My wife and I celebrated an anniversary recently so I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage. Not simply its joys (words fail to describe my thankfulness for my wife, Ski) but also the foundational commitment it involves. In particular, I’ve been thinking about our response when the minister asks, “Do you take this person to be your spouse?” We reply, “I do.” Two little words—only three letters altogether—and yet some of the most important we will ever say.
There’s a sense of finality about them. They convey: The decisions’ made. The deal’s done. A new reality now begins. From this point on life changes from “I” to “we.”
It doesn’t always stay that way. In a world racked with sin, marriages break apart. Sometimes our spouse divorces us for unbiblical reasons and very much against our will, or divorces us for unbiblical reasons but leaving us with mixed feelings due to the difficulties of the marriage. At other times the sin of our spouse leads us to initiate divorce. The Bible even identifies instances—though nowhere as common as those used today—when one spouse may legitimately end a marriage. And when this happens, we must not condemn those making that difficult decision, nor must we let guilt overwhelm us if we’ve divorced on biblical grounds. Indeed, even if we’ve chosen to divorce on non-biblical grounds, it’s our repentance the Lord desires, not our continued wallowing in remorse, and we must remind ourselves and believe that his forgiveness covers this sin, too.
But the Bible’s focus is not on the possible reasons for ending marriage; its focus is on the permanence of marriage. “What God has joined together,” Jesus said, “let man not separate” (Matt. 19:6). The Bible’s expectation is that we enter into marriage with a view to its permanence, its “until death do us part” nature. It assumes that we do not stay in a marriage because it’s easy, or because we always feel in love, or because it blesses us. We stay in it to honor our commitment before God. And we stay in it—even when our spouse is unlovable—to picture for the world Christ’s love for us as his unlovable bride.
And this brings me back to the words “I do.” What do we mean when we say these words? What should we mean when we say these words? From a biblical perspective, those words are to convey a depth of commitment we might express as follows:
Not: I might.
Not: I hope to.
Not: I’ll see how it goes.
It’s a point of no return.
It’s a jump out of the airplane with nothing but a parachute of commitment.
It’s a decision to burn the only bridge back.
It’s ’til death—and only death—do us part.
It’s not to be said quickly.
It’s not to be said lightly.
It’s not to be said without good counsel.
But once it is said, “I do” becomes “It’s done.”
No second thoughts.
No turning back.
No running away.
“I do” means:
I do choose to love you.
I do choose to work through the mess with you.
I do choose to keep going when it’s tough.
I do choose to put you ahead of me.
I do choose to forgive you, just as Jesus forgives me.
When we say “I do,” we’re saying:
and with God’s strength I will,
remain faithfully yours—
There was a day when Jesus was asked by the Father, “Do you take this imperfect, quick to sin, often unlovable church as your bride?” “I do!” he replied. And he’s never looked back. May God grant us grace to be as faithful in our marriages as he is in his.