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 Mark 10:6-12 [6] But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. [7] For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and join to his wife; [8] And they two shall be one flesh: so then they are no more two, but one flesh. [9] What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. [10] And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. [11] And he said to them, Whoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, commits adultery against her. [12] And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she commits adultery.
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; 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 Genesis 2:18And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
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). 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 Genesis 1:27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
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). 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 Genesis 2:24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall join to his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
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). 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 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 [18] Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is without the body; but he that commits fornication sins against his own body. [19] What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? [20] For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
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God has never condoned same-sex relationships (Leviticus 20:13 Leviticus 20:13If a man also lie with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be on them.
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; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 [9] Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, [10] Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
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) 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 Malachi 2:16For the LORD, the God of Israel, said that he hates putting away: for one covers violence with his garment, said the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that you deal not treacherously.
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) 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 Malachi 2:15And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And why one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
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; 1 Timothy 5:14 1 Timothy 5:14I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
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), teach children His ways (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 Deuteronomy 6:6-7 [6] And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: [7] And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.
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) and grow in love for each other (Ephesians 5:25 Ephesians 5:25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
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; John 13:34 John 13:34A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
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) and their Creator (Deuteronomy 6:5 Deuteronomy 6:5And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
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; Matthew 22:37 Matthew 22:37Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
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) 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 Hosea 4:6My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you, that you shall be no priest to me: seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.
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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 Ecclesiastes 9:9Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of the life of your vanity, which he has given you under the sun, all the days of your vanity: for that is your portion in this life, and in your labor which you take under the sun.
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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