Why saying “I do” doesn’t mean what it should

It seems as though we hear of someone who is getting a divorce almost daily. In fact, it has become such a norm in our culture that chances are it hardly phases us anymore. How many people do you know off the top of your head who are divorced? The fact is divorce rates are through the roof and they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. According to Stephen Grunlan, author of Christian Perspectives on Sociology, “some see marriage as primarily a search for personal happiness and fulfillment rather than as an assumption of responsibilities that are both temporal and eternal.” Are couples seeking marriage for the wrong reasons today? It is clear in the response Jesus gave to the Pharisees that divorce was not in God’s original plan for marriage.

Society does not view marriage as the sacred relationship that it was intended to be. It’s as though marriage is a magazine subscription, you try it out, if you don’t like it, you just end it. Many marriages today seem to lack commitment, sacrifice, and true long-term love. 100 years ago, divorce was very looked down upon. If there were issues in the marriage one would do what it took to work through it. Today however, divorce is the backup plan if the “love wears off.”

We have let the world’s view leak into our Christian view of marriage. As a Christian community I believe we have began to loose sight of what marriage is all about. So lets backtrack first, what does it mean to even be married? Grunlan wrote in his book, “in my own view couples are not fully married in the degree that God has planned unless their marriage includes consent, commitment, contract, social confirmation, church sanction, consummation, and Christ’s approval.” Marriage is not something to be taken lightly. I believe that it should be taken very seriously and with much thought and counsel from others.

Today, marriage is viewed as a contract, not a covenant, and there is a large difference between the two. A contract is an “if/then” deal. Meaning, I” will be faithful to you as long as you are to me,” or “I will serve you as long as you are nice to me.” The contract allows one party to back out, if the other does not follow through with what they commit to. A covenant is a commitment no matter what. It’s saying “I will be faithful to you no matter what,” or “I will serve you even when you’re not nice to me.” Whether or not one’s perspective of marriage is a contract or a covenant makes a world of a difference. This viewpoint sets the framework for how you are going to treat one another. Pastor John Piper says, “the vow you make to be a husband or wife till death do you part is not something to be taken lightly.”

The next statement I am going to say is going to be bold and many will not agree with me, that’s fine, just hear me out. I believe once someone enters marriage, there are no grounds for divorce. I do believe there are grounds for separation, such as abuse, but no grounds for divorce. Now if you’ve read the account in Matthew 19, where the Pharisees question Jesus on divorce, then you probably believe in the exception clause. This exception clause is that one may divorce if his or her spouse commits adultery. This clause makes marriage a contract and not a covenant. Most of our translations of The Bible use the word sexual immorality and people just assume Jesus was referring to adultery. However, I would argue that we are being ignorant of the author and the audience of the text. The author is Matthew who is writing from a Jewish perspective. He is also writing to a Jewish audience who understood the culture, while most of us are unaware of the words being used in the original text. The word “porneia” is used, which is the word used for fortification, not adultery. The word for adultery is the word “moicheia” and it is not used. In Jewish culture, when a couple was engaged, it was seen as though they were married in a sense. I believe the passage is not referring to adultery in the marriage, but sexual immorality in the engagement process. For example, remember when Joseph was going to divorce Marry when they weren’t even married yet? This was an example of fornication that Matthew was speaking of being grounds for “divorce.”

I will admit that the exception clause makes sense because it seems “fair” that the innocent party can divorce and remarry. Unfortunately, I do not see any biblical evidence that it is a Biblical action. I see multiple times in scripture that whoever divorces their spouse and remarries, commits adultery, (Mark 10:11, Luke 16:18, Rom 7:3, Matt. 5:32). Matthew 19:6 also says, “so they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” This verse seems pretty clear when it says to not let man separate a marriage. I personally do not see any exception within the text. Similar to in 1 Cor. 7:27 where it says, “If you have a wife, do not end the marriage.” To me these are very clear cut statements that are hard to ignore.

I believe that if we took our marriages as seriously as God took them, there would be no divorce today in the Christian community. Divorce has only become common in the last thirty years or so, so what about the 2000+ years before that, I assure you there were married couples then, and where there are married couples, there are disagreements.

I believe we have let marriage today fall astray of its original design. For its “primary purpose was companionship and spiritual communion, not sexual opportunity or producing babes or legitimizing them,” (Grunlan). In our society, it’s as though the primary reason Christian couples get married is so they can have sex. While this is one of the many blessings and wonderful things about marriage, it was not its main purpose. We now live in a world where you are labeled as a sexist if you believe men and women are different, and have different roles to play in the church, marriage, and in life. This view has hindered our marriages more than we know. I believe that the bible shows that men and women have different roles, but why is that a bad thing? Why is it that being a stay at home mom and providing for your family is starting to be looked down upon as a society? Men are called to rule over their households. Ephesians 5:21–24 and 1 Corinthians 11:3 tells us this. However, marriage is not a dictatorship, it is a partnership. While the man has the final say, the women’s views ought to be heard and respected. I believe men and women are both equal but created differently. As it has become far more common for both spouses to work and have their own careers, I believe this has set up a dangerous trap that is saying careers and money are more important then the marriage. Am I saying women can’t work? No! However, when the career is becoming more important than the marriage and household, I believe that it has bad consequences.

Family dynamics have changed. Kids are being raised in daycares, parents are both working 6o hours a week, there isn’t time for anything else but work and sleep. It’s no wonder marriages are falling apart, they are put on the back burner entirely. Our culture forgets that marriage takes work, more work then we realize. The chase for the American dream has trumped everything else.

So how do we fix it? In my humble opinion, we have forgotten what love, respect, and sacrifice look like. Men look for respect, women look for love. How can one expect for a marriage to last if these are not given? Sacrifice ought to be at the root of every marriage. For marriage is the joining of two people with different thoughts, feelings, and love languages. When each spouse puts the other before him or herself, marriage can be a huge blessing and beautiful example of Christ and His church. Marriage also needs to stop being viewed as a contract and to start being viewed as a covenant. Marriage take time, effort, and a lot of energy, but marriage deserves to be put before work, hobbies, preferences, and personal aspirations. God has blessed us with a beautiful companionship, I believe it is best when we go about it how God intended it.

Work Cited

“BibleGateway.” BibleGateway.com A Searchable Online Bible. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2017

Crabtree, Sam. “Until Death Do Us Part — For Real.” Desiring God. N.p., 09 Apr. 2014. Web. 28 Jan. 2017

Grunlan, S. (Ed.). Christian Perspectives on Sociology. Reprint edition, Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Pub. 2001.

“Role of Husband in the Bible.” AllAboutGOD.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.