Another Look by David Faust
According to a widely publicized study reported by Time magazine and the Pew Research Center last November, almost four out of 10 (39 percent) of Americans believe marriage is becoming obsolete. This number is up considerably from 28 percent in a similar survey taken in 1978. The research also indicates that nearly one-third of American children now live with a parent who is divorced, separated, or never married, five times the number in 1960.
Over against the rising tide of cynicism about marriage, God’s Word makes it clear that marriage is not obsolete, nor will it ever be. Today marriage is under attack; it’s being scrutinized; it’s being postponed. But obsolete? Never. I’m glad my parents didn’t think like that. (They have been married nearly 65 years.)
Wedding customs vary from culture to culture, but marriage itself was ordained by the Lord. It has been part of God’s plan since he created the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden. It remained part of his plan even when the ideal for the family was shattered by sins like divorce, cruelty, and polygamy. The single life is honorable too and singleness presents a follower of Christ with certain advantages (see 1 Corinthians 7), but we can honor singleness without disparaging marriage. A faithful one man/one woman marriage strengthens society; it provides security for children; it protects the vulnerable; and it paints a real-life picture of Christ’s love for his bride, the church (Ephesians 5:22-33).
Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” This verse contains a number of important reminders.
Marriage should be honored by all. It deserves the respect of all members of society whether they are married or single, young or old. Husbands and wives should view each other as a treasure given by God. Despite the pain they have experienced, divorcees should not become cynical about marriage as an institution.
The marriage bed should be kept pure. Pre-marital intercourse and extra-marital affairs soil the purity of the marriage bed. Promiscuity plays havoc with bodies and emotions. Cohabitation prior to marriage chisels away at the mutual trust and respect that make a marriage strong. Pornography enslaves men and degrades women.
God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. This is a solemn warning. Sexual sin is no joke. It is not a frivolous rite of passage for youth or a benignly predictable phase of life for young adults. Cheating husbands and flirtatious wives bring pain not only to their spouse but also to themselves. “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished” (Proverbs 6:27-29).
Is there grace for the sexual sinner? Of course. King David proves it. So does the Samaritan woman Jesus met by a well and the woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8. But God’s grace means he forgives the sin, not that he ignores or redefines it. The message is “Go and sin no more,” not “Go and sin on more.”
Marriage will never be out of date. Today we need more faithfulness, not less. More stable homes, not less. More love, more respect, more 65-year marriages. To deny the importance of marriage? That kind of thinking sounds obsolete to me.