As Long as We Both Shall Live

Last weekend my wife and I attended two weddings. Both couples used traditional vows:

To have and to hold, from this day forward,
For better and for worse, for richer and for poorer,
In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish,
Forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live.

Beauty-and-the-Beast

My wife and I got married thirty-three years ago, but our church met in the YMCA, so we asked another local church to rent their building. They required, however, that we receive premarital counseling from one of their staff.

The pastor they provided encouraged us to write our own vows, but he disliked our traditional ending. He suggested we change the last clause to read,

“As long as we both shall love.”

A Marriage Made in Heaven

When God officiated the world’s first marriage, he concluded the ceremony with this marriage-charge: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife, and [the two] shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).

The “cleave to” and “one flesh” phrasing generated the basis of our vows, “for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.”

But those Genesis words mean something more. Something we rarely think about. Paul directly quotes that passage above and then he adds, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that [the Genesis quote] refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32).

A Marriage Made in Hell

Business relationships are built on value and convenience. We buy our laptops at Best Buy until we find the same laptop on Amazon a hundred dollars cheaper. We drink coffee at Starbucks until a Panera opens up half a mile closer.

We’ve begun to treat personal relationships with this same commercialism. When the marriage-going gets tough, modern people just get gone. If our spouse no longer pleases us (or if we find a more attractive companion with fewer problems) we follow that pastor’s bad advice: we stick around only as long as we feel love. Which their sickness and poverty drains.

Scripture says that God views his relationship with us like a marriage; you might say, a bad marriage. But with a difference. When we make marriage vows, we commit ourselves not to who the person is today (so much) as to who that person will become. We just don’t know who that person will become. We are clueless.

God is faithful to us his spouse forever. And he knew all that his marriage vow would cost:

For better and for worse: We have literally been the spouse from hell, ignoring him, demanding our own way, and daily choosing other lovers.

For richer and for poorer: We became spiritual, emotional, financial, paupers; morally bankrupt. Until Jesus gave up everything so that “by his poverty we might become rich.”

In sickness and in health: From the moment of our birth our bodies slowly begin to die. Physically and spiritually, we live in sickness. Christ came to absorb even our death.

To love and to cherish: To cherish means to prize something, and God calls us his chosen inheritance, his own “special treasure,” despite our chronic unfaithfulness.

Forsaking all others: After the original “fall” (and knowing then all our subsequent failures), God could have just started over. Instead he chose to stick with us.

When God sought Adam and Eve in the garden after their unfaithfulness, he knew that his evening stroll would end at Calvary. He knew then, at the moment of his betrothal vow, he knew then all that it would cost. And yet he vowed to us joyfully. God committed himself to us as long as we both shall live. Which through Calvary is forever.

We think of God as the King, which he is. And the Shepherd, which he is. And the Master-Craftsman potter, which he is. And our friend, which he is. This weekend I began to think of him as a spouse in a terrible marriage; we are the Beast who he joyfully and patiently loved to the end.

Because his vow could just as easily have been: “As long as I shall love.”

Sam

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7 thoughts on “As Long as We Both Shall Live

  1. Lindsey and Luke invited us, but I was at finals time for my teaching–couldn’t break away. When Luke was born, Jane and I were in his parents’ home group, and later on Lindsey’s Dad and I co-led another home group! It would have been nice to be there!
    I can say that Luke’s entering into this marriage further encourages me in my own. Blessings, B.

  2. Sam,
    That was well said and an insightful revelation of our relationship with
    God. Years ago when I was complaining to God about my wife’s
    shortcomings, (can we be honest for a moment) He said “Your bride is a lot like mine” That has stuck with me and has meant different things at different times.

    First he was sympathetic to my plight. That helped me a lot. Later I became sympathetic to His and that gave me the desire to assimilate as much of his grace and love as I could and apply it to my marriage. At times it seemed like a one sided effort.

    Lately, since my wife has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it has become more so. The amazing thing is He has generously provided a superabundance of all the grace, love and kindness that I need to care for her. Surprisingly I have found and unexpected joy and satisfaction in being able to love without expecting an immediate return.

  3. Really true… I’m not married but I can totally relate to Christ as my spouse… And He’s set the bar really high😀

  4. “When God sought Adam and Eve in the garden after their unfaithfulness, he knew that his evening stroll would end at Calvary.” I love this line! This is such a good angle on this topic. I believe you’ve written about Hosea before, but I was reminded of it once again. Why are we so uncomfortable about seeing God as our bridegroom and beloved? I think it might be linked to a perverted understanding of sexuality and intimacy in our human relationships. Understanding Christ in the image of marriage allows us to understand marriage in the image of Christ, which enriches our marriages, as well as our relationship with God.

  5. The proof that God loved us faithfully was represented in the example of the prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer. Read about it in the book of Hosea. We are all a little or more like Gomer and Hosea is like Christ.

    This is a great example. Marriage is a true picture of grace not merit. I choose the hard one to accept – GRACE. Merit is the hard one to accomplish. In fact I’ve found it impossible.

    Annie

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