What is the Meaning of Marriage?

15-giotto-the-wedding-at-cana-fresco-scrovegni-chapelWithout getting too political, I think it is safe to say that marriage–philosophically, but also on a practical level–has started to lose its meaning in our world today. The idea of marriage used to refer something very specific, but now, as its definition is broadened, it probably carries less weight, less meaning for a lot of people.

And for that reason, I am not too surprised at some of the reactions to the recent Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage. A particularly interesting one has been the call for states to abandon the legal recognition of marriages. Basically, in this new milieu, people don’t see the point of the government being involved in the marriage business.

And I can kind of see their point, even beyond the whole same-sex issue. It seems to me that the only reason we need the government to sign off on a marriage is to get the tax breaks (probably a gross over-simplification). And in my mind, that cheapens the whole deal. No wonder people have treated the whole institution with such disdain: money really doesn’t make anything meaningful, much less a marriage.

I can see a day coming when marriage, as we understand it today, will be pretty much obsolete. The government will get out altogether and people will just cohabitate, like they are already doing in increasing numbers. We don’t hang on to things that are meaningless, usually.

The Apostle Paul wrote of marriage that it is a great mystery (its true meaning hidden, to be revealed later) but what it actually refers to is Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:32). Marriage is not really about two people and their commitment to one another (or tax breaks), it is about God and his love for us, and our reciprocating love for Him. Our marriages are a picture, a metaphor, whose real meaning is spiritual, eternal and unchanging.

We get married, we say vows, we promise to never leave, not because we get a tax break, or it keeps us from being lonely or any of that, but because marriage shows the world how God is, his nature and his commitment to us. This is the real meaning of marriage.

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