I’ve never thought too much about the relationship between a rightly structured marriage and effective evangelism. Thus, I was quite intrigued when I read the the Editor’s Note of the July/August 2008 eJournal by 9Marks:
Can a man with a good but wrongly structured marriage have a faithful evangelistic ministry? This question was posed to me recently. The answer seemed obvious—”Look, it may not be ideal, but if a person is out there sharing the gospel…”
I then presented the question to a pastor whom I respect tremendously. I was amazed when he said that he was unsure whether such a man could. His rationale: “A rightly ordered and healthy marriage is that close to the heart of the gospel, and an unhealthy marriage teaches a wrong gospel.”
Wow. I hadn’t thought about that. But it makes biblical sense, doesn’t it? Analogous perhaps to the gospel witness we might attach to caring for the poor (a popular topic, and easier to talk about)?
Consider one of the first consequences of the fall—the marriage of Adam and Eve is cursed with a distorted relationship (Gen. 3:16b). Consider also one of the best pictures of Christ’s redemption—marriage (Eph. 5:22-33). Consider Paul’s requirement that a pastor have a rightly ordered home before he thinks of leading the church (1 Tim. 3:4). A rightly ordered and healthy marriage displays or pictures the gospel. It’s a symbol or a type, like caring for the poor (2 Cor. 8:9).
As society moves further and further away from the biblical practice of marriage (think of the recent decision by the California Supreme Court to allow for homosexuals to marry), it will become that much more critical for rightly ordered and healthy Christian marriages to comprise the backdrop of gospel proclamation, again, like so many are saying about caring for the poor. Neither of these matters are the gospel, but both present a kind of picture of the gospel; both are powerfully redolent with the gospel’s love and forgiveness.
How crucial then for pastors to attend to their own marriages, as well as the marriages in their churches. This issue of the 9Marks eJournal on marriage hopes it can help our brother pastors do just that, if only in a small way.