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I have been thinking about marriage every day for almost six weeks. Not the prospect of getting married—I have already taken the plunge and even have a ring that I wear each day to prove it. Rather, marriage has been on my mind partly because weddings and anniversaries are prevalent this time of year and partly because marriage has been the topic of my sermons in recent weeks.
As I was preparing for this series of sermons, it became increasingly clear to me that marriage is an issue where the Bible and many in our culture share little common ground. In the Bible, we find statements such as, “Let marriage be held in honor among all.” (Hebrews 13:4) In our culture, we find statements such as, “Once upon a time, marriage made sense” and “Marriage is a dying institution.” The former statement was made by Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison in their article “I Don’t: The Case Against Marriage” in Newsweek magazine, while the latter was made by actress Cameron Diaz as highlighted by Dr. Keith Ablow in his Foxnews.com article “Cameron Diaz is Right—4 Reasons Why Marriage is a Dying Institution.”
It appears, at least according to some who are in positions of influence, that the institution of marriage is no longer “in” and that someone somewhere needs to be thinking about what will replace it.
But this could prove to be an unwise path to follow and we should think not just twice but long and hard if we quickly jump on the “let’s get rid of marriage” bandwagon.
Not only does the Bible teach that marriage is good and that we should hold it in high esteem, but the Bible is also clear on who holds the original copyright for this sacred but now scorned institution—and it is not those mentioned above. The first two chapters in the first book of the Bible paint a vivid portrait of a loving and wise God providentially orchestrating the details of the first wedding. Marriage was God’s idea. He created it. He designed it. He spoke it into existence. He even served as the very first matchmaker and wedding coordinator.
From my limited experience, I have found that if God is for something, we should be for the same thing. And on this issue, the Bible is abundantly clear—God is for marriage.
I realize that my line of reasoning may not persuade everyone reading this article. You may be thinking, “So what? The Bible was written long ago during very different times. Does it really matter if we abandon marriage?”
The long and short answer to this question is “yes” it does matter. Nearly all research is quite clear that marriage matters and it matters a lot to one group in particular—children.
Charles Murray, in his recently published book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, wrote: “No matter what the outcome being examined — the quality of the mother-infant relationship, externalizing behavior in childhood (aggression, delinquency, and hyperactivity), delinquency in adolescence, criminality as adults, illness and injury in childhood, early mortality, sexual decision-making in adolescence, school problems and dropping out, emotional health, or any other measure of how well or poorly children do in life — the family structure that produces the best outcomes for children, on average, are two biological parents who remain married. Divorced parents produce the next-best outcomes. Never-married women produce the worst.”
My own parents celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary last week. My older brother and I are the direct beneficiaries of a loving, stable marriage. My parents would admit that not every year of the past 38 have been easy — I can personally attest that I contributed my share of difficult days to their marriage during my 18 years at home. But I am incredibly grateful that they have continued to love one another and fight for their marriage.
In the end, we must take sides. Will we side with God or will we side with those in recent years who are growing more comfortable chipping away at the very fabric and foundation of our society? Studies show that fewer and fewer people in our country are marrying. If this trend continues, life as we know it will begin to look different. Let’s honor God by honoring marriage. Let’s demonstrate to our children that we love them by marrying and remaining married.
The Rev. Steven Scherer is pastor of the Worthville Baptist Church in Worthville, Ky.