The Dancing Puritan

Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Romance Becomes Holy

One might think, with all of the spilled ink on the subject, that marriage surpasses everything else.  On the one hand there is, indeed, more to life and more to the Bible than marriage. After all, the Bible's purpose is to display the greatness of God. The Bible is about God. It tells us about creation, redemption and eternity. In between the Bible tells us a lot more. It tells us how the knowledge of God impacts everything else, including romance. Life, romance, and ice cream are about God. Life is not all about marriage, it is all about God.

On the other hand the Bible really is about marriage. God created marriage in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:22-25) and one of the final stories in the Bible is about marriage (Revelation 19:6-9). The Bible even tells us that marriage is about the gospel (Ephesians 5:31). From Genesis through Revelation, marriage is a big deal. It reflects the power of God as Creator, the grace of God in redemption and the glory of God in the culmination of all things. So, in a sense, we could say that the Bible is all about marriage. Even marriage is about marriage.  The marriage  between a man and a woman is about the marriage of Christ and his church. Even the gift of singleness is about marriage.  The godly single person is nevertheless married to Christ.

Now one might fall into error concerning marriage. It is possible to so glorify the marriage relationship that it becomes an idol. If marriage is the end all, then what about God and what about the gift of singleness? Any good gift might be inappropriately glorified. A sweet-smelling meal is to be enjoyed but it did not just appear.  Someone dressed it in the kitchen.  Someone served it hot.  The meal did not cook itself.

Some people fall into the trap of thinking that marriage is not a big deal at all. The folks at Pew Research tell us that marriage has been on the decline over the past 50 years while cohabitation is on the rise. Marriage is in trouble through redefinition (homosexual unions), cohabitation and simple disinterest and self-centered interest.

The Bible gives us the real story. God created marriage.  Marriage is a covenant relationship between God, a man and a woman.  Divorce is an aberration. Marriage is about another marriage (Christ and the church). Marriage comes to an end at death. The marriage of Christ and his church is eternal.

Marriage is a big deal. But what about dating, romance, friendship and the like? Do we not trivialize marriage when we write of walking through fields, visiting vineyards, wearing perfume and kissing? It is possible that we  trivialize marriage if we imagine that perfume, kissing, dancing, clusters of grapes and sexual expression are ends in themselves. However, perfume and kissing are holy when understood beneath the ultimate purpose of marriage--to glorify God.

Doctrine is important.  In fact right doctrine is the difference between life and death. But one can be so busy building the foundation to stand on and walls and roof to protect that they forget the house is designed to hold people who breath, talk, eat, drink, and worship.

People are important. But one can be so busy contemplating communication, romance and intimacy that they give little time to the structural things. Such can be the case in romance and marriage. Jane Austen, Tony Bennett and silky sheets are nice--but without a foundation the walls crash down. Ask the folks most concerned about the Boy Scouts. Tying knots and building fires are great things for boys to know--but manhood needs foundational truth or the knots will come undone.

Built on the rock of God as Creator and Redeemer we set about building, and through Christ, redeeming a marriage. After Paul writes that marriage is about Christ and his church he immediately follows with, However, let each one of you so love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:31-33).

Do you know why you get to romance your wife? Do you know why you get to respect your husband?  Because Christ loved the church and marriage is to display the gospel. The gospel is built on fundamental facts but it is not dry data. It is about God taking a bride and lavishing her with love.

When I pursue my wife and she puts on perfume and we go on a date, we have opportunity to breathe out the gospel. When the structure of marriage is in place it can then be populated by a couple who live, breath, kiss, dance, sing, walk, read and date. Romance becomes holy when God and his gospel are supreme.

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.  How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!  How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice (Song of Solomon 4:9-10).