BY DR. JOE ALLOTTA:
I really wonder if the Bible was being written today would Jesus use marriage as the example for how much he loves His church. Jesus consistently used Bride and Groom analogies to describe His commitment to His Followers; and the Apostle Paul continued on with that analogy in his letters. Yet today, people get divorced more than they switch their cell phone carrier. Or people just arent getting married. They buy all IKEA furniture so they arent putting too much of a burden on themselves when they move in together. So looking at the state of marriage today, would Jesus still choose to use that same illustration? Or would He have picked something more modern and relevant for the day. (Such as I love you the way a wannabe teen model loves Instagram, or I will never leave just as you will never leave Netflix.)
Obviously I dont know the answer for sure, but I definitely think He would. I believe God is really committed to this whole marriage thing. I think Hes really into it. Here are the 5 reasons why I think marriage is important and that any marriage is worth saving (even your marriage.)
We werent meant to be alone. We were meant to do this together. Im in no way saying there is not happiness and contentment in being single, but there IS happiness and contentment in marriage. There can be peace and stability and comfort and unity and love in a marriage thats unique from all other relationships. It might be easily overlooked, but God did not just bring us life and then leave us alone. He brings us abundant life. He wants us to enjoy our lives and a spouse is part of that enjoyment and pleasure. I looked at a million different studies; on average, happy people are happier in marriage. (People who are upset all the time, well, are upset all the time. Unfortunately most of them write for various Upset All the Time websites.) You want to know of all the demographics studied, who the absolute happiest people are? No joke. Parents with 4+ kids are the happiest. A 5-year study by a Dr. Bronwyn Harman dropped that bombshell on us.
There is nothing in the known world that is more valuable in raising children than a loving mom and dad living together actively participating in their kids lives. Thats getting more and more rare on multiple fronts, and there are people who do an excellent job despite challenging circumstances, but it is inarguable that a super awesome mom and dad is the ideal. That kind of awesomeness is only possible in marriage. A value in really working on ones marriage is that the result will usually be more well-adjusted, healthy relationship-ready children. Children are worth having and investing in. This is not about building your own legacy. In fact, I think personal legacy building is detrimental to good parenting. Kids become a burden to the always busy. (And kids are expensive.) Children are about building Christs Kingdom. Your day of effective living is ever closer to its conclusion. Children are the future of the Kingdom of God.
This is one that is often not thought of. Church ministry is most effective with family units. This is going to sound terrible, so dont take this out of context. Most other demographics end up consuming church resources rather than producing them. No need to throw-out the objection, I know you reading this are the exception. Family units are more stable financially, can contribute consistent time, tend not to move away as often, and have multiple different family members to minister to the array of people that might walk in the church doors. Anything a church or pastor can do to help keep a husband and wife thriving as a family is time well spent. A church and pastor would be wise to pour considerable time and resources into preventative maintenance rather than reactionary rehabilitation. When a divorce occurs its obviously the family members that suffer the worse, but honestly its the church that probably suffers the second most. Tremendous amounts of time go into the rehabilitation process. You are guaranteed to lose at least one church member and in all likelihood, probably the whole clan. They will seek a fresh start where no one knows their business. Theres a loss in churchs ministries, finances, and fellowship. This is not what God desires at all.
We forget sometimes that marriage is not some sort of social evolution (society only seems to devolve). God instituted marriage. He designed it. He created it. He loves it. God is certainly available to help repair (or search and rescue) a marriage. When God becomes the center of your life, there is a total paradigm shift of what has value in your life. When both a husband and a wife make God the purpose of their life, then something truly special happens. They end up in the same location (or darn close to each other). If God is Truth; and if God is Love, then its only logical that a couple can desperately be searching for God and, as a result, find each other. God is going to be leading in a direction of reconciliation. Its what He does. Its who He is. Bring God even just into the conversation of a marriage and He by nature starts making all things new. I do not speak of Him as some sort of Quick Fix. I tend to think that if it took 5 years to screw-up your marriage then it takes about the same amount of time to rebuild it. What God does is change the trajectory of where the marriage is going. He takes it from Death to Life.
Which brings us to the Literal One who went from Death to Life all on His own The Man, The Legend Jesus Christ! Jesus chose the symbol of marriage as the message to declare to the world how He would love His Church. Jesus love is unconditional just as the love in your marriage should be. Jesus love is one-sided just as the love in your marriage might be. Jesus love is life-altering just as the love in your marriage could be. I dont think Jesus chose the marriage metaphor because it powerfully spoke to what it already signified. I think he chose it for what it could simplify. God the Fathers love is described in parental terms. Its consistent, but maybe feels obligatory, and it involves teaching and discipline. God the Son chose a different form of love thats described in marital terms. It was longed for and then it arrived. It was chosen, and not forced. It grows over the years with no determined end in sight. Its intimate, revealing, and exposing, but at the same time comfortable, endearing, and exciting. Jesus brings that love in perfection, and because of God the Spirit, we can share that love as well.
Dr. Allotta holds the Church Ministries chair at Trinity College of Florida and is also the senior pastor of Crossroads Church in New Port Richey. Dr. Allotta graduated from Trinity College in 2006 and went on to earn his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees through Liberty University. Read more from Dr. Allotta at joeallotta.com