Today the United States Supreme Court hears oral arguments regarding the institution of marriage in our country in cases that will have long-term ramifications. As we join together to pray for the justices who will rule on these matters, it is worth looking at why many Christians believe this is such a momentous decision.
In John 13-16 we find Jesus and his disciples gathered in the upper room, breaking bread together as Jesus imparts wisdom to them one last time before his death. He tenderly cares for them, promises to them the gift of the Holy Spirit, and tells them they will be hated for his sake. And he says something hopeful at the beginning of Chapter 14:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
We tend to miss the symbolism here, but Jesus is referring to the symbol of marriage. In Jewish culture, the bride and groom would come together for a betrothal ceremony, and then the groom would return to his father’s house in order to prepare a place for his bride to live with him. So here Jesus is comforting his friends with a promise they understood—the promise that he was their Bridegroom, and that he would return for them.
Indeed, the disciples knew the prophets spoke of God’s people as his “bride,” but they could not know the depth of this symbolism. Marriage is God’s common grace gift to humanity—the union of a man and woman for the good of creation and the blessing of society. But while an example of common grace, it is also a picture of something more beautiful than we could imagine. The union of a man and woman, from creation onward, was intended to signify the relationship of Christ with the Bride he would buy for himself at the price of his own blood. From Eden on, marriage was meant to be a picture of God’s love for his people.
If marriage was intended as a glorious symbol, seen at first in shadows, then gloriously revealed in the kingdom-inaugurating life, death, and resurrection of Christ, then it is vital that this symbol not be altered. This does not mean our own marriages will be a perfect representation—they are but a shadow of the reality—nor does it mean that everyone will get married. Yet the shadow is a true one, representing the union of one man with one woman, just as Christ is the one true Bridegroom who will one day come for his one Bride, the Church.
The #PrayForMarriage initiative is about recognizing the grace of God in giving us marriage as a picture of his love. As we pray, we look together to the great marriage feast of the Lamb described in Revelation 19, when we will at last be together with Christ, our Bridegroom. It is then that the shadow will pass away and we will enjoy a marriage beyond our imagining.
We trust that as Jesus referred to himself as the Bridegroom in that final discourse with his disciples, he was teaching us as well—teaching us that his promised return will come to pass. And we trust that God’s plan for marriage is right and good, and we are right to stand for it today by falling to our knees before him.