I felt the weight of the moment, a transitioning of season and place, as my dad and I did the slow walk toward the altar. Both our emotions brimming near the surface, we silently stepped toward the future. Stopping within steps of my almost-husband, the pastor looked at my dad and asked, “Who gives this bride to be married?”
His response, though scripted, held much meaning — he was giving me to Larry for safe-keeping, for treasuring, for a life together. Dad was offering his blessing over our marriage in this traditional act of giving. Not delivered over as a possession, nor handed over as an object, but given in love, for love.
Equally symbolic and literal, I then moved my arm from my Dad’s to my groom’s. I had been given. Beautifully, lovingly given. Though I didn’t have words to describe what I felt on that summer day thirty years ago, I do now — I treasured that moment of givenness because I felt the immensity of my dad’s love. I felt how much I belonged. I know my dad didn’t take the moment lightly, nor did I. We each made a choice in that given moment. And, now Larry and I do our best to live into the trust and love by which we were given to one another.
The Bride of Christ
Whether you find yourself married in this current season of life or not, you are the bride of Christ. Ephesians 5:25-29 explains this analogy best:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.
The church is Christ’s bride, presented — like brides at an altar — with radiance and holiness.
We are the bride! Jesus is our bridegroom. Friends, can we embrace the truth that we are the ones given to Jesus? We’re the ones given to Him for care and safe-keeping, for unconditional love and teaching, for the kind of cleansing that leaves us new and holy. Because He loves us.
At this point you may be asking what any of this has to do with our new series, True Belonging, and I’m so excited to answer your question!
Last week I shared with you the revelation that struck me when I read JD Walt’s words: the bridge between believing in Jesus and becoming like Jesus is belonging to Jesus. That aha moment has at once broadened my understanding of what it means to belong and made me hungrier for it. So, here we are — seeking to better understand what true belonging means.
As I prepared for today’s post, I tried to think of a time when I had experienced givenness. When the holy exchange at the altar came to mind, I wondered if that was a good thing. Did I like the idea of being given? But as I allowed myself to re enter that moment, all I felt was a depth of belonging with my dad and my husband. There was something about the act of being given in love that elicited a truer, deeper sense of belonging.
We begin to see the picture of what true belonging is — like a bride stepping toward her bridegroom, given in love, for love.
We’re unpacking John 17 in this series because it holds within it much belonging AND given language. But first, let’s recall the context of this chapter. Jesus is speaking His final words over the disciples the night of His arrest. He speaks words of great importance — the meat of the message He wants them to remember. Chapter 17 is the culmination of this “final discourse” where John captures the prayer Jesus spoke over these faithful followers, so let’s make note of how John sets up the prayer:
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed
John 17:1, NIVJesus looked up, toward heaven — the same thing He did at Lazarus’ tomb before praying aloud for God to raise him to life. Jesus looked up and prayed aloud. We might wonder why, when all He’d have to do is think the thought and it would be done, that He’d go to such great lengths to look up and pray aloud. In John 11, Jesus gives us the answer Himself: “for the benefit of the people standing here, that they might believe you sent me” (verse 42).
We can take that Lazarus-lesson in John 11 with us into this prayer for the disciples in John 17. Jesus prayed aloud because wanted His disciples to benefit from the hearing of His words — in the moment and for all time. He looked up to His Father and prayed out loud with purpose, meaning, and for longevity. For all believers. For us.
So, as we step into this prayer together, let’s look up to the Father and say aloud, “We are here, Lord. Speak.”
As Jesus looks up toward His Father, to whom He belongs, He prays these words:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
John 17:1-5, NLTI’d love for you to look back at this passage and make note of each use of the word give/gave/given.
(It helps to note that in the first three verses Jesus speaks of himself in the third person.) Let’s see what we learn about givenness:
This is a simple, basic reading of the text, but it brings us into greater understanding of what true belonging looks like: our belonging is often revealed in those moments of givenness. And never more perfectly so than us having been given to Jesus by the Father.
Jesus ends this section with these words, “Now, Father, bring me into the glory that we shared before the world began.” I can picture that brilliantly bright and beautiful glory that reflects God’s essence and presence wrapping Jesus in its rays and bringing Him back to His greatest place of belonging. With God.
The language of us having been given to Jesus will come up again three more times in this prayer. We’ll watch for these references as we go because we know that when words, ideas, and images are repeated in Scripture, they’re important.
But, I think we’re already grasping the greatness of our givenness. Sweet bride of Christ, you’ve been given to Jesus by the Father — in love. For love.
We stand at a threshold of great transformation! To recognize our givenness is to realize we belong. Think how much God must love us to have given us to His beloved, most trusted Son. To be cared for. To be treasured. To find life in Him.
I’m looking up to God and praying aloud, “Father, I thank You for your love that knows no boundary — it flows through every age, every person, for all time. I thank You that we have been given to Christ, our bridegroom, who looks upon us with such love that we feel all at once just how much we belong to Him. (say aloud with me) Jesus, I belong to You. Amen!”
With Spring (in the U.S.) starting to bloom, and the weather changing for the better, it’s difficult to hang on and keep “social distancing” ourselves. Most everyone is getting tired of being cooped up. The kids are restless, and so are the adults. All of this sequestering is taking its toll on us—physically, financially, and emotionally.
Steve and I both felt this restlessness this morning (as well as other times). But as I was praying, the following came to me to tell you: “Hang on, refocus, and live Christ.” It’s difficult to hang on right now. We want to burst forth and get out—just like the flowers that are popping up everywhere.
But when I “heard” that phrase, I also knew that it meant we are not to go “bursting forth” before we should. We’ve seen that happen. You probably have too. Someone gives up JUST before they should. If they had waited, they would have been in a MUCH better place. This is where we need to ask God for wisdom, and do things accordingly.
In this time when the Coronavirus is seemingly winding down in some areas of the world, lets apply God’s wisdom and: HANG ON. As we’re directed in the Bible:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
“And as for you… never tire of doing what is good.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13)
Realize, and hang on to His promises:
“God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.” (Isaiah 40:29)
When you are tempted to give up, and give in before you should say to yourself (and live it out): “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Hang On and REFOCUS
Take your eyes off of your circumstances (to the extent that you can wisely do that). And put your focus on the plan God has for you. He loves you and has a plan for your life individually and together as a married couple. But it is up to us to join Him in that plan. None of this has or ever will take Him by surprise. So He must have a reason for allowing it. Don’t be stiff necked by giving into fear. Pray and then look to what God has for you:
Entering into marriage is a huge life altering event, you are placing everything that you are or ever will be into each others hands and hearts with the intention of building a new life together.
The truth is, building a loving, healthy, supportive and lasting life together doesn't just happen...it is consciously and intentionally created.
All "successful marriages" arise from each individual consciously taking full responsibility for themselves and owing their own stuff first.
Mastering the Self must come from a place of true authenticity (from an unimpeded heart space) not (a limiting ego self, old baggage, etc.), which enables the individual and the couple to fully engage, grow, learn and expand within the love they share without limitation.
The love you share with each other is in fact a living energy, a God Seed Connection if you will, which emanates from your Soul. The ability to give and receive love is a precious gift from God, How you care for nurture and enrich this precious gift is in accordance with your Free Will and Conscious Creation. Self Understanding, Self Mastery and Self Responsibility are essential keys to your personal and relationship success and wellbeing.
You might very well liken it to a child you have created together. It is comprised of many intricate facets of who you are as individuals, thereby creating who you are as a couple.
And like a child, it requires constant care and a lifetime of devotion.
So then, it's reasonable and wise to give wakeful consciousness and consideration as to how you will both wakefully proceed, care for and nurture this most precious gift, "your relationship" into full maturity...would it not?
Marriage is the most amazing and rewarding journey you will ever embark on, it can also be equally challenging when spiritually unprepared.
You are promising each other that you will "really be there, fully and wholly".
That you will apply yourself to the relationship as husband and wife, with "All That You Are and in Divine Right Order.
In today's western culture of consumerism, commercialism and Service to Self Values,
many couples have an unrealistic and superficial understanding of love and marriage and little, if any, understanding in the ways of Spiritual Self Mastery or knowledge of basic relationship skills.
Few understand or are even aware of the profound Spiritual aspects of themselves, let alone each others Spiritual roles within marriage.
The good news is, there are steps you can take to ensure that you are doing and being the very best you can to make your marriage a successful one. It begins by taking full responsibility for your personal relationship with your Creator and Christ Consciousness.
Lets begin with...
Compassionate Communication. This life philosophy is met with focused intentions to express communication and behaviors with an open heart which is congruent with these VALUES:
“Most people don’t think twice about insuring their home or car or things that are valuable. They don’t think twice about installing security measures like screens and alarms. But what about protecting your marriage? What can you and I do to protect our marriages?” (Dale Harcombe)
We have to confess that earlier in our marriage we didn’t think about protecting our marriage. We just assumed we wouldn’t need it! It wasn’t even on our radar screen to put up emotional hedges to protect our marriage relationship. How naive!
As we look around we see so many “good” people “falling” into temptation. They are breaking apart their marriages as one of them chants the statement, “I never meant to fall in love with this person.” Another statement we often hear is, “I never thought it would happen to us.” Consequently, we now realize how stupid we were in NOT guarding our hearts more than we did. Thankfully, we never gave into the temptations that came our way. Even so, the following warnings are real:
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Protecting Your Marriage with IntentionalityIn other words, WAKE UP! There is a force of darkness looking for ways to cause you to fall. And if you think, “That will never happen to me” …look around. There is a whole world of people who never thought they would be susceptible to “falling” into an affair. And yet they have. It’s prideful to think otherwise.
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
So, in the context of all of protecting your marriage, and to answer the questions posed above, we’re sharing tips we gathered from many “experts” to help you to guard your heart. As you apply the following principles they will help you to protect your marriage. Plus they will protect your Christian integrity and testimony.
• Don’t be Naive.Most people who end up in affairs don’t set out to have one. Infidelity usually begins with an innocent relationship that, in time, moves to an emotional depth that crosses a line of fidelity. (Jill Savage)
• Become Aware of Your Choices.A major battle is won when we stop asking what’s wrong with certain choices. Instead we should ask what’s right with them. Everyday I read a small poem above my computer. This poem has become the key for affair-proofing my own marriage. It reads: ‘The choices we make everyday dictate the life we lead. To thine own self be true!’
Basically, this is the same message that Luke talks about in the Scriptures. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” (Luke 16:10) In other words, how we handle the small things dictates how we react to the bigger ones. As Christians, we must learn what God desires for our lives. And we must remain true to His wishes. (Michael Smalley, from article “Protecting Your Marriage from Infidelity”)
• Make sure you know your boundaries so you are protecting your marriage.Put fences around your heart and protect it as sacred ground. It is reserved only for God and your spouse. Barbara and I are careful to share our deepest feelings, needs, and difficulties only with each other. (Dennis Rainey, from the Growthtrac.com article “Avoiding Emotional Adultery”) [You can learn more about this area of marriage by reading, Paper Fences: The Boundaries We Fail to Set in Marriage]
• Additionally, in protecting your marriage realize that you are vulnerable to sin, whether you realize it or not.Many married people don’t understand that a chemical reaction can occur with someone other than their mates. High school chemistry taught me a very valuable lesson. When certain substances come into close contact, they can form a chemical reaction. I proved that one day during my senior year of high school when I dropped a jar full of pure sodium off a bridge into a river. It nearly blew up the bridge!
What I’ve learned since then is that many people don’t respect the laws of chemistry anymore than I did as a teenager. They mix volatile ingredients without giving much thought to the consequences. I’ve discovered that many married people don’t understand that a chemical reaction can occur with someone other than their mates.
Don’t misunderstand me — I’m not just talking about sexual attraction. I’m referring to a reaction of two hearts, the chemistry of two souls. This is emotional adultery — an intimacy with the opposite sex outside of marriage.
Emotional adultery is unfaithfulness of the heart. When two people begin talking of intimate struggles, doubts or feelings, they may be sharing their souls in a way that God intended exclusively for the marriage relationship. Emotional adultery is friendship with the opposite sex that has progressed too far. (Dennis Rainey, adapted from the Growthtrac.com article “Avoiding Emotional Adultery”)
• Quit kidding yourself.Understand the tremendous capacity of every human being to deceive him or herself when not connected to God. Know that, once you start making excuses for wrong behavior, each excuse will sound more plausible. As a result, you will sink deeper and deeper into sin and ruin. Admit that you can’t trust your own self apart from God. Make the decision to stay close to Him. (Jerry Jenkins, from book Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It)
• Avoid Temptation.Innocent chat room visits can endanger a marriage when someone discovers a ‘Cyberspace soul mate.’ When the honesty that’s missing in a marriage gets spilled out on the computer screen, emotional affairs can result. Preventative measures include:
• Protect your marriage through boundaries in the workplace.If ever a situation needed solid protective walls firmly entrenched around it to prevent infidelity, the workplace is it. Such protection requires predetermined decisions. These decisions are maintained through accountability to your husband [or wife] and to others [same sex friends]. The practices of establishing an invisible wall and refraining from personal contact and conversations with other men [or women] are utterly critical. Without predetermining to follow these safeguards, you will effectively set yourself up to fall. (Judy Star, from the Familylife.com article, “Eight Ways to Protect Your Marriage”)
• Recognize that work can be a danger zone.Don’t lunch alone or take coffee breaks with the same person [of the opposite sex]. When you travel with a co-worker, meet in public rooms only. (Shirley Glass)
• Protecting your marriage can begin through discretion in clothing.Men become easily aroused sexually by the stimulation of sight. Therefore, what we wear is very important. To attract men to you sexually by the clothing you choose is to defraud them because you cannot (or should not!) fulfill the desire you arouse. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 tells us, “For this is the will of God …that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor …and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in this matter. (Judy Star, from the Familylife.com article, “Eight Ways to Protect Your Marriage”)
With that said, and in a different context:
• Realize the power of your eyes.As it has been said, your eyes are the windows to your soul. Pull the shades down if you sense someone is pausing a little too long in front of your windows. I realize that good eye contact is necessary for effective conversation. But there’s a deep type of look that must be reserved only for your spouse. (Dennis Rainey, adapted from the Growthtrac.com article “Avoiding Emotional Adultery”)
• Avoid emotional intimacy with attractive alternatives to your spouse.Resist the desire to rescue an unhappy soul who pours his or her heart out to you. (Shirley Glass, from the article, “7 Tips to Prevent Infidelity”)
• Beware of recreating alone with a member of the opposite sex.If I like to horseback ride and my husband doesn’t, but this handsome guy will go with me, sharing something I love with another man might get to me to develop feelings I don’t want to have for him. But that is the difference between me and someone who cheats. I don’t put myself in the position to get those ‘uncomfortable’ feelings. (Lucyloo, commenter on the article “7 Tips to Prevent Infidelity”)
• Do not allow any friendship cause any type of separation between you and your spouse.If a friendship with the opposite sex meets needs that only your spouse should meet, end it quickly. It may be a painful loss at first, but it isn’t nearly as painful as temptation that has given birth to sin. (Dennis Rainey, adapted from the Growthtrac.com article “Avoiding Emotional Adultery”)
• Plant protective hedges early before problems take root.Know that if you plant hedges in your marriage before you find yourself in a threatening situation, you can prevent many problems from taking root and nip affairs in the bud. Anticipate danger, plan, and plot your escape before you find yourself in a dangerous situation. (Jerry Jenkins, from book Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It)
• Don’t play the comparison game.We all make mistakes, have bad habits and annoying behaviors. When we compare a ‘new friend’ to our spouse, it’s an unfair comparison. That is because we aren’t seeing that person in a ‘living under the same roof, taking care of kids at 3 a.m., struggling to make ends meet’ reality. (Jill Savage, from Todayschristianwoman.com article “8 Safeguards Against Getting Too Close”)
• It’s especially important to be honest with yourself.If you’re dressing to please someone else or lingering in the parking lot hoping that person will ask you to lunch, stop now, before you’ve gone too far. If you’re in doubt as to what conduct is inappropriate, ask yourself, ‘Would I do this in front of my spouse?’ And if you’re still not sure, ask yourself, ‘Would I do it in front of the Lord?’ (You are, you know.) Here is a simple rule to keep you on the straight and narrow: If you’d have to hide it or lie about it — don’t do it! (Nancy Anderson, from the book Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome: How to Grow Affair Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage)
In further protecting your marriage:
• Beware when you’re faced with the temptation of attraction to someone other than your spouse.Realize that there is only one response that will work —TO FLEE! Any other approach, such as trying to rationalize your way out of it, is doomed to failure. Decide to run from the situation as from a contagious disease. Recognize that the right time to act is as soon as you start to notice your attraction to another person. (Jerry Jenkins, from book Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It)
• Don’t blame God for what’s really your own responsibility.It’s all too easy to blame God for making it possible for you to feel sexual attraction toward someone besides your spouse. But your responsibility is to choose to channel your desires properly. If you ask God to help you do so, He will strengthen you for the task. (From the article, “Plant Protective Hedges Around Your Marriage”)
• Make sure your social network is supportive of your marriage.Surround yourself with friends who are happily married and who don’t believe in fooling around. (Shirley Glass from the article “7 Tips to Prevent Infidelity”)
• Flirt — but only with your spouse.Flirting is fun. And it’s a great way to build excitement and intimacy between two people. But avoid flirting with anyone besides your spouse for any reason, remembering that it’s not a harmless way to interact. Know that suggestive comments and behavior can spark much more with a person who is badly in need of attention.
But keep flirting with your spouse, no matter how long you’ve been married. Caress each other, share private jokes, etc. daily, and be creative. Know that as long as you both invest in your marriage, it can be fun, exciting, and intimate. (From the article, “Plant Protective Hedges Around Your Marriage”)
• It’s important to note that protecting your marriage involves your increasing your investment at home.Solid marriages are built by spending time together, laughing together, and playing together. If you aren’t dating your mate, set up dates for the coming months. Make sure that spending time together is a priority. (Jill Savage, from the Todayschristianwoman.com article “8 Safeguards Against Getting Too Close“)
• Above all, rely on God’s strength rather than your own.Realize that, as a human being in a fallen world, your best resolve and inner strength can still fail you when you need it most. Choose to rely on God’s unlimited power to help you keep your marriage strong. (From the article, “Plant Protective Hedges Around Your Marriage”)
Lastly, In Protecting Your Marriage Please Know:“If your spouse is unwilling to build a marital hedge with you, know that any hedge you attempt to build yourself will be blessed by God.
Tell your spouse about your desire to protect your marriage. And tell him or her the steps you’re taking to do so. Most of all, keep praying. Because your marriage is a portrait of His relationship with His church, you can be sure God desires it to be a beautiful one. (Erin Prater, from Focus on the Family article “How to Build and Maintain a Hedge”)
Above all, we pray these tips are helpful as you put intentionality into protecting your marriage. May God bless your marriage,
Cindy and Steve Wright
“We don’t need a marriage license to show our love. It’s just a piece of paper!”
I have lost count of how many times I have heard this over the years. ‘It’s just a piece of paper.’ Those who make that statement often declare that they are doing “what is right for them” and that make sense to them. But in the fuller picture, especially when it comes to those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, is that really true?
We’d like you to consider a few points, hoping you will see that this “piece of paper” and your hesitation to sign it, really isn’t as “right” as you might have thought previously.
The Value of a Marriage License One point to consider is its value:
“‘It’s just a piece of paper’ they say. The deed to your house is ‘just a piece of paper.’ Your apartment lease agreement, your car registration, your check on payday, your driver’s license and so many more things qualify under the title of ‘just a piece of paper.’ But you make sure that you have these in place, and you are very protective of them. High school diplomas, certificates of completion, college degrees are all ‘pieces of paper.’ But, they are highly valued. Shouldn’t you value the most important relationship in your life at least as much as you do your house, car, or level of education?” (Charles Perkins, from article
It’s Just a Piece of Paper)
There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the marriage license and its importance. Michael A Covington made the following points concerning this, in his article,
Explaining Christian Sexual Morality to a Non-Believing World:
Misconception: ‘A marriage certificate is just a piece of paper.’Then why are you afraid of it? Every time I’ve seen a couple living together out of wedlock, it has been one of two things:
(a) It is a one-night stand that persisted. That is, they really have made no commitment at all.
– OR –(b) It’s a situation where one of the pair thinks they are practically married. And the other thinks they have not actually made any commitment to marry. (I.e., it’s a trick!)
Let’s distinguish marriage from wedding. If you’re ready to marry, but you’re putting it off because of some difficulty arranging a big fancy ceremony — please re-think where you stand. Either make the commitment, and get it publicly registered, or admit that you are not yet married.'”
Hannah, in another article brought up a few additional points that it might be good for you to consider.
She wrote:I must have heard that old saying about marriage just being a piece of paper a million times from people who were saying, why bother getting married? However, there really is more to marriage than a piece of paper. That is because if a couple is married it gives couples many more options legally in a number of various areas.
Couples that believe marriage is just a piece of paper are not only short changing themselves, but their partner as well.
Couples who think it’s just a piece of paper have a lot to learn, including trust.
Just a Piece of Paper?What stimulated me to write this article is that I finally realized what was going on. In one sense some couples are saying it’s just a piece of paper. But then I got to thinking, if it’s just a piece of paper why are you so afraid of it?
In that respect, what they’re saying does not make any sense. Those who have been married and had enough courage to put their love on the line for the one they love, and to commit for a lifetime to love, honor, and cherish are way ahead of those whose say, no promises here, let’s just see how it all goes!” (From an article titled, “Marriage vs. the Piece of Paper Syndrome,” which was formerly posted on the Internet)
Living Together We understand that many who live together are either not ready to make the type of commitment it would take to sign this “piece of paper.” It’s either that, or they don’t see this step of commitment as one that is necessary. But for those who claim to be Christians, we hope you will consider the following:
Commitment is just the beginning. It is the foundation on which everything else is built. A wedding makes the statement to God that I want to have His very best for my family. The Bible tells us that God’s best for couples is one man and one woman together for life within the covenant of marriage. (See Genesis 2:22-25; Matthew 19:4-6.)
Sexual love and the new life that can issue from it, are precious gifts from our Creator. It’s so precious in fact that they need to be reserved for one person with whom a binding life-covenant has been made. (See 1 Corinthians 7:2-9; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7.) Sharing these God-given gifts with that special person is one of the things that makes marriage sacred.” (See Proverbs 5:15-20.) (Earl Creps Phd. from the article, It’s Just a Piece of Paper)
Your AttitudeAs its been said, “It’s not just a piece of paper unless you treat it as such.” But for those of us who are “Christ followers.” we need to consider it to be more. It’s especially important what the Lord thinks about the “piece of paper” called a Marriage License.
To learn more by reading what author Lakita Garth writes concerning this issue, in a series of Crosswalk.com, please click onto the following links to read:
• MARRIAGE IS JUST A PIECE OF PAPER (Part 1)
• MARRIAGE IS JUST A PIECE OF PAPER (Part 2)
• MARRIAGE IS JUST A PIECE OF PAPER (Part 3)
Below are a couple of myths concerning living together and marrying with the “piece of paper”:
MYTH:The Bible Doesn’t Teach That a Civil or Religious Ceremony Must Be Performed For Marriage to Be Valid In God’s Eye, So Why Have One?
TRUTH:The institution of marriage was first created and ordained of God (Genesis 2). All marriages are still blessings ordained by Him in order that two may become one. It is evident that in biblical times there was a contractual agreement, perhaps verbal, signifying marriage. The parables of “The Wedding Garment” (Matthew 22:11-14) and The Ten Virgins” (Matthew 25:1-13) indicate that marriage took place at a given time and place.
“The scripture says ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s‘ (Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25). The government (the ‘Caesar’ of our day) requires that we must have a marriage license to be legally recognized. Since a marriage ceremony is a civil requirement, we are obligated as law abiding citizens and Christians to observe it.
MYTH:‘The Marriage License Is Only a Piece of Paper, and it Doesn’t Automatically Make Two People Committed to Each Other.’ ‘It won’t make me love you more.’ ‘We are already committed to each other, we don’t need a piece of paper to prove it.’
TRUTH:Dunagan (1993) presents the other side of the argument: ‘If there’s no difference in your relationship, what’s wrong with adding one more symbol to your total commitment?’ Evidently, marriage consists of more than just a piece of paper.
“After all, Dunagan says, who raises strong objections over ‘just a piece of paper’? Who has ever objected to buying a ring (or anything nice) just to prove their love?
‘We’re committed to each other. We love each other; we don’t need to sleep together to prove that we love each other,’. OR, ‘I love you. I am really committed to you, but not for a lifetime.’ OR, ‘I love you, but not enough to want you to be my wife.’ OR, ‘ I love you, but not enough to want to wear your last name.’ ‘I love you, but not enough to vow such love before God, family and friends.’ OR, ‘I love you, but not enough to enter into a relationship that brings you honor, respect and preserves your dignity.'” (From the article Myths About cohabitation)
What Getting Married Means Here’s another quote on this issue that we’d like you to consider:
Getting married means for a woman that I am now your wife, not your live-in play thing and housekeeper. For a man, I am now your husband, not your handyman. I’m not a guy who completes your honey-do-lists. It means that we get to have a wedding where, before virtually every person alive who means anything to us, we commit ourselves to each other. It means that we have determined to bring all those people we love into our lives. Furthermore, it means the families of our spouse are now our family too. It means we have legal obligations to one another.
When we realize all that is achievable by marrying and unachievable by living together without marrying, one must wonder why anyone would voluntarily choose not to marry the person he or she wants to live with forever. Unless, of course, one of them really isn’t planning on forever.” (Doug Billings, from article “Marriage vs Living Together” posted on Examiner.com)
Forever Type of Love Concerning “forever” type of love and commitment, Charles Perkins wrote:
We thought we loved each other and we did. But, once we took the marriage vows and got the ‘piece of paper,’ we found that the old love was but a mere shadow of the love that developed once we were married. There is no comparison.
My marriage license is a symbol of the love and life that I will share with my wife until the day I die. It is a piece of paper that declares to the world that I am my beloved’s and she is mine. It’s a piece of paper that is a symbol of a relationship that means so much more to me than the wood and plaster of a house or the tin, plastic and rubber of a car.
Plus, it’s just a piece of paper that reminds us of why we are together when we want to go. So we stay, and build, and grow. It’s a piece of paper that gives her access to a place and space of peace and rest in me. She has access to a place where only she can come.
“It is a piece of paper that says I will live up to the commitment to love my wife no matter what happens in my life. It’s a piece of paper that I take seriously. Because of that piece of paper, I have joy. It IS just a piece of paper. But, it is the most important piece of paper that I have.” (Charles Perkins, from article It’s Just a Piece of Paper)
What God Says But the best reason to consider the marriage license more than just a “piece of paper” and to get married, is because of what God tells us in the Bible. It’s important to follow HIS ways of doing things, not ours. As one (unknown) author stated:
The Bible gives the best reason for couples not to live together without marriage. ‘Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers,’ states Hebrews 13:4. The Bible plainly and simply says that living together outside of marriage is fornication. Just what is meant by ‘fornication’? One dictionary describes it as ‘human sexual intercourse other than between a man and his wife.’ For us to have a good conscience, this Bible counsel must be followed: ‘God wills that you abstain from fornication.‘ (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
What IS Marriage?With that said, just what IS marriage, as brought out in God’s Word? The web site GotQuestions.org has an article posted that addresses this very issue. But upon reading it, we also recommend that you read the articles linked below it as well. We believe as you read them, you will get a fuller picture of the difference between marriage and just living together as if you were husband and wife without getting that “piece of paper.”
• WHAT CONSTITUTES MARRIAGE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE?
Keep in mind that Jesus told us (as recorded in Matthew 5:14-16):
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.“
Poking Holes in the Darkness When you live together without being married, do you truly believe that living together without a marriage license will cause others to “see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven“? Are you poking holes in the darkness so the light of Christ is seen through how you live? Or are you contributing to the darkness by going along with the standards that the world considers to be OK? Are you being a stumbling block to those who are weaker in faith? (See: Romans 14 and Romans 15.)
We’re told in the Bible:“Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.“ (Ephesians 5:15-17)
“Therefore, I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God —this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this wold, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —His good and pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
So you think your wedding is for you and your fiancé? Ha! Forget it. Here are some truths about weddings: Unfortunately, weddings often become less a celebration of marriage and more like a huge social torture test for the participants. Parents, and even some brides and grooms, are frequently guilty of turning weddings into spectacles to impress their friends or business associates. Money can become the sticking point since whoever pays for the wedding may feel a divine right to influence the proceedings with their own tastes.
Sometimes, parents or relatives try to make your wedding into the wedding they never had (yet always dreamed of). Your friends may be guilty of pressuring you to make your wedding fit some predetermined mold. Put another way, while you may be the stars of the show, you and your fiancé may not be the wedding’s directors, producers or choreographers.
Recognize this fact early and learn to negotiate without giving ultimatums. Yes, it is YOUR day, but remembering that others (parents, friends, relatives) are on the stage with you may prevent excessive bloodshed.
Truths About Weddings
Weddings always end up twice as large as originally planned. If only we had a dime for every couple we met who said, “All we wanted was a small, intimate wedding and what we got was a huge affair for 500 guests.” A wedding often takes on a life of its own, expanding into a hideous creature several times larger than you ever imagined.
This process usually begins with what we call Guest List Inflation. Here the guest list grows because each family simply must invite personal friends, close business associates and people whom they haven’t seen in 15 years. The main problem: adding to the guest list has a direct, negative impact on your budget.
Several weddings have nearly unraveled when families have insisted on inflating the guest list without offering to help pay for the additional cost. We suggest you and your families be allowed to invite a certain number of guests each. Any invites beyond those targets must be financed by the offending party. Careful negotiations are often necessary to avoid open warfare on this point.
Perfect weddings don’t exist in the free world.No matter what anyone tells you, understand that the “perfect wedding” is an impossibility on planet Earth. That’s because weddings always involve human beings who, on the whole, tend to be less than perfect creatures.
Now, we know everyone tells you that you must have the perfect gown, perfect flowers, and perfect cake unless you want to catch the Bridal Plague and die an agonizingly painful death. Don’t listen to them. Instead, we suggest you aim for a “fantastic” or “wonderful” wedding. Or even just a fun wedding!
Since it’s impossible to perfectly script something as complex as a wedding, we say why try? Attendants will miss cues; things will go wrong—if you need any proof of this just watch any of those “outrageous and shocking home video” shows. Ever wonder why so many of those clips are of weddings? Hmmmmmm.
Aiming for a wonderful wedding will also give you another benefit—you will probably be able to maintain your sanity.
The “wedding industry” isn’t as innocent as it looks.You might think the wedding industry is a collection of sweet old ladies whose only desire is to help young couples in love, but the reality is quite the opposite. Instead, think of the bridal biz as a group of cut-throat merchants who, in some cases, will do anything for a sale.
Newspaper columnist Dave Barry once wrote that the motto of the wedding industry is, “Money can’t buy you happiness. So you might as well give your money to us.” Quite true. Weddings are big bucks.
According to the latest research, over $20 billion dollars will be spent this year by couples tying the knot. That’s billion with a “b.” And that’s just the wedding and reception—add in another $19 billion spent on gifts and $8 billion on honeymoons and you’ve got a $47 billion bridal juggernaut. We like to call it the Wedding Industrial Complex.
Scary fact:The wedding industry dwarfs many other businesses, including the breakfast food biz (a paltry $16 billion in Fruit Loops and the like) or the record industry ($15 billion in CD sales.)
And you can bet your bridal veil that the industry knows EXACTLY how lucrative all these “I Do’s” can be. To illustrate this, check out what the publisher of Bride’s magazine told a trade journal about the wedding industry:
“Never before in a woman’s life, and never again, is she going to be worth this much money to a marketer. There is no price resistance and she is completely open to new brands,” Bride’s publisher cackled, adding that the internal tag line for Bride’s is “Where Love Meets Money.”
Bridal Dresses Of course, we’re not against folks trying to make a buck. Hey, sell a quality product or service at a fair price and make a profit — that’s America. Yet what makes wedding planning so crazy are bridal merchants who view brides and grooms as human ATM’s. Other wedding vendors seem at war with their customers, as odd as that seems. Take bridal dress retailers—please! These stores are incredibly inventive at separating brides from their money, generating a huge volume of complaints from consumers.
Why do some bridal merchants and vendors think engaged couples are an easy mark? That’s because weddings are a one-shot deal. There are no repeat customers (except if you are, say Elizabeth Taylor or Larry King). Unlike other industries that rely on repeat business, wedding merchants know you won’t be stopping by next month to buy another bridal gown, cake or ice sculpture. And with a fresh crop of new brides and grooms each year, some sleazy merchants can continue their rip-offs and scams with little fear of getting busted.
So, separate the good guys from the scamsters out there in wedding land. Yes, there are ethical and honest bridal professionals out there that charge a fair price. Just be aware the wedding business is just that—a business, where folks are trying to make a buck while you tie the knot.
Marriage Missions Editors Addition to this list:
A wedding is for a day, a marriage is to be for a lifetime. Why is it that we overlook that—or at least overlook the importance of that? It’s great to feel like a “princess for a day.” But don’t overlook the fact that the wedding is a one day celebration that initiates the beginning of a lifetime event. This is a lifetime event that matters very much to God! And for that reason, it should matter very much to us. That is why we should invest as much as we possibly can into making it successful.
Marriage is portrayed throughout the Bible as a living picture of Christ’s love for the church. It’s a picture that we aren’t to take lightly or tear apart. So as you prepare for your wedding, don’t forget to put all the preparation time into the marriage that it deserves. A good marriage takes a lot of work, commitment, and sacrifice to keep it strong. It’s not a one day event that you can slide through after the wedding day is done. You’re marrying each other in mind, body, and spirit. This is to be with God uniting you even stronger together as a team, as you allow Him to enter in and help you.
The question is:What are you doing to prepare for this sacred union before the wedding? And what are you planning to do to after the wedding (and the honeymoon) to keep this sacred union going strong?
This article (minus the Marriage Missions Editor’s addition) was edited from the book Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Throwing A Fantastic Wedding On A Realistic Budget, which was written and compiled by Denise and Alan Fields, published by Windsor Peak Press. This is a fun, non-Christian book that gives a whole host of real life solutions and creative ideas to plan a wedding without going bankrupt. Most of the tips are such that they would pertain more to American or Canadian weddings. But we can see how it could truly save those who are getting married a lot of money plus give them a lot of tips they may never have thought of before. It’s practical and fun all at the same time!
More from Marriage Missions
While no amount of preparation would have made me the perfect bride, it could have helped me enter marriage as a more thoughtful, easier-to-live-with spouse.
I have a confession to make. As a single, I didn’t prepare well for marriage.
The truth is, I didn’t really prepare at all … that is, not until I started dating my now-husband, Ted. It was then that the possibility of matrimony became a reality and I suddenly recognized the need to ready myself for it.
I wish I would have started sooner.
Because preparation takes time. And while no duration of it would have made me the perfect bride, there were things I could’ve addressed as a single that may have helped me enter marriage as a more thoughtful, easier-to-live-with spouse. The same is true for you.
There are things you can do now as a single to better ready yourself to begin the spousal journey in good shape. So whether the title of “spouse” is in your near future or years away, here are five things you can do to prepare for it.
1. Evaluate your habits.
When Ted and I were newlyweds, there was a particular habit of his that stood out to me … in a good way. He never left the toilet seat up. He defied all of the stereotypical stories of men and bathrooms I’d come to believe were true over the years.
This behavior of his wasn’t something he was taught as a kid, though. Instead, he adopted it in his adult years as he hosted single events at his condo. It was one way he made an effort to be courteous to his female friends. Years later, when we got married, this habit he’d embraced when he was single became a way to show kindness to me, his new wife.
Just like Ted evaluated his toilet seat routine and made a change before marriage, you can do the same with regard to your daily habits. Do you have patterns of behavior that may prove annoying, thoughtless or hurtful to a future spouse? These habits may be related to personal hygiene such as where you leave your dirty laundry, or could pertain to poor time or money management.
If you’re not sure whether a habit may need addressed, ask those closest to you for honest feedback. Choose people who know you and your behaviors well. This may include parents, siblings, roommates, or friends you’ve known for several years. Allow them to be candid without fear that you’ll be offended by their observations.
2. Fine tune your conflict resolution style.
You’re probably familiar with the five conflict resolution styles. If not, an article from the University of Notre Dame identifies them as avoidance, giving in, standing your ground, compromising and collaborating. The healthiest of these being collaboration, or what I label a “team-first fighter” in my book Team Us: Marriage Together.
What does a team-first fighter look like? This individual approaches conflict with an “other-first” mentality. This is evidenced in their desire to understand the other person’s perspective, a relinquishing of the need to be right, less concern for personal reputation, and an extension of grace and understanding.
Although I consider myself a team-first fighter now, this hasn’t always been the case. When I got married, I was a strict conflict avoider. My default was to pretend conflict didn’t exist. What I didn’t realize until after I got married was just how dysfunctional this was. It took several years of marriage for me to learn how to exchange my conflict-avoiding ways for that of collaboration.
Perhaps you’re more balanced than I was. It could be that you’re already a team-first fighter, or you tend to compromise, which means you’re on your way there. But it’s possible that like me, conflict sends you running toward denial at bullet-fast speed. While the bad news is your conflict resolution style is far from healthy, the good news is you can work now to change it.
Your single years are the perfect time to identify how you deal with conflict and determine what, if any, changes need to be made. One way to determine your style is to think about the last two or three times you’ve encountered conflict. Think back to how you responded in each instance and what you could have done differently.
3. Learn to not take yourself too seriously.
Ted’s lighthearted view of himself is one of the top five things that attracted me to him. Even though he had two master’s degrees, had traveled internationally, and was a talented musician, he didn’t take himself too seriously. This man knew how to laugh at himself and have fun in the process.
How about you? If asked, would others say that you take yourself too seriously?
Don’t misunderstand. There’s certainly a place for approaching particular aspects of life with seriousness. At the same time, there’s also something seriously attractive about an individual who can laugh at their mistakes, flaws and shortcomings — a person who can take a risk and fail because he’s learned to laugh it off and try again. Marriage comes with many opportunities to fixate on the negative, but being able to laugh together has been proven to create healthier marriages.
If laughing at yourself and your mistakes is hard for you, it may be time to develop a more lighthearted opinion of yourself. You can start small by learning to react with levity to little frustrations or mistakes. Lock your keys in your car? Instead of growing angry, figure out a way to see the humor in the situation. Or, if you’re like me, and you have trouble properly pronouncing English words, let alone words in other languages, don’t let your mispronunciation fluster you. Instead, figure out how to joke about it. Others know you’re fallible. Recognizing and accepting that can be attractive and liberating.
4. Seek out opportunities to serve.
The best marriages are made up of individuals who sacrificially serve one another; those who, for the sake of their relationship, weigh their spouse’s needs over their own. The problem is servanthood isn’t something that naturally occurs the day you promise, “I do.” Instead, a servant’s heart is cultivated over time. Sometimes lots of time.
But you can begin to develop it now as a single. Start by seeking out opportunities to serve within your community and at your local church. This could be helping elderly neighbors with their grocery shopping, or babysitting at no charge for a single mom. You could volunteer in your church’s children’s ministry, or participate in outreach programs.
Even if it means getting out of bed early on a Saturday or putting in hours after a long day at work, make it a priority to put others’ needs before your own. Make servanthood such a natural part of your life now that service will come more naturally in marriage.
5. Take a friendship inventory.
Chances are, you’re surrounded by some sort of community. These people may include your family, friends, co-workers or classmates. It’s important to surround yourself now with a support system that can encourage and help you later, when you get married. To find out if you have the right kind of friends, do a simple friendship inventory. Ask yourself these three questions:
● Do my friends esteem or value marriage?
● Do my friends view the opposite sex with respect?
● Do they affirm me at any cost, or are they willing to offer me gentle correction?
If your closest friends receive three check marks — great! You’re good to go. However, if your friends flunk this inventory, try having a heart-to-heart talk with them. Maybe they don’t realize how they’re coming across. Share how you’d like to see them encourage you in specific areas. They may just rise to the occasion.
Go Ahead … Start Now
You don’t have to wait until you’re in a serious relationship to prepare for marriage. You can start now. I guarantee that your future spouse will appreciate — and benefit from — your efforts. Your intentionality may even be one of the things they find most attractive.
Prepare for Marriage ... Learn More
The sacramental nature of marriage makes this action more than a physical bond,
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A collection of true real life Wedding Wisdom, skillfully guiding the To Be Wed couple on the path to spiritually imbued wedding wise decisions. Assisting couples in the creation a living Touch Stone, unique to them, that will serve and sustain a solid and loving foundation for a new life and journey together as husband and wife.
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