In that vein, my daughter and her future husband have asked my wife and me for advice as they approach this union. After 25 years of marriage, my first piece of advice to them is to focus on the meaning of “covenant.” Marriage is not just a relationship. It is a covenant relationship. And, a covenant is so much more than just a contract. A contract allows either side to exit if the other side breaches. A covenant gives no such exit, but is unconditionally binding. This is why God hates divorce and other distortions of marriage. The central purpose of marriage is to point to God’s covenant with us.
In order to understand God’s covenant we must study Biblical covenants. In Biblical times, a covenant was reached and evidenced through the killing of lambs and other animals. Each animal's carcass would then be divided in half. Each half would be laid on the ground on either side of a path. Then the covenant parties would walk together through the path evidencing that only death can remove them from each other’s covenant obligations. One of the most famous examples of such a ceremony was between God and Abram (later renamed Abraham) as recorded in Genesis 15. But, when God made His covenant with Abraham, he first made Abraham fall asleep. Then God proceeded down the path alone. This was God’s way of making a one-way covenant with Abraham. And, this was a prophetic foretaste of God’s final, broad-sweeping covenant with His Church at the cross. And, earthly marriage is another one of those prophetic foretastes of God’s gracious covenant.
God at the cross made a one-way marriage covenant with His creation. He paid 100% and demanded nothing in return. This was the greatest dowry ever paid for a bride for all time. He paid Himself. This is the singular pinnacle of true unconditional love. This is covenant marriage. The beauty of God's covenant marriage with us is that there is nothing you or I can do to break it. God is obligated by the blood of His one and only Son, the Lamb of God. Those who freely receive God’s forgiveness are betrothed in a royal wedding like no other. That makes God our eternal marriage partner. And, this is what earthly marriages should reflect at all cost. This is what marriage is all about. Marriage is not about two people in a 50%-50% relationship. Marriage is a covenant where each party gives 100% to the other without conditions or strings attached, under the inspiration of He who invented and modeled it best.
My second piece of advice is this: Always look to the cross. The cross is the greatest symbol of our covenant marriage with God. It is the single symbol of hope in the Gospel which meets man’s every need. And, that need is to be reunited or reconciled with their Creator unconditionally. The cross is the picture of what earthly marriage should look like. It is our sole inspiration in marriage. As you suffer every valley and as you enjoy every mountain top, always meditate on the cross. Such meditations will bring clarity to every situation. At the cross you will find that God truly meets your every need. You will also find that you need not want for more except to see more people taste of His goodness, mercy, forgiveness and love.
When you gaze at the cross, is there any trouble you can’t face or that God does not ultimately resolve? When you gaze at the cross is there any victory that God has not paid with His blood to give to you? In a world of so much inequity, unfairness, evil and want, the cross is the only great equalizer. And, likewise, in marriage, meditation on the cross can solve every issue a couple may face. If we offer our spouses the type of radical forgiveness that Jesus offered us there, imagine what our marriages would look like.
To my future son-in-law, please understand that you don’t deserve my daughter. And, you don’t deserve God’s daughter, either. She is a beautiful and magnificent Princess. She is a gift of God’s grace that He is investing into your life. He will use her to grow you into a mightier man of God than you presently are. Read Ephesians 5 as often as you can. She will be your muse to unconditionally love as Christ loved us and gave everything up for us. You are thereby inspired to do the same for her. And, as you do, you will shine as a glorious symbol of our radiant Groom, Jesus Christ.
To my daughter, please understand that you don’t deserve your husband. He is a son of God and a gift of God’s grace that He is investing into your life. Your husband will symbolize for you the headship of Christ over His Church. God will use your husband to sharpen every edge of your life to make you holier and holier with every passing day. You too should read Ephesians 5 as often as you can. As a symbol of God’s Church, you are inspired to show your husband unconditional respect. The more you respect him, the more you glow as a surpassing, radiant beauty, which is hard for this father to presently imagine.
I may or may not get the opportunity to propose a toast at your wedding. But, if I do, I will reserve my toast for the one who deserves all glory and recognition. As I challenge you to always look to the cross, so will I as I toast. As we proverbially raise our glasses, here’s to Jesus, who is love, and is He who inspired you to love each other. Here’s to husband and wife being wonderfully created by Jesus in His very image with all of your talents and abilities by His hand personally crafted. Here’s to His gift of His Holy Spirit deposited into your lives to empower you and guide you on your merged path. Here’s to a Kingdom destiny planned by Jesus that is so personal to each husband and wife yet so much larger than the two becoming one. Here’s to the marital foretaste of eternal union with our God, Creator, Savior, Lover, King and Friend made possible by the sacrifice paid by Jesus on the cross. Here’s to our Groom! Here’s to Jesus!