Humanity was created for community. The concept is rooted in creation. First, we were created in the image of a triune God (Genesis 1:26, 27). While we cannot fully comprehend it, the one true God exists as a plurality. Yet we get a glimpse into that reality when we consider the plurality of humanity that He created in His image.
Our need for belonging, then, is built into our very being. It is no wonder that our overall health and wellbeing is tied to our experience of community. The more an individual is integrated into a healthy community, the more likely that they will have good health outcomes.
The most intimate of communal relationships is the marriage union. When God declared, “It is not good that man should be alone,” He indicated the human need for community. God then proceeded to meet that need by establishing a family founded in marital union. It is too narrow to say God’s declaration indicates merely the human need for marriage. The text would not support those who may exclude marriage since this was God’s immediate response to the scenario. We need community, and our first experience of community is in families, which find their genesis in marriage.
Marriage is clearly part of God’s plan for humanity. And we have established that it helps us meet the need for community. In an ideal world, everyone would marry appropriately and raise godly children. But in the sinful world that we live in, not everyone will get married, not everyone will bear children. Everyone still needs community.
Write out Genesis 2:15–25 from the translation of your choice. If you’re pressed for time, write out Genesis 2:20–25. You may also rewrite the passage in your own words, outline, or mind map the chapter.
Contrary to some popular contemporary theology, the first and second chapters of Genesis are not contradictory creation accounts. Rather, Genesis 2 expounds on the final day of Creation and illuminates much about God’s design in creating humanity.
Alone with God
Both Adam and Eve spent time with the Creator in the absence of the other. For Adam it was before the creation of Eve, and for Eve it was whilst Adam slept. Before He brought them together, God made sure that they both had a personal relationship with Him. A professed Christian has no business looking for a marriage partner if they are not investing in their relationship with God.
This also means that there’s nothing wrong with being alone. Just because we’re created to live in community does not mean solitude is proscribed. On the contrary! Adam’s time alone with God awakened the realization of his need for companionship.
God committed a specific work to Adam, and we may infer that He did the same with Eve. In Genesis 1:28, God gives Adam and Eve a mandate that they must fulfill together. But in chapter 2, he commits to Adam alone the work of naming the animals. Before finding a spouse and uniting in mission, a Christian must have an individual work to do for God. The Christian who is not working for God is not ready for marriage.
Furthermore, it was while Adam was working for God that he came to realize his need for companionship. In fact, the true nature of his need became clear in the light of his work. Had he not observed that the peacock and peahen are similar yet different, he may have been misled into thinking he needed a companion biologically identical to him. God reveals what we need in a spouse through our work for Him.
Partner in ministry
The mandate that God gave to Adam and Eve as a couple was separate from the work He gave them individually. They had a ministry as a couple that they needed each other to fulfill—to replenish the earth. They needed each other, in their distinct individuality, to fulfill their mission as a couple. So a Christian cannot effectively partner with another in ministry when they have not first discovered who they are in Christ. It is precisely their uniqueness that will make them a good partner—their individuality is not to be subsumed by the other.
The other apparent inference is that a couple must have a mission. When seeking a spouse, the Christian is not looking for someone to complete them, because they are already complete in Christ. The relationship is not meant to be inward focused, with the sole purpose of pleasing each other. A godly relationship has a mission that extends beyond itself. A Christian should seek a spouse with whom to engage in ministry.
Hollywood and greeting cards have hijacked society’s perceptions about romance and marriage. The old grumpy couple in your community who have been married for decades has been replaced by an unattainable knight in shiny armor and his perfect princess. The misconceptions of what marriage is about undergird misguided courtship practices. Men want to marry the princess even though they are not a knight, and women are waiting for the knight yet they are no princess. Instead of looking for a principled, responsible man, women find themselves in search of a man who buys them flowers. In turn, men think buying her flowers makes him the perfect guy.
In popular culture, marriage revolves around the two individuals and that their love for each is supreme—nothing else matters. When marriage is perceived this way, it also becomes the way courtship is pursued. Counsel from godly mentors is disregarded, as is advice from parents and well-wishers. Individuality is sacrificed on the altar of misdirected devotion in this broadly accepted form of idolatry. Passion replaces reason, as it is misconstrued as love.
When the passion dies, as passion is known to do, the couple are left feeling as though they married the wrong person because “true love never dies.” Since it was for this passion, mislabeled as love, that they got married, if the passion cannot be rekindled within the relationship, they may find themselves seeking it outside the relationship, and before you know it, they’re committing adultery, getting a divorce, or resigning themselves to a miserable existence for the rest of their lives.
In the biblical ideal, the married couple’s focus is outward—the world should be a better place because they are married. Their purpose is not to take from their surroundings whatever will please them but rather to bring blessings to every one of their interactions. As they choose to love each other day after day, they bring love to those around them. In ministering to each other and to others, they find happiness.
We learn in John 1:3 that “all things were made through [Jesus], and without Him nothing was made that was made.” So Jesus was the Creator in Genesis 1. He put Adam to sleep in chapter 2 and formed Eve so wonderfully that it made Adam wax poetic (Gen. 2:23). He brought Eve to Adam and performed the first marriage ceremony. Then at the onset of His earthly ministry, He performed His first miracle at a wedding celebration (John 2:1–11). Jesus is clearly pro-marriage!
Yet at the same time, it is also reassuring to note that the One who is our example in all things was never married. This underscores the fact that while marriage was a part of God’s ideal creation, it is not a sin to be single, because Jesus never sinned. Christ’s unique mission simply precluded marriage, and so it may be the case for some of His followers.
Describing the situations leading to a life of celibacy, Jesus mentioned three categories (Matt. 19:12).
1. Choice: recognizing a unique call to ministry that would be incompatible with family life, some may choose to remain single.
2. Circumstantial: due to the actions of others, some individuals cannot be married.
3. Biological predisposition: some people naturally exhibit a proclivity for the single life.
For whatever reason a person may be single, Christ’s example illustrates:
1. Being single should not mean the absence of community; Jesus had disciples.
2. Being single does not mean you are anti-marriage; Jesus was pro-marriage.
3. Being single is not the end of your life; Jesus is life itself.
If the perfect human being, the Son of Man, was single, then getting married does not make anyone a better person. A godly marriage should, in fact, make us more like the perfect Christ.
“We are living in the last days, when the mania upon the subject of marriage constitutes one of the signs of the near coming of Christ. God is not consulted in these matters. Religion, duty, and principle are sacrificed to carry out the promptings of the unconsecrated heart. There should be no great display and rejoicing over the union of the parties. There is not one marriage in one hundred that results happily, that bears the sanction of God, and places the parties in a position better to glorify Him. The evil consequences of poor marriages are numberless. They are contracted from impulse. A candid review of the matter is scarcely thought of, and consultation with those of experience is considered old-fashioned.
“Impulse and unsanctified passion exist in the place of pure love. Many imperil their own souls, and bring the curse of God upon them, by entering into the marriage relation merely to please the fancy. I have been shown the cases of some who profess to believe the truth, who have made a great mistake by marrying unbelievers. The hope was cherished by them that the unbelieving party would embrace the truth; but after his object is gained, he is further from the truth than before. And then begin the subtle workings, the continued efforts, of the enemy to draw away the believing one from the faith” (Testimonies for the Church, 4:503, 504).
“True love is not a strong, fiery, impetuous passion. On the contrary, it is calm and deep in its nature. It looks beyond mere externals, and is attracted by qualities alone. It is wise and discriminating, and its devotion is real and abiding” (Adventist Home, 51).
“Gird up the loins of your mind, says the apostle; then control your thoughts, not allowing them to have full scope. The thoughts may be guarded and controlled by your own determined efforts. Think right thoughts, and you will perform right actions. You have, then, to guard the affections, not letting them go out and fasten upon improper objects. Jesus has purchased you with His own life; you belong to Him; therefore He is to be consulted in all things, as to how the powers of your mind and the affections of your heart shall be employed” (Adventist Home, 54).