Married for God - Pt 2
Chapter 2 of Married For God is entitled Married for a purpose, and in my opinion is the key to the book. This was the chapter that really challenged and enlarged my understanding of marriage. Traditional answers to the 'why' of marriage have settled on 3 main areas: children rather than barrenness (children are a good thing); faithfulness to another rather than selfishness (intimate relationship); order rather than chaos (safeguarding society). All good reasons in themselves. But the problem is that we have no way of deciding which is the most important. I also think that in articulating these three, we sideline God. These are purposes that a Moslem or humanist secularist could agree to.
But in this chapter Ash examines the Genesis passages (chapters 1 and 2) and fashions his motto for the book: sex in the service of God. He says the motto is to remind us that “the whole business of marriage in all its fullness is to be lived in the loving joyful service of God, as we look outwards from our marriages and as couples to seek to care for God’s world together” (p 33). How that plays out in practice is spelled out in following chapters.
One of Ash's most striking proposals is the difference between loneliness and being alone. He points out that Adam was not lonely (after all, how could he be lonely when he experienced God as his speaking companion?), but he was alone in his task of caring for the creation, and therefore God creates the woman.
The purpose of marriage is not to solve the problem of loneliness. That’s because in Scripture the solution to loneliness is not marriage, but friendship, love and fellowship with God and with other believers. These things exist in marriage, but marriage is not the chief remedy for loneliness, otherwise all single people are destined to be lonely.
This 'answer to loneliness' argument only fuels the 'meet my needs' approach to marriage. An inward-looking marriage (focussed on my needs, aspirations, feelings, good sex) is the exact opposite of what Ash is talking about. Peruse the shelves of the relationship/marriage section of your local bookshop (even the Christian ones!) and see how many books encourage you to focus on better communication, more intimacy, sexual fulfilment, happiness, conflict resolution, to the exclusion of taking up your cross to serve God together. Ash uses the example of Ananias and Sapphira to drive home his point: ... so far as we can see, Ananias and Sapphira had a marriage with excellent communication and shared values; each understood the other perfectly; and yet they died terrible deaths under the judgement of God (Acts 5:1-11).
So marriage is not sex in the service of me; or sex in the service of us; but sex in the service of God.