(This was a chapel talk I gave on February 13, 2017, at my alma mater, Florida College. I don’t know how long the link will last, but for now you can watch a Livestream of the service here).
I want to talk to you today about marriage. It seems like an appropriate time to do so – we’ve just enjoyed a great week of lectures about the topic, and it is the day before Valentine’s Day. And seven years ago today I went on the first date with my wife Kristi, so I guess marriage is on my mind.
Specifically I want to talk with you about the “mystery” of marriage – not how strange and perplexing marriage can be, though it sometimes is that! The “mystery” of marriage I have in mind is the language of the apostle Paul at the end of Ephesians 5 –
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
According to Paul, there is a connection between marriage and something he calls the “mystery,” which in turn is connected with Christ and the church. In the opening chapter of Ephesians, we learn more about this mystery, when Paul says that God is “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
The “mystery” is the plan of God (once unrevealed but now revealed) to bring together, to unite, all things in Christ. And as Ephesians unfolds, we learn that this reconciling work means that God has united us with Him in Christ, and He has also integrated Jews and Gentiles into the same body, same family, same holy temple. Simply put, the “mystery” is Paul’s way of describing the gospel.
And now the connection between this mystery and marriage is obvious. The gospel is about oneness, reconciliation, unity. And in marriage, two become one. So from this point of view, marriage is a model of what God’s mystery is all about. It is the gospel in miniature.
What an amazing concept! When you approach marriage as a way to display what the gospel is all about, it changes everything. It turns you from self-centeredness, from pettiness, to seeking the glory of God in your marriage as you imitate Christ in the way you respond to your husband/wife.
And it also makes you more sympathetic to your spouse. After all, the gospel is about reconciling sinners. Since marriage is a microcosm of that, this gospel-centered view of marriage means that marriage is the reconciliation of sinners.
So if you have ever worried that you are going to marry the wrong person, then I am here today to erase those fears. You don’t have to worry about it, because you definitely are going to marry the “wrong person.” You are going to marry someone who Paul says could once be described like this:
“dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (2:2-3).
Does that sound like Mr. Right? Now of course, as Christians we are forgiven sinners, sinners transformed into God’s new creation – but still battling the habits of the old sinful self.
And you know what the person you are married to will need from you? And what you will need from them? Forgiveness, mercy, grace, love – the very same divine qualities that reconcile us to God are needed for husbands and wives, which is another reason marriage is a model of the gospel.
I can’t tell you what a difference this view of marriage has made in my relationship with my wife. Not long ago, I came home from church and draped this jacket over a chair in the dining room. And I left it there, day after day after day. Until my wife finally had enough, and decided to teach me a lesson. So she grabbed it, wadded it up into a ball, and threw it into my office chair.
When I walked in and saw it, I knew she did it deliberately in order to tick me off. And before I grasped this concept of marriage, it would have. But instead, I just paused, looked at the pile of clothes, and thought to myself – “Kristi Scott is a sinner!”
And so is Shane Scott. And what I need from her, and what she needs from me, is the commitment to live out the meaning of the gospel in our marriage, to love and forgive and forbear with each other for the glory of God. That is why it is absolutely vital to marry someone who shares faith in the same gospel – not because that means they will be perfect, but precisely because knowledge of the gospel helps you learn to love those who are imperfect.
And that is the mystery of marriage.