Many of the insights into these passages are from John Piper’s book This Momentary Marriage.
Have you ever seen a plaque on a kitchen wall that says, “Marriage is Forever” or “Love is Forever” or “Family is Forever.” These platitudes have beautiful sentiment. Family, love, and marriage have a way of getting us through the tough times and help to keep us anchored to things that are more important than money, houses, and jobs.
But are those plaques accurate? Unfortunately, they are not completely true.
Matthew 22:30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” There will be no marriage in heaven. I do think that we will know our earthly spouses, children, friends, and loved ones, but ultimately, these earthly relationships will pale in comparison to our relationship with Jesus. Blood may be thicker than water, but the common bond in Christ is thicker than anything.
Paul knows that future day is coming, and therefore he says in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 “This is what I mean brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no good, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”
Does this mean we should ignore our spouses and become a monk? I don’t think so, but I do think it means that, while we are united to our spouse in love, we also hold everything on this earth loosely, because all of our possessions, all of our earthly work, and all of our earthly relationships are passing away. Only eternal possessions, eternal work, and eternal relationships will last. And so we hold our spouses tightly, and loosely.
This is what Jesus means when he says in Luke 14:26-27 and 33, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciples … So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” This does not mean we should despise our spouses, any more than it means we should despise our own life. This word refers to preferential treatment.
For example, if I offered you $100, would you take it? Of course you would. In fact, you are probably already planning what you would do with it! What if I also offered you $1,000,000, but only on the condition that you cannot take the $100 too. Would you cry about the $100 that you lost? No! Because you have something much better. Jesus is telling us that we need to choose him above all else, which does not mean that we literally need to grit our teeth and despise our spouses. God gives the good gift of marriage. He expects us to love our spouses and enjoy our companionship, but he wants the greatest gravitational pull on our lives to be him. This means that, even on our wedding day when we hold one another tightly and enjoy our first married kiss, we hold our spouses loosely, knowing that there is an infinitely better day coming.
In Luke 18:29-30, Jesus says, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” We are not promised more spouses in heaven because we chose Christ over our earthly wife or husband. We already learned that in heaven we are not married. This means we will receive rewards that are far better than any earthly relationship could offer.
Christianity calls marriage a wonderful gift, an amazing responsibility, and a treasure to be held loosely. Love your spouse, but through your relationship with him/her, set your mind on eternal things.
Colossians 3:1-4 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Tightly, but loosely.