In the past several years we have seen a great deal of confusion in our country about what marriage is and who should be allowed to participate in it. Throughout history, there has been great conflict about what the purpose and nature of marriage is. In some cultures, marriage has been a way of providing for women, and even polygamy has been promoted as a way to provide for more women. In other cultures, marriage has been a mark of ownership. A man marries a woman to mark his territory, and the woman is a possession and is essentially a servant to the man. In the Western world, marriage has been redefined and is now in Webster's Dictionary as “any close union” and to marry is “to enter into a close relationship.” The United States Supreme Court has operated on this definition with a ruling that may make sense to politicians and secularists, but which misses the purpose of marriage as spelled out in the Bible.
God's design for human emotional and psychological needs is fulfilled in marriage. It is interesting that in Jesus' day a couple would not have sexual relationships until long after the marriage was announced. Joseph had not had sexual relationships with Mary and yet is called her husband (Luke 2:5 and Matthew 1:18 – 24). In Genesis 2:18 we see God stating, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him” (NIV). If I might inject a personal note here, when my wife died after 49 years of marriage it was not the loss of a sexual partner that afflicted me the most. It was sitting alone at our kitchen table after a day of work and having no one with whom to share my joys and frustrations, and no one to discuss what was going on in my life. Genesis 2:24 tells us, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The word “cleave” in this verse is dabaq in Hebrew meaning “adhere to” and is usually used to describe a relationship to God (see Deuteronomy 10:20; 11:22; 13:4; Joshua 22:5; 23:8). I know some people can handle not having that relationship, but for me, God's wisdom in marriage provided for a need I had. It was a need that nothing else could fill.
God's design for men and women's sexual needs is fulfilled in marriage. For the most part, our culture does not understand sex. Sex has become a commodity and is used to sell things and to assert control. Our society sees sex as an entertainment gimmick, and as a release that is used individually for pleasure. “Being sexy” in our culture is equated with being successful. This view has corrupted sex and brings enormous pain to everyone. The teenager who feels they have to perform sexually to be accepted and successful is in for disillusionment and disappointment. The Ashley Madison website that helps married individuals find partners for extramarital affairs is thriving because of the view of sex as a commodity. In the June 2013 issue of Atlantic magazine there was an article by Liza Mundy titled “A Gay Guide to Marital Bliss.” In the article, she told of a survey of gay couples in which 82% of those interviewed said that sex outside their relationship was acceptable. All of this is a reflection of our culture's failure to understand what sex is about and how marriage meets the needs of men and women sexually.
God has always portrayed marriage as something beautiful and as a covenant. Procreation has been a part of that covenant, and the process has been described as a thing of beauty and purpose. In Genesis 1:28 sex was commanded as Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and fill the earth. Sex was beautiful and purposeful because sin had not yet entered the picture. The writer of Proverbs 5:17 – 23 describes the beauty of sexual commitment by saying “Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you be captivated by her love. Why, my son, be intoxicated another man's wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman? … The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.” Every study by scientists from Masters and Johnson down to the present day have shown that the best of sex is found in a singular, committed relationship.
In the Corinthian letter, Paul writes to Christians who live in a sexually charged culture where prostitution was open, rampant, and encouraged. Paul tells these Christians to marry because “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). Earlier in verses 2 – 5 Paul tells couples to meet each other's sexual needs by not depriving each other so that “Satan cannot tempt you because of your incontinency.” God's design for sex not only brings the greatest satisfaction, but it shields us from the exploitation by a sexual culture.
God's design for marriage provides role models for children. Our society has seen a great erosion of role models for children to learn from and emulate. In my 41 years of teaching in the public schools, one of the great joys of my teaching experience was having young people cling to me as a role model. That does not mean that I was a perfect example of what a man should be. It certainly does not mean that I had a macho image to project, or that I was an example of how a man should dress. These kids came from families where there was no man in the home. When I would make a joke about an activity dominated by men or talk about doing something that attracts men they were on the edge of their seat wanting to know more. I taught across the hall from a lady who taught a class on what was called “home management” (home economics in the 1960s). Kids from single parent families were always hanging around her room asking questions, including a lot of questions about how to “look like” a wife or mother.
Between America's divorce rate, single parents who were never married, and the gay community there are many children who cry out for role models that they have never seen. When you read the Bible, you see men having a significant role in raising children (Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21). It is difficult to read Proverbs 31:10 – 31 and not see God's plan for roles being held out as the ideal. It describe the effect of the ideal wife and mother on her husband and family. This need of children can be partially met by grandparents and dedicated Christian leaders, but nothing can replace the ideal plan that God has given for the home. Not only do these biblical teachings show us what is best for children, but there is also the effect of these ideal roles on adults. When we read Ephesians 5:22 – 33 we see the wisdom of teaching men and women to respect and submit to one another, to love one another as they love themselves, and to have the oneness that God called us to in Genesis 2:24.
People have tried just about every alternative there is to God's way. Polygamy, polyandry, group marriage, harems, promiscuity, prostitution, free love, same-sex marriage, and monasticism have all fallen short. Now we have redefined marriage with a commodity view being the core of our beliefs, and all of these systems are being tried again. It has failed in the past, and it will fail again. God's way works, but it seems that people have to try everything and learn the hard way that what God says is true. We should not have to put our finger into the fire to know that it is hot.
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