I’ve had a request to write on why attraction is important for Christian [marriages]. I had previously written a Christian understanding of attraction, but it’s been a couple years and my knowledge of the Scripture has broadened considerably since then.
- The lens of heaven — marriage is an earthly institution
- The lens of earth — the context surrounding the creation of marriage
- The purpose of marriage as an earthly institution
- What is attractive to both sexes?
- Understanding how attraction plays into the roles and responsibilities of marriage
- Other NT Scriptures on marriage
- Other Biblical pitfalls of downplaying attraction
The lens of heaven — marriage is an earthly institution
Marriage is an earthly institution.
Matthew 22:23 On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him, 24 asking, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother as next of kin shall marry his wife, and raise up children for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; 26 so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. 27 Last of all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.”
29 But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not [m]understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
Jesus gives us some interesting insight into heaven. There’s no marriage there.
This means to us that marriage is a covenant institution between a husband, wife, and God, but it is also mainly an earthly institution. There are no marriages in heaven. The earthly institution of marriage does not transcend to heaven nor do any of the beings in heaven marry.
If you look closely at the sequencing of events in Revelation, but the marriage of the Lamb occurs before the new heaven and new earth is created when Jesus comes back again.
Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His [b]bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the [c]saints.9 Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God.” 10 Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he *said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
The Coming of Christ
11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will [d]rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the [e]wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will [a]dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them[b], 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Theologically, this makes sense because the marriage of Christ and His bride is literally uniting us and making us one with him. Since marriage is an earthly institution, Jesus’ second coming back to earth is the time when He will marry His bride. The judgment occurs in Revelation 20, after the marriage and conquering Christ.
All this occurs before the new heaven and new earth is created and the temporal things associated with the old earth and old heaven pass away. This is important to understand because one of those temporal things that passes away is the earthly institution of marriage.
In other words, Jesus must marry His bride before the institution of marriage is abolished when the new heaven and new earth are created. Since marriage is an earthly institution and not heavenly, Jesus marries His bride on the earth.
The lens of earth — the context surrounding the creation of marriage
Now that we understand marriage is primarily an earthly institution, we should understand that its function is to address earthly needs. We have a intelligent Creator and our Creator does not create without a purpose. All of the things He does for us are out of His loving kindness.
To understand the function of marriage addressing earthly needs, we need to go back to the creation. Let’s examine the status of man in the garden in both creation accounts. Genesis 1 is considered the first creation account, which gives an overview of all of the creation. Genesis 2 is considered the second creation account, which gives an overview into the creation of man specifically.
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [ak]sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [al]sky and over every living thing that [am]moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the [an]surface of all the earth, and every tree [ao]which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the [ap]sky and to every thing that [aq]moves on the earth [ar]which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
God’s commands to man were two fold in the first creation account in Genesis 1:
- Rule and subdue the earth — 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [ak]sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” […] 28b and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [al]sky and over every living thing that [am]moves on the earth.”
- Be fruitful and multiply — 28a God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth,
We will come back to these two commands after the next point.
Genesis 2:15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not [n]eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [o]suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the [p]sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the [q]sky, and to every beast of the field, but for [r]Adam there was not found a helper [s]suitable for him.
21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God [t]fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,“This is now bone of my bones,And flesh of my flesh;[u]She shall be called [v]Woman, Because [w]she was taken out of [x]Man.” 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2 gives us more details about the ordering of creation. Man was created first, but there was no helper suitable for him. Hence, God created a helper suitable for him. The two commands in Genesis 1 were dominion over the earth and to be fruitful and multiply.
- The first command was able to be fulfilled by Adam by himself; he was taking dominion over the beasts as they came to him and gave them names.
- The second command, which was be fruitful and multiply, was unable to be fulfilled.
It’s interesting because God knew before the animals were created and brought before Adam that he had no helper suitable for him. I believe God had this in mind before he did all of this simply because of the examples of sexual dimorphism — two sexes — within the animals he created as well. Indeed, to Adam’s male God wanted to create a female helper for him not only for the loneliness but to fulfill the rest of the command to be fruitful and multiply.
These two commands and two descriptors make up the core of the earthly institution of marriage:
- Command: Rule and subdue the earth
- Command: Be fruitful and multiply
- Descriptor: It is not good for man to be alone
- Descriptor: I will make him a helper suitable for him
All of these lead into God putting Adam to sleep, taking out a rib, forming Eve (who was still unnamed), and giving her to Adam as an example of the first marriage.
As a side note, Adam was given work in the garden as a steward already, but it was multiplied in punishment. This relates to Genesis 3 and the punishments that God gave for sinning. However, it is important to realize that Adam is already the head of Eve in the way marriage was created.
The purpose of marriage as an earthly institution
Going back to the commands and descriptors, most modern Christians are aware of the descriptors of why God created Eve for Adam. They know that it wasn’t good for man to be alone, and that Eve was created to be a suitable helpmeet for Adam. However, they don’t examine marriage in the context of the commands that God gave man.
Based on the context of the passages in Genesis 1 and 2, it would be accurate to say that the institution of marriage was created so that man could fulfilled the commands of God in Genesis 1. Rule and subdue the earth and Be fruitful and multiply. Ruling and subduing the earth requires good counsel and help. Being fruitful and multiplying requires a wife and helpmeet.
As you can see, marriage was created by God to fulfill the earthly imperatives that God gave man in the garden.
What is attractive to both sexes?
Generally speaking, attraction is different between both sexes.
- Men are primarily attracted to physical beauty and femininity. Examples of physical beauty are a woman’s face and her figure. Examples of femininity are long hair and female-only attire like dresses and skirts. These things are [sexually] attractive to men.
- Women are primarily attracted to PSALM and masculinity. PSALM is an acronym for power/personality, status, athleticism, looks, and money. Generally speaking, these are embodied in a man such as a confident, handsome, ambitious, successful leader. Masculinity also embodies many traits that correlate with this such as strong, confident, independent, non-emotional, tough skinned, competitive, and so on.
Yes, there are exceptions. Yes, these are generalizations. We’re not discussing them now.
These are the things that are primarily [sexually] attractive to both sexes. There is a reason for this.
Understanding how attraction plays into the roles and responsibilities of marriage
We, as humans, implicitly understand that attraction — by very definition of the word — is a driving force for marriage. Indeed, no one really gets married to someone that they don’t find attractive.
Even in cultures with arranged marriages such as Judaism, the two getting married were required to see each other and they had some influence in terms of veto power over the person they would get married. The families of the two parties ‘set them up’ on ‘arranged dates’ that they had to go on to get to know each other. There had to be agreement from all sides, including the two getting married. Very few cultures, if any, have forced marriages.
If you were a Creator, it would make sense that the commands given to man for marriage would directly apply to the things that attract men and women to marriage. After all, these things are to be a preparation for the roles and responsibilities of marriage. Indeed, in the Law of Moses, God laid out additional responsibilities for the role of the husband. These are:
- Protector — Numbers 30 were authority acts as a covering in love for vows. This is affirmed in the by Paul and Peter that the purpose of headship is to love as Christ loved us, not be embittered toward wives, and live with them in an understanding way as a weaker vessel in Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, Titus 2, and 1 Peter 3.
- Provider — Exodus 21 where food, clothing, and sex are not to be deprived wives if another wife is taken. These are essential components of marriage. This is affirmed by Paul in 1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Now, relating this back to the Scriptures in Genesis 1 we can logically see how attraction plays into the various roles and responsibilities given to men and women in marriage. The commands of God are directly related to what we find attractive in the opposite sex.
- Woman was created as man’s helpmeet and to help man multiply in the earth. She was created so that man did not have to be alone. Beauty is a proxy for healthiness and fertility because it signals less genetic errors and ability to bear children. Waist to hip ratios or curves garners a lot of attention by men because they are attractive, but they are also related to a woman’s ability to bear children.
- Men were commanded to rule and subdue the earth: hence, confident, ambitious, successful leaders are likely to do that. It’s no surprise that Scripture tells men that they are to be Protectors and Providers for their wives and families. An ambitious, successful husband can easily provide for his family such as in Exodus 21 and 1 Timothy 5:8. A confident leader won’t back down from Protecting his wife when necessary or sacrificing himself as Jesus did for us. He will also be able to lead his family well such as described in Ephesians 5.
Now, looking back, it’s an ah-ha moment for us because it all fits together. God created attraction to be rooted in the ability of the opposite sex to perform their particular roles and responsibilities in marriage well and to fulfill God’s commands to us.
Hence, marriage is created and meant to address the physical needs in a mate and the commands of God here on the earth.
Other New Testament Scriptures on marriage
Much of the modern Church has fallen ignorantly into the lie that godliness is attractive. This is the Christian ought fallacy which follows that ‘because godliness is a good thing it should be what is attractive.’ However, when we examine NT Scriptures, we find this to be false.
Paul tells the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 6 to marry believers and not unbelievers. ‘What fellowship does light have with darkness and darkness with light?’ However, if godliness and good character were attractive, everyone would be attracted to Christians. That’s clearly false. Rather, it’s the case that any man exhibiting PSALMs and masculinity will be attractive to women and they will not necessarily be believers or not. This is why Paul warns not to marry unbelievers because some were attractive but bad choices for marriage.
Similarly, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7 the only reason given in the NT to marry: “it is better to marry than to burn.” In fact, it is even ideal or at least preferable [to him] that all men remain single as he so full attention can be focused toward the Lord. What are the things that cause us to burn for marriage? It is what sexually attracts us. This is the sex drive and beauty for men. This is the sex drive and strong, confident, handsome, ambitious, successful leaders for women. These are the things we look for in a mate, aside from important qualifiers such as godlines and character.
Why should women not usurp authority over man [in the Church and family] and why is she saved through childbearing in 1 Timothy 2? Because she is fulfilling the initial commands of God to be fruitful and multiply, and her offspring like Jesus will take dominion over the earth. Jesus added from the initial command of God to take dominion over the earth to also win the people of the earth through the gospel. Make disciples of all nations.
Another problem, from what I’ve seen, is not solely that the modern Church parrots false narratives about what is attractive to both men and women. That is definitely harmful. However, there is the issue that makes it seem like godliness is mutually exclusive with the traits that attract the opposite sex. For example, beauty is somehow mutually exclusive with godliness, which 1 Pet 3 does not say at all. Another example is that a successful, ambitious man may be looked on as ‘too worldly’ because money is evil when it is the love of money that is evil in 1 Tim 6. This is a problem because these things are false. You can be beautiful and godly. You can be a confident, ambitious, and successful Christian leader.
Other Biblical pitfalls of downplaying attraction
Generally speaking, the modern Church loves to downplay the role of attraction in marriage. I believe that this is because it is based on a faulty understanding of why attraction is important.
For example, it’s clear from the Scriptures that beauty is what is attractive to men. However, beauty without godliness and character has disastrous results results for men. They’re carried away to worship idols (Solomon and harem). They get caught in adultery (David and Bathsheba). They get scared into lying (Abraham, Sarah, Abimelech, and Pharaoh). They get dragged down into the pit (the vast majority of Proverbs on deceitful women). The beauty of women is never downplayed. In fact, in Song of Songs Solomon lauds the beauty of the Shulamite woman the entire book without mentioning her character once.
Those who claim beauty is shallow fall into the trap of false humility. God created beauty, and beauty is objective. Some examples are nature, facial symmetry, a woman’s curves, and strong, muscular men. Without a God as an anchor, there can be no objective Truth such as beauty. Those who downplay beauty don’t understand the role it plays within marriage.
Obviously cultivating beauty or cultivating strong, confident, handsome, ambitious, successful leaders should not be placed over godliness and character. However, they are not mutually exclusive. Beauty is only vanity when focused in the wrong direction. Beauty for attention, beauty for power, beauty for other men are not good. However, beauty for a husband in marriage is good. Similarly, the same is true of the sex drive.
We do both singles and married a disservice by downplaying the role attraction plays in marriage. If we don’t show them why, from the Scriptures, God created these traits to be important and attractive to the opposite sex we risk alienating them and/or giving them cognitive dissonance. Exceptions are exceptions. Hanging onto exceptions when you want to be married give you a low probability of success. Sure, some men marry obese women. Most men don’t. Sure, some women marry men who play video games all the time. Most women don’t.
“Oh? You want a beautiful wife? That’s shallow and superficial.” However, we implicitly understand that beauty is objective, at least in part. That creates strong cognitive dissonance in Christian men: “Oh, I shouldn’t want beauty? Then why do I desire a beautiful wife? Is beauty a bad thing? Why do I want a beautiful wife if beauty is superficial?” Sadly, this is too often the case.
That which God creates is beautiful. He created us, and we were very good. He created attraction and our sex drives. He created marriage. He command us to take dominion and be fruitful and multiply. The loving gaze of a husband on his beautiful bride. The respect of a wife toward her strong, confident husband. Our righteousness is our beautiful clothing to Jesus. The beauty of a large family.
All of these things come together to form a coherent whole that exemplifies the nature of the beauty of marriage and the plan that God created for us to accomplish.