Modern Marriage

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  June 1, 2013

             It is June—a time of summer weddings and all the celebrations that surround the blessing of matrimony. The occasion is also a time to reflect on a dangerous undermining of the sacred institution of marriage.

            When it comes to marriage, it has been said that a good marriage is as close to heaven as you can get while still on earth. A bad marriage can be just the opposite. The fundamental reality is that the quality and integrity of the marriage has tremendous implications which reach far beyond the two married individuals. 

            By many standards, marriage is in greater danger than at any time in our history. It is not a threat that will be resolved in any court and it is not one that will be adequately addressed through any form of legislation. Marriage is threatened because we, as a society, no longer understand the concept of covenant as we once have done and we have a culture that undermines the importance of fidelity on many levels.

            Over the past several decades the value of—and society’s trust in—the concept of “the institution” has diminished. Culturally we saw it erode during the 1960’s with the cultural, political, and social conflict surrounding the Viet Nam War and Civil Rights Movement.  Subsequent events such as the Watergate scandal, Enron and Worldcom debacles, Televangelist fraud, clergy sex scandals, and general governmental gridlock have all caused our modern culture to distrust anything deemed as “institutional.” This distrust includes the sacred institution of marriage.

            Fearing the presumably dreaded institution of marriage—an institution with its own 50% failure rate and plenty of despicable stories of abuse, violence, and misery to stain its reputation—is one that many people simply choose to ignore.

            Rather than buy into what is perceived as an antiquated and unnecessary institution of the past, more and more adults are opting to simply live together. Recent studies demonstrate that more people are living in marriage arrangements without actually being married than at any time in history.

            In large part, this is due to the fact that marriage itself is fundamentally different from what it traditionally has been. In Biblical days, it was a business arrangement between the groom, or the groom’s family, and the father of the bride—a business deal where she was more property to be exchanged than anything else. In earlier generations of American culture, marriage was largely an economic and childcare partnership where the husband controlled the wage-earning power while the wife bore and raised the children and cared for the home.

            Modern marriage is more a covenant and mutual partnership than ever before. No longer does a woman depend on a man to have financial security and no longer does a man have to have a woman to raise his children or care for his home. This is a positive and Godly improvement in marriage; one that represents genuine equality between marital partners, but not one that all married couples have easily accepted. Consequently, marriages suffer because many people fail to recognize that maintaining the covenant is a daily investment in the value of the institution, not just an arrangement for one’s own self-benefit.

            The threats to marriage are real, but they may not be what many fear they are. As Christians, if we want to protect marriage, the place to start is by affirming, nurturing, and investing in the person to whom we are married before we fret over others!