When was the last time that you read a book or a chapter and had your worldview rocked? Where as soon as you finished the chapter, you wanted to start it again? When the result of extended meditation on the book actually changed your thinking and your view of life? For me this has come from John Piper’s Desiring God, Robert Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism, A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God, and only a handful of others.
This morning I would have to add Christopher Ash’s Marriage: Sex in the Service of Godto the list. Like an unexpected earthquake, Ash set off a series of tectonic shifts in my thinking about marriage, sex, and the glory of God. His premise is that the primary purpose of marriage is not human companionship to overcome loneliness or personal satisfaction derived from a heterogeneous coupling. No, instead, the divine design of marriage is more cosmic, more missional, and larger than just two people in bed together.
Going back to the Garden, God’s intention in creating mankind male and female has always been to perform a work that could not be done alone. God’s command to mankind to till and cultivate the earth, to serve God and guard the garden has cosmic significance. And today, after the Fall, it has a missions imperative. This changes everything about marriage, because the blessed union is far more than simply two becoming one.
The force of Ash’s chapter, “Sex in the Service of God,” comes from the fact that his argument is clear, intensely biblical, and incredibly relevant–not to mention inspiring in a Great Commission sort of way. Marriage and sex as an act of proclaiming the glory of God and the kingdom of Christ has been something I have thought about before, but never with such clarity and potency as I had this morning. I pray it will have a lasting effect.
So I commend you to pick up the book and read the chapter yourself and ponder its significance. I know that I will, again and again. Here is a sampling to consider your marriage in the light of God’s glory:
Marriage is to be a visible and lived-out image of the love of the Lord for his people, and this relationship is so central to reality that the project of imaging it is seen as the primary purpose of marriage. The paradox is that when we begin to think of the marriage relationship as an end in itself, or even as an end that serves the public signification of the love of God, we slip very easily into a privatization of love taht contradicts the open, outward-looking and gracious character of covenant love. By this I mean that the covenant of the Creator for his people is a love that has the world, the whole created order, as its proper object; in loving his people with a jealous love he has in mind that this people should be a light to the nations and that through them blessing should spread more and more widely. The moment we begin unquestioningly to treat marital intimacy as the primary goal of marriage, however, we contradict the outward-looking focus and the project becomes self-defeating (Christopher Ash, Marriage: Sex in the Service of God, 127).