What does marriage teach the church?

595px-Micer_Marsilio_Cassotti_y_su_esposa_Faustina_(Lorenzo_Lotto).jpg

Micer Marsilio Cassotti and his wife Faustina (1523) by Lorenzo Lotto

From Lauren F. Winner’s book, Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity:

In the Christian grammar, marriage is not only for the married couple. Insofar as marriage tells the Christian community a particular story, marriage is also for the community. Marriage presupposes fidelity, and married people are a sign to the church of God’s own radical fidelity toward all of us. He loves us, and is faithful to us, when we cheat on Him. He loves us, and is faithful to us, when we insist that our love has died on the vine. Marriages are made in part to remind us of God’s relentless fidelity. 

And marriage tells the church about the communion and community that is possible between and among people who have been made new creatures in Christ. It hints at the eschatological union between Christ and the church. As ethicist Julie Hanlon Rubio has put it, “Marriage consists not simply or even primarily of a personal relationship. Rather, it crystallizes the love of the larger church community. The couple is not just two-in-one, but two together within the whole, with specific responsibility for the whole. . . . They must persevere in love, because the community needs to see God’s love actualized among God’s people.” 

The inflections of community are important because they get at the very meaning of marriage. Marriage is a gift God gives the church; He does not simply give it to the married people of the church, but to the whole church, as marriage is designed not only for the benefit of the married couple. It is also designed to tell a story to the entire church, a story about God’s relationship with and saving work among us. 

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