Friday, October 30, 2015

Intimacy Without an Expiration Date.

"Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'" -- Genesis 2:18
Everything in creation up until this point had been declared "good" or "very good" by God. There was one thing, however, which God said was "not good." Before man had rebelled and sin entered the world, the only thing declared "not good" by God was man being alone. Humankind--even in its perfect, sinless state--was never designed for isolation. 

The immediate answer to this problem of Adam's isolation was the creation of Eve--a "helper fit for him"--bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. But did the answer stop there? Was a spouse the ultimate answer to human loneliness?

Is marriage God's ultimate answer to the problem of human isolation?

The answer certainly isn't less than marriage...but is it more? I think it is. Adam and Eve became one flesh, and in Genesis 4, their union produced children. Those children produced children, who produced more children, and so on and so forth. The covenant bond of man and wife is the God-ordained fountain from which humankind and human civilization flows, and these bonds are the mortar which hold the bricks of human society together, the support structure which provides stability and ultimately leads to human flourishing.
"It is not good that the man should be alone."
David and Jonathan also shared a covenant bond, the bond of friendship--a bond of love that, for David, " was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women." John was "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Certainly Jesus loved all his disciples, but was there a deeper connection or some closer bond he shared with John? When Naomi's husband and sons died and her daughter-in-law left to be with her own people, her other daughter-in-law Ruth "clung to her," pledging to go where she goes, worship her God, and die and be buried wherever Naomi died and was buried. In essence, she makes a lifelong commitment--a covenant--of loyalty to her mother-in-law Ruth. As the early church exploded in the book of Acts, we read that these believers--new and old--"were together and had all things in common." They were bound together.

These bonds are not bonds of marriage. They are not "one-flesh" marriage covenants...but they are close, committed, loving, intimate relationships nonetheless. The first union of Adam and Eve (and all the unions that followed) make these bonds and this kind of community possible. Those "one-flesh" unions are where people come from!

As we move from the Old Testament into the New Testament, we see the biblical authors place an increased focus and emphasis on the bonds of friendship and community within the Church--the unity that flows from union with Christ, members of the same Body, one in Christ's flesh. The New Testament does no disservice or disrespect to marriage, but rather, in the New Testament, we see more fully that covenant marriage is a picture of the great Marriage that is to come...the final and ultimate union of Christ and his Church. It points forward. Covenant marriage is a good and beautiful gift in itself--a gift to be fully enjoyed (read Song of Solomon if you're unconvinced)--but it's a gift that has an expiration date. It will ultimately give way for the final Marriage that is yet to come. In the grand narrative of Redemption, covenant marriage will find its place as a good and beautiful part of the story, but it will be part of that which is fading away--that which is giving way for something better. Friendship, on the other hand, and the covenant community that we experience now are simply the beginning of that which will grow, be perfected, and last for all eternity. Covenant marriage has a cosmic expiration date. Covenant community is just beginning, and it will have no end.

So was Eve God's answer to the problem of Adam's loneliness? Do we read Genesis 2 and find a basis upon which to claim marriage is God's solution to human isolation? Yes and no. It's certainly part of the answer. The answer is not less than marriage, but it's also a great deal more. Covenant marriage makes covenant community possible.
"It is not good that the man should be alone."
If the Church is being the Church, if the covenant community is functioning as was intended by God--functioning in way that reflects (even dimly) its ultimate glorious future--then being unmarried does not mean being alone. When Paul talks about the goodness and dignity of the gift of singleness in the New Testament, he does so in the context of assuming a Church that is functioning properly as the Body of Christ--a Church united by bonds of love, sacrifice, and radical hospitality, where all things are shared in common. In this context, singleness is neither a death sentence nor a call to isolation. It's a call to participate all the more fully in the rich blessings of the covenant community. 
"It is not good that the man should be alone."
It wasn't good, so God created Eve...and then through her union with Adam, he kept creating people. More and more people, of all shapes and sizes and colors and varieties, all created bearing His image. As humans responded to His creation mandate to fill the earth and subdue it, His plan of Redemption unfolded. God gave us Christ, in whom we now have union, one with one another--continuing to reflect the image of God, who exists eternally as Three-in-One.
"It is not good that the man should be alone."
It wasn't good, so ultimately...God gave us Himself, and He also gave us each other. He gave us the Church, united in Christ, and friends...our union with Christ has no expiration date. 

From sorrow, toil, and pain,
And sin we shall be free;
And perfect love and friendship reign,
Through all eternity.