Last night I was having a conversation with two friends about marriage. As we discussed the subject together, we focused on three key ways in which marriage reflects the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. All marriages in some way or another point to the gospel, even among unbelievers, but the Christian marriage shines a bright light of the gospel for the world to see. We must never forget that marriage matters.
Marriage and Sacrificial Love
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). Although it’s impossible to achieve this level of love, our goal as men is to love our wives as Christ loved the church. In what way did Christ love the church? He loved the church with a sacrificial love as He gave His life for the sins of His people. Therefore, it’s obvious that our marriage relationship matters as we’re called to put on display the gospel through our marriage.
If anyone has the responsibility of rescuing marriage from the vile sin saturated community of Hollywood, it’s the church of Jesus Christ. Marriage has been hijacked by sitcom writers, and many of our young people learn a false view of marriage through a screen as they watch movies and television sitcoms. They learn to laugh at it. They learn to disrespect it. They learn to disregard it. Pastors must preach, fathers must exemplify, and grandfathers must testify to our young men that marriage is far more beautiful than what’s displayed in the sordid sitcoms of the world.
Marriage and Covenant Keeping
In the Old Testament, we see an example of covenant keeping that’s extraordinary. When God chose Israel, He did so not on the basis of their size or power. He did so in order to put on display His sovereign choice. God poured out His love upon Israel, but as we read the Old Testament, we see that Israel continued to sin against God. In order to teach an object lesson on covenant keeping, God instructed Hosea to pursue a woman of whoredom and to have children of whoredom. He followed the command of the Lord and it must have been a very difficult road. However, the point of the lesson was for Israel to see in the marriage of Hosea and Gomer a picture of the faithful covenant keeping relationship between God and Israel. Although Gomer was guilty of whoredom, Hosea was faithful to her. Although Israel was guilty of vile whoredom with other gods — God remained faithful to His people and kept His covenant.
That same picture of covenant keeping is put on display between Christ and His church. Christ will never divorce His bride. Christ will never put the church away and issue her a bill of divorcement. Our marriage relationship is connected to Jesus’ relationship to the church and we must remember this on the good days and the bad days of our marriage relationship. The lost world around us needs to see us work through our marriage difficulties and overcome challenges as we keep our covenant. We expect to hear the breaking news of Hollywood couples filing for divorce. After all, their definition of marriage is rooted in the sordid ground of base sitcoms. Our definition of marriage comes from the pages of sacred Scripture — and it reflects the glory of Christ and His covenant keeping love for the church.
Marriage and Forgiveness
One of the most powerful verses in all of Scripture is Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” If this is true of the church in general, imagine how much more so this is true within the covenant keeping relationship of marriage. How much has Christ forgiven His bride of foolish talk, laziness, idolatry, and various other common everyday sins of the flesh? How can we as men refuse to forgive our wives if we’ve received the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ? Why can’t Christian wives forgive their husbands of wrongdoing and sins in marriage if they’ve been the recipients of God’s mercy and love through Jesus Christ? In his excellent book, This Momentary Marriage, John Piper writes the following:
So what about the compost pile I mentioned at the end of the last chapter? Picture your marriage as a grassy field. You enter it at the beginning full of hope and joy. You look out into the future, and you see beautiful flowers and trees and rolling hills. And that beauty is what you see in each other. Your relationship is the field and the flowers and the rolling hills. But before long, you begin to step in cow pies. Some seasons of your marriage they may seem to be everywhere. Late at night they are especially prevalent. These are the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and in your spouse. You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.
But they have a way of dominating the relationship. It may not even be true, but sometimes it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies. Noël and I have come to believe that the combination of forbearance and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. That’s where you shovel the cow pies.
You both look at each other and simply admit that there are a lot of cow pies. But you say to each other: You know, there is more to this relationship than cow pies. And we are losing sight of that because we keep focusing on these cow pies. Let’s throw them all in the compost pile. When we have to, we will go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can. And then we are going to walk away from that pile and set our eyes on the rest of the field. We will pick some favorite paths and hills that we know are not strewn with cow pies. And we will be thankful for the part of the field that is sweet.
Our hands may be dirty. And our backs may ache from all the shoveling. But one thing we know: We will not pitch our tent by the compost pile. We will only go there when we must. This is a gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved. 
Whatever we do in life and no matter how successful we become in business, we must strive for success in marriage. If there is one pursuit worthy of our time and devotion, it’s the pursuit of a God-glorifying marriage that proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- John Piper, This Momentary Marriage, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009), 59.