Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Define Marriage

Thinking of my mom and dad being together for 50 years got me thinking also about marriage itself, and what it means to be married. Now, the concept of marriage and what it should be like really doesn't seem that complex to me. There's plenty written in the bible about God's design for marriage, and my wife and I pattern our own marriage after that. A typical marriage in our culture stays fairly close to that pattern too. But here's where controversy arises.

"What makes a marriage?"

Is it the wedding ceremony that causes the two to become one? Does a minister or justice have what it takes to change a dating couple into a married couple? Although there are wedding celebrations in the bible, I don't find much in the way of wedding ceremonies in the bible. There are many passages that speak to fidelity, submission, respect, honor, commitment and the like which plainly reveal God's idea of marriage. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's those types of things that MAKE the marriage. I think the ceremony marks the relationship, makes it public and legal, but I'd argue that the marriage itself was already there. I don't think it would be a stretch to compare it to (my understanding of) baptism, where the relationship has already been established and the commitment is there, the life has been dedicated, and the ceremony "declares" what has already taken place.

An example of the inadequacy of the ceremony to make a couple truly married would be the middle-of-the-night, drunken Las Vegas wedding. Sure, it may be legally binding but does it produce a lifelong bond between the bride and groom? I'm not saying it can't work out that way, but it's not the ceremony that does it. If it happens, it's because the two people comitted to each other.

What about gay marriage? I'm not even going to go there, because although it could be argued that there is love and commitment in a gay relationship, scripture portrays that as a twisted version of a right relationship, and one that should never be.

What I've been thinking about is the difference between a man and woman who
love each other and live together and are committed to each other but have never had a ceremony, and a couple who love each other and live together and are committed to each other and HAVE had a ceremony. Is one couple married and the other not? What if the couple who never had the ceremony are more committed and deeper in love than the couple who did? Does the ceremony still have the say-so? You might ask, "What's keeping the one couple from having the ceremony?"
I suppose there are lots of reasons why they wouldn't. Ideally, of course, they would have the ceremony. But if everybody did, I don't suppose I'd be writing this post, would I?


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