To my knowledge this is the first time I’ve written a post in response to something I’ve read on another blog. Generally I feel that internet debates lack positive fruit, however, several people I know and respect have shared this blog post and said that it was a must-read via various social media outlets. Kelly, my beautiful wife, was reading it on Sunday night and commented her disappointment with what she had expected to be an excellent article, asking my thoughts. I read and was similarly disappointed. Over the last day or so I’ve put some time into thinking through what was wrong with the post “Marriage Isn’t for You,” and figured I would write out some of my thoughts for the benefits of my friends.
First, a disclaimer. From a brief browsing of Seth Adam Smith’s blog I don’t see much evidence for him being a follower of Christ. If that’s the case, then my post here isn’t any judgment of him since, without the Holy Spirit, there’s no way to truly know the ultimate goal of marriage. My goal is to correct what may be an error in our understanding of what marriage is about, which is a critical thing to understand in our increasingly anti-marriage culture.
The point of Seth’s post can be seen in his quotation of his father’s advice on marriage;
You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”
The post has obviously struck a cord. Published two days ago, it already has over 3000 comments. I’ve seen it posted approximately 10 times in the last two days on my Facebook feed. Seth has tapped something that we know we need to hear. Marriage isn’t about us. It’s not about what we get out of it. It’s about loving and serving someone else. Excellent truth, right? No. Not really.
The problem with the post isn’t that it’s totally wrong – it’s that it falls far short of the mark (Rom. 3:23). While statements like, “No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love,” connect with Biblical morals found in places like 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 that emphasize marriage’s other-contentedness, they hang terribly disconnected from their Gospel end goal.
If marriage is indeed “about the person you married,” even if it’s for your family and your future children, then marriage becomes the sin that Paul warns of in Romans 1:23 where we “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man”. Marriage becomes idolatry when its end goal is your spouse’s happiness. When your marriage becomes an idol then it’s on your shoulder to carry it, and the burden of two human souls is not something that we have the strength to bear. It’s a weight that will inevitably crush the structure it sits on, leaving your marriage cracked and crumbling.
According to God, marriage isn’t about you, your spouse, your kids, or your family. It’s not even about being “better together” and serving more people. According to Ephesians 5, marriage is about Jesus. The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes, “’a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh [be married].’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” God’s declaration is that marriage is about Christ and the church, not about the person you married. The main reason that our King created marriage was to give the world an image of what his love for his people looks like. It’s not about you. Her. Him. It’s about Jesus and the gospel.
Marriage isn’t about us because it’s about Jesus. In marriage we serve each other because Jesus served us. We sacrifice for each other because Jesus sacrificed for us. We raise children, sacrificing for their sake, loving them, and giving unlimited grace to them because Jesus made the way for us to become children of God and is loving us, raising us up in his image, and being infinitely patient with us. Seth Adam Smith’s blog post isn’t all wrong, but it does fall far short of the full truth, and that’s a terribly dangerous place to be.
Kelly and I have been married just over a year, and we have certainly learned that marriage doesn’t work when we’re thinking of ourselves first. But we’ve also learned that we need our marriage to orbit around something much larger than ourselves for it to work. When our marriage is lived out from the grace of Jesus for the glory of Jesus, everything works. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison in his “Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell,”
Marriage is more than your love for each other. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, and office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man.
Check out a couple of other great resources on Biblical marriage below;