Are you a young adult? Are you married? If not–why? A lot of people these days are choosing to remain single longer, perhaps as a backlash against a “let’s-get-married-while-we’re-still-practically-children-ourselves” mentality. Yet while premature marriage is frequently unwise, in many cases it is equally ill-advised to continue indeterminately uncommitted to a significant other along life’s trajectory. And while there is one good reason for not marrying–wanting to be less encumbered so you have more of yourself available to serve God–this is rarely the reason most people stay single longer.
Which brings us to a series of questions. Why do I have to marry–can’t I just have a committed sexual relationship with someone outside of the legal constraints and complications of marriage? Does it have to be with a man if I’m a woman, or with a woman if I’m a man, and why, when so many these days are legally marrying same-sex partners? What should this person look like–are there any particular qualities I should search for as I contemplate marriage, or is the first person I fall in love with “the one?” Ultimately, why should I do it–why should I get married?
“I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, ‘Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?’ It is all so meaningless and depressing. Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12 NLT)
These are all great questions, but they do have answers.
The reason you should marry legally is because it is God’s plan for you to be intimate in all aspects (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically) with one individual for the duration of your life–unless that person dies, in which case you are free to remarry someone else. We were created to bond to one other person, not multiple individuals–either concurrently or sequentially. Even if you commit completely to one individual outside of marriage not only common sense, but also research, indicates that cohabitation is much less likely result in an actual marriage than if you marry before moving in together.
And yes, people do have sex, and even move in together, without being married. But it is like giving a part of who you are away to each of these other individuals, so that when you finally do marry, you no longer possess your entire self intact as you enter your marriage! You now have intimate memories of individuals you ought not to have, and a portion of you remains in their memories and experiences–individuals whom you did not marry, and who had no valid right to a part of you, to whom you had no right to give that part of yourself away to. Whether you acknowledge it or not, it will affect your marriage on some level and in some capacity. Ultimately, you have wronged you spouse by depriving them of everything you should have been able to present them with on your wedding day.
But what about same-sex marriage–is that okay? It is as legally binding as a heterosexual marriage, so is it a legitimate option? It isn’t, for a very basic reason.
Even if you don’t like or believe that it’s not our loving heavenly Father’s plan for us, think about it. The reason a man is to find a suitable woman, and a woman is to find a suitable man is that we are created to be complimentary. Homosexual relationship, no matter how different the particular individuals involved, are sexually like with like. We may not accept that there are any real differences between men and women, yet biology proves us wrong. Women are simply genetically different than men, and men are genetically different than women. Even with surgery and drugs to alter our outward appearance and regardless of how we feel about ourselves personally, internally we are what our genetics say we are, and a same-sex individual–as wonderful as friendship with a person of the same sex can be–can never complement and fulfill us as the right person of the opposite sex will. Granted, we can always settle for less than best and go ahead anyway, but even apart from the obvious of having a biological family together, the best same-sex marriage will not–unfortunately for those who really want it to be otherwise–ever be quite what the right heterosexual marriage would be.
Part of the problem, I feel, is that our culture has forgotten the value of non-romantic same-sex friendships. In other cultures, women tend to spend more time with the greater community of women, and men routinely hang out with other men, picking up any affection and comradery they might have missed out on in their nuclear family, and strengthening their sense of femininity or manhood in the process. Our culture sees this as misogynistic and I am certainly not arguing for walking back our country’s gender-equality traditions and laws, but there is something we miss as individuals when we completely equate males and females, constantly throw them together, and pretend there are no gender differences.
So yes, marriage, not living together, and with a person of the opposite sex. But whom should you pick? Are you just looking to find the “right one” based on falling in love? No.
Yes, it’s very desirable to be in love with the person you marry–and in our non-arranged marriage culture, there’s usually no reason to marry someone you’re not in love with–but you’ve got to look deeper than that into the character of that person. As you do, realize that you will be be tied to this individual until he or she dies–or you do. You will not only grow old with but also “grow into” each other. You will become part of their extended family; they will become part of yours. Your children will look like them in some way, and they will very likely believe the things your spouse does and look at life similarly.
Do not, do not, do not–I would add–become sexually intimate before marriage with them,l! Of course it is a sin, but intimacy also causes you to loose perspective and objectivity in the matter–you’re now involved, you’ve got skin in the matter, and your decisions will not be as sound because you will be trying to justify a decision you’ve essentially already made. You can’t eat the candy bar before deciding if you want to buy it! So what qualities should you look for in a potential husband or wife?
The foremost quality I would look for in a person if I were looking for a spouse today is whether they genuinely fear God–whether in their heart of hearts they will move heaven and earth rather than disobey Him. Why would I look for this quality first? Because if they consider God the final arbiter in any matter, I will be able to reason rationally with them from Scripture, and they will submit to God–even if they don’t like my argument.
I would also look for someone who does his or her absolute best to actually live as God tells us to live–someone who loves others as much as self; who respects others not for show but as a matter of principle and a sacred duty to Christ. I would look for a man or woman not easily angered, not violent, not enslaved by anything or anyone (no addictions) except Christ Jesus. I would look for someone whose greatest desire is to know our Father God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent, who wants above all else to gain Christ and be found in Him. I would look for a diligent and industrious person willing to pitch in.
If I were a young woman, I would look for a man I genuinely admire, because even though I am not enslaving myself by marrying, God does give him the tie-breaking vote on issues we do not agree on–and it will be easier for me to accept his decisions if I admire him and trust his choices. If I were a young man, I would look for a woman who genuinely admired me, because this feeds a man’s need to be appreciated–not for what he can give but for who he is. These emotions are hard to fake, and a marriage without that kind of admiration can be sad. For either gender, I would look for someone who is not rebellious to God’s authority.
But why get married? Why should a single person contemplate marriage when it is so much easier to just stay single?
I am not insisting you must marry; the Apostle Paul actually argued that it is better to remain single because you’re not preoccupied with pleasing your spouse and can focus more fully on serving God–and that is true; singlehood has its place, and there certainly is more of you available for God’s work.
But for many of us–there is loneliness in singlehood. Yes, you learn to fill your time with friends, and you certainly seek out the presence of Christ more–a very good thing. Yet most friends will eventually marry and form their own families, and even Adam
received a human companion from God perfectly suited for him in Eve.
Marriage done right (choose prayerfully and wisely!) provides human fellowship. A person who physically sits next to you and lies with you; who audibly answers when you speak. Someone with whom you can plan and dream together, because their own interests are intimately tied in with yours by virtue of loving and caring for each other, physically living together, owning property jointly, and having mutual children about whom you both care.
Not that you should marry simply for this, but the pooling of resources within marriage also provides greater financial strength and security (remembering God is our ultimate security), and a more efficient division of labor–the chores of life can be split according to preference, practicality and ability, freeing up each to not bear the entire burden alone.
So, are you married? Should you be? Maybe. Don’t marry because others tell you you should. Don’t marry because the person checks off the boxes on your list. Don’t marry because you get along well or have spent a lot of time together. Don’t marry because you look at life similarly.
Marry them because they are the most perfect person God made; because their flaws seem unimportant and you adore their strengths; because you really couldn’t bear to be without them–in addition to them loving God and fitting the bill in other ways! Remember that a marriage will have to stand not only the test of time, but also of boredom, frustration, stress, temptation, sleeplessness, financial ups and downs, illness, death of loved ones, job relocations or even possibly loss, or whatever other stressor life can present; they will see you when you are at your worst, and you will see them at their worst. So, while you shouldn’t marry an unsuitable person even if you’re in love–having at least once been in love with the right person makes it easier to cling to them during hard times.
What if you’re in love with the wrong person? It may sound harsh, but unless you’re a sucker for self-inflicted pain (I’m joking–obey God; don’t be), you should break things off. As hard as it might be, you are precious and deserve the right person–a good person–to give yourself to.
What if you want to get married to someone you’re not in love with? My advice? Hold out for a person who fits the bill, but with whom you are in love with. Remember–you only get one choice, and then you have to make it work, whether you’ve picked well or not. Choose prayerfully, and wisely!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help me not marry the wrong person, no matter how much in love with them I might be right now, and help me hold out for the right one, with whom I am also really in love with. Send me that person–if this is Your will for me. Amen.