While I write this, I am pondering the upcoming marriage of our daughter, a new experience for my wife and me. Perhaps a brief refresher on the estate of marriage would benefit all of us. First and foremost, marriage is not an invention of humans. God ordained it, and the Bible is the instruction manual. We must then turn to Scripture for guidance.
Woman was fashioned out of man to be a helper comparable to him, because it was not good that man should be alone (Genesis 2:18-23). Marriage was instituted in the garden of Eden when God joined Adam and Eve; the two became one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Lest anyone think that this institution is referred to only in the Old Testament, Jesus Himself reiterates the essence of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Blessings of Marriage
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).
In addition to the companionship, sexual fulfillment, and suitable help that spouses bring to one another, God also blesses marriage through the gift of children. He commanded Noah and his family to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 9:1). Children are described as a gracious gift from God (Genesis 33:5), and a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3).
Marriage Under Assault
It is not that Scripture is unclear about the institution of marriage. It is intended to be between one man and one woman until they are parted by death (Romans 7:2-3). The erosion of marriage in our society is due to sin, our unwillingness to conform to God’s prescribed arrangement. Marriage is under assault from every direction. Cohabitation, or couples living together as husband and wife without being married, is so common now that many see it as normal, even practical, behavior. God sees it as the sin of fornication. Adultery, or having sexual relations with someone else’s spouse, is perhaps considered unfortunate, but almost inevitable (surely one cannot be expected to have just one sexual partner over the course of a lifetime!) Homosexual behavior, once considered taboo in our society, is awarded legal equivalency to marriage by our own Supreme Court. According to the most recent census data, 40.6 percent of children born in the United States are born to unwed mothers (David Crary, AP).
Many would agree that the breakdown of the traditional family unit is a root cause of many of society’s ills. Yet, with each passing year, the number and variety of attacks on marriage increase.
A Christian Response
How should a Christian respond in such a world? First, we must acknowledge that we too are guilty of not obeying God’s Word in this area. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He said, “. . . whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). He also warned against looking for a speck in our brother’s eye while not considering first the plank in our own (Matthew 7:3). The duty of husbands is to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5: 25-29). Since Christ’s love was perfect in every way, even to death, we know that we have not met that standard. The duty of wives is to submit to their husbands, as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-24). They too fall far short. With humble hearts we confess our need for forgiveness. May we daily strive to live in accord with God’s Word, and to be positive examples to our families and communities.
Christians will also want to be bold in defending scriptural marriage. It is not our job to change the heart, for only the Holy Spirit can do that, but we are called upon to witness faithfully to the world around us. To us, this should not be primarily a political or social issue, but a moral one. Societal opinions and court rulings will change, but God’s Word does not. When debating a point, it is not our opinion that matters, but what God’s Word says. To this end, may the Holy Spirit give us the opportunities, the desire, and the words with which to proclaim the truth.
Joe Lau is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.