Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Marriage Bond of Peace

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Marriage Bond of Peace

Article excerpt

It was peace, not love, that early Christians emphasized in their rituals and prayers for marriage. I learned this from Robert Wilken's paper when Evangelicals and Catholics Together met in early June to begin work on a joint statement on marriage. Early collections of official prayers show the important role played by the biblical notion of peace: "We ask you, almighty God, to support with your holy favor that which your providence has established and to keep in lasting peace these persons who are lawfully uniting themselves in lawful union." And: "You have joined people in marriage with the sweet yoke of concord and the unbreakable bond of peace."

Peace plays a prominent role in the New Testament. At the birth of Christ, the angelic multitude proclaims peace on earth to the astonished shepherds. Not announcing global government or international treaties, they are instead proclaiming the Messiah's arrival. No longer will the fallen, wayward human creature be at odds with his Creator. A new age has dawned. God has come to us, repairing the breach. This is the good news the apostles preached: "The peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Today, few of us think about marriage as a peacemaking institution. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul says that the union of a man and woman in marriage is a great mystery, one that reflects Christ's union with the Church. St. Paul is cryptic, and in the past I thought of it in terms of permanence: The unbreakable bond of marriage is like the permanent covenant of God with his people. Jesus' promise, "I am with you until the end of the age,"

is akin to the marriage vow, "richer, poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part."

But permanence is not the theme of Ephesians. St. Paul emphasized the peace-making power of the Gospel. Before Christ, Gentiles were "alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise." But now, by the blood of Christ, the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile has been broken down so that God "might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thus bringing the hostility to an end."

When it comes to the relation of Jew and Gentile living under the lordship of Jesus Christ, what God hath joined together let no man put asunder. …

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