“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’” (Gen. 2:18).
Any more, a wedding is an act of war. A Christian wedding which invokes the Triune God, and appeals to His word for direction, for guidance, for definitions, for instructions, is a political act. For us to stand to honor Lenora, for her to be escorted down the aisle and for Ty to be standing up here waiting for her to be given, these are acts of defiance, declarations of war on the godless culture we live in.
Contrary to various attempts to sidestep God’s word, the Scripture says that God made all things, and He made all things good. And as though it needed underlining and particular emphasis, God even gives himself a slightly lower grade when Adam is created by himself at first. Of all the things God made, of all the things that were “good,” there was one thing not good, and that was man alone. A single sex, a unitary gender, monochromatic humanity was not good.
God created man male in the first instance, but there was something deficient, something lacking in the world, something lacking for him. And we like to joke that this is often obvious by the time a boy turns two – something is obviously lacking. But there is something lacking even in his masculinity. It’s popular to describe marriage as act of taming a man, an act of breaking a man of his wildness. Alone, a man is full of folly, obstinate, reckless, thoughtless, compulsive, and the woman comes to drive this masculine folly far away. While it is of course true that men are sinners, and that other people, particularly wives, play significant roles in sanctification, it is not true that God was displeased with the high testosterone levels of Adam. It wasn’t as though Adam immediately began climbing trees and jumping off waterfalls, and God thought, ‘Oh great, this is gonna be trouble.’ It wasn’t Adam’s masculinity that was “not good.” It was rather that man was not complete; His masculinity was not yet finished apart from another.
Now I want to be clear, a single man is not necessarily less masculine than a married man. Jesus was not less masculine for having not had a wife during his earthly life, nor was Paul. But what God said was that it was not good for man to be alone. The point was that isolation retards masculinity, while community enhances it. Masculinity and femininity are glories that shine the brightest when they reflect off other people. It wasn’t that Adam was too masculine; it was that he needed someone to watch, someone to glorify.
Philosophers with too much time on their hands ask whether a tree has really fallen in the forest if there is no one there to witness it. But there is something true in the question. Glory is for displaying, glory is for sharing. John Piper has noted that just as man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever, so too it is God’s chief end to glorify Himself and enjoy Himself forever. And while this sometimes sounds a little strange or awkward, with an understanding of the Trinity, it becomes obvious and wonderful. God, in His own person models love and sacrifice and the giving of glory. The Father glorifies the Son (look at Him!), and the Son glorifies the Father (look at that!), and the Father and the Son glorify the Spirit (watch this!), and the Spirit returns all the glory to the Father and the Son. And the world was created as a great stage, as the theater of His glory, as Calvin put it. And man and woman were created to join the play, to join God in the story of this glory, to share in the love, the sacrifice, and the glory.
Marriage is one of the important ways God calls many of His people into community. When a man takes a wife, he takes a friend, a companion. The oaths sworn are covenant vows, vows of community, fellowship. This means then that marriage is one of the central places where God wants men to be men and women to be women. In fact, by the pattern of Adam and Eve, it is particularly in community, in covenant, and therefore in marriage, that a man can be fully a man.
In an evolutionary view of the world, there is only violence and struggle, a pushing and pulling, and unity always means compromise which always means different sides losing. But if God created the world to reflect His glory, the glory of the Father, Son, and Spirit, this is a community of love that does not diminish the identity or glory of the members of the Godhead. Unity in the Godhead does not mean a loss of glory. Rather, it is just the opposite: The Father is the Father because of the Son and the Spirit point to Him. And the Son is the Son because of the Father and the Spirit point to Him. And the Spirit is the Spirit because of the Father and the Son point to Him. It is the community of persons bound together in love that actually glorifies their differences, their glories.
Glory is a spotlight. The transfiguration was a preview of the glory of Jesus. Glory is bright and shiny, and there is a booming voice announcing and celebrating who you are. God the Father glorifies His Son by lighting Him up and announcing who He is. Look at Him! Watch this, everybody!
In Christian marriage therefore, the key is not that a man must be tamed and subdued by the woman. The key is not that he must be drained of his surplus testosterone or get in touch with his feminine side. That’s an evolutionary, pagan view of the world and relationships. In a pagan view of the world, the only way marriage can work is if men and women become less than men and women. They must verge toward an androgynous state, letting go of their glory, compromising on their differences, forcing themselves into a mold that resembles what pop psychologists call ‘compatibility’. But the Triune God did not create the world and men and women to share in His forced compatibility. Unity does not rest on uniformity. Unity does not rest on being identical. Rather, unity and life in the world God created actually rests on the goodness of difference: the goodness of the difference between Creator and creation, the difference between heaven and earth, the difference between land and seas, between man and animals, between man and woman. God created the world this way and said it was very good. God created the world and people to share in His glory which did not require a loss of identity on His part, and no true loss of glory at all. Difference is where glory shines. Contrasts light up the world.
Of course, Jesus does say that if you would find your life, you must lose it, and the first will be last and the last first. The greatest among you will become the servant of all. But the glory of God is not hidden in the incarnation; the glory of God is not veiled in flesh as the Christmas hymn has it. While it may have appeared that way to some, the end of the story is actually the conclusion that God’s glory was actually more fully revealed in the incarnation; it shone more brightly in the incarnation. God was in some sense more fully revealed to be God in the incarnation.
This is because when God burst over the great Creator-Creature divide, when He burst across the great chasm of sin and death, when He took captivity captive and rose up victorious on the third day, He did what only He could do. And He did what He always does so well. He redeemed. He saved. He healed. He judged. He did the impossible. And when He does what He does, and the world sees, we fall down and worship. We shout, “glory!” He says, “watch this!” And we cheer and shout.
But this is the point: Ty, God made you to be a man, and you have one kind of glory. You have the glory of masculinity, the glory of strength, and you have all the particular gifts and interests that Jesus has poured out on you in the Spirit. Lenora, God made you to be a woman, and you have another kind of glory. You have the glory of femininity, the glory of beauty and wisdom, and you have all the particular gifts and interests that Jesus has poured out on you in the Spirit. And the point is that God created the world and has now re-created the world in Christ, such that your glories are meant to shine the brightest in community, when reflecting off of friends, companions, and now beginning today, your spouse.
The fact that you are becoming one flesh today is not the beginning of the obliterations of your male and female glories, but rather a new stage in God’s glorifying of those glories. You are going from glory to new glory.
But this means that here, God is actually calling you to be more of a man, Ty, and Lenora, God is calling you to be more of a woman. And that is precisely what the biblical roles of husband and wife are. While the world hates those roles because they imply differences, they are glory for us. They are crowns of glory for you.
When a husband imitates Christ, lays himself down for his wife, and diligently cherishes her and washes her with the water of the Word, he is more of a man than he has ever been, and his wife is more of a woman than she has ever been. And when she submits to her husband and respects him and serves him, imitating the Church, the bride of Christ, she is more of a woman than she has ever been, and her husband is more of a man than he has ever been. When a man bows and woman curtsies, when they take up their parts in the dance of life, there is more glory, not less.
There are of course parodies of God’s design and there are blockheads who make a mockery of God’s Word, but wine doesn’t become evil because people abuse it. Glory is always dangerous. It is dangerous because it comes from the very presence and being of God. But I close with the only safe way to hold the glory of God, the only safe way into the fire-glory of God’s presence. The only way in is through our Savior Jesus Christ. You both know this, but I urge you to it now. Life is a race run towards the glory of God in the face of Christ our Lord. You are both called to run with all that you have, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And as you run, trusting God for the strength, for the endurance, for the grace to finish the race, your glories will shine. Ty, you will become more and more of a man. You will glory in your strength as you use it as a weapon to fight sin, a tool to provide for those in need, an opportunity to serve, to sacrifice, to give yourself away. Lenora, you will become more and more of a woman. You will glory in your beauty and wisdom as you use it as a weapon to fight sin, an instrument to provide for those in need, an opportunity to serve, to sacrifice, to give yourself away. And as you do this together, learn to see each other’s glory, and imitate the Trinity, and point to one another in praise and thanksgiving. This is my wife! This is my husband! Watch this.
The glory of our Triune God is upon both of you today; may it grow ever brighter to a thousand generations.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Gregory Soderberg says
Excellent stuff, Toby!