Dear Friends, I received a letter from a young person asking about marriage. I asked this person if I could answer her inquiry publically . I thought that she was not only speaking for herself, but as a millennial, she may be voicing the questions of many within her generation.
Marriage in particular has been undermined and assaulted, to the point that many of the young don’t even believe it to be a necessity. Yet marriage is the basic building block of a successful society. The Psalmist asked, “If the Foundations be destroyed…what will the righteous do?”.
The following is the letter I received, and am happy to answer, in the name of the LORD.
Dear Pastor Bill
…. I get nervous asking questions and therefore I hope that I can use this function here to ask something that I have been confused about for a lot of my life…
I’m 20 now, but grew up with parents who had a very rocky marriage. I understand marriage isn’t always easy, but I have always had a lot of questions about the topic. I’ve searched through as many scriptures as I can find in the Bible about marriage, but there are parts which I find still unclear. Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who will cleave to each other for the rest of their lives… what happens if a husband and wife stop loving each other at a point, they stay married but if they vowed to always love each other, aren’t they breaking the covenant?
I have a friend whose parents aren’t married yet they seem to have made a commitment to stay together like they would be married, but what does this mean in terms of what God sets as being right? Because what does it mean to be married? Where does a wedding come from, like the ceremony or the legalisation? Does a covenant before God mean something legal? Or does it have to be done in a church? What about witnesses or wearing an expensive dress? I really hope my question doesn’t come across as disrespectful, pastor Bill. I do respect the institution and holy covenant of marriage and I do want to be married one day, its just that I have a lot of friends whose parents are not married, and when it comes to talking about the subject of marriage, what is required and what isn’t? I hope that once more I have used the correct function here on this website to send in this question.
If you are able to give me some advice on this subject, then I thank you in advance and I really appreciate it. Yours sincerely….(@@@@)
Dear sister you are asking very important questions. My generation (I am 62) has had to really think about the Biblical answer to these , because we were born in a world in which the sanctity and importance of marriage was assumed .
But in my adult life we have had to witness the all out cultural assault on nearly everything we once took for granted, and the tearing down of all that we once considered sacred, including marriage and the family.
As a Pastor, I have had to work out from scripture those things I once assumed about marriage in order to both defend it and to promote it. Also as a Parent, (My wife and I have six children and 15 grandchildren) we could not just take for granted the rightness or wrongness of things which our societal context once assumed. Like you, we have had to go to the Bible, and to seek the LORD for answers.
First of all let’s start at the beginning and at the end. By that I mean, did you realize that the Bible begins and ends with a wedding? What we see in Genesis 2 is a wedding. The first man was alone, and needed a ‘help meet’ (suitable companion) . It was the first “Not good” in the Bible and that , before the fall.
How does God turn a “not good” into a “good”? What He did looked a lot like a death and resurrection. The man was put into a deep sleep, and underwent an operation of sorts. Literally God took his side (not his rib, his side) and created woman, and presented her to the man.
Adam, whose eyes had not been dimmed by sin, could see in this first marriage an intimation of the final and ultimate marriage, for he saw another groom, who also had a scar in his side, presented with a Bride, ( Revelation 19 the marriage supper of the Lamb). Paul tells us in Ephesians chapter 5, that in marriage we become one person, in a sense, yet retain our individuality.
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.( Ephesians 5:30-31)
First of all, let us be clear dear sister, Marriage is ordained of God. It is not something that evolved or that man invented, God himself created it and instituted it , even before the fall. All real discussion about marriage and it’s validity must begin there.
Secondly, humanly speaking, God instituted marriage to solve the problem of loneliness. “It is not good that man be alone…”. Marriage is for companionship and is the school of true friendship. What God wants of people cannot be carried out autonomously, we need each other on various levels, especially for the task of having and raising children.
Spiritually marriage is a kind of ongoing prophecy, a picture of the relationship of Christ to His people.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.( Ephesians 5:27-31)
You grew up with parents who had a very rocky marriage. Unfortunately that has become the rule and not the exception. Marriage is difficult because it is a call to unselfishness. Man is naturally selfish. This generation (Mine and those following) is particularly selfish and perhaps is the generation Paul warned about when he said “In the last days perilous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves…”. Psychology has taught modern man to seek “self fulfillment” and to be true to Self above all else.
We shouldn’t have listened to these philosophies, for they are the opposite of the teaching of Jesus who said that happiness and fulfillment cannot come by selfishness, only by saying “no”to self in serving God and others. Marriage cannot work for selfish people.
You raise a very significant question when you ask,
…what happens if a husband and wife stop loving each other at a point, they stay married but if they vowed to always love each other, aren’t they breaking the covenant?
The short answer is this, ‘What is love’? What is it that people promise before God to do “I promise to love you all the days of your life, till death do us part”?
Surely Love must be more than a feeling . How could one promise to ‘feel’ anything for all of your life? For that matter how could God command fickle creatures such as you and I to “Love one another”, if love is but a strong feeling?
True Love involves feeling but is not a mere feeling. Love is a commitment to seek the other’s good, to even be willing to lay aside one’s own desires and sometimes needs, for the good of the other.
What happens if a husband and wife “stop loving each other”? Do you mean what happens if they “lost that loving feeling”? Or do you mean what happens if a man and woman consciously decide they are incompatible and will no longer seek each other’s good?
The one is understandable. Not everyday can be a romantic rapture, right? It can be remedied anyway, feelings come and go, they are fickle, and they can be consciously re-ignited.
It is the vows that count, not the feeling. The Covenant is binding and has sanctions in heaven, even if earthly courts have passed godless “no fault” divorce laws.
If a Husband or wife decide they no longer “love each other” and break their vows by divorce, they will one day have to give an account to the author of marriage, whom they have seriously sinned against, as to why they promised to Love each other, then backed down on that promise.We are not talking about a feeling or lack of a feeling, we are now talking about a refusal to keep a promise.
What about your friends who have found a way to live in harmony without marriage? Is it possible? Of course it is. I have met people who “Lived together” who seemed to get along much better than many married people.
Marriage is really friendship at it’s core. My wife is my best friend and I hers. So there are some people, (influenced by the cultural revolution) who have dispensed with Marriage, and yet know how to be friends. There are laid back people, long suffering people, easy going people, and so forth, that know how to get along even if they aren’t saved, so it doesn’t surprise me that your friends seem to have good thing going, in living together without marriage.
What does it say about people like your friend’s parents, that they know how to live with each other in seeming harmony, and to live as man and wife even if they aren’t married?
I believe that dispensing with marriage altogether says that these people do not fear God. They may know how to get along as people, and would probably make nice neighbors, but they do not know the LORD and certainly do not fear Him. God is the one who ordained marriage and whose law condemns all sex outside of marriage. Marriage is a big deal.
Furthermore these people who dispense with marriage, yet live together as man and wife, reveal that they aren’t concerned with other people. I often ask people in that position, “Would you want your daughter to just go and live with someone?”. Usually the obvious answer is “No”.
Wouldn’t you want your daughter to be with someone who respected and honored her parents enough to come and give them some kind of assurance that they love her and want to take care of her, and to go on record publicly that those were his intentions? Why wouldn’t someone want to do that?
Weddings are important because they are a way of including the families and friends of both parties and of honoring the parents of each, and celebrating publicly the formation of another household. Not to mention acknowledging God.
What evidence is there of honor and self control, and respect in a young man or woman, if there is not a requirement to wait and make things right, and to assure those who love the bride or groom, that the future will not be one of passionate impulse, but of disciplined delay of self gratification?
Living together, denies these values. If someone is unwilling to wait for my daughter, and to respect her enough to be engaged and allow the families to get to know him/her , I wouldn’t wish such a person on anyone I love. God is not in “living together” situations. Such people are godless.
What does it mean to be married? Is it a celebration? Is it a State license?
A marriage is a public affirmation of the intent to” love, honor and cherish”forever. Nothing else will do. Why wouldn’t someone publicly commits to such a thing? As for the ceremony, Marriage is of God and God should be acknowledged in it.
There is nothing emptier than to hear of someone getting “hitched” at the Justice of the Peace, or perhaps worse, Eloping. Next to getting saved, marriage is the biggest thing you will do in life. To elope is to cut everybody that loves and cares, out of the equation.
The marriage actually occurs at the taking of the vows, and those vows will be brought up on the day of Judgment.
Witnesses are there at the wedding for spiritual reasons. “If any two or more of you agree, it shall be done of my father in heaven”. Witnesses, by their presence are saying, “We believe this to be the will of God ad will always support this union”.
There is nothing wrong with spending money to make for a nice wedding, it is a way of saying, ‘this is important…”. However money shouldn’t deter anyone from having a wedding. An expensive wedding dress doesn’t guarantee a beautiful wedding or marriage. What makes both beautiful and elegant, is true love, the fear of God, and the joy and beauty of anticipating together what God has in store.
I hope this helps, if you think of other questions on this, I would be happy to further our dialogue. In the Love of Jesus, Pas Bill