Marriage In The Image of God
I want you guys to go back to the beginning that Jesus mentioned. It’s in that book that lots of people in my day think are old-fashioned myths. Worse, it’s in those early chapters, which many in my day are writing off as senseless poetry22.
It says that God made man in his image, male and female, and they were to populate the planet, and rule over it—all under God. There’s no explicit statement here on how the population is to be produced but it seems to be an unstated assumption: they are after all male and female.
Then the story goes on to explain the origin of Man. Man is created and then looks for a mate that would be suitable for him. It’s not another animal. It’s not even his reflection in the pond. Something was missing and God went out of his way to let the man see this. That’s when God makes woman and presents her to man and we get the words that Jesus cited: for this reason, this woman, would man leave his family and be joined with his wife and the two would be one flesh.
It was God’s plan, he explicitly made them that way, that in the union as a married couple they would have sex and this was the means for children to be produced.
And the whole scheme was supposed to reflect God23.
Everything about us, part of us, reflects the image of God. We are creative because God is creative. We act because God acts. We have eyes because God sees everything; we have ears because God hears everything. In the marriage union we get that all out picture of the God who is a community whose love produces fruit. We see that at the point of maximal difference, men and women find some of the greatest enjoyment that results in new life. He made the picture that way. This picture shouldn’t be adjusted, as if we can do some color correction to make it better—the way God wanted his image portrayed in the marriage unit was one woman and one man whose relational activity together is directly tied to his mandate.
This is more than the Levitical law. This isn’t God only orchestrating how his covenant community was to function by branching them off from the nations around them. This isn’t only some aspect of God’s moral law that winds up being repeated in the New Testament. Nor is this some sort of cultural norm that is getting foisted on other cultures. This is explicitly God’s picture being reflected to the world by means of marriage.
Jesus, God’s Son, who spoke only what the Father wanted thought so.
Which is why messing with that picture is so bad.
There is some deep theology going on here. It’d probably take a lot of reading and some fixing on our thinking on some things. I definitely won’t be able to explain every detail to you guys. But I think I can pick up threads for you so you can weave the thing together.
Think about it: if God made marriage to reflect his image, his picture, and that union was the means for producing children, all part of the picture, what does that tell you about all the ways we’ve broken up marriage?
I don’t only mean divorce and adultery. I mean things like birth control pills that allow people, even the married, to display part of God’s image (the union) while marring the rest (the reproduction). Or test tube babies, or surrogate mothers, which allow part of God’s image (the production of children) but refuses the other (the proper union of man and woman). What does it tell you about our piecemeal approach to sex and reproduction? What does it tell you about our perspective of God?
Or what does God’s mold tell us about people forcing things to fit? People taking things that don’t fit together (animals, multiple people, same sexes) and forcing a fit (thus creating a false union) and then a system that panders to it by offering reproduction from elsewhere (be it adoption, or surrogate mothers, or whatever comes along). Or a man (in the image of God) taking a child (not yet a woman or even a boy) and thus forcing a fit to reproduce.
It’s not that the actions are merely naughty rule breaking (they might be24). It’s not even that they’re abominable in themselves (they might be). It’s that they’re taking God’s image and saying “We know better” and drawing over it. In some cases it’s taking God’s image, trampling it down and setting something else in its place.
Ancient Israel did this. There they were, rescued by God but they were alone. They decided to take some gold, melt it and see what they got. Seeing how nice it came out, they called it God and said He rescued them.
Ultimately, playing with God’s image in marriage, is idolatry—that stuff that people did by carving out their own Gods and bowing down to them—but in this case they’re bowing down to their own concept of what God is to be. He happily fits their mold; not the other way around.
That makes the entire bang-shoot abominable. It’s likely the reason why Sodom and Gomorrah’s acts are so bad25. Sure their fundamental sin was pride. It was expressed in a way that turned everything God meant to be upside down (intention of sex was changed, violence was embraced, hospitality was denied) and they proudly thought that was the way things should look like. God’s image trampled by insolent people.
Last area of questioning would be in regards to purpose: why is God so concerned with this picture in this world and not in the other? What is changing?
Jesus says that his true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth26. He also winds up being a model for our own physical resurrection from the dead. He is still a man.
But he is a man with power. With authority. Not held down by the system of sin. Immortal. Conquering over death. And the sender of God’s Spirit to dwell within people as a down payment for the future.
Is it possible that we will still be men and women who reflect God’s image but then have the unfiltered Holy Spirit unfiltered to engender that union which marital sex was to depict27? I don’t know what that all will entail, but is it possible that this future union is so deep that no amount of marital sexual act that brings enjoyment during the act and after the act can mimic it? In other words, is our marital union that results in joy at all sides merely a dim shadow of the future union with God’s people and God Himself as a community who reigns28?
Like I said, there are some deep theological threads there. I’d probably start with Jesus’ own words in John 17 and work my way right up to the celestial city in the last book of the Bible.
I know hearing your father talk about this stuff so bluntly is embarrassing. Believe me, you guys being young right now is not the only reason I’m writing these things down. It’s embarrassing for me too. And honestly, it shouldn’t be. This is really all about God’s picture, how he fashioned us of old, and what he wants that picture to look like in the future. That picture doesn’t look like the way people are trying to make it in my day or in yours. It looks distinctly old-fashioned. But that old-fashioned picture is the way things were meant to be. And as Christians, who are joined in Christ by the Holy Spirit, we shouldn’t be embarrassed by saying “This is what God wants us to look like.”