To say that marriage is a hot topic today would be an understatement. But, you have to understand that the motivation for all this controversy about marriage today isn’t new. And it isn’t about equality or fairness or even compassion. It’s about attack. It’s about the real, yet unstated goal of some (after all, if they were honest about what they really wanted hardly anyone would support them) to actually make the very idea of marriage disappear. That’s is the true goal of some in this societal controversy.
But why? Why would anyone want such a thing? Well, I can’t speak for everyone and I certainly won’t speak for folks who can speak for themselves, but it seems to me that this controversy flows from a deep misunderstanding of what marriage is and is for! Too many think that marriage is supposed to be about being happy! Or to be “fulfilling.” But that delusion is fed by a deep missing of the point. From a timeless Orthodox perspective, Marriage is about dying. Yep, dying. Marriage is about martyrdom. Marriage is supposed to kill you. Why do I hear the voice of Rodney Dangerfield in my head?
Look at our lesson today in Ephesians 5:25-33:
Brethren, husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Why does this passage cause such a stir? Because we don’t embrace the purpose of marriage in the first place. We think this is a photo opportunity, or some legal reason to have sex, or, worse yet, merely a contract to last until one or the other isn’t “happy” anymore. Not at all. The gift of marriage is to invite a man and a woman into the hard work of communion and mutual servanthood. And that, my dearest, is why it’s so hard. It requires the man and the woman to abandon a self-centered notion about the world.
Look at what is required of the husband and the wife: First, the husband must love his wife with the same kind of love that Jesus has for His Church. Sacrifice, service, loving guidance, and submission to the other’s well being. But the husband is also to love his wife as much as he loves his own body and cares for it. Because the Church insists the Marriage Mystery really does create a whole person; the two become one flesh, a husband loves his wife like he loves his own body BECAUSE she is now “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” This is what marriage is to a husband. This kind of disciplined living will kill every selfish bone in a man’s body!
After this lengthy sermon to the men, the Apostle adds “and let the wife see that she respect her husband.” Wow! Of course, if a woman is married to such a man as is described by St. Paul, I bet she can do that!
Today, isn’t it time we abandon the perpetual warfare of misunderstanding just what the purpose of this life is all about? Aren’t you tired of the constant bickering of this or that group that so misunderstands the message of Christ that they argue forever based on a lie? Let’s embody the timeless wisdom of a normal Orthodoxy so that the world will see just what God means by the Divine Mystery of Marriage by being Orthodox on Purpose!