Thursday, December 09, 2004

Does Marriage Matter?

In 1631 a printer was fined £300 by the Archbishop for a printing error. He had omitted the word 'not' from the seventh commandment - causing it to read, "Thou shalt commit adultery"! That Bible became known as 'The Wicked Bible.' If he had been working today, the printer would perhaps have been rewarded rather than fined.

Recent developments in the High Court in Dublin will lead to the traditional and biblical view of marriage being challenged, and perhaps to legislation being rewritten. Some aspects of tax and inheritance law may be to be revised to make the law fairer to ordinary family members who live in the same house, for example two elderly sisters. But should the government give financial incentive to others who disobey God's instructions?

It would be wrong to focus solely on the issue of homosexual marriage. We live in an age where marriage is increasingly unfashionable amongst all walks of life. Does it really matter?

What are God's instructions?

It is not enough for Christians to state that marriage is the only option because God says so. That is true of course. But God is not a callous dictator intent on limiting his creatures' enjoyment. He is both a good and a wise designer. Therefore if he says marriage is between one man and one woman for life, he has both good and wise reasons for designing it that way. These reasons are for the benefit of the individual and of society in general.

What reasons are there why marriage between male and female is both good and wise?

God made us that way! A simple understanding of biology confirms this. But there are other reasons:

For teamwork - God has not made men and women with exactly the same gifts, abilities, emotions, ways of thinking etc. In Genesis 2:20 we read that God had made Adam in such a way that he required someone else. And then God made Eve so that she provided what Adam needed, and likewise Adam what Eve needed. God has deigned each sex with their own particular strengths; male and female working in complement are stronger than two of the same sex.

For order - God created the family unit to be the basic building block of society. He has arranged people in families and made the head of the home responsible. Secular studies demonstrate the link between the destabilisation of society and the breakdown of the family unit. Children who grow up without a father figure's loving authority often struggle to accept society's natural and necessary authority structures.

For reproduction - One of the purposes God gives to marriage is for the multiplication of the human race. True, this could be carried out by widespread mating, but that is not what God had in mind. He designed us to have children and for children to be raised within a loving secure environment, where the most vulnerable will find protection and care.

For the balanced upbringing of children - If men have their strengths and women theirs, where is the best place for a child to be raised? God's word says that it is in the context where both are evident - a one man, one woman, family environment. God has designed the family in this way to give children the example of both parents to model their own lives on. Parents need each other for support and strength, and the use of their individual gifts and roles in the task of raising children. And children need the security that marriage, as God designed it, brings.

Sadly, this world is far from perfect. And just because people are married doesn't mean that they are happily married, or that their children are all well balanced. When Adam and Eve sinned they made a mess of all aspects of life. Marriage included. And so, even though marriage is commanded by God for good and wise reasons, that doesn't automatically mean that all marriages are good. Sadly some are little more than a life sentence to terror.

But bad marriages are not an argument against marriage itself; they are a caution against entering marriage hastily and without careful thought. And all of us know single parents, and unmarried couples who do a great job of raising their children, for which they are to be highly commended. But again this is no ground for discarding God's design in favour for our design.

All of us need outside help in life, and marriage is no exception. We need the help of the God who designed marriage if we are to enjoy marriage as he designed it to be.

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