Marriage: the Magic Portal

There are those who view marriage as a magic portal–a golden ticket, if you were–to Spiritual Disneyworld. I don’t intend to be cynical, but think about how a juvenile male mind may view marriage:

  • Sex: free from guilt, unfettered, unlimited, free of judgment or consequences, on demand
  • Chores: freedom from dishes, laundry, household maintenance, managing children, schedules, errands, all the stuff
  • Conflict: freedom from disapproval or disagreement; follow-the-leader; submissive wife and children; my way or the highway

It’s everything a juvenile boy could wish for: sex without cost, privilege without price, freedom from conflict or push-back. He only needs to do what he’s been doing. He has a “mom” with all the bonuses of manhood. If he is a “good” husband, he will work and provide financially for those in his care. That’s it. The end. He is now a magical, mature, Christian man living the dream!

But wait, there’s more! For a small fee, he can portray himself as holy and spiritual by maintaining his monogamous status and attending church faithfully. This will provide opportunities to participate in teaching, church leadership, and receive complete support from the pastor and church members.

Disclaimer: There are many (many!) Christian men for whom this is not the case. If that is you, your blood is probably boiling. You’re not alone. You are the man who loves Jesus–or desires to–with all his heart; you are the man who sacrificially cares and provides for the needs of his wife and children, attentive to their preferences. You are the man God is using to right wrongs and work justice in our sinful world. And for you, we are thankful. You are Jesus among us. This post is written to raise awareness, not attack men, or the church, or the gift of marriage. There is a world of good information written about godly marriage. This is simply a whistle-blower. Please regard it as such.

Before you get excited, let me assure you that I am all for marriage–and I am all for God’s revelation of Himself through His people in marriage. However, to make a wedding band, vow, and commitment the magic portal to all things spiritual is dangerous and life-threatening (spiritually, emotionally, physically).

Much of this thinking is based on Scripture passages in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 7, which speak specifically to the topic of marriage. But there are those who use these verses apart from their context.

  1. These passages are written to, “the saints…who are faithful in Christ Jesus*” and “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.**”
  2. These passages provide specific, gospel- filled teaching for all believers–men and women, married and single, adults and children (although women in abusive or oppressive settings are kept from using/accepting/believing these promises are for them–because they’re not saints, they’re wives. I’ve heard it with my own ears.)
  3. These passages teach that marriage is a relationship in which believers live out God’s work. To teach that marriage does the work instead of Christ is blasphemy.
  4. Nowhere does the Bible teach that marriage makes people righteous unless 1 Corinthians 7:14*** is misapplied and the wife is used as a spiritual rabbit’s foot. Instead, the Bible teaches that marriage is a picture and instrument of righteousness. Those who mistakenly substitute marriage for holiness or righteousness have supplanted Christ. This is idolatry.

Additionally, many in the church tend to think that all things “wife” are hands-off. Because a woman is married, her husband has absolute authority. They cannot counsel her without his input. They cannot interfere or intervene in decisions because she is “his wife.” Somehow, her identity as a child of God, their sister in Christ, has been lost under the overarching umbrella of wife (don’t get me started on umbrellas-!). That, too, is unbiblical. When we read the Bible, there is no mention of how truth is applied to wives differently than any other member of the Body.

If you wonder how marriage is portrayed in your church, ask a young person. Start with a 10 year old boy. Then a 13 year old, 15 or 18 year old. Ask them to be totally honest about how they think marriage works, if they’re looking forward to marriage, and what they think it will be like. You might be surprised.

There are no magic portals, save Christ. And He is not magic. His life, death, and resurrection paid the price for our salvation–an eternal price, a heart-wrenching, weight-bearing, sin-canceling price.

But the one who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep listen to his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts all his own sheep outside, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.…”

So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All those who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters the flock. He flees because he is a hired hand and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice; and they will become one flock, with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it back. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it back. This commandment I received from My Father.” (John 10:2-4, 7-18)

*Ephesians 1:1
**1 Corinthians 1:2
***”For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy” (1 Cor. 7:14). In other words, the believer is not condemned (defiled, offensive to God) for being married to an unbeliever. “To the pure all things are pure” (Titus 1:15). God does not withhold blessing, goodness, or righteousness from a believer because of an unbelieving husband or wife. (Got questions? See Matthew Henry’s Commentary.)

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