Marriage: A Necessary Evil, or, a Gift from God
"Thus even if this image has been almost completely lost, there is still a great difference between the human being and the rest of the animals. Before the coming of sin the difference was far greater and more evident, when Adam and Eve knew God and all the creatures and, as it were, were completely engulfed by the goodness and justice of God. As a result, there was between them a singular union of hearts and wills. No other beautiful sight in the whole world appeared lovelier and more attractive to Adam than his own Eve. But now, as the heathen say, “a wife is a necessary evil.” Why they call her an evil can be perceived readily enough; but they do not know the cause of evil, namely, Satan, who has so vitiated and corrupted this creation." M. Luther
I was reading in Luther yesterday and came across this quote as he was discussing the image of God that He gave to us at Creation and what it is that we have lost because of the Fall into sin. As today I celebrate 16 years of being blissfully wedded to my bride Emily, the section where he says that the heathen say: “a wife is a necessary evil,” stuck out to me like a sore thumb. In typical Luther style he comments: “Why they call her an evil can be perceived readily enough.” (Now we know why Luther has never been accused of being a romantic!) Luther’s brutal honesty I think can be forgiven because we know him and know how much he cared for his wife Katrina von Bora; he is not disparaging her here, but rather confessing the Biblical understanding of the utter corruption of humankind because of the Fall.
Now, why am I taking the time on my anniversary to write about this passage? From the beginning, God’s intention for man included that he would be one flesh with the woman that God made; that the two would share the image of God and be each other’s life-long helpmate. In the passage above, Luther also says: “No other beautiful sight in the whole world appeared lovelier and more attractive to Adam than his own Eve.” In an age were marriage is despised and ridiculed every day, where it is more-often-than-not looked upon as an evil, what a delightful reminder it is to know that it was not always so. Marital fidelity was not something to be scoffed at, nor was there any desire for anyone other than the perfect spouse that God had given. Marriage is a gift from God for our good. Christians must not hesitate to be counter-cultural in this area, and openly celebrate marriage as the true gift that it is.
By God’s grace, I can honestly say that I have never thought of my wife as a necessary evil. I have failed my wife in many ways over the last 16 years, but she has always been my best friend and the only person that I want to spend the rest of my life with. I delight in her. I consider her to be one of God’s greatest gifts to me personally, and this makes me marvel at God’s unending goodness. Although we have lost the original righteousness that Adam and Eve shared, God, through his baptismal grace, has blessed us with the joy that Adam originally expressed when he saw Eve for the first time: “At last! This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!”
Instead of wringing our hands about the state of marriage in the world, or worse, joining the world and Satan in further corrupting this part of God’s beautiful creation by what we say and do, let’s resolve as Christians to speak well of marriage and our spouses, just like Adam did. Because Christ has made the Church his Bride, you are part of the new creation – which means your marriage is too! Paul tells us that marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for the Church. By our Christian witness, let us shine the light of Christ’s love into our decaying society by affirming the gift of marriage, and by publicly honoring our spouses as the gifts they are from God. Pastor Cook