Holy matrimony no longer appeals to a growing number of Americans. Living together has never been more popular and shows no signs of reversing. The number of cohabiting unmarried partners increased by 88% to 6.4 million between 1990 and 2007. (U.S. Census Bureau. “America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2007).
Only a few decades ago marriage was a goal. My generation sang along with the Dixie Cups to their song, “The Chapel of Love.” It reached number one on the charts back in 1964 selling over a million records.
Spring is here, the sky is blue, whoa oh oh,
Birds all sing as if they knew;
Today's the day we'll say, "I do,"
And we'll never be lonely anymore,
Because we're goin' to the chapel, and we're gonna get married.
Back then, most young people wanted to get married and referred to unmarried cohabitation as "living in sin" or "shacking up." That’s not true today.
Increasing numbers from young through senior adults cohabitate today compared to a generation ago. I had a senior couple in my church who happily lived together for seven years before she passed away. She told me, “Pastor, we want to get married, but we would lose our government benefits if we did. The Veteran’s Administration told me that I would lose my late husband’s VA benefits for widows if we married. I need the money and benefits. But, I think in the eyes of God that we are married.” Both were charter members of my church. They and my church were condemned by some in our community because they were not married. But, we received them with joy.
The same financial considerations based on government benefits apply to young adults too. A pregnant woman with an income of $20,000 or less per year can turn to Medicaid to finance the birth of her child. And they are applying for government help in droves. 40% of all births in the United States are financed by the government, and Medicaid funds after birth care for both mother and child as well. (Medicaid.gov).
Moreover, an unmarried woman receiving government help for her pregnancy and subsequent child are more likely to choose not to marry the father of their child. And, they are likely to bear more children out of wedlock because of the higher income given through government benefits. The government has become a surrogate father-provider, and this increases the likelihood that such a woman who has additional children will remain single. (Welfare, Marital Prospects, and Non-marital Childbearing. Mark Rosenzweig: 1999).
For financial and other reasons, more and more babies are being born out of wedlock. In fact, about two-fifths (40%) of children are expected to live in a cohabiting household at some point. (U.S. Census Bureau. 2000).
But it’s a Catch 22 because children in single-parent homes have a greater risk of living in poverty than children living with married parents. (Brookings Institute). On the other hand, being raised in a married family reduces a child’s probability of living in poverty by about 82 percent. (Heritage Foundation). A loving couple living in holy matrimony provide nurture and care for the child(ren) given to them by the Lord. That is God’s intention. Bless the couple within marriage. Bless the child born within marriage with nurture and care.
Clearly, complex financial issues cloud the decision to marry today. Many of them are brought on by the policies of our federal government which though well-intentioned have contributed to the demise of marriage from the greatest generation like the couple in my church to the current generation. And, there are many other issues.
In spite of all of the adverse feelings against holy matrimony in our culture today, it remains the ideal. God’s intention and purpose is always, always to bless and prosper us within a godly, healthy marriage. A husband and wife have their deepest soul needs fulfilled. The physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual components of the soul meld as one, complete whole in perfect harmony.
I think God meant what He said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). God intended for the sexual act to be within the parameters of marriage.
The vows of holy matrimony build a fence that protects and provides for both husband and wife. It’s like a farmer fencing in his milk cows for their own protection and benefit. A good farmer provides green, fertile pastures for them. As long as they stay within the fence, they can’t eat the briars and weeds outside the fence. Plus, within the fence, they do not endanger themselves or someone driving a car that could hit them and crash killing both the driver and the cow.
The physical drive and need for sexual expression is met safely, securely, and satisfactorily in the marriage bed. No guilt. No regrets. No STD’s.
Relationships can make us sick emotionally. Relationships can make us whole and well. God created us as social beings. We have an emotional need for companionship which can be met through a healthy relationship with the spouse within marriage. “The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18). When mutual understanding and respect are given and received, each heart (the seat of emotion), is full and complete with nothing lacking. It is a beautiful work of God’s grace.
Mental health is defined as a state of emotional and psychological well-being in which an individual is able to use his or her cognitive and emotional capabilities, function in society, and meet the ordinary demands of everyday life.
Research has shown that unmarried parents report more mental health and behavioral problems than married parents. (American Journal of Public Health. 2006 October). It’s hard to function in society, hold down a job, and the ordinary demands of life as a single parent.
A healthy marriage fosters mental well-being. The old saying, “A man’s home is his castle,” goes for the wife too. At its best, the home is a castle of protection against the storms that rage at work. It is a hospital when health breaks. It is a safe haven of retreat and rest to re-energize and renew the mind to face the stressors of work and life demands.
God intended for marriage to meet the physical, emotional, and mental components of the soul. John Hugh McNaughton (1829–1891) captured its essence in his hymn, “When There’s Love at Home.”
There is beauty all around,
When there’s love at home;
There is joy in ev’ry sound,
When there’s love at home.
In the cottage there is joy,
When there’s love at home;
Hate and envy ne’er annoy,
When there’s love at home.
The spiritual component of marriage is a “profound mystery” according to the Apostle Paul. It is a mystery arising out of the sex act within marriage.
Paul wrote, “This is a profound mystery— but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). This profound mystery is that the sex act in marriage is an icon of the sacred union between Christ and His beloved Bride, the church. Our expressions of sexuality within the bounds of marriage are the closest approximation to the unity, joy, and fulfillment between us and Christ. The spiritual mystery of unity connecting Christ, the bridegroom, with us, His treasured and lovely bride, becomes reality in the physical act of sex. It is a holy mysterious event ordained, pure, and blessed by God within marriage. -
The Lord God officiated the very first wedding in the Garden of Eden giving Eve to Adam. This made them one. They were complete. What one lacked, the other completed and vice versa.
Marriage isn’t man’s idea. It is God’s idea. It is more than a legal vow and contract by man’s laws. Marriage is holy, sanctified, and glorified because it is ordained and blessed by God.
Jesus blessed marriage too. At the wedding feast in the little village of Cana, He performed his first miracle turning the water into wine, lots and lots of the best wine. How much wine? It was between 120-180 gallons (John 2:6). In effect, I believe He was saying, “Let the party continue! Celebrate the union of these two as husband and wife. Rejoice and make merry!”
Jesus was certainly no party-pooper. And just as He purposed to make the wedding feast a happy, happy occasion celebrating marriage, so He purposes to make every marriage happy and fulfilling.
For our good and for our blessing, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6 KJV).
Rev. Dan White is a free-lance writer and founder and pastor of North Columbia Church, Appling, GA. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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