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Divided Into One Flesh

In Genesis 2, we see in the story of Adam and Eve the very first marriage in God’s new world, which God designed as a model for all mankind to follow. God’s plan was for two people to become one flesh. But God has a very strange way of realizing this goal: God unites by first dividing. Adam, is of course, created as one flesh all by himself, but God looks at him and decides that this is not good – one person, one flesh doesn’t look like God at all.

What God decides would be better is two persons united in one flesh, and so in order to get to one flesh, Adam must become two fleshes – God puts Adam into a deep, deathly sleep and tears him apart. From Adam’s rib, God forms Eve, and when Adam rises from his sleep, he recognizes that Eve is “flesh of my flesh”. Now that God has divided Adam, He brings Eve to him, and unites two persons into one flesh.

We might think that God is finished with His work of division now that He has united Adam and Eve, and that the painful work of being ripped apart is over and done. But verse 24 tells us that division remains a part of every marriage – every time a new family is formed, their old families are torn open: a man leaves his father and mother in order to be joined to his wife, and the wife likewise departs from her father’s house to be joined to her husband.

And so what began on a very literal level with the body of Adam continues at the relational level as marriage divides existing families in order to form new ones. But we cannot stop here either, because as we consider married life we see that there is another level of division that needs to take place – a husband and a wife will undergo daily experiences that divide them individually from themselves so that they can grow together as one flesh.

Some of these divisions will be obvious, easy, and wonderful – marriage divides a couple from things like bachelorhood and loneliness. But many of the divisions of marriage are much more painful – each person brings preferences, habits, and expectations with them that they will need to leave behind in order to become one. Gone are the days of two schedules – there will now be a family schedule, which means that your time is not your own. Gone will be two sets of hopes and dreams – dreams must now be shared, which means that there are many individual priorities that must be sacrificed. Innocent hobbies that are dear to an individual may become cancers on the one flesh of marriage. Both husband and wife will be called to sacrifice things that they love and enjoy individually for the sake of their shared life, and it might feel like having a rib ripped out. It is in those moments that God is engaging in His work of division, the work that makes two into one.

Sadly, in countless homes, this work of division is resisted: husbands and wives selfishly choose to cling to their ribs, and refuse to let God separate them from things that they love. This is the blindness of sin: who in their right mind, when choosing between a rib and wife, chooses the rib? But this clarity of mind gets clouded by selfishness: Husband and wife stop pursuing common interests, and start living two separate lives out of one home. Instead of finding their lives by losing them for one another, they try to save their own lives, and of course they end up losing them after all. By rejecting the pain of division, they reject the joy of becoming one flesh, because this is the way God works: the path to becoming one flesh is the path of division. There is no path that does not include separation: either you will allow yourself to be divided from yourself and then united to your spouse, or you will find yourself separated from your spouse.

It is at this point that we must look to Christ, because Jesus Himself had to make this same choice. God did not exempt His own Son from this division – Jesus left His Father’s home in order to take a wife. He left a wonderful job as the ruler of heaven and earth and took on the nature of a servant in order to make the marriage work. In order for Christ to care for His Bride, He had to let His very life be ripped out of His body. We see in Jesus Christ that this division has another name: death. Marriage is a call to death, to die to yourself daily, and spend your life for your spouse. In calling someone to marriage, Jesus bids them to come and die.

But in the strange and wonderful providence of God, just as division is God’s path to unity, we see that death is God’s path to life. As you each die to yourself on each other’s behalf, you will find that this is what it means to share life together as one. By choosing marriage, you are choosing to embrace the division that unites; the death that leads to life. But take heart: Christ goes before you, His wounded rib bearing the mark of His division, and His resurrection proof that dying for your spouse results in life.

Posted on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 by CJ Bowen