The covenant that shows who God is
Marriage is important for God. Before there were any other institutions, before any nations emerged, and long before the church existed, God created marriage. The first people were to be man and woman, and God revealed Himself through their relationship. Their marriage was a sign of unity in the Trinity and made the love of God visible.
Everything God created was good. However, it was not good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18) The woman was to be like the man, and together they made the image of God. The Bible says, ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them’ (Genesis 1:27). Both man and woman were needed in order to give a correct picture of God.
They were created with equal value, but they had different characteristics and complemented each other. Lifelong commitment and love between them mirrored God’s faithfulness and love. The image of God becomes visible in spouses who are faithful and love each other. Therefore, marriage is much more than an agreement, a contract or type of lifestyle. The Bible says that two married partners are bound to each other by covenant (Malachi 2:14). The word ‘covenant’ is a word we don’t hear much today, but that doesn’t change the fact that marriage is a covenant.
The covenant commits both parties to help and support each other far more than a contract or an agreement does. A contract usually presupposes that both parties give equally. If one of the sides fails, then this is called a breach of contract and the other side will be released from their commitments. A covenant, on the other hand, demands that each side will give 100 per cent according to their abilities.
Through the NATO pact, member countries are committed to help each other in wartime, regardless of how much help each country is able to give. During the Cold War, Norway was promised valuable help from the much greater and stronger USA in the case of a Soviet invasion. The Americans couldn’t count on similar help from Norway if an enemy threatened their national interests.
A newly-wed couple will usually experience that both partners contribute about the same. But throughout a lifelong marriage there may be times when one of the partners needs the other’s help without being able to give so much back. The covenant should ensure that the partner who feels weak can get help, support and love from the other partner, through good and bad times.
The fall of man was a tragedy that also affected marriage. The image of God is soiled when we look out for our own interests at the expense of the other’s. But we are still made in the image of God, and God has good plans and thoughts for our marriage. He blessed mankind and said that they should be fruitful (Genesis 1:28). His blessing rests on a married couple and their children. The Spirit of God will reveal Himself through a man and a woman who respect, honour and love each other. All married couples who love and honour each other reveal something of God’s love and faithfulness, not only Christian couples. Marriage as an institution ordained by God has God’s blessing in all nations and in all cultures. But as Christians we have a unique starting point to receive God’s blessing and pass it on. God wants to use married couples and families to touch the society we live in.
Since Adam and Eve, marriage has been exposed to attack from forces that want to destroy the image of God. By oppressing women, men have shown a false image of God as a husband to His people and as a father to His children. Loveless marriages, unfaithfulness and divorce have destroyed the way countless people see God. But God wants to restore marriage and families so that His image will once more be visible. He loves us, and it is His love that will be visible through us. By being restored to a right relationship with God and each other, as spouses we can reveal the nature of God together. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).