Christians everywhere observe Advent as a season to prepare ourselves not only to celebrate Christ’s birth, but also to prepare ourselves for His second coming.
Which has me thinking this year about how we all—marrieds and singles alike—view marriage in our culture. I know, marriage doesn’t sound like an Advent kind of thing, but hear me out.
Marriage held in its proper place is meant to serve as an icon pointing us toward the coming reality when Christ, the Bridegroom, will come again, dry every tear, fulfill our deepest desires, and satisfy our every need completely.
But marriage as an idol points us away from the coming reality. Marriage as an idol makes itself the goal, the aim of our lives, the well we believe will satisfy our desires and meet our needs.
Looking at these two, it seems to me in much of our present Christian culture we—again, singles and marrieds alike—have lost sight of the icon, and instead worship at the altar of the idol. Sadder still, I think we’ve unwittingly mixed up this idolatry with Christianity to such a degree that many of us see worshipping this idol as a “Christian” thing to do.
I first started suspecting something was off as I talked with godly singles about how they felt on the “outside” of their church communities. This is an odd thing for communities committed to following an unmarried Rabbi and taught by an apostle who believed it is better not to marry (1 Corinthians 7).
And then similarly, I noticed how many men and women I talk to feel ashamed because their lives don’t fit some “ideal” of what a Christian marriage or family is supposed to be, and instead they’ve got a kid who is severely struggling, an addicted spouse, or some other difficult circumstance.
And then, I started noticing more and more Christians affirming divorce and remarriage and gay marriage on the grounds that the alternative (singleness) is unbearable and so untenable.
All these suggest to me we’re looking at marriage more as an idol than the icon it was intended to be.
Hear me: Marriage is great and singleness can be really hard. But the opposites are also true: marriage can be painfully difficult and singleness can be an incredible gift.
What’s more, godliness is not a fruit of one’s marital status. For singles and marrieds alike, it’s a fruit of following Jesus where He leads and walking intimately with Him through whatever comes.
What if God’s heart for all of us is less about our marital status, and much more about growing us up to become men and women who unite with Him, and so learn to love God and others sacrificially, whatever our station in life?
The idol of marriage suggests that happiness comes from marriage and family.
The icon of marriage teaches that true love and happiness come from God.
The idol of marriage makes a happy marriage and healthy kids the goal.
The icon of marriage makes learning to receive and return the love of God the goal.
The idol of marriage promises “happily ever after” if you find the right man or woman.
The icon of marriage promises “happily ever after” only with God, the Creator of man and woman.
The idol of marriage undeservedly puffs up the married and belittles the single.
The icon of marriage calls us all equally to learn to lay down our lives daily in a million acts of self-giving love, just as our Bridegroom has.
The idol of marriage excludes those whose marriages (or lack thereof) don’t fit the “ideal”.
The icon of marriage includes us all in every season and station of life, no matter our circumstances.
And so this Advent, let’s repent of worshiping anything—including the idol of marriage—that lulls us from looking expectantly for our Bridegroom’s return. Instead, let’s hold marriage in its proper place: to serve as an icon pointing us toward the coming reality when Christ, the Bridegroom, will come again, dry every tear, fulfill our deepest desires, and satisfy our every need completely.
I’d value hearing from you. Leave a comment below.