Today's Family: Defining Marriage

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Today's Family

Defining Marriage

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My wife and I recently celebrated our silver wedding anniversary. We've been blessed with two wonderful children, now grown, and 25 years of marital happiness in what is popularly known as a "nuclear family."

Looking at the world around us, we find ourselves in the minority. Traditional families like ours have diminished over recent decades as single- parent households have steadily increased.

During the social upheavals of the 1960s, some observers predicted that marriage itself would soon become obsolete. Recent evidence, however, indicates that the number of married couples compared to singles has stabilized.

But a new debate has arisen: What constitutes a marriage? Courts and legislatures wrestle with the issue. Some believe marriages between two consenting adults should be allowed regardless of their sex. Traditionalists view marriage as being, by definition, strictly limited to the union of a man and woman.

The Importance of the Bible

What is marriage, and is there a tangible benefit to keeping it intact as an institution? Does marriage really matter?

Our earliest instructions on the fundamentals of the marriage relationship are found in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. In the New Testament, in rehearsing the intent and purpose of marriage, Jesus Christ referred to an early chapter in Genesis (Mark 10:6-12; Genesis 1).

Though the earliest passages of this instruction book for mankind were recorded several thousand years ago, the Bible has repeatedly proven its relevance and validity on important issues facing us. (Be sure to request our free booklet Is the Bible True?) Accompanied by proof, backed up by real evidence, we can have confidence that God's instructions to mankind regarding marriage and other basic tenets of a godly life remain our wisest course of action and the best way to pattern our lives. This is the supreme value of the Bible.

As regular readers of The Good News know, this magazine is dedicated to demonstrating the wisdom and veracity of the Bible's instruction on many topics ranging from creation to geology to everyday living.

In this article we turn to the most intimate of human relationships—the marital union—and see that sociologists continue to discover evidence that applying biblical principles and instructions still leads to marital success—thousands of years after those instructions were first written down for us.

To understand what a marriage is, we need to set aside people's opinions and carefully examine the biblical foundation of the institution that remains the building block of any stable society.

After our Creator made the first man, Adam, He observed, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him" (Genesis 2:18). God's creation of woman was a blessing not only for the first man. The divine institution of marriage—of husband and wife loving and helping each other—has benefited society down through the ages.

The woman God created for Adam was Eve (Genesis 1:27). After establishing the exclusive male-female relationship called marriage, God instructed that the pattern was to continue: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). An intimate sexual relationship was to be part of marriage. But throughout Scripture God condemns any sexual activity outside of marriage and warns us to "flee" from it (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

God has never condoned same-sex relationships (Leviticus 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) or described them as marriages. Supposedly enlightened efforts to legitimize such relationships by equating them with marriage are contrary to Scripture.

God Knows Best

Although some may think same-sex relationships are as legitimate and workable as opposite-sex ones, sociologists confirm that God knew long ago what was best for mankind. Three researchers from Carnegie-Mellon University recently put some common assumptions to the test about sex differences in communication.

In comparing the effects of male-male, female-female and male-female discussions, they found that people listened better to others of their own sex but noted that "more emotional support was provided during opposite-sex interactions than during same-sex interactions" (Mickelson, Helgeson and Weiner, p. 220). In establishing marriage as a male-female relationship, God gave humanity the best foundation for emotional support.

From the beginning God intended that couples should not divorce (Malachi 2:16) but remain together in a respectful, loving relationship for the rest of their lives. God's purpose was for the two to conceive children and raise a family (Malachi 2:15; 1 Timothy 5:14), teach children His ways (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) and grow in love for each other (Ephesians 5:25; John 13:34) and their Creator (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37) throughout their lives.

Many people either don't know or don't understand God's instructions about how to live this kind of life. God laments that people invariably suffer when they either remain ignorant of or reject His instruction. As Hosea 4:6 tells us, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge ..."

The Good News remains committed to disseminating this priceless information and instruction, the knowledge revealed by God that is so obviously missing in the thinking extant in our world.

Impact on Children

Many people readily appreciate the benefits of happy, traditional marriages, and The Good News frequently offers information on building successful marital relationships. However, an often-overlooked aspect of marriage is its impact on children, whether good or bad. Although many single parents do commendable jobs raising their children, they can never completely replicate the benefits a child receives while living with two loving parents in the same household.

Children whose parents have successfully married are blessed with the ideal environment to grow up in as productive and emotionally stable leaders of the next generation. From firsthand experience they can learn how good relationships and happy marriages operate.

In addition to these benefits, a health dividend seems to be an additional blessing. Marianne Herring says that "children from single-parent homes are 20 percent to 40 percent more likely to suffer health problems" ("Believe Well, Live Well," Focus on the Family, September 1994,pp. 2-4).

Successful, enduring marriages greatly benefit not only the married partners but also the children they raise.

The Bible aptly advises: "Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain [temporary] life which He has given you under the sun ... for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 9:9).

Remember, marriage is a divine institution designed by God as a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman.

As I toasted my wife on our wedding anniversary, I was grateful for the understanding that she and I have received from God's Word that has allowed us to have a happy marriage. Our experience has proven that God's instructions work and that His teaching on marriage does not need redefining. Let's be thankful to our great Creator for this wonderful gift. GN