The Message and Meaning of Marriage

By Chip Ingram

My daughter loves watching figure-skating during the Winter Olympics. Me, not so much.

But because I love my daughter, I sometimes sit with her while it’s on. And I have to say, the mixed pair competition is pretty impressive. What amazing athletes those skaters are! Lifts and splits and tosses and spins – while sliding around on ice! One slip and someone gets their head bonked, or worse.

The male skater has to be amazingly strong and know when to lift his partner and when to let go. The female skater has to be strong too, and she has to trust her male partner 100 percent. And they both have to know the intricate design of the dance, created by an expert choreographer. Wow!

It got me thinking about marriage. Biblical marriage. What if we looked at marriage as a dance instead of a debate?

What if we stopped arguing about the right and wrong of roles and rights in marriage, and focused instead on the balance, brilliance, and beauty of a God-glorifying mutually submissive couple who do the dance according to its choreographer? According to God’s design?

Submission and Self-Sacrifice

“Be filled with the Spirit,…” (Ephesians 5:18).

This is where we start. Whatever God says about the roles and responsibilities of biblical marriage is in the context of believers controlled by the Holy Spirit. It’s mutual submission to the choreographer. To God, the designer of the dance.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

We all of us put others ahead of ourselves because of our love for Christ, who gave Himself up for us. That’s the platform for marriage, even before the first step is taken.

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior” (Ephesians 5:22-23).

In a dance, someone has to take the first step. Someone ultimately has to bear the weight of the partnership. Submission isn’t subservience. It’s trust. Trusting, as they trust the Lord.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy . . . Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:25-26, 28)

Jesus Christ took action toward the holy goal of transforming His church into its potential by sacrificing Himself! Husbands have a parallel calling: to love their wives by helping them become stronger, braver, wiser, and holier.

God’s Dream for Marriage

What this dance look like, then?

It does not look like a man calling all the shots and demanding obedience in the marriage relationship.  That’s not mutual submission.

It does not look like a woman being a doormat, treated as inferior and without equal say.

It does looks like something of rhythm and beauty and power and joy performed by a strong leader in partnership with his strong wife, following Christ’s lead.

And you know what else? Just as an audience are stopped in its tracks – as I was with my daughter – when watching a perfectly suited pair of dancers performing beautifully together. So also does the world stop to watch when they see Christian couples truly love one another and resolve conflict and sacrifice to one another. This is the message God wants the world to hear through our marriages. Pointing others to the great choreographer, the great Bridegroom whose beloved is the Church.

This is God’s dream for your marriage!

For more information on this topic, take a look at Chip’s series House or Home: Marriage Edition, or Unstuck: Overcoming the Pain of Your Past.

Written By

Chip Ingram

Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.

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