It matters too much is the subtle idolatry of marriage and family that makes singles say, I have to be married. I must not be a virgin. I must have children. These are the things that define me. It is also the husband or wife or parent who views these relationships as ultimate to them and what defines them.
Not since the cross, they don’t. Not since the Son of God died for our sins they don’t. He changed everything and nothing in the human experience is to be viewed the same way anymore. All of these human categories are part and parcel to a world that is passing away. They won’t last and they don’t matter in eternity. What do I mean?
Jesus’ victory on the cross over sin and death changes the significance of these human categories. They are still important, but we need to realize their temporary nature. Husband, wife, single, and parent are definitions connected to a world that is passing away. God has appointed a time when Jesus is going to return and consummate world history; and this world and those categories will be consumed as well. Since that is the case, how ultimately important are marriage, human emotions, money and business? While they have their significance, they are about to change forever, so to define ourselves by them or to live for them is incredibly short-sighted.
This week I had old members of our church spend the night at my house. They have three kids. What do you often ask kids? How old are you? Their one daughter told me she was three. I’m three. That’s fine. But if she was to permanently define her life with “I’m three,” that would short-sighted. Why? Because she’s not always going to be three. Being three is a temporary life category.
So is being single, married, rich, poor, educated, happy, sad, healthy, unemployed, widowed and all the other human definitions. “I’m three” or “I’m married” is a definition that only applies to this world and this world is passing away.
We live in an age of redemptive history that forces this kind of tension. Theologians call this “the already/but not yet” principle of redemptive history. On the one side is the cross. The gospel of Christ redefines everything for us. It changed my relationship with God from wrath to love and forgiveness. It changed my citizenship from this earth to heaven (Philippians 3:20). It changed my focus from the things of this world to things above (Colossians 3:1). It changes why I live (seek first the kingdom of God), and who I am living for (do everything to the glory of God). Faith in Jesus for salvation creates a Spirit empowered radical reorientation of my life from the old definitions to the eternal ones; from the old values to the eternal ones.
The other side of the tension is what is yet to come. While we don’t know or understand it all, life as we know it will not continue forever. Christ’s victory means the end is already here, just not quite yet. The time is short. We live in the last days. Human history is being guided by God’s hand and every day we are one day closer to final judgment and eternal life for all who believe.
We live in the tension between those two cataclysmic events. The old and the new. The temporary and the eternal. We have to live in the world, which means that we carry on worldly affairs BUT we are not to be OF the world; We are not to live by the old definitions.
It’s like living on the Titanic. Only in your case, you know the ship is going down on this voyage. How would that change your perspective on some of these definitions? Would you get married? Stay single? Would you buy things at the gift shop? Would you enjoy the music? The food? The view out your window? Yes, probably, but it would all be tempered with an understanding that what I am enjoying, buying, seeing, and experiencing is fleeting. We certainly wouldn’t live for them. That’s the point. Verse 31 says, For the present form of this world is passing away.
I would be very foolish to live like temporary definitions are eternal realities. The Bible calls that an idol. Marriage isn’t ultimate. Singleness isn’t ultimate. Widowhood isn’t ultimate. What is ultimate is the kingdom of God and what is to come for those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2009 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address (http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.