IN HIS IMAGE – AGAPE RELATIONSHIPS… MARRIAGE, FAMILY AND HIS CHURCH – PART 1
As we begin the New Year of 2020, let’s do so with a 20/20 vision and begin where God did…no, not in the Garden of Eden but in the first and highest of relationships… one man and one woman in the covenant of Marriage.
Love begins in the heart, then in God’s design, flourishes in marriage and in the home/family. It then comes together in the Church as we mature in the integrity and authority of Christ’s Love and Lordship in our lives and relationships and we carry it into a hurting and lost world!
To often in our world/culture we “get people saved” and then send them out to serve and evangelize others…skipping right over our own growth and maturity in The Lord; loving Him with all we are and; maturing as His disciples to prepare us to serve and make disciples of others as we serve and they invite us to have influence in their lives and relationships.
Jesus’ design and order are simple if we’ll just follow His Word in the power of His Spirit and let Him bring the fruit!
We kick off this New Year’s/New Decade’s teaching with 2 rhetorical questions… What if God really means it when He says in His Word that the relationship and unity of marriage is a reflection of His image and of His relationship with His people (Christ with His Church)? What if the unity Christ prayed for in John 17 for His Church is rooted in His design and plan for man and woman in covenant marriage?
“In the beginning…” Don’t you think that’s always a great place to start? It just makes sense and God, being a God of Order, certainly makes sense. Are we willing to follow His order as sensible people?
Let’s see what He has to say about relationships from “the beginning.”
In His Image
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27
- We can reason…God reveals right up front that we as human beings were and are made in His image. Most scholars understand and teach that this means that we are not only different than all the other animals…we are actually set apart and created with a soul and the ability to reason in line with God’s design and wisdom. This doesn’t mean that we fully understand Him or His infinite and perfect knowledge but we are able to process it in our minds because we bear His image. Amazingly, in His Sovereignty, He also gave us free will so that we could understand and choose or reject Love.
- We are made differently to complement each other – We are either male or female and there is great significance in all He has designed and how He created us to complement each other to reflect Who He Is. He is not a God of confusion but of order, reflected in how our differences shape and strengthen us as well as reveal our own weaknesses and opportunities to mature. (For a more in-depth look at sex and gender check out Glenn Stanton’s excellent article, Why Sex and Gender Are Not Two Different Things)
His Image – Loving Relationship, Unity and Community
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
- We are created for intimate relationship – the greatest expression of our being created in the image of His Love is that of intimate relationships.
In the Old Testament, the love of God that He created us to reflect in His image through our lives and relationships was called “hesed” (Hebrew) which means “faithful lovingkindness and mercy.” In the New Testament, the closest the Greek language could come to this was, “agape” which was known as “Godly or selfless, sacrificial love.” Whether “hesed” or “agape” His love always sacrifices for the other and never fails!
Jesus quoted the Genesis passage and in our day and time there are few words more important than “For this reason…” as Jesus went on to repeat that very reason and take it one step further, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:5-6)
Marriage – The Highest of Human Relationships
- The highest and most sacred of human relationships is Marriage – one man/one woman in covenant relationship for a lifetime. Yes, the “cleaving” or joining together to become one is a sexual reference and highly regarded and protected as such in covenant marriage throughout all of Scripture. God has a tremendous purpose in relationships and Marriage for individuals, families and all of society.
If we are to live and love in His image we must understand what it requires of us so that we reflect and represent Him as best as we can. Relationship, unity and community are key elements of His image and what we are created for. With that said, as we desire to show others Who He Is, we need to begin where He did…in marriage and family…and honor it accordingly in all our relationships!
Marriage, from the beginning (and this never changes), was and is the highest expression of “hesed/agape” (Godly love) because it was the love that most closely reflects His image and from which humanity and human love is to proceed.
God not only used it to reveal His image as male and female in marriage but in describing His relationship with Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-32) and Christ’s relationship with His Bride, The Church (Ephesians 5:32-33)! While the intimacy expressed in the sexual union points to the unity of His Church and loving relationships (John 17), all other relationships reveal this intimacy and unity apart from the sexual expression. God has reserved the sexual union only for Marriage. Is it any wonder why He places such value on true intimacy in His image and warns us in His Word of the consequences of sexual and relational sin?
Marriage – Points to Christ, His Gospel and His Church
When we attempt to build loving relationships and community apart from marriage and family we are usurping His plan and stepping outside His design…creating us in His image. This does not mean that everyone has to get married but it does mean that marriage is the highest ideal of intimacy expressing His image…sacrificial love for the sake of the other…and the family that is borne out of the marital relationship speaks to the love to be lived out in His Church and in all other relationships. The Church is crippled at best when it does not uphold, encourage and promote not only Biblical marriage but healthy marriages as well!
When the church, government or any organization or system ignores, tries to manipulate or “create” loving relationships outside of God’s plan we all lose. We are all (not just those who choose to marry) called to honor (highly esteem, respect) Marriage. The writer of Hebrews, near the end of this great theological book gives what seems to be an odd command to believers…“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4)
The wording here is powerful as “all” in Greek means, you got it, EVERY ONE! This is not just for those who are married, plan to get married, are thinking of marriage some day or have been married before…it literally means all and it goes on to state the outcome of those who dishonor marriage in sexual immorality of any kind, within or outside of marriage. Why? Because all sexual immorality…before, during or after marriage…dishonors God’s design, plan and purpose for us to understand His image and His Love and destroys relationship!
Our goal in loving relationships should be to reflect His image. To do this we must reflect His: 1) Reason/Wisdom; 2) Holiness; 3) Truth in Love; 4) Unity.
When we honor His creative design and plan, we are blessed in our relationships, beginning in our homes and families and that benefits and helps build His Family, The Church, and allows us to more fully express His love to a lost and hurting world!
Next week we’ll continue with the importance and connection of discipleship and loving relationships. As we desire to reflect His image and Love in relationships and community then let’s do so according to His Word and start where He did…“In the beginning…for this reason…male and female…two become one flesh…Marriage should be honored by all.”
This kind of love, relationship, unity and community is what it means to be created in, and reflect the image of, God and points to what He desires in all relationships so the world can see His kind of Love.
So I close with a similar rhetorical question…What if unity in God’s image, as designed for one man and woman in covenant marriage, is not just for marriage but also points to and prepares us for unity in Christ’s Bride and Family, The Church?
How is His image and love being displayed to a lost culture through our marriages and in His Church? Check out what it might look like if we take Him at His Word… https://communio.org/how-baptists-catholics-together-helped-save-thousands-of-florida-marriages/
Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!
Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – How much do your relationships reflect God’s agape…intimate, selfless, sacrificial love? How much does/has “marriage” and “family” (healthy or unhealthy) impact(ed) your concept and application of loving relationships? What needs to change in your life in order for you to build relationships that reflect His love?
Love and Lordship…Action Item – Based on your responses in “Food for Thought” above, write down and determine at least one relationship (begin with marriage if you are married) and one issue that you will pray about and begin to respond with agape in line with God’s Truth rather than selfishness. Repeat daily and begin to work through all relationships and issues.