Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why Marriage?

According to a study from the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, 60% of couples live together before they get married. In my interaction with these couples I find that many do it while trying to finish up college in order to help with expenses, others as a "Trial Marriage", still others for companionship.. as a way to combat loneliness. Many of these go on to get married which is a good thing but as in all things of the flesh, there are also those who do it for reasons other than love. Some of those reasons are are to just get out of the home and others are simply the lust filled dreams of youth wrapped up in false hurtful promises.

The trend in society has heavily shifted toward this being an acceptable behavior. No longer is there a taboo associated with it in the eyes of the world. That said, it underscores a point that all of us know and which is times change and so do societies. But is there anything that does not change?

This post will likely not mean a thing to anyone who reads it simply because a small flea in a big pond makes no noticeable splash. But being compelled to write I trudge on. Before we look at the unchanging let’s consider that change can be both good and bad. Humanity tires easily. Attention spans only last so long and things get old fast. Marketing experts know this which is why change is constant in our consumerist society. Cars, fashions, homes, decorations, employers, friends and locations are constantly in a flux. Simply put we like change. But if everything in the world, and I mean everything, constantly changed there would be nothing for us to hold onto with hope. My examples may be extreme, but bear with me a moment. What would life be like for children if they had new parents every few months for 18 years? A glimpse of the outcome of that can be seen in the lives of foster children who are often troubled and have no solidity in their fragile life. What if families were forced to find new living conditions every 6 months, or a new job every three months. Most would not be happy with the transients lifestyle and suicide would skyrocket. Think about it, with fate as the dealer and all prejudice aside, one could be living in the lap of luxury one minute and in a cold alley the next. What about the college student who had to change schools every two months for various reasons? How long would it take for the student to reach her goals? The point is there must be constants in life. A child is best reared and rounded when she has the the same male and female parents for life. A student excels in college because they have a set goal and they reach it by staying the course and staying put. Families grow and branch out because they have a stable home, income, spiritual life, and future to look toward. There always hope at home and it is always true that there is "No place like home."

A lot can be said for constants that help one to grow and to develop into maturity, but one constant that can never change is God's Word, the Bible. True there are modern translations that seek to make it more readable but the underlying truths and values as given by God himself never change. There is a reason for this that can never be understated. The Bible clearly reveals God as the creator and sustainer of the universe and all human inhabitants; moreover He created the plants, animals, and fish of the sea, Gen. 1:1, 2:1ff. He is the One constant who has laid out the direction that man should go. For our good and our peace He has shown us what is good to do for man all the days of his life, Ec. 9:9, 12:13-14.

If this is true then why are so many people ditching the traditional family values of marriage and opting for the less stinging phrase, "Cohabitation?" What was the under-girding foundation that held up the traditional family for so many years? If you speak to anyone on the street and ask them you are likely to get a blank stare. But the answer goes way back before any were born.

In the timeless Genesis we read:

“And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’”  ...And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” 
 --Gen. 2:18, 21-24

In the passage God made it clear that man should not live alone; he needed a helper. Thus He made woman from Man. Because of this need that man had, God's solution was to provide a spouse. To continue this pattern He states that the Man is to leave his father and mother and take a wife and the two become one flesh. Now traditionally speaking there is an intimacy between a man and a woman that if understood correctly, teaches us that becoming one flesh means more than sex. It means thinking alike, making decisions alike, being on the same sheet of music. It means she's number one or he's number one; not other family or friends. It means being able to fully sacrifice on the part of the husband and for the wife to fully accept the support, companionship, help and the shoulder the husband is supposed to provide. It means two people on a mission together for life and being of one mind and purpose with the intent of procreation. The Apostle Paul, made an interesting statement concerning this relationship in the context of married couples that are unequally yoked with an unbelieving spouse and the possibility of divorce. He said in the context of staying together as opposed to divorce that something special is in effect, "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy,” 1Cor. 7:14.

Of this passage William Barclay wrote:

Paul has two great things to say which are of permanent value.

(i) He has the lovely thought that the unbelieving partner is consecrated by the believer. They two have become one flesh and the wonder is that in such a case it is not the taint of heathenism but the grace of Christianity which wins the victory. There is an infection about Christianity which involves all those who come into contact with it. A child born into a Christian home, even into a home where only one of the partners is a Christian, is born into the family of Christ. In a partnership between a believer and an unbeliever, it is not so much that the believer is brought into contact with the realm of sin, as that the unbeliever is brought into contact with the realm of grace.

(ii) He has the equally lovely thought that this very association may be the means of saving the soul of the unbelieving partner. For Paul evangelization began at home. The unbeliever was to be looked on, not as something unclean to be avoided with repulsion, but as another son or daughter to be won for God. Paul knew that it is blessedly true that often human love has led to love of God.

It is a beautiful thing. Salvation which is the most important need God seeks in a persons life is made all the more attainable in unequally yoked marriages because of the grace which will emanate from the believers life. The union of two whether saved, unsaved, or even unequal in yoke can still find God's grace in the marriage. Is it easy? No. It just becomes more attainable for the one who is an unbeliever to be touched by God. It certainly is not God's desire that two are unequally yoked because of the conflict that will ensue in marriage, 2 Cor. 6:14. But it happens and happens even  more when two become unequally yoked because one gets saved after marriage.

John MacArthur comments further on the effect of the Spirit in the life of the children:

The Christian need not fear that the children will be unclean, defiled by the unbelieving father or mother. God promises that the opposite is true. They would otherwise be unclean if both parents were unbelievers. But the Lord guarantees that the presence of just one Christian parent will protect the children. It is not that their salvation is assured but that they are protected from undue spiritual harm and that they will receive spiritual blessing. Because they share in the spiritual benefits of their believing parent, they are holy. Often the testimony of the believing parent in this situation is especially effective, because the children see a clear contrast to the unbelieving parent's life, and that leads them to salvation.

With so much said about marriage in the Scripture the case is clear that God meant to bring His true and full blessing to man, woman, and child through this means. Today couples, up to 60%, are choosing to live together before becoming married. Some will say, "at least they are marrying." Yes this may be true and I thank God for that. But in the interim they are disdaining the Lord and showing Him that they do not trust that His way is the right way, not only so, they are in most cases committing fornication which is the sin of premarital sex. What they are silently and in many cases, unknowingly saying is, "God, I do not trust that Your way is the right way and I also do not believe you care if I have sex at the same time. It may be unscriptural but who believes the Bible anyway?" I wonder how many truly look at the issue that way? Of the couples I have spoken to, maybe 1 out of 3 will and they soon make an attempt to get right with God.

The practice of pre-marital sex and cohabitation is just one more proof of where we have placed the authority of God and the Word of God in society. It is surely a travesty that is only allowed to continue for the time it runs its course because of God's long-suffering in the hope that many will turn to Him for salvation. But soon the door will shut, God will not be silent, and the sin that was so freely engaged in will come at a high price. Salvation is for those who are willing to confess their sin before a Holy God, repent of their ways that are against Him, and come to Him humbly and with a contrite heart, while calling on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. In calling they believe that He still lives and has defeated death. God never asked us to write our own version of the Scripture and follow it. It is His Word and His alone that will judge us. By it we will either stand or fall. Here's the secret, you will only stand if you have a pure heart and clean hands and that was accomplished for us on the cross of Christ.

In 2 Timothy we find the following from the Word with which we will be judged:

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, (Opinions of those in a Godless pop-culture) for they will increase to more ungodliness...

Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, (dishonorable) he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart,"
--2 Tim. 2:15-16, 19-22 (between parenthesis mine)

What Paul is simply saying is if we listen to the vain babblings of those who do not know God or those who think they do but live otherwise, the outcome will lead to more ungodliness and the fruit will guarantee you a place of dishonor.

Why Marriage? Because it is God’s way of blessing man, woman, child and society. It also brings honor to His name. Anything otherwise brings shame and will not stand on the day when all men must -- the day that counts, before a Holy God.

God Bless