The first humans exchanged the glory of their existence (including especially their union with God) for a part of God’s creation, a tree and its promises. Idolatry is relentless in destroying the humanity within us and our core identity, which is precisely what happened in the garden within the first marriage. Our humanity becomes compromised when we exchange God and God’s glory for something lesser than him. In trying to be like God, we ironically become “less human” as “idolatry is radical self-harm.”[1] In the wake of idolatry, both societies and families crumble, mourning the loss of their true identity and calling. In order for Christian marriages to thrive, they must be intentional especially in remaining God-centered. While healthy marriages continue to welcome God’s Presence, wisdom, and guidance, the choices made by Adam and Eve plunged the world into darkness, “Their use of their free will trick[ing] them into servitude.”[2] The choices we make can also prove either enslaving or can prove life-giving. There are disastrous consequences for marriages which choose creation/idols over Creator/God.

God as Central

John Walton, in noting the relevance of Eden for today, writes: “If our thoughts are full of ourselves and our plans, the environment of our minds has no room for another to be adored.”[3] Walton also writes of the Church that “we cannot allow any distraction, as noble or worthy or necessary as it may be, to usurp the central role from Christ”,[4] and this can easily apply to the realm of marriages. The original marriage suffered because of an act of idolatry, and the same temptation plagues marriages today.

Isolation kills human flourishing, something Dietrich Bonhoeffer wanted to stress when writing, “Those who are left alone with their evil are left utterly alone,”[5] and again that “Sin wants to be alone with people. It takes them away from community. The more lonely people become, the more destructive the power of sin over them.”[6]

Discipleship and the Renewed Creation/Humanity

Christ came to deal with the root problem rather than the symptoms of “the Fall:” the root issue is the unnatural evil (the “uncreation”) lurking beneath the surface of the human heart.[7] In order for Christ to bring about a renewed creation he must first renew humanity. God through Christ and the Spirit are at work in doing this very thing, and one “institution” which is to shine God’s ideals to a darkened world is the Church, and a second “institution” happens to be marriage. Of course this is hard work: two broken people together sometimes prove to create all sorts of issues. One safeguard is the constant reminder of dependence upon the Triune God (which includes the Word of God in the context of the people of God). We cannot do it alone because we weren’t created to do it alone.

Marriage is a partnership, a covenant, requiring an uncomfortable amount of vulnerability. Rogue-ness or hyper-individualism ultimately make for unideal marriages. Vulnerability and trust are to go hand in hand, and marriage is a call to unabashed vulnerability before our spouse and before God (“they were naked and unashamed”). While this may be the most uncomfortable part of marriage, it is certainly a vital ingredient for a thriving marriage.

[1] Christopher Wright, Here Are Your Gods (Downers Grove: IVP, 2020), 43.

[2] Goldingay, Genesis, 67.

[3] Walton, Genesis, 198.

[4] Walton, Genesis, 199.

[5] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Life Together (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2015), 87.

[6] Bonhoeffer, Life, 89.