I remember a song from my childhood called Love and Marriage. The lyrics said:
Love and marriage, love and marriage –
They go together like a horse and carriage.
Dad was told by Mother, You can’t have one without the other.
Unfortunately, this concept has become just an old-fashioned notion today for people who opt for living together (or as people used to say – shacking up) without taking the all-important step of marriage.
So what is marriage? And why is it so important? Marriage has traditionally been defined as: “The formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife.”
In talking with a friend recently, she was distraught over her granddaughter who was living in just such a situation, and was being abused by her live-in “lover.” When Grandma talked with the couple about getting married, he proudly said, “I don’t believe in marriage. It’s nothing but a piece of paper.”
If that were true, then what brought about the need for that piece of paper? Since time began, marriage has been the institution that binds two people together, ideally for life. That piece of paper is a legal contract between the two parties who pledge not only mutual support, protection, fidelity, and loyalty to one another, but they also pledge to support and care for the children of that union.
God created marriage and set up the home as the first institution of humankind. He said it was for this reason (for marriage) that a man leaves his family of origin and begins his new family.
Genesis 2 (NIV) tell us:
“So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.’
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
God ordained marriage to be one woman and one man joined for life. Moses repeated the terms of marriage in the giving of the Old Testament law, upon which our civil and criminal law is based. Marriage isn’t just a personal contract – it’s a unit of society that is necessary to promote healthy family life.
Love isn’t just about Valentine cards, flowers and candy. It’s about true commitment 24/7, 365. It’s about giving of your time, your resources and yourself to the one person who knows she/he can depend upon you, through thick and thin, for life. Without commitment, there is no obligation, no trust, and no stability.
Too many people today devalue marriage and the stability it brings to relationships. Our government even has laws and practices that devalue marriage and promote living together. By giving support to single adults, they put them in the position of remaining single to receive the benefits they lose if they marry. Everywhere we see women supporting themselves and their kids while the men live off them, contributing little or nothing and making no commitment to either the women or their children.
It amazes me how little the givers (usually women) respect themselves and their worth by giving everything they have to offer without asking the takers (usually men) to commit to them. We see so many children born out of wedlock and living in fatherless homes. Most have little or no contact with their fathers because the mothers didn’t demand enough respect to require the fathers to commit to marriage.
If marriage doesn’t matter, then why must we have contracts to regulate everything else? We wouldn’t think of buying a home, a car, or even a cell-phone without a contract that obligates each party to the other for certain responsibilities. Yet people will join together sexually with no marriage contract or thought of what each owes the other and their children in the future.
People who want all the benefits of marriage without the responsibilities are simply too immature and selfish to be considered a worthy mate. To refuse to accept responsibility is to remain childish. In all other aspects of life, we expect something in return when we give our all. We don’t work for our employer without the promise of a paycheck. We don’t give our friendship to people who constantly take without giving. Why give your most important relationship to someone who thinks so much of himself and so little of you?
Domestic partnership (gay people living together) is a relationship that some want to describe as a “marriage.” It couldn’t be further from the truth. Marriage is the proper relationship God instituted for procreation and the nurturing of children. Changing the definition of marriage only assumes that what two self-centered adults want, rather than what children or society needs, is the primary concern of marriage. The redefinition of marriage knocks down the all-important building blocks and destroys the structure of civil society.
The greatest gift a man and woman can give their children is to love one another and commit to marriage for life. Nothing compares with a nuclear family and committed home to ensure the emotional stability of children. They need to feel connected to and protected by both parents. Divorce or living as unmarried causes children to worry about what their future holds. They feel betrayed and concerned that they can’t depend upon the parents who broke their promises to one another.
If we truly LOVE someone, then MARRIAGE is the proper and logical next step. If we can’t commit to marry that person, we don’t truly love them as God teaches us to love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
(Passages from I Corinthians 13)
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