The Meaning and Mission of Marriage
by Adam Hamilton
Not long ago I spoke to a young couple in our congregation who told me they wanted to move in together but weren’t interested in getting married. They said, “We don’t know why we need a piece of paper to love and be committed to one another.” That perspective reflects a view held by many young adults today.
The church where my wife LaVon and I got married gave us one hour of premarital counseling with our pastor. One hour to prepare a 17-year-old and 18-year-old for a lifetime relationship! There are so many things I wish someone had told us, though I have to admit that we, like most young people, may not have paid attention.
Looking back, I wish I had understood more clearly that marriage has a mission. I was madly in love with LaVon. I couldn’t keep my hands off her. But everything else was guesswork. Nobody ever said, “Adam, this is the meaning of marriage. This is your mission statement. This is what you’re supposed to do after you say, ‘I do.’”
From the first, the Bible makes clear that marriage is a calling from God to care for, bless, and serve another. We are called to channel God’s love and kindness to all, but marriage calls us to do it in a special, intentional way toward someone with whom we will partner in life.
The mission of marriage is for both husband and wife to be helpers, partners, and companions for one another. Being a helper does not imply a subservient role for either the woman or the man. The word for “helper” in Genesis 2 is the Hebrew ezer, always used in the Bible to connote one who is stronger coming to help one who is weaker. In fact, it is often applied to God himself in relation to humanity. The idea is not that a weaker person is brought in to serve the stronger, but that two people bring their mutual strengths to the relationship in order to bless one another.
Both parties in any marriage are intended to be each other’s helpers and companions. They are making a covenant with God and with each other to bless and minister to one another. They are meant to be counterparts, to complement each other the way the left shoe complements the right shoe in a long journey on a rocky road. Ideally, it’s an equality that comes from complementary strengths working in unison.
To be a helper is to seek the best for the person you’re helping—in the way they can best receive it. Some of us need to be reminded that our job is not to solve all the problems our spouse brings to us; in fact, most people hate it when we try to solve all their problems. When they bring us problems and lay out things that are burdening them, the help we can bring is to come alongside them, encourage and bless them, and build them up—the very things we need when we are troubled. That is part of what it means to be a helper.