Much of the modern world has developed a real resistance too and even dislike of marriage. Committed, lifelong, monogamous marriage is ridiculed, disdained, and critiqued by the broader world. Perhaps in response to this cultural backlash, Christians have sometimes tended to over-inflate and even idolize marriage. We have turned a good thing into an ultimate thing. This is particularly evident in the popular belief that a spouse “completes” us. Your spouse, however, does not complete you, Jesus does.
What is the definition of completeness? The language, applied to spouses, gives the idea that we are not a whole person until we find our “other half.” It suggests that we are insufficiently human because we are single. It’s true, of course, that the Bible speaks of “two becoming one flesh” (Gen. 2:24; Mark 10:8), but that does not imply that apart from a spouse they were two halves. Consider, as a counterpoint example, the person of Jesus. Jesus was never married and yet was the most fully human person who ever existed. He was far more “complete” as a man than any other human. He lacked in nothing, and had no sin or imperfection about Him. Jesus is the model human being, and His completeness had nothing to do with marriage.
The Bible gives us a different concept of “completeness.” Paul, writing to Timothy, states that the Word of God is able to make “the man of God…complete” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is in our increased conformity to the character of Christ, as outlined and empowered by the Word, that we become complete. Apart from Christ we are fragmented and fractured. We are incomplete because of sin. It is through Christ that we move in the direction of completeness. Completeness is found in relationship to the God for whom we were created. Completeness is found in realigning ourselves and our lives with the mission, vision, and intention of God our Creator. Marriage was, itself, intended to be a reflection of this reality (Eph. 5:32). Marriage is not the realization of completeness, but rather a pointer to true completeness.
There are several dangers in missing this distinction. If we make marriage the marker of completeness we will ultimately do harm to truth, to singles, and to marriage. It’s worth exploring these points briefly.
Making marriage the marker of completeness will harm the truth –> If completeness is found truly in relationship with God then teaching anything less will be a distortion of the truth. We will point people to hope in marriage instead of hope in Christ. We will make marriage more a savior than Jesus. Wholeness is about spiritual relationships, not marital ones. Marriage is wonderful, and can be an immense blessing and sanctifying grace. But marriage is not salvation.
Making marriage the marker of completeness will harm singles –> If we say that a person is not whole until they find their “other half” then we will not care well for the single men and women among us. Single people can be mature, godly, and healthy individuals who contribute greatly to our church body and our fellowship, they do not have to be married to matter. They do not need to make marriage their primary goal in life. We will do them a disservice to suggest that they do. For some, marriage may never happen. I think especially of my many friend who struggle with a same-sex attraction. Tying completeness to marriage will leave them in isolation and disappointment. Paul never married and he wished that others were like him (1 Cor. 7:7); and Jesus noted the place and role of single people in the Kingdom (Matt. 19:12). We do not need to worry about marrying-off every single Christian. We need to encourage them to follow Jesus.
Finally, making marriage the marker of completeness will harm marriage –> If my spouse cannot truly complete me, and I attempt to make them my salvation, then I will overburden my spouse. I will find myself relying on my spouse to do things that he or she cannot do. I will find myself disappointed that my spouse doesn’t make me feel more complete, more whole, more happy. I will begin to resent my spouse and resent my marriage. I will begin to entertain the idea that I’ve married the wrong person. Marriage cannot bear the weight of completing me. It was not designed to do that.
Your spouse does not complete you, friend. Your spouse is important, meaningful, and a gift from God for your good. But wholeness is found in relationship to God through Jesus Christ. Keep this in perspective as you live in your marriage and as you strive to follow Christ. Your spouse does not complete you, but Jesus can.