This post is written by contributing writer, Brenda from Triple Braided.
This past May the state I live in, North Carolina, not only saw on the ballot a list of candidates running in the primary election, but also saw on the ballot Amendment 1. The amendment that made “the only domestic legal union in North Carolina as a marriage between one man and one woman.”
As you can imagine the amendment caused quite a firestorm not only in the state but nationally.
But it got me thinking a lot about marriage, the definition of marriage, and what marriage looks like as a covenant.
The Bible tells us what marriage is. Even though we can make up a new definition, it doesn’t make marriage something new. It is the same as giving a duck the new definition of “the largest of the living birds with two-toed feet and dark feathers.” That will not make the duck an ostrich. The duck is still a duck even if we change its name and its description.
Marriage is a union between a man and a woman who become one. (Genesis 2:20-24; Ephesians 5:22-33)
Marriage is a representation of Christ and the church, and this is a mystery. (Ephesians 5:31-32)
Marriage is a covenant. (Malachi 2:14)
As Christians, we are quick to defend the definition of marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. We will even pronounce that this union is mystical and has eternal significance, not just significance for our lives right now.
But do our marriages function as a covenant like God defined? Or have we changed the definition to more of a contract?
The Difference Between a Contract and a Covenant:
- A contract is built on distrust. A covenant is built on trust.
- A contract is based on management. A covenant is based on submission.
- A contract lists rules and laws with consequences. A covenant joyfully serves with grace.
- A contract is fearful. A covenant is faithful.
- A contract operates with the assumption that it can be broken. A covenant operates with the assumption that it is eternal.
As Christians, the covenant of marriage is not only important for us to defend and define, but it is most important for us to operate under in our homes. For one, modeling the marriage covenant in our homes builds strong families, prevents divorce, and creates healthy children.
But even further, modeling the marriage covenant also points people to the covenant that Jesus has with us. It is a symbol that our relationship with Him is not built on law but grace. If the most intimate relationship we will ever experience here on earth is a contract, then how will we ever truly understand that a relationship with Jesus in not a contract?
So what does a marriage functioning as a covenant look like?
- It doesn’t threaten or entertain thoughts of divorce even when tension is high.
- It meditates on the eternal significance of the union between the husband and the wife.
- It shows grace even when grace is not deserved or has not been earned.
- It puts the other person’s needs and interests first.
- It assumes the best first.
- It looks for goodness and God’s unique design in each other.
- It edifies each other with encouragement and love.
- It prays without ceasing for one another.
- It seeks God’s calling on each other’s life.
As you meditate on marriage as a covenant versus marriage as a contract, what would you add to these lists? What does the marriage covenant look like to you?