Some of you are old enough that you recognize the music as the Frank Sinatra song, “Love and Marriage”. Others who are a little younger simply recognize it as the theme from “Married with Children”, that’s how I think of it.
For those who aren’t familiar, “Married with Children” was a sitcom that aired on Fox from 1987 to 1997. It was the longest-running live action sitcom on Fox and focused on the lives of Al and Peg Bundy and their children Kelly and Bud.
It aired about the same time as “Roseanne” and while many families saw themselves reflected in the Connors from “Roseanne”, they took solace in the fact that they weren’t like the Bundy’s from “Married with Children”.
You watched Married with Children and thought “There but for the Grace of God.”
Those even younger have never heard the song before today. The chorus goes:
“Love and marriage, love and marriage
They go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you, brother
You can’t have one without the other”
Over the next seven weeks, we are going to be looking at family relationships, husbands, wives, parents and children. How we live together and how we love together.
Unless you are an orphaned, childless hermit there will be something here for you.
So, let’s start with marriage, for thousands of years it was assumed that if a man and woman were in a long-term relationship that they were married.
In this day and age, our perceptions of an event are often coloured by what we see in the media and certainly there are all kinds of movies about weddings and marriages, Mamma Mia, My Best Friend’s Wedding, 27 Dresses and Big Fat Greek Wedding are only a few.
And it’s not surprising that movies about weddings are usually chick flicks.
But guys if you are looking for a movie wedding scene with all the essential elements, heroes, villains, giants, peasants and the underlying threat of physical violence there’s only one. Here is one of my favourite movie wedding scenes.
. . . (Wedding clip from Princess Bride)
Well, that’s a wedding scene that guys can get into
So, let’s begin with What Defines a Marriage:
Let’s start here with some secular definitions:
Merriam-Webster Dictionary mar·riage (mărʹĭj) noun
1. the state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law
Dictionary.com defines marriage this way, Any of the diverse forms of interpersonal union established in various parts of the world to form a familial bond that is recognized legally, religiously, or socially, granting the participating partners mutual conjugal rights and responsibilities
Collins English Dictionary mar·riage (mărʹĭj) noun used to define marriage this way:
1. The state of being married: relation between husband and wife.
But now it defines Marriage this way: A marriage is the relationship between two people who are married. Notice, it no longer speaks of a husband and wife.
Kind of reminds me of the story told about Abraham Lincoln. It seems that one day he was in a discussion with a young man and he asked him “How many legs would your calf have if you called his tail a leg?” To which the boy replied “Five”, “No, four” the President said, “simply calling his tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.
Of all the definitions I’ve read I think I enjoyed Sydney Smith’s the best, Smith was an English Clergyman who lived between 1771 and 1845 and he said “Marriage resembles a pair of shears, so joined that they cannot be separated, often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them.”
But why? Why marriage.
Because Socially: Marriage Protects the Family
Throughout history and in cultures around the world there have been procedures and celebrations set in place that allowed a man and a woman to come together and start a family.
In North America that is recognized as our modern Weddings, there is music (Link to music) that when we hear it we immediately think “Wedding”.
There are words that are said, “Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedding husband?” that we automatically think “Wedding”.
There are clothes that when we see them we automatically think “Wedding.” There are even automobiles that when we see them we think “Wedding.”
And what we think of as normal might seem a little strange in other lands and other cultures and perhaps even in our own land a couple of generations ago. Weddings have become big business today. Sometimes when I’m talking to a couple who are living together without being married and I query them as to why they haven’t gotten married their response is “We can’t afford to get married.”
No, getting married doesn’t any more than living common-law. The cost of a licence and the preacher pretty much covers it, and if they can’t afford the preacher I’ll do it for nothing. What they can’t afford is the Wedding and that is completely different than a marriage.
And what might seem strange in our culture might be normal in another culture.
In the late eighties a gentleman in our church in Truro approached the men’s group at a men’s breakfast with a unique appeal, Jack had been a missionary in Zambia several years before where he became a good friend and mentor to a young man.
Now the young man was graduating from Bible College and wanted to get married but his future father-in-law was asking four cows for his daughter. She was educated as a teacher and so her getting married would hurt the family financially. Now you probably think that is strange and wrong, but in that culture that was all part of the marriage process.
Guys without looking at your wife, keeping your eyes straight ahead, how many cows would you have paid? The Wesleyan Men’s group in Truro helped raise the money,
Alfred and Muumbee have been happily married now for 30 years and he is an ordained minister, has his master’s degree from Asbury Seminary in Kentucky and is the National Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church in Zambia.
The reason that cultures throughout history have tended to lean toward a monogamous form of marriage was to strengthen society through stable family units. Without some type of formal agreement, there was nothing to hold family units and thus society together.
We are starting to rediscover that reality, with the rising divorce rates, men who are paying child support to children from one or two failed marriages, while not really being fathers. Mom’s who are left raising children by themselves or ending up in blended relationships where parents can’t really function as parents.
Is it any wonder that the concept of “till death do we part” was an integral part of society up until the last forty years? When I was a kid I knew one kid who was living in what we now call a blended family, back then I just thought it was strange that his last name was different than his parents.
Whether it is a full-blown wedding that cost tens of thousands of dollars or simply jumping the broom, marriage is simply a couple affirming their desire to spend the rest of their life with each other and to raise a family.
Religiously: Marriage was Ordained by God. It’s interesting to note that in a society that is as non-church going and pagan as ours is, church weddings are still the way to go for the many Canadians.
They are looking for the scripture reading, the prayers and the god talk. I’m not sure if it’s seeking to reclaim a little bit of religious heritage, if it’s just considered the right thing to do or if they are just covering all their bases. Something borrowed something new something religious something blue.
A friend of mine is an ordained minister who is not presently pastoring a church, last year he put an ad in Kijiji about performing weddings as a pastor. He performed 20 weddings for people who weren’t connected with a local church but wanted a minister and not just a marriage celebrant to bless their marriage.
Max Lucado wrote “God created marriage. No government subcommittee envisioned it. No social organization developed it. Marriage was conceived and born in the mind of God.”
And indeed, the concept of marriage is the very first human institution. We read about it earlier in the account of creation.
After Eve is created Adam says in Genesis 2:23-24 “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’ ” Actually what he said was, “I think I’m in love”
The scripture continues by saying This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.
1126 words into the Bible, as soon as we have man and woman the concept of marriage is defined. You have two and they come together, and you have one. And that oneness was defined by God. It happens emotionally, it happens spiritual and in the act of lovemaking, the couple becomes one physically.
And that is why within the scripture the act of sex is set apart for husband and wife. Otherwise, how can you become one with this person and that person and another person without giving up a little bit of yourself each time?
And so, within the religious sense when God created man and woman he created marriage. In verse 25 it says Genesis 2:25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. It doesn’t say Adam and the woman, or Adam and his girlfriend, it says Adam and his wife.
And so, there is a religious component to marriage that is very similar to the social component. It is for the good of the couple, the good of the individuals and the good of the resulting family.
But how long has the church been involved in the actual marriage ceremony? Probably not as long as you would think. The act of getting married has always involved something even if it was as simple as the couple stating that they were married, you say that sounds like they were simply living together.
No, they had made a commitment to each other and to their family and to their community as being married, it was not a temporary thing it was a commitment.
As society progressed the commitment would often be accompanied by a celebration, remember in John 2:1-2 The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration.
The scriptures don’t tell us about the wedding ceremony simply the wedding celebrations. As a matter of fact, if you read through the bible you will see all kinds of references to wedding feasts and wedding celebrations but not to wedding ceremonies.
Up until the ninth century the church was not involved in the mechanics of people becoming married at all, then prayers and blessings were added to the celebration, some by the priest and some by the couple.
Around the twelfth century, it became customary to ask the parish priest to take part and he would question the couple concerning their intentions, but the church still didn’t take an official part.
It really wasn’t until 1563 that the Council of Trent required that Catholic marriages be celebrated in a Catholic church by a priest and before two witnesses. By the eighteenth-century marriage had become a religious event throughout Europe.
Spiritually: Marriage is a Metaphor for God’s Love for Us. In the Old Testament Israel is called God’s bride.
Isaiah 62:4-5 Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride. Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.
Throughout the New Testament, the relationship between Christ and His church relies on the analogy of a marriage. In 2 Corinthians 11:2 The Bible says For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.
In Ephesians 5:25-26 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. And several times in the Revelation the church is called the Bride of Christ.
When the prophet Isaiah was looking for a way to describe the salvation of God listen to the words he chooses in Isaiah 61:10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.
As a pastor, I’m often asked what Cornerstone’s stand is on Marriage and I tell them we are in favour of it.
But with that being said, what does that mean? It means we respect the biblical view of marriage.
And what is a biblical view of marriage? Here’s what it is not:
The Biblical View of Marriage Does Not Include Simply Living Together.
In Canada living together without being married is called a Common law relationship in Australia it was called a De facto relationship, but regardless of what it was called, it is not seen as marriage.
Legally it’s not considered marriage, biblically it’s not considered as marriage and even today socially it’s not considered marriage.
People in society know the difference between being married and just living together. We might not call it living in sin anymore or shacking up, but we don’t call it marriage.
Marriage entails a commitment. Most marriage ceremonies contain a statement that says something similar to “Til Death do we part”
Now you and I know that in 2018 that the technical term for that statement is “A Crock”.
Even though most wedding vows include a line such as “until death do we part”, or “as long as we both shall live” too many marriages last only until one partner or another becomes annoying.
But at least there is an illusion of commitment and permanency. People who are living common law will often say I’m not ready for that type of commitment.
Oh, they might vow their undying love for one another and say their love will last forever but a wedding says it publically instead of it just being pillow talk.
The Biblical View of Marriage Does Not Include More Than Two People. Even after the legislature permitting same-sex marriage the federal law will not allow polygamy or bigamy, yet.
Although, someone once defined multiple divorce and remarriage as serial polygamy.
Marriage is a relationship between two people, one man and one woman. Not three or four or a dozen, but one man and one woman.
You might recall that Mark Twain said: “The bible speaks very clearly about polygamy when Jesus said no man can serve two masters”.
To even up the ground here it was Author Erica Jong who wrote “Bigamy is having one husband too many. Monogamy is the same.”
And I know that in the Old Testament Polygamy is allowed or at least not disallowed and I have no deep insightful explanation for that other then in a time when Israel was fighting for her very survival that women would have outnumbered men because of war casualties and it was allowed to compensate for that.
And so legally you can’t be married to one person, socially it’s frowned on, for now. And while there have been cults that have promoted polygamy orthodox Christianity doesn’t, with a caveat.
It is interesting that whenever I teach pastors in Ghana I can always count on answering the same question. And that is what are they supposed to do when a man with more than one wife becomes a Christian? And, you understand that someday, in Canada, we may face the same question.
In Ghana my answer is always the same, he is to remain married to those wives and love and respect them. Because there is no other option.
And regardless of what the federal government or the supreme court may say The Biblical View of Marriage Does Not Include Partners Of The Same Sex.
Legally same-sex marriage is a part of Canadian fabric and if you think that will ever change I have a really nice bridge I’d like to sell you. That Genie isn’t going back in the bottle.
The Government may have changed the definition of marriage in the law books, but it is beyond their scope to change it in the bible.
Socially, of course, the majority of Canadians now accept same-sex marriage. But biblically same-sex marriage is not accepted.
I’m not being hateful, I’m not being homophobic, I’m simply discussing the biblical view of marriage and It has not changed.
The social view of marriage may have changed, the legal definition of marriage might have changed but the biblical view of marriage remains the same.
And it’s not just the Christian Bible, an examination of the historic teachings of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism reveals overwhelming support for the view of marriage as the union of men and women with no official endorsements or recognition of the idea of same-sex marriage.
Historically it wasn’t there, 5000 years of recorded religious thought, philosophies and regulations and no favourable mention of same-sex marriage. You’d think that if it was acceptable that at least one of the five biggies would have recorded something in favour of the idea, but no.
So why do some churches say there is nothing wrong with same-sex marriages? Because they have rejected the authority of scripture.
Those churches have already stepped over the line in rejecting the virgin birth, the deity and bodily resurrection of Christ and other major doctrines so why should this surprise you?
So where are you at today? As a believer a follower of Jesus Christ, are there things that need to be changed and attitudes that need to be adjusted?