Now more than ever before, confusion and controversy about marriage abounds. Gone are the days where you grow up, date, marry and live together with the woman [man] of your youth until death you do part. In our culture, how are we to view marriage, and should our culture determine how we view marriage? What is the foundation for what we believe about marriage and the commitment we make to marriage? If we are all honest with ourselves we would agree that we fall into two camps. We either believe entering into marriage is a lifelong commitment. Or we believe entering into marriage is conditional; it will last as long as it’s working out okay. This type of commitment to marriage is as lasting as a “pinky promise”.
If you fall into the first camp, you believe that marriage is a life – long commitment. Your belief is likely to be based on a foundational truth you’ve learned along the way. You may be a Christian and believe that marriage is a covenant; a solemn and binding arrangement that is unconditional. It is not based on our societal ways of “if you do this, then I’ll do that”. Or maybe you were raised with this “permanent” view of marriage and you have vowed to stay committed in a marital relationship. Or it could be that you’ve seen devastation and disaster in the marriage of a family member or friend and that has fueled your desire to not repeat the same patterns in your own life. For one or a combination of these reasons you have committed yourself to a lifelong marital relationship. The Bible describes marriage in terms of a covenant. It is unlike any other relationship primarily because it is not man’s idea, but God’s idea. J. Vernon McGee, a well known Pastor and Bible Teacher, said “Society did not make marriage; society found marriage. It is God who made marriage, and He gave it to mankind. Marriage rests upon His direct word.” His statement brings to mind Matthew 19:6, which states, “What therefore God hath joined together let no man put asunder.” This covenant entered into through marriage is a reflection of God’s “arrangement” with us. It is love that comes to us not with a handshake or a contract that can be broken. It comes to us with the full force of an indestructible promise. It is everlasting, unbreakable and unconditional. And in this relationship we find peace and comfort and security. That is what we find in a marriage commitment based on a covenant promise. It is a relationship with another person that says “no matter what happens or regardless of how difficult it gets, I am yours.” For society today, that kind of commitment seems so unrealistic. It doesn’t make sense.
If you fall into the second camp, you probably believe that marriage is good, but you also believe that there is nothing preventing you from calling it quits when the going gets tough. We live in an individualistic society. If we don’t like where we live, we move. When don’t like our job any longer, we leave. If we don’t like a program on television, we switch the channel. We are used to having exactly what we want when we want it and marriage for a lifetime just doesn’t work in that paradigm.
Far from leaving us satisfied, this kind of self-gratification leaves us wanting more. While this kind of self-centered living may give us what we want, it does not give us what we need. Whether you know God or whether you don’t know God, we all long for security, love, approval and acceptance. We are all looking for this in a thousand different places. It is easy to believe that the next relationship will be different. The problem is that your deep craving for security and love and acceptance is ripped to pieces every time you move to another relationship. Each broken relationship tells your heart that you’re not accepted, not loved and not approved of. This is true for marriage relationships and it is also true for dating relationships.
The reality is that we live in a fallen world. Even if you don’t know God you would have to agree that things are just not the way they’re supposed to be. Things are messed up. Marriage, while intended to be perfect and covenantal, has come under the fall, the brokenness of our humanity. None of us gets it right and none of us are really even very good at it. But there is more to this story.
God sent a Bridegroom for us; the One who would have us as His own, forever and ever – a faithful one who loves us with all our messes and all our mistakes. He says to us, “I know you’re afraid of commitment, I know you haven’t gotten it right, I know you better than you know yourself and I love you more than you will ever know.” If you know God, He has redeemed you and is at work in all of your relationships and in your marriage. God’s ability to clean things up is so much bigger than our ability to mess things up. He is making all things new. He loves you, has secured eternity for you and He will never leave or forsake you! The amazing beauty of His love for us is that it’s not based on our human, frail, faltering love for Him, but is based on His covenant promise to us in Christ. It is faithful. It is unconditional. It is everlasting. He says, “Even in death, we will never part!”