In June of this year my wife Erica and I entered into a covenant of marriage. We have been together for over seven years and we are the very best of friends. I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with her. I literally thank God in humble and joyful prayer each morning to be able to wake up next to a godly woman so beautiful and lovely as her. She is my treasure and a beautiful expression of God’s grace to me. Her presence with me is evidence of God’s sovereign grace and love. O, how I love her!
Since we have been married I have realized two things are going to fill our marriage no matter what–sin and grace. I know it doesn’t sound pretty to say that our marriage will be filled with sin, but that is the ugly reality of living in a fallen world. In fact, I would say that since we made our vows we have only been given a much clearer vision into the depths of our own depravity which has led us to see the glorious heights of God’s grace. Only when juxtaposed against very beautiful things, like the harmony of marriage, does the blackness of sin stand out even more. We committed ourselves to living a life as one before God in repentance, forgiveness, and grace. It was these three things that we knew we had to have right before we could properly love each other. We knew this because we know how sinful we are.
Now, praise God that we are both in Christ. Our sin is not counted against us, for he has canceled our debt as Christ has become our righteousness and our substitute through our faith in him so we stand justified by God (Col. 2:14; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:23-27). However, the stain of sin remains as we await the consummation of our salvation from the guilt and curse of sin.
And boy is this sin ugly.
The more we grow in holiness, the more disgusted we are becoming with our sin. Grace must be deep. The weight and glory of our marriage is the God-given, Christ-bought, Spirit-wrought, and gospel-centered grace that we shower on one another every day pointing one another to Christ. What makes our marriage lovely is not a scene of rose petals scattered across the bedroom floor or a nightly candle-lit dinner or romantic evening strolls in the sunset. Nor is the primary beauty of our marriage the poems I write my wife, the gifts we buy one another, or the dates we go on. What makes our marriage lovely and sweet and altogether beautiful is the grace we show when we sin against each other. When this happens, we not only show Christ, but we see Christ.
The scene that produces the sweetest fruit of love and joy in our lives is that which begins with something very ugly. When this ugliness of sin is followed up with a rebuke, contrite repentance, and then forgiveness all done in grace, O how sweet the tears and hugs and kisses that follow. Granted, it does not always happen just so (remember we are sinners). Sometimes it takes me a few minutes to a few hours to own up to my sin and ask for forgiveness. You could say I’m a tad stubborn! Nevertheless, we are compelled by the love and grace of Christ to base our relationship on a covenant of grace built on the relationship we have with our Bridegroom which is a covenant of grace bought with his blood. Our marriage is beautiful and our love is pure and vibrant when it is soaked with the tears of contrition over sin and decorated with the tenderness of a bestowal of grace. Love does not primarily mark our marriage; grace does. The purpose of our marriage is not to reflect a Hollywood-esque cute and easy kind of love. The purpose of our marriage is to reflect the Christ-like bloody, sacrificial, long-suffering, covenant-keeping kind of love. Our commitment to keeping covenant with one another fuels our love for each other. In the face of sin and the daily strain of the mundane and stress and busyness of life, feelings of love can easily subside or be forgotten. But grace goes deeper. We are fueled by the grace of God that we experience on a daily basis to shower grace on the fire of sin when we see it begin to ravage one of our lives. The gospel is not only the center of our marriage, but it is the fuel that keeps our marriage going.
As we grow older and live life together, we will face many hardships and heartaches that are unforeseen to us now. There will be times of sin and suffering that now we cannot even imagine. What then? How will we handle it? What will become of us when the temptation to “call it quits” weighs on us? If our marriage is based on some romanticized, Western idea of love we will fall and our marriage will fail just like the majority of marriages here in America. However, what if our marriage was based on something more? What if our marriage had deeper roots? What if our marriage was rooted in the eternal plan of God–his gospel of grace? What if our marriage was tied to a Christ who died for the sake of his Bride? Then and only then will we be able to face the mundane, the sin, and all the suffering this sin-ridden world has to offer with full hope and confidence in each other and in our marriage. Only then will our love grow. Love must grow in the fertile soil of grace and repentance. Only then can the weeds of sin be rooted out. And with this confidence and hope we will be able to boldly step out onto the world stage to proclaim a risen King of glory and of grace through our marriage. O, Lord when the world sees our marriage, may it see Christ. May we display the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love to a world ridden with divorce.
And therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and his church on display. That is why marriage exists. If you are married, that is why you are married. If you hope to be, that should be your dream. (Piper, John [2009-04-09]. This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence [Kindle Locations 293-295]. Crossway. Kindle Edition.)