You’ve said your vows. You’re husband and wife. And now you’re living this life together. Together…but are you one?
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24
In Part 1 of this post, we looked at God’s creation of marriage and what it means to become one flesh as stated in Genesis 2:24 above.
But how does this oneness happen? Is it automatic—we say “I do” and then we’re one?
How Two Become One
Yes, in God’s eyes, we are one with our spouse on the day we are married. But oneness is a condition, much like our spiritual walk is a condition. We may be saved and have eternal life through accepting Christ as Savior, but we are still far from perfect. We must apply God’s principles to our daily life in order to grow closer to His likeness. In the same way, we must apply God’s principles for married life in order to grow closer to each other and become one.
God tells us this involves two specific things from the beginning—leaving and cleaving.
When we marry, we must leave our birth family to start a new family. The original language of Genesis 2:24 states this as a command, not a suggestion. It signifies that our relationship with our parents must be radically changed.
But leaving doesn’t mean to abandon our parents. For Exodus 20:12 tells us to “Honor your father and your mother.” And Paul tells us in the context of taking care of widows, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
And leaving our parents does not necessarily mean moving a great distance away. It’s possible, though perhaps more difficult, to leave our father and mother and still live next door to them. Likewise, it’s possible to live a thousand miles away from our parents and not leave them emotionally—to still be tied to them, under their direct influence and control.
Leaving directs us to commit to our spouse over any other human relationship. We must be more concerned with our spouse’s ideas, opinions, and practices than those of our parents. We must also not be slavishly dependent on our parents for affection, approval, assistance, or counsel. And while striving to be a good son or daughter, we must be even more concerned about being a good husband or wife. Our new family becomes our first priority.
As I have observed in years of marital counseling, this is a major divisive issue in many couples’ relationships. When one spouse remains too closely tied to his or her birth family, the other spouse often feels their own views, feelings, and concerns are less important. And this can cause much strife. I believe that is why God stresses this command so clearly in His Word.
When we leave our birth family, we then must cleave to our spouse. This involves uniting together as one, as we already mentioned.
Cleaving also points to monogamy in marriage. Paul commands in 1 Corinthians 7:2—“But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” God’s plan is one man married to one woman, only separated by death.
And cleaving shows the permanent nature of marriage. Today, many couples marry with the thought they can always get a divorce if it doesn’t work out. But God’s Word makes it clear divorce is never a part of the plan. Listen to what God says to His people in Malachi 2:13-16…
“…You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because He no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. ‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of Israel, ‘and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,’ say the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.”
Remember, marriage is by choice, not by chance. It is a matter of obedience, not convenience. Therefore, when two people get married, they promise to be faithful to each other regardless of what happens. God’s plan for marriage involves a total and irrevocable commitment of two people to the Lord and to each other.
But as we live in an imperfect world, God’s Word has much more to say about divorce and remarriage–words that give encouragement and hope to everyone who has experienced these challenging situations. And we will look at these in later posts.
Becoming One Flesh
God’s blueprint for marriage involves becoming one flesh. At its most basic level, this is referring to sexual relations and being faithful in the physical union.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:15-16—“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.'”
Within the bounds of marriage, sexual relations are holy, good, and beautiful. But if they are entered into apart from the “leaving and cleaving,” they are ugly, degrading, and sinful. We are told in Hebrews 13:4—“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”
But becoming one flesh involves more than the sexual act. Indeed, marriage is the symbol of a total oneness—giving of oneself to another person. God’s intention when two people get married is that they should share everything—their bodies, possessions, insights, ideas, problems, successes, failures, sufferings, joys, and dreams. If this complete oneness is not a reality, sexual relations lose their meaning.
Oneness in marriage is not easily attained. Certainly the basic hindrance to achieving it is sinfulness. But knowledge of God’s design in marriage will help us understand the steps we need to take to work toward this goal.
In Couple’s Bible Study next week, we will look at how oneness in marriage allows us to know God’s clear direction for our lives, both individually and together.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Featured photo by confused_me via Pixabay.com (text added)