In my pastoral role of counseling young people who are looking to get married, I have heard some pretty bizarre things. Several years ago, I heard a string of thoughts on marriage that were so far removed from what God expects that I really couldn’t believe what I was listening to. One of the unusual things a couple told me was that they didn’t necessarily expect to stay together as this was the first marriage for both of them and therefore, this was just a “starter” marriage and nobody was going into it expecting it to last. Huh? Up until that time, I never thought that anyone went into marriage with the expectation of learning how to be married so you could get it right the second or third time around.
And you know what? There was absolutely no remorse or thought of trying to get it right. More times than not, by far, those comments came from couples who didn’t want a God-centered marriage. By that I mean that they had asked for a “non-denominational” ceremony. But upon closer questioning, it became evident that they meant a “non-religious” ceremony – not a non-denominational event.
Believe me, I have had more than one couple get really annoyed when I showed up at rehearsal with a “non-denominational” ceremony that didn’t meet the criteria of what the couple wanted. And that has caused trouble more times than I can count. You see, one of the requirements in Indiana to get married is that, aside from each person making a vow, commitment or pledge to the other, the officiant must state the authority under which the couple is getting married. For those of us who have attended seminary and been legitimately ordained, our ordination papers refer to us as having been called to be “ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” This doesn’t sit too well with people who don’t believe in God.
Well, last week I had two additional surprises. Once again, I received a call from someone who wanted me to conduct a ceremony without any mention of God. When I explained the need to state an authority and that I had been ordained as a “minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” I was told that this was unacceptable and that the conversation was over. So much for that young lady…
But the one that really took the cake was the young woman who announced her engagement to me and as I was clarifying the name of her fiancee, she interrupted me and said that it really didn’t make any difference. She went on to tell me that she was going to marry her “future ex-husband.” I was so stunned that I am sure that my mouth dropped open and I really didn’t even have anything to say. I don’t even think that she was kidding. She just wants to get married and have the experience.
The more I am around young couples who elect to get married, the more concern I have for the future of the institution of marriage. Sure, there are hundreds of couples I have married who devoutly believe in marriage, but more and more I am seeing the less committed people still stepping up to the alter for the sheer excitement of it all.
God has quite a bit to say about the institution of marriage. Marriage is to be for life and the only biblical mandate for divorce is adultery. Even then, we are encouraged to love one another well and to forgive one another. The verse for this evening is from early in the book of Genesis and is a very familiar passage in wedding ceremonies. We are told, in Genesis 2:23-24, “The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
My encouragement this evening is that God still believes in the institution of marriage, which was His idea in the first place. My prayer is that you will stay committed to your spouse and show the kind of love that God expects us to have for one another. After all, marriage is supposed to be for life – not something we “practice” so some day far in the future we may be able to get it right. Marriage is always a work in progress. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…