This idea runs contrary to modern culture; if you watch any romantic film, listen to most popular music or read any teenage fiction then you’ll find yourself submerged in happily ever afters, ‘love conquers everything’, when you meet ‘the One’ everything will be fixed mentality. It all stems from a single lie fed to us in so much of the media we consume: you were made to be in a relationship. If you’re not happy then you will be if you find ‘true’ love, if you have problems in your life they will be solved by a relationship, if you are not in a relationship you are somehow lacking in some way or other.
In one sense it is an easy mistake to make, we were created to be in a relationship with God, our chief end in life is to be in that relationship with him. And so we warp it and confuse it and think that our chief end is to be in a human relationship. We think that sinner plus sinner might actually equal happiness, that one flawed person plus another flawed person will somehow create something perfect.
It would all be laughably deluded if it weren’t for the fact that it is so tragic and easy to fall for. I don’t write as one unaffected by this message but as one who swallowed it and then found to my surprise that it was ultimately just like any other idol: worthless.
The extent to which you are affected by this lie is measured by your reaction to the following statement: there is no marriage in heaven.
Do you find that a hard concept to completely take in? That in heaven, the place of perfect unending happiness, there will be no human marriage? No romantic relationships? I used to, it struck me as strange, but the only reason I found it hard to grasp was because my thinking was all wrong.
The only marriage that is of eternal significance is that of Christ and his church, that is why heaven is described as a great wedding feast, for in heaven the ultimate relationship is celebrated for eternity: the relationship of a righteous God with sinful man made possible through Jesus Christ. Paul in writing on human marriage says: “This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5v32) showing that human marriage is merely an image of a greater marriage.
And if you truly grasp that you were created to be in this covenant relationship with God, a relationship based on a love far exceeding anything you could ever know elsewhere, then it all makes sense and the fact that there will no marriage in heaven ceases to be an issue for you will recognise the superiority of the love of Christ.
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere”
Psalm 84 v 10
The Psalmist had it all straight in his head, he saw that it was better to be in the courts of God than anywhere else, he recognised the relationship he was made to partake in, he saw that God, and God alone, was worthy of his all in all. But many of us don’t and this manifests itself in two ways: either we idolise the other person or we idolise being in a relationship. The two are not quite the same, the first is when we make another person our God and judge our everything based on their opinion and affections. This can only end badly, on one side there will be the crushing weight of unattainable expectations and on the other the burden of unfilled expectations. If seek out in a human what can only be found in God: redemption, soul satisfaction, holiness, pure happiness, then you are not going to find it. No human can do that. It is only in Jesus Christ that we find a perfect relationship, it is only in relationship with God that we have salvation and lasting joy.
The second form of idolatry is more subtle and therefore more insidious. It involves making being in a relationship part of your identity and security. It’s not as extreme as the former version but equally it’s going to all fall apart. For a human relationship is finite, it will end, either in death or break up. Ironically if you seek your security in a relationship it will only lead to insecurity as the finite thing you invested so much of your identity into will at some point fail. Once again, the solution is to make Jesus Christ your security and his love for you the foundation of your identity. For wonderfully the love of Christ is eternal, Christ is eternal, nothing can separate you from his love, he is a rock to outlast all storms so if you place your all in all in him then what can ever take that away?
The other point I need to emphasis is that it doesn’t have to be a choice. I’m not saying that it is impossible for a Christian to be in a relationship, far from it. But we all have the tendency to make it a choice and choose not to seek after God with all our heart and seek what we need elsewhere. Even as Christians we can do what Paul describes in Romans 1: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator.” (Romans 1v25) When we place a relationship above God and make that our security rather than God then we choose to worship the created rather than the Creator, we pick a human relationship over our relationship with God and we will in due course suffer for it.
We will suffer because we weren’t made to be in a human relationship, it’s not our chief end, we were made to worship God with all our heart, soul and mind. And if we choose to worship a relationship instead then it will not, cannot, satisfy and like all sin it will lead to sorrow. Would you dare to offend your God and do such a thing? To swap the joy, peace, and soul delighting love that abundantly flows from him for the lesser love of a human being? Oh yes, it is easy to focus on the seen rather than the unseen, easy to be distracted by the emotions which go with a relationship, easy to fall for this but we make it easier still for we are so slow to seek God out. Why, if we knew the love of Christ for what is really was then we would never swap for it for anything. This is an issue of the heart, and if we have not weaned our hearts from the world and onto Christ then we will find this idol will grab us with embarrassing ease.
By all means, get into a relationship, as Genesis 1 says ‘it is not good for man to be alone’ but don’t make it your everything. Make Christ your everything, get into a relationship to glorify God and be drawn closer to God, get your heart straight on the matter and make sure God sits in first place. Even in a relationship make sure that Christ is first and so that if your human relationship is taken away from you (as well it might) you recognise that you still have your first and greatest love: Jesus Christ. Seek God out in prayer over this, ask him to sanctify your heart, invite him to take first place, confess that often he isn’t and above all rejoice greatly that you weren’t made to find your all in all from another flawed human being but in the perfect relationship you can have with God through the work of Jesus Christ!
As the classic hymn goes:
"O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!"