As I watched him hold her hands, it was emblematic of the greater answer. Sixty-seven years, one month, 12 days. The question: “How do you make it in marriage?” How can a marriage (your marriage) survive the complexities of life? How is it possible to hold your spouse’s hands almost seven decades after the marriage ceremony with even greater passion than was at the beginning?
The answer was in the hands.
This man’s worn hands gently caressed the soft hands of his bride as she prepared to enter eternity with her God. His hands at 93 had provided, protected, pampered, and remained permanently engaged in her best interest. Her now small and wrinkled hands at 91 had surrendered to his touch and leadership, and served faithfully with distinction. On this their final day of marriage, their clinched hands were a physical demonstration of the covenant they made together before God in marriage.
The Covenant of Marriage
They initially were like every other couple who desires to be married. Every man and woman without exception must answer the questions of covenant before they are married. Typically, it starts with a similar phrase to, “Do you…” and ends with “…as long as you both shall live. Do you so promise?”
It is in this moment a decision must be publicly declared before God and all in attendance. Either “I do” or “I don’t.” The ceremony can only go forward if both individuals willingly enter into covenant. A promise that essentially declares, “Today, right here and now, I forever go on record proclaiming my faithfulness to you alone.” Most ministers end the marriage ceremony in recognition of this covenant with the statement similar to that of Christ in Matthew, “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
God designed marriage as a covenantal relationship. As far back as the very first marriage Genesis records, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother andbejoined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (2:24). This one-flesh relationship is an exclusive bond between a man and a woman in which two lives become one. God refers to this as a relationship of covenant (Proverbs 2:17; Malachi 2:14). Jesus confirms this in Matthew 19:4-6. Paul adds the complementary details in Ephesians 5.
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).
The marriage covenant is a picture of the covenant between Christ and the Church. This visible icon of marriage exclusively conveys the breadth, length, height, and depth of Christ’s covenant-faithful love toward His bride. For the husband, Christ supremely exemplifies true selflessness with a passion to nourish (provide everything necessary to grow) and cherish (demonstrate tender compassion toward) his bride. Christ seeks to help His bride grow in holiness and maintain purity.
For the wife, the Church’s relationship to Christ informs her part of the covenanted relationship. Just as the Church joyfully follows the selfless leadership of Christ, the wife chooses to serve Christ by following her own husband.
Marriage begins with a promise. Peering into each other’s eyes, both individuals take turns declaring future actions based upon today’s promise. When circumstances are tough – I do. When relationships are strained – I do. When a job is lost – I do. When in crisis of health – I do. When in death of a child – I do. When in hotel rooms on business trips – I do. When surfing the Internet – I do. Whenever and whatever our future holds – I do.
Why? Is it just a promise for the sake of tradition or reputation or pleasure? No, the husband makes a commitment to love and serve just as Christ loves and serves the Church. The wife makes a commitment to respect and serve just as the Church follows Christ.
For both the husband and the wife, ultimately the issue of keeping the marital covenant becomes a worship issue. The husband can choose faithfulness because Christ is faithful. The wife can choose faithfulness because Christ is faithful. Christ provides those in Him with the power and motivation to not just serve Him but also serve each other.
Therefore, the husband’s faithfulness to his wife is an extension of his faithfulness to Christ. Likewise, the wife’s faithfulness to her husband is an extension of her faithfulness to Christ. It is not faithfulness merely as an obligation to a promise; instead, it is faithfulness that flows out of a covenant relationship with Christ.
What about Your Marriage?
The sad reality is that many marriages end in divorce. Many other marriages fail to enjoy the richness of Christ’s covenanted relationship with the Church. However, the good news is that Christ provides grace and hope in Him. As a couple grows in Christ, learns the Word, and walks in the Spirit, any couple can manifest Christ’s love toward each other. Any couple can choose covenant faithfulness in the power Christ provides.
For this couple, they had never heard of a gospel-centered marriage or read any of the plethora of quality books available today. However, they had experienced the life-transforming power of the gospel, learned to love Christ and walk in the Spirit, and in the power of the Spirit remained faithful to their covenant. For this grandson, they became a visible reminder of the covenant-faithful love I am to demonstrate in my own marriage.
Join the Conversation
How have you been encouraged to live consistent with your marriage covenant?