Husband and wife are meant to be one. Nothing could be clearer.
The two shall become one flesh.
They are no longer two but one.
God has joined together.
Let man not separate.
Oneness is a priority for married couples. The question is - what kind of oneness? Because not every kind of unity is good unity.
We've thought a little bit about one kind of dysfunctional unity - a couple feeding each other's sins.
Or there's the Rescuer-Victim relationship or the Abuser-Victim relationship where the spouses can express and really feel a deep oneness. It's a sick oneness, but a oneness nonetheless.
Then there's the pathologically jealous spouse who is forever suspecting infidelity because their partner has interests outside the home. They are looking for a kind of unity.
Or there's the subtle and unspoken compromises we make with our spouses - I won't challenge you here, if you don't challenge me there. For the sake of unity we decide not to 'rock the boat'.
Or there's the couple who sing the Seeker's song:
Close the door, light the light, we're staying home tonight
Far away from the bustle and the bright city lights
Let them all fade away, just leave us alone
And we'll live in a world of our own
We'll build a world of our own, that no one else will share
All our sorrows we'll leave far be-hind us there
And I know that you'll find, there'll be peace of mind
When we live in a world of our own
Here's unity for unity's sake, with nothing larger to guide or direct them.
So unity in a marriage is not good in itself. There are some really unhealthy ways in which the two can become one. So what kind of oneness does Jesus want us to have?
The trouble with all the above concepts of unity is that none of them model God's unity. In this post and the next we will address that problem. In this post we'll think about how God's unity models to us a union that's not for its own sake. In the next post we'll think about how the Trinity models a unity that is held together with distinctions in equality.
So, first, the unity of the triune God is not unity simply for its own sake. It's a unity that's going somewhere. This is what the missio Dei is all about. God is the ultimate Missionary. His very being is a sending forth of Self in His Son and Spirit. To wind the clock back into the depths of eternity you find that God is always the Sending God. There is not a God who then decides to go out on mission. There is only the Missionary God - the God who speaks His Word / shines His Light / sends His Son. This is not just what He does - it's Who He is. God's unity is a relational unity of Persons who go out and draw in. God's unity is (in Richard Sibbes' phrase) a "spreading goodness". It is of the nature of this unity to be on the move. On mission even. And it's of the nature of this overflowing unity to draw others in. It's not a unity that excludes others, but a unity that seeks to bring more into its own way of love. God's unity is a unity on mission.
And this is the kind of unity we are to look for in marriage. Our unity is not supposed to be one that closes the door so we can 'live in a world of our own'. It's a oneness that is for others. For natural children and spiritual children - those drawn to the Father through our marital witness to Christ.
This paints our marriages on a far larger canvas. The purpose is not simply to become one. The purpose is to have a oneness that's going somewhere - i.e. a oneness that witnesses Christ to the world. An undefined oneness can easily turn into idolatry.
(Note that this is exactly parallel to unity in the church - ecumenism for ecumenism's sake is not the unity which we should seek. We pursue unity in mission - not unity in unity.)
And just as God's unity is a habitable unity - opened out in the Spirit to those adopted in the Son, so our marriages are to be habitable unities - opened out to spiritual and natural children.
We shouldn't pursue a oneness that then has mission as an afterthought. We should pursue a missionary oneness - a oneness for the sake of mission and a mission that forges and reinforces the oneness.
If we pursue this kind of oneness, when the time is right we'll be able to challenge sin and complacency in marriage. If done in wisdom and love, such challenges don't compromise but rather uphold true marital unity.
If we pursue this kind of oneness, interests outside the home won't be thought of as intrinsically threatening but quite possibly as opportunities for our missionary oneness.
If we pursue this kind of oneness, we won't make our marriages into our own private heaven - seeking the kind of relational nourishment that can and should only come from Christ. Instead we will experience the kind of healthy marital oneness that exists for a purpose far more fulfilling than cosy nights in.