created to be an independent creature, free to do as he pleased. In the garden, God created man to be in constant communion with him. Adam’s sole purpose was found in relationship with God. God created Eve because it was not good for Adam to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Relationship is a core component of human nature. Humans were made to be in constant relationship both with God and with each other. Eve broke that relationship when she took the forbidden fruit, choosing her own way instead of God’s way, disrupting the natural state of man. Man was no longer in constant subjection to God. Listening to self instead of God soon became an option for living. Obviously, this was not without consequence. Discord and strife, instead of peace and harmony, immediately became the norm for life. Hello to the world as we know it.
Marriage is an institution ordained by God designed to replicate the harmony in the garden. Husband and wife entering into perfect harmony with each other; two becoming one (Genesis 2:25). However, just as it was in the garden, the husband and wife experience unity in their submission to God. This requires mutual submission and self-sacrificial love. Acting for yourself in opposition to your spouse results in strife. For many, this kind of marriage seems very constraining. It is. You are not allowed to follow all your passions on a whim. Marriage is a life time commitment to submitting to and loving another human being. But in this commitment comes great joy that is not possible in relationship outside of marriage.
Desire is an important part of any relationship. But as with any passion, desire can come and go. Following desire can lead you down many stray paths. Desire alone is not enough for a thriving relationship. Commitment and security are needed. In Song of Solomon, the bride says, “I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me (7:10).” Without this firm sense of belonging, insecurity and doubt will destroy even the most passionate relationship. Marriage provides a framework for desire where security and exclusivity allow it to blossom.
What about people in abusive marriages? What about adultery? There is no doubt that these will drastically affect and possibly shatter any union. Strife and discord are inevitable in any relationship, no matter how committed the two spouses are to God and each other. But my point here is not to write about the affects of sin on marriage. My point is simply to present the best bet for a lasting love.
Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is the story of a tragic love affair. Anna and Vronsky are destroyed by a love that cannot satisfy. Anna soon becomes consumed with doubt and insecurity regarding Vronky’s commitment. Without marriage, there is no assurance of commitment or belonging, thereby making insecurity overtake passion. Vronksy strives to retain his “manly independence” and keep a life apart from Anna. He holds onto part of himself that he refuses to give to Anna. This too prevents them from becoming one flesh. Chaffing is the natural result. Destruction instead of a blossoming love becomes the outcome of their affair. Desire outside the bounds of marriage yields nothing but strife.
Anna and Vronsky are perhaps an extreme example of something so commonplace in our culture, love outside of marriage. Anna and Vronsky’s destruction was in part caused by their rejection by society. Today, “living together” is a common place behavior. While it may not be openly destructive, as with any other self-centered behavior, it can result in nothing but inward strife and discord. It may feel good at times, but does it satisfy? True satisfaction only comes through living a life in relationship with and submission to God, and, if that life involves the love of your life, a God centered marriage.
Why is God important? This too goes back to the garden. God created us to be in constant relationship with him. Thriving is only possible through this relationship. Veering away from God might lead to earthly pleasures but will never lead to ultimate fulfillment. Jesus came so that we might be fulfilled in a post-fall world.
Are you engaging in a self-centered behavior right now? Whether it is an extra-marital affair, or something like excessive drinking or viewing pornography, I have to ask you, “Does it satisfy?” Not just on the surface, but deep down inside. Jesus tells his followers, ”The thief comes to kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).” Choose life.