Day 13: What the Church Should Teach About Marriage

Well, one obvious answer is that many weddings still take place in churches, and in many cases where they are elsewhere, such as in someone’s home or outdoors, a member of the clergy still often officiates. Even many people who otherwise have little to do with churches still wish to have a church wedding to give formality and dignity to the ceremony. It seems to me if that a church is giving its blessing to a wedding, it should have some interest in what follows, that is the marriage itself.

Moreover a marriage is always a life-changing experience, however it turns out, and church members in particular usually want their pastor to preside and their fellow congregants to attend. Should there be problems in the marriage, they may well turn to their pastor for guidance.

So what should the church say about marriage? Clearly the Bible gives us some mixed messages. The people in the Old Testament were generally married, and many of the men found marriage so to their liking that they repeated the experience by having multiple wives. As for the New Testament, Jesus endorsed marriage by his presence at Cana and his famous saying about two people becoming one flesh, whereas Paul argued that the single life was preferable. Indeed there is a long Christian tradition of celibacy, though obviously most Christians in history have been married.

To discuss marriage, then, I can only speak from my own experience. My wife and I recently celebrated our 40th anniversary, and we both have parents who were married more than 60 years. We hope to live long enough to catch up!

Now not every marriage can or should last that long. Certainly there are cases in which staying in a broken marriage will do more harm than good, and there are marriages that continue but which are no more than a sham and a pretense. But I’d like to see the church stress at least the ideal of a lifelong commitment.

The best definition of true love I’ve ever heard is that love is when a lifetime does not seem long enough. Indeed for us, as with many other couples, it doesn’t and it won’t. Of course there have been bumps in the road at times, but the journey has never been in doubt.

This, then, is what I think the church should teach, and what I would wish for all committed couples, young or old, gay or straight: a marriage that does not merely endure but rather grows and develops and flourishes as does each partner in it, and a marriage where love, understanding, and communication deepen and widen over a lifetime.

Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?