George Gilder has said that one of the greatest modern superstitions is materialism. Materialism believes that matter is all that exists. Atoms, molecules, chemicals, and bodies are all that there is, and so everything is explained by collisions and displacement, like billiard balls on a pool table.
But Madonna was wrong, we do not live in a merely material world. We live in God’s world. We live in a world first of all with a Creator who is entirely other, transcendent, and outside of our space-time continuum. God is spirit, not material in His essence, and He created this universe freely and for His own glory. So there is already another kind of existence, the existence of the Creator God. But His transcendent spiritual reality has been infused in this world, particularly at its pinnacle in the creation of man in God’s own image, having a spirit and soul united to a material body. But we also know that God created spiritual beings, angels, and we know that some of those good spiritual beings have defected from their maker, becoming evil spirits and demons. The Bible also describes some animals as having spirits, and some angelic beings are described like great animals or monsters. Beyond that, the world is full of various mysteries that cannot be fully explained by mere material forces. From the burning bush to talking donkeys, from men carried into heaven in fiery chariots to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we live in a world that is material and spiritual. And this has profound implications for marriage.
When a man and a woman come together, it is not merely two bodies that are coming together, but two souls, two spirits, and with them, two families, a complex web of material and spiritual realities, to form a new thing, one flesh, one new family and household. This is why the Bible teaches that sexual sin is so harmful and why divorce is so violent. But materialism insists that we are just bodies, and so why can’t two bodies interact in one way at one time and then do something different with other bodies at other times? The answer is that we are not mere bodies; we are not mere material.
Closely related to all of this is the fact that our bodies are not infinitely malleable. Part of the materialistic lie is that if you are merely material, then you can modify your body however you like and become whatever you desire. But the bodies that God has created us with reflect who we truly are. Our spirits, our souls, are in mysterious ways related to our bodies. We are not gender neutral spirits that get put into gendered bodies and therefore, perhaps sometimes get put into the wrong gendered body. We are spirits that are manifested by our bodies. We are male and female in God’s image inside and out, spirit and body.
The biblical name for this spiritual-material difference is glory. God has assigned different glories to men and women, male and female. The Bible teaches that the glory of men is their strength and courage, and the glory of women is their beauty and domesticity. Men build and fight; women adorn and make homes. Men are oriented to the world; women are oriented to their families. And when one man and one woman take vows before God and witnesses and become one flesh, those glories, those respective strengths come together and shine and combine and multiply with potency.
And the Bible says that when this happens it reflects the mystery of Christ and the church, which if you think about it for a moment is really mind-boggling. How in the world could the marriage of two humans reflect that cosmic glory? Christ, who is the God-man, the Eternal Word made flesh and the Christian Church – how is it not sacrilegious to compare our human marriages to that mystical union? Well, part of the answer is that our human marriage is far more glorious than we thought. Something far more cosmic and momentous is going on.
Ben, my charge to you is to love your wife like Christ loved the church, giving yourself up for her. While you cannot take away Ellie’s sins by your sacrifices, you are nevertheless called to love her in imitation of that kind of love. This means that the foundational way you lead your wife is through staying in fellowship with God and one another. Christian fellowship in a fallen world is only possible through confession of sin and forgiveness. In our world’s materialistic superstition, they are constantly trying new treatments for sin: money, medicine, sexual technique, personality tests, you name it. But Christ was crucified for our sins. We have fellowship with God and one another because the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us, and His blood cleanses us when we confess our sins to God and one another. Ben, you are undertaking responsibility for Ellie in all respects today, but make this the center of your love. Stay in fellowship.
Ellie, my charge to you is to submit to your husband the way the church submits to Christ in everything. It really does say everything, and this really is the way you exert the most potent influence on your husband. Peter tells wives who have husbands who don’t obey the Word to seek to win them over without a word, by their beauty, a gentle and quiet spirit, radiating from the inside out. This isn’t a manipulative powerplay on the one hand, nor is it apathetic acquiescence on the other. It is true feminine glory. And when a woman shines with gentleness and joy, it cannot help but shine on her man. Our materialistic world says that you can’t get anything done that way, but the Christian Church looks back over two thousand years and says, wanna make a bet? We do not denigrate the material. It is good, and it will all be made new. But there is more than just material, and a woman who fears the Lord is a potent force of grace.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.