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Confusion about oneness creates a substantial burden for relationships. In God’s economy, when two people become one, their individual distinctiveness is never lost. The point of misunderstanding is with the word become. In this context, become does not mean “replaced by.” Instead, it means “joined.”
If you believe oneness means your identity must diminish, your relationship will struggle to thrive. Instead of having opinions, you’ll only have compliance. Instead of strengthening your relationship, you’ll create weaknesses.
Healthy Oneness: Two Families Become One Family
A helpful question is, two what become one what? God says husband and wife become one flesh. One flesh has at least two meanings. On a literal, physical level, one flesh refers to the joining of two bodies in sexual union. The literal is a picture of the spiritual. Two people working together for mutual benefit. On a figurative, spiritual level, one flesh refers to becoming a unified family. God creates one new family from the parts of two separate families.
This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.Genesis 2:24 NLT
Both meanings imply coming together in a unified partnership that isn’t meant to be separated (until death). Both are illustrations of the deeper, permanent reality of Christ and the Church. When a person becomes a Christian, the person leaves the family of the lost to join God’s family. The believer is now “one” with Christ, a part of the body of Christ.
Note that two being a unified one is different than two changing into one. A unified one allows closeness while retaining individual definition. A husband and wife don’t lose their God-given identities; they gain experience in physical and spiritual oneness that can’t be experienced any other way.
Healthy Oneness: Two People, One Team
I like to put it this way. A husband and wife are on the same team and should act as one to accomplish their goals. What is a win for one is a win for the other. A loss for one is a loss for the other.
This allows for individual choices. God will judge a man on how good a husband he is. God will judge a woman on how good a wife she is. But God doesn’t make one responsible for the other’s poor choices. God doesn’t directly judge you for how good your marriage is–only indirectly through your performance because it is within your control.
In a tennis match, if one player is significantly more skilled than the other, the game won’t be interesting, but each individual can still be judged on their skill and character while playing.
Being judged individually should not encourage acting only in your best interest. You should act both in your best interest and also in the best interest of your partner. God expects you to give up your demand to have life go the way you want it. God opposes the proud. Insisting on your way at all costs is usually selfish.
Two strong individuals make a strong marriage. One dominant and one weak person will create a less strong marriage than the couple’s average strength. In contrast, the synergy between two strong individuals who have learned how to cooperate will exceed the output of two strong individuals working apart.
Learning how to cooperate as a team takes time and effort. Marital oneness includes physical and spiritual closeness, so it is more than what being on a sports team feels like. At the same time, there is no marriage in heaven, so it has to be less than what being in heaven will be like.
What has your experience with oneness been like? Are you expecting too much or too little from your relationship?
For more on oneness, consider How Two Identities Become One. The image associated with it provides a clear picture of what two as one should look like.
Image #286346030 licensed from Adobe Stock
Last updated 2023/10/01
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.