Do you believe in arranged marriages? Absolutely not! Can you imagine? That would be horrible. After all, a couple ought to be in love before they get married. Do you really expect people to fall in love after they are married? The thought is depressing.
Wait a minute. What is the essence of marriage? Marriage is a covenant of companionship. God designed it to reflect the love between Christ and the church. Every wedding ceremony pictures this greater marriage. The bride is prepared, adorned in dazzling white, symbolizing purity. The groom stands ready to take the bride to himself as Christ takes the church to Himself. It is a beautiful picture. As Paul tells us so poignantly, “This mystery [of marriage] is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:23).
Having said this by way of review, was this grand marriage of Christ and His bride, the church, an arranged marriage? Indeed it was. It was arranged in eternity past. Here is our praise to God: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:3-4).
There is a sense in which all our marriages are arranged. They are arranged by God. We trust the sovereign God brings together the husbands and wives of His choosing. We trust we are embraced in divine appointment. We take seriously the charge at the end of the traditional marriage service taken from the lips of Jesus, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6).
Two other points are pertinent. First, there was a time when parents did arrange the marriages of their children. Children often knew, when they came of age, their spouse was designated. This revelation from creation matches the revelation of Scripture. As believers we are betrothed to Christ. We are promised to Him and to Him alone. We are pledged in marriage by God the Father to His beloved Son. We await the full preparation of the bride and marriage of the Lamb. The similarities to arranged marriages in past generations is sticking.
What about love? In this age of hedonism and the predominance of pleasure, we step out of relationships at the drop of a hat. If we do not like how we feel in a relationship, we bail out. What would life be like if we always acted purely on the basis of feelings and set duty aside? I often do not feel like getting out of bed.
Compare the Christian life? Do we learn and grow in love toward God and our neighbor? This certainly ought to be the case. This is what discipleship is about. We grow in our relationship with Christ. I think this will also be the case when we enter heaven. We will have the pleasure of learning and growing in our knowledge and love of Christ for all eternity. What a prospect!
Love in marriage is the same. It is a lot more than an emotion. Affection for the one we love involves an activity of heart manifested in deeds of kindness and devotion. As we live together in marriage, that affection deepens. The spiritual link between lives becomes stronger. This is a learning process. We learn to love as we cultivate new habits of heart. This was true in successful arranged marriages of the past, it is true in our arranged marriage with Christ, and it is true in our divinely arranged marriages today. Thank God this is the case.