“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:26–27

This Bible passage is a seminal passage. It instructs man on many levels concerning his identity and his place in creation as well as in eternity. Here you can find a hint of the doctrine of the tri-unity of God and an authoritative statement on just how many genders there are (hint, more than one, less than three). It propounds the idea that male and female are equal in their purposely created nature. It professes the unique distinction of man from animals. It makes room for the doctrine of the eternal existence of every human. In addition, it forms a pivotal reasoning point for critical thinking: God is my Creator and my Designer!

But what I desire to focus upon is the impact this verse has on the nature of marriage and the family. The passage is monumental in demonstrating the intimate nature of our relationship with God. No other created being in heaven or earth has such a close identity with God Himself. It was by His deliberate plan that we are who and what we are. Just as He has ownership over the institution of marriage, He has ownership over every individual marriage He has “joined together.”

In creating mankind, God created us in His image. In our text, His image is the fact that just as He has dominion over all creation, both male and female are “dominion-havers.” God places man at the pinnacle of His created work. The earth was created for man’s domain. Every creature is under man’s caretaking accountability. In all of creation only mankind resembles his Maker: he is a person, a philosopher, a conceptual thinker, a verbalizer, has capacity to know that God exists, to worship his Creator, and he (man) alone has eternal existence.

There is another integral thought that comes from this passage: The task of having dominion requires both sexes. Male and female are necessary for fulfilling God’s commission. Male and female are equal in nature, but certainly different in nurture. You cannot have two more complete opposites than having one male and one female bound together in matrimony. Marrying one thing to another is only true of things that are not the same. Pour water into water and you just combined the volume of water. Add oil to vinegar and you still have two substances, but they enhance flavor as they work together! Quite obviously, the success of any marriage demands absolute, good-willed cooperation, undamaged trust, and it is best instituted when each party is fully submitted under God. He alone has authority over both male and female in their individual roles in that marriage.

Being a “dominion-haver” implies management. Management is generally required of each person on this earth. Self-management builds character—we often call it self-discipline. A marriage will not do well without each individual’s full exercise of self-management, at all times. Trust between a couple will suffer huge damage if moral self-regulation is not exercised. A woman or a man would never have to wonder if their spouse is being faithful if self-management is fully operational. This is why marriage is a very “adult” decision. No one but you can really manage yourself. After all, this is why a person grows up and moves out of home in the first place. He wants to make his own decisions. But in a marriage, no one can regulate the other person. Only you have the volitional choice of self-management, day in and day out, in order to be complementary “dominion-havers” together.

Self-management is such a high responsibility that God tells us that each of us will stand alone before Him and give an account for the things we have done (Romans 14:12, 2 Corinthians 5:10). Though each marriage is unique, each marriage is populated by two imperfect people, and each marriage is a product of its era; God’s rules are supremely applicable, work toward perfection, and are timeless. As you yield yourself to Him and apply self-regulation accordingly, you and your spouse will be able to work together, in harmony with God’s design, and you will both be creating a little corner of “heaven on earth.” All it takes is working with the God-created differences and not against them.

The problem with fallen creation is that it tends to disorganization. Households are that way too. Without a firm handle on God’s rules and abiding by them, your home will turn to chaos and not resemble the plan of God that you together be “dominion-havers.” Equality is best achieved by each person exerting his or her unique strengths, in concert, so that the home brings glory to God. The Christian home is not a home made up of Christians, but a home that makes Christians. This takes partnership, this takes work, this takes humility, this takes a lifetime, this takes sustained self-discipline, and this takes great faith.

Anything always works better when it is used exclusively for its designed intent. Screwdrivers are not chisels, egg beaters are not for mashed potatoes, and marriage is not to be exercised for whim, selfishness, or as an experiment against God. It is a uniquely special covenant between two individuals, created by God. It will run best when it is managed by two partners yielded to the Lord first, and to each other. Trust and obey.