Publication: One-to-One, Spring 2012
About marriage, the classic song says, “It’s an institute you can’t disparage!” And yet, the institution of marriage at large, and numerous individual marriages, are indeed under tremendous attack today. Marriage is often mocked as untenable, boring, and undesirable by pop culture icons. Increasing numbers of couples simply choose to live together without the benefit of a marriage covenant.
And, of course, there are the continued efforts of the radical homosexual activists and their enablers in media, politics, and pop culture to re-define what marriage actually is: a loving life-long commitment between one man and one woman.
I would suggest that one significant reason that marriage is under attack is because Christians and churches have neglected to reflect the biblical model and norm for marriage. Whether it’s the searing effects of spiritual attack, a desire for political correctness, or simple expediency that have caused us to lower standards or lower defenses of marriage, the fact remains that biblical marriage has never been held in lower esteem at any time in American history.
Marriage is wonderful and God- ordained, but it also takes work, and sometimes it takes hard work. Too many good, loving, godly men and women have experienced, for varying reasons, the sadness of broken marriage relationships. It isn’t easy, and too often, our Christian communities have not done all that we can or should to support and uphold marriages. Our call is not to judge individuals, but to restore individuals AND understanding of what marriage is to be.
Because the family is the most basic building block of society, this breakdown is having a profound effect on our culture. Children being conceived and raised outside of the bonds of marriage, or without the benefit of a father and mother both being present in the home, have a much tougher road ahead of them in life. This affects our economy, our crime rates, our drug statistics, success in education, the level of depression and suicide, and so many other troubling trends. There is no amount of government spending that can adequately alleviate the suffering caused by family breakdown and the loss of the marriage covenant.
At the same time, there has been a rise of television programming surrounding the pageantry of wedding ceremonies. Perhaps this trend significantly ramped up following the spectacular Royal Wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana in London 30 years ago. A whole generation of people grew up with a view of weddings and marriage that was more rooted in fantasy and fairy tales than in reality. The tragic and ugly ending of Charles’ and Diana’s marriage did not seem to dissuade some from pursuing an unrealistic level of expectation concerning the purpose of a wedding ceremony.
The more broken our homes have become, the more our desire seems to grow for wedding pageantry.
Magazines and popular television programs like “Bridezillas” and “My Fair Wedding” seem to promote the notion that what matters most is a wedding spectacle worthy of Broadway, Las Vegas, or Westminster Abbey. I’ve also noticed often on the television programs about weddings that the ministers are basically props, with little more relevance than the old bishop in “The Princess Bride” film. “Mawwiage,” anyone?
One wonders if too many couples put more thought and investment into planning the bachelor and bachelorette parties, the wedding production, the all-important reception bacchanalia, and the exotic honeymoon than they do into how the actual ongoing marriage relationship is going to work.
THE BRIDE AND GROOM
The Bible begins and ends with weddings, and there are many important weddings and marriages mentioned throughout the Scriptures. God instituted marriage and He Himself holds it in high regard.
One reason that marriage is sacred to God is because it is a prophetic picture of the relationship between Jesus and the Church. The Church is the Bride of Christ, and He is her Beloved Groom. He gives Himself utterly for her, so that she might be spotless and pure; He gives her His Name and all that He has. He is devoted to her eternally, and she to Him.
Every wedding ceremony between believers ought to reflect this reality and explicitly testify to it. Rather than going into great financial debt to throw a giant show-biz bash glorifying themselves, couples should humbly acknowledge their debt to the Lord by glorifying Him on the wedding day and ever after. There should be a desire by the couple to testify to the love relationship between Christ and His Bride in everything that is said and done … before, during, and after the ceremony. Worshiping the Lord “in the beauty of holiness” should be a significant part of any wedding plan.
JESUS, BE THE CENTER
In all that I’ve said thus far, it may sound like I am against “big” wedding celebrations; I actually love them. There is nothing wrong with making the occasion as special and as beautiful as possible, but fancy buildings and lavish outfits can never substitute for the glory of God and the love between husband and wife. I love the joy that wells up when we are in the presence of a loving couple, publicly proclaiming their devotion for one another, and the favor of God is resting upon them and all of the witnesses. Few moments in life are sweeter.
Ern Baxter used to talk about the law of first things and beginnings. How you start will set the pattern for what follows. I truly believe that a Christ-centered wedding points the way to a Christ-centered marriage. For example, I am so thankful that those counseling my fiance and I before our wedding emphasized the importance of the prayer and communion time at the altar. We came to understand that this was the moment when the Lord Himself would come and seal our covenant together; when we placed our hands into His hands, and He would forever hold us together.
When that moment arrived in our wedding ceremony, it was after a significant time of singing and worshipping together with the congregation, of hearing a brief Scriptural teaching, and declaring our vows. It was a holy time—the glory of God surrounded us so strongly and poured out upon us so powerfully that we could scarcely hold ourselves up on our knees. In our 27 years of marriage together, we have reflected on that moment countless times; in seasons of joy and in seasons of sorrow and hardship. We are far from perfect individually or as a couple, which is all the more reason why we need God’s grace and presence in our relationship.
If you are considering marriage, please don’t use your pastor as a prop. Seek out his counsel and prayer. Invest time in discussing and planning for a life together, not just a ceremony or a party or a honeymoon. One great tool I’ve found is called “The Getting Ready for Marriage Workbook” by Jerry Hardin and Dianne Sloan. “The Christian Family” by Larry Christenson is another classic. I’ve taught a series out of Ephesians 5 & 6 on “The Spirit-Led Life” which I also believe is helpful for husbands, wives, and children.
Whatever Christ-centered, Bible-based resource you choose to prepare you for married life—or to strengthen your marriage life—I pray that the Lord’s grace and peace will be with you and your family, and I commend you for being willing to invest in such a holy and significant endeavor. May it bring blessing to you and your loved ones, and testify to the world of the unfailing love of Christ Jesus.
Scripture Reference: Ephesians 5-6
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.