We have fallen in love “head over heels,” Hollywood style. Indeed, Hollywood has helped to create and perpetuate a worldwide myth concerning love and marriage. That myth has already affected millions of people today. Hollywood has assured us that marriage is not to be taken too seriously, and that adultery and homosexuality are all OK. Hollywood says one can “fall in love,” and just as quickly and easily, “fall out of love.” Love on the silver screen is a romantic thing, an elusive feeling, a sexual experience, and it has little to do with commitment, covenant, lasting family values or even reality.
As we are bombarded with this view today, we hardly stop to think that prior to the last century or so, “love,” as some understand it, was not always the primary consideration in marriage. Many marriages were arranged by parents. Things like religious faith, family status and security were given much more consideration than “love.” It was expected that love would develop in the relationship as couples knew each other better. In the Bible we see that couples sometimes did not even meet until the wedding day, as was the case with Isaac and Rebecca (Gen. 24:63-65).
Our present concept of “Hollywood love” is a far cry from the love and commitment we see in the Bible. That concept of love has been tested and tried over many centuries and millennia and has been proved trustworthy.
THE BIBLICAL IDEAL
We see in the Bible that marriage between man and woman is ordained by God and viewed by him as a sacred covenant. Marriage, in fact, has all the ingredients of the biblical blood covenant. There are several scriptures that connect the marriage agreement with the idea of covenant. In the Hebrew Bible the prophet Malachi speaks of the covenant of marriage, and at the same time he gives us God’s opinion on divorce. Malachi says, “…the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant… ‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of Israel, ‘and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,’ says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith” (Mal. 2:14, 16).
The idea of the marriage covenant is certainly verified in the New Testament. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul compares the relationship of husbands to their wives with the relationship of Christ to the Church. Obviously the latter relationship is one of covenant as is made clear by many passages, and by the fact that the Christian scriptures themselves are called the “New Testament” or the “New Covenant.” By covenant, the wife is to submit to the husband and the husband is to love the wife, not in the Hollywood sense, but in the sense of caring deeply for her, providing for her, leading her spiritually, etc. He must love and care for the wife as he loves and cares for his own body (v23). In our time this beautiful ideal has been shattered. Now a big question is, can we lose the covenant aspect of marriage and still retain any understanding of Christ and his church?
Covenants must be kept for life, and we see in scripture that sacred vows taken before God must not be broken. In Ecclesiastes 5:5-6 we read, “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin….” So it is with the sacred vows belonging to the covenant of marriage. They must be kept. The couple must do everything to make the marriage work. When the marriage does have difficulty, we see in the scripture the precedent for counseling and stating the case before others in the church, asking for their help and advice (Matt. 18:15-17).
Because marriage is an extremely serious matter it is dealt with sternly in many passages of scripture. The Pharisees once approached Jesus on this subject as we see in Matthew 19:3-6:
…They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for
any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at
the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Jesus continues in Matthew 19:9: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
The Apostle Paul speaks to us on the same subject in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11: “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.”
THE PRESENT DISASTER
Today we have been charmed by the concepts of romantic love, that certain feeling, or that exciting but uncommitted sexual rendezvous. Our children, who no doubt watch more TV and movies than we adults, have been led into great error by constantly absorbing this false view of reality from Hollywood.
In the September, 1996 Reader’s Digest article entitled Teen Pregnancy, Let’s Get Real, author Suzanne Chazin lists some of the myths and realities facing children in the US. She points out that every year in the US, some 350,000 teenage girls have babies out of wedlock. This figure had jumped from 16.7 per thousand in 1965 to 46.4 per thousand in 1994. She also adds that more than half of all male and female teenagers have now had sex by the age of 18.
The disasters caused by these teen relationships continue to mount in the US. Chazin points out that more than half of teenage mothers are no longer residing with their child’s father by the time the child reaches grade school, and that more than one quarter have never lived with the father at all. Only 20 percent of these never-married mothers receive any formal child support. By contrast, four out of five women who wait until age 24 to give birth are still residing with the child’s father by the time the child reaches grade school – and two out of three of those children have never lived in poverty. Fewer than half the teens who give birth out-of -wedlock marry within the next few years, and those who do marry are twice as likely to divorce in five years as women who marry in their 20s. Chazin points out that a growing number of studies suggest that fatherless children are more likely to take drugs, drop out of school, turn to crime and become teen parents themselves.
So it is clear that we are dealing with a great deception, and that it has become worldwide. It is also clear that the worldwide deception concerning family, sex, marriage and divorce is having a terrible impact upon Christians. The US-based Barna Research Group has disclosed some shocking news. They have revealed that Christians are now even more likely to experience divorce than non-Christians. Their studies show that while the non-Christian rate of adults who have been divorced was 23 percent, the rate for born-again Christians was 27 percent. Fundamentalist Christians had an even higher rate of 30 percent. Clearly, something is drastically wrong with our understanding in this very important area. It is tragic also today that many leaders, pastors and Bible teachers are now embracing and teaching these deceptive views of reality.
With these facts in mind we can say to many Christians today, take a good look at your precious wives, husbands and children, because the god of this world will soon steal them from you unless you put God’s word into practice in your home.
PRESERVING THE MARRIAGE COVENANT
God is very concerned that the holy vows of marriage be kept. It is critical for the advancement of his church and of the Kingdom of God. This old story comes down to us of Rabbi Jose bar Halafta. When once asked by a student what God had been doing since he finished with the creation of the world, the Rabbi replied: “The Holy One, blessed be he, is occupied in making marriages.” In a very real sense, God is a heavenly matchmaker. He, through various means, draws couples together, and then unites them in holy matrimony. The union is sanctified by God. It is clear from scripture that there can be no other parties to this sacred covenant, and that it must be kept. One of its very important purposes is that a godly seed can be produced in the earth, and that holy families can be reared in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Mal. 2:15; Eph. 6:4).
At the risk of disturbing all those who wish to promote political correctness, and who seek alignment with the spirit of this age, we dare say without apology that God is, and has always been, pro-marriage and pro-family. Since Eden, marriage and family relationships have been at the heart of God’s great work and are at the very foundation of the
– Jim Gerrish
This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem. Original publication date, 1996.
Picture credits, Wikimedia Commons