Over the last 30 years the institution of marriage has come under extreme pressure with divorce, cohabitation and sex outside marriage all on the rise… and increasingly so. People are marrying later and later, choosing not to marry at all and divorcing more quickly when marriage is tough. As a result, marriage is on the decline in our culture. The only anomaly to the decreasing interest in marriage is when it comes to same sex marriage, which is a huge issue as the up and coming referendum shows.
For the Christian this is tragic, as marriage is an institution invented by God and an institution which has existed in every culture throughout all of history. It is not a man-made invention (like business or schools), it is a divine invention; and for that reason we should think about the consequences of delaying marriage, ignoring marriage and finishing a marriage. This Sunday in our Sex in the City series I’ll be speaking about ‘A Vision For Marriage’ as it is the vision of marriage that I think our culture has lost. Even in the church, young people who are dating someone suitable to marry are afraid to commit as they think it will restrict them or they think they’re too young. Many young people in church are passing up good potential spouses (or not even noticing them) because they have the wrong vision for marriage or the wrong understanding of what they should be looking for in a marriage partner. So the following week I’ll be speaking on ‘How To Choose A Marriage Partner’. After these two weeks on marriage we’ll spend two weeks looking at the gift of singleness with its opportunities and challenges. In all four weeks we’ll see that the answer to our problems, whether we’re single or married, is knowing the true spouse, the true lover, the true friend: Jesus.
So here are five reasons why we should bother with marriage:
- It’s God’s invention so it must be a good thing. The premise to the series is that God created us for the greatest joy, security, delight and intimacy. Therefore whenever we choose to live against his ways we are choosing a lesser, less satisfying, life. So it is when it comes to marriage. If God gave us marriage and meant sex to be for marriage; even if our desires, our brains and our cultures think differently, we are actually being deceived and need to allow truth to shape our lives.
- It’s the best context to bring up children. I don’t have the evidence on hand (can someone send it me?) but the studies show that the best and most healthy context in which to rear children is marriage – one husband and one wife, committed to each other and to their kids. One of the reasons our society is falling apart is due to the breakdown of family life and the loss of the father role model in the home.
- It’s the place to have the best sex. Again, culture tells us differently. It says the best sex is outside marriage, with multiple partners. But that’s a lie and most of us know it (if we’ll be honest). The best sex happens within the context of life-long commitment which therefore enables the greatest intimacy, vulnerability and joy.
- It strengthens and enriches society. I love this line from the Church of Ireland liturgy about the purpose and power of marriage. But it’s true. Not only is marriage the best context for bringing up children, but a healthy home, a loving home, a caring and open home, brings blessing to others in the city. People feel encouraged and safe; they feel uplifted and cared for when they are in the home of a couple with a strong marriage. I have certainly felt this power in the past and seen it in my parents’ home growing up.
- It’s good for you. It’s God’s norm that most (not all) people should get married. The gift of singleness is wonderful. Jesus was single and Paul talked at length about singleness in 1 Corinthians 7. However for most people, getting married is a good, holy and right path to go down. It’s good for you. I have three quotes below that will show you why.
A Vision for Marriage
So to finish, here are three quotes to get you thinking about what marriage really is. One from Henri Blocher, a commentator on Genesis 2; another from Tim and Kathy Keller, in their brilliant book The Meaning of Marriage; and one from Leanne and myself, which we summarise in our Marriage – Biblical Foundations – the outline for our marriage preparation course, week 1.
Marriage is the covenant sanctioned by the authority in charge of social order, by which a man and a woman commit themselves unreservedly to each other to live a common life and to join in sexual union…Nakedness means not to be concealed from one another, but to be revealed and known without any cover. (Blocher)
What, then, is marriage for? It is for helping each other become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us. The common horizon husband and wife look towards is the throne, and the holy, spotless and blameless nature we will have. (Kellers)
So what is the purpose of marriage? Why did God give us marriage? To help show the world the true spouse Jesus. To help us become more like the true spouse. To answer the problem of loneliness and bring great joy, comfort, companionship and security to our lives and the community around us. To be the context for sex and raising children. (Vaughans)
Please do come along to the Q&A on 15th March and ask your questions.