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Topics: Fatherhood, Leadership, Manhood, Marriage, Men

MANHOOD 101: Marriage

September 10, 2014

By Whitney Clayton

The greatest season of the year is upon us. Helmets are in full bloom, the sound of human collisions will soon fill the air, and pot-bellied men everywhere will celebrate the physical exploits of others. This is when pigs reach their pinnacle, taking center stage in the second greatest role a pig could ever hope to achieve (all respect to thick sliced bacon and no offense to pulled pork) – life as a football.

Football has arrived, and it seems like men everywhere are turning as one towards the birth of a new season. This is the time when we look to eighteen year olds to bear our hopes. We relive last year’s could-have-beens and foreswear the possibility of future missed opportunities. For many of us, football becomes the focus of our attention, our thoughts, and our conversations.

Having walked-on at an SEC school my freshman year (the University of Alabama), I am an avid football fan. I poured my sweat and blood into a program that never even noticed my departure. That is how it goes and I am not bothered by it at all. I love my school, and am proud to cheer for them. So there will be no hidden Jesus juke in this post. I love football and am not the least bit bothered that millions of others do as well.

That being said, I would like to help you become a fan of something better, something greater than vicarious victory and more personal than institutional glory. I want you to become a rabid fan of marriage, and I want to help you do so.

Why Marriage?

Marriage is having a rough go of it right now. It is a lot like Notre Dame’s football team. Respect for that team used to be an expectation, but now people are chiding the institution for its overhyped status in the face of its obvious weakness. Marriage used to be respected, and getting into that institution used to be a badge of honor. But after the rise of divorce, and the subsequently destroyed childhoods, many people look far more warily at the institution. They wonder aloud if it is even worth pursuing.

For any Christian man, the answer to that question is an unequivocal yes!

Before mankind fell into sin, God created marriage when he created Eve, and the union of man and wife in sex became a central part of our purpose as God’s image bearers on Earth. This isn’t a post-fall, second string place holder; marriage was God’s plan for men and women from the very beginning.

You should pursue marriage, because in so doing, you pursue what God deemed good for you.

After the fall, our mandate to fill the Earth and subdue it remained, but we began to find more and more ways to muck it up as we moved along. Fast forward a few thousand years and we have the vast majority of young men and women in the United States trying to enjoy the union of sex without the goodness of marriage, because we convinced ourselves it is something from another age, for people far different than us.

But it is not. I will give you three quick, awesome results marriage will have in your life, and then I want to leave you with two action steps to become a fan of this wonderful gift God gave to mankind.

  1. Marriage teaches you what nothing else can. The walk on process my freshman year was brutal. The first day began at 6am with a coach explaining his role to my fellow walk-ons and I; his job was to make us quit. He was really good at his job. Out of about fifty guys, only eleven of us made it through the summer. I learned what it means to persevere through struggle—until I got married. Then I found out that physical struggles pale in comparison to the anguish of leading and loving through difficulties. I learned what it looks like to defend what you love by failing to protect it well in the first place. I learned how to humble myself daily for the sake of those depending on me. I learned all of this in marriage. Perseverance on the field could never have prepared me for perseverance in life, but marriage sure does.
  2. Marriage is a means of making boys into men. I say this cautiously, because it is wrong to assume that marriage makes you a man. Biblical manhood is something you fight for, not something to which you are promoted. It is also a little risky to take on marriage while still at the maturity of a boy. I have known many men who either never married or were simply not married yet. I have also known many boys who managed to get married, but missed the maturity part. So marriage does not make a man. But marriage, for a man, is the assumption of responsibility for a woman. Although some boys may never fully take up the mantle of this responsibility, marriage provides the opportunity to take that responsibility. When a boy begins to take responsibility for himself, he becomes a big boy. When he takes responsibility for others, he becomes a young man. When he commits himself to a life of sacrificial responsibility, through good times and bad, for another person he loves, he is becoming a biblical man. That is how marriage can help to make boys into men.
  3. Marriage gives you freedom. I realize this is counterintuitive, but stick with me. God’s grace frees a man from lots of things by making him a slave to the greatest thing – God. Marriage frees a man by binding him to someone else. The freedoms given in marriage come through many varied avenues; freedom for sexual fulfillment, freedom for emotional exposure, freedom from the need to act a part, freedom from the boredom of shallow relationships, and more. I look at it this way, in a world without borders a man is chained to never ending exploration of what could be better than what he has, but a man settled in one place is free to explore what can be made with what he has been given. Marriage is freedom without fear.

Now, if you want to learn to embrace Biblical Manhood with regard to marriage, here are two steps that will help any man move towards greater appreciation of marriage.

  1. Take stock of the fruit of marriage versus the fruit of autonomous freedom. The fruit of healthy marriage is humility, sacrifice, and love. The fruit of robust autonomous freedom is self-focused pursuit of personal goals. Now, for the very few people out there called to a life of singleness, your robust autonomous freedom may be sanctified by your pursuit of God’s plans instead of your own, so I am not talking about you. I am talking about the guys putting off marriage until they do what they want, get what they want, or get bored with who they’ve had.
  2. Discover God’s desire for the gospel to be made known through marriage. There are few places where nonbelievers will struggle more in their life than in their marriage. The same could be said of believers as well. But the shape of the struggle is very different. Nonbelievers, whose struggles threaten to tear them apart, are left wondering why they fight so hard at all. What can be lost is only what is already gone in the years and months behind them. Believers, on the other hand, display the gospel through their marriage, so even their most bitter fights are ultimately a step towards a brighter future with deeper unity and greater love. One group is trying to protect the best interest of those involved. The other is displaying the best interest of all the world. God’s desire to display the gospel in marriage makes it one of the most beautiful things in all the earth.


Whitney Clayton is a husband, father, and disciple of Christ who currently serves as the executive pastor at The Bridge Community Church in Wilder, KY. He, his wife, and their two boys are in the process of planting a church in Phoenix, Arizona, so prayers are much appreciated! You can follow him on Twitter: @whitney_clayton or connect through his blog, Just Thinking.


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