The Beginning of Sorrows
William B. Wright
Lane Weirton, West Virginia
An ounce of prevention, goes an old adage, is worth a pound of cures. The meaning of this truism, any sensible person knows, is to correct a situation at the first evidence something is wrong rather than to allow it to continue until too late. We are urged to fight cancer with a checkup (and a check) meaning that early diagnosis of cancer will make it possible for physicians to treat the malady before it is out of hand and not controllable. Experience has taught us that a regular trip to the dentist will normally prevent the loss of teeth by early detection and correction of cavities. Men applaud the wisdom of people who practice good habits designed to lengthen physical life. The diseases cited represent "the beginning of sorrows" for us unless we do something to correct these beginnings in time.
Unfortunately, many of the people who apply this wisdom to their bodies do not apply this same wisdom, in principle, to other matters. A classic example of this kind of short-sightedness is to be found in the attitude of many people toward marriage. To avoid some of these mistakes, the Christian looks to the New Testament to learn what wisdom from above is available for his learning. A careful reading of the New Testament suggests these things concerning marriage: (1) it is a gift of God and was created by Him for mans good. It was intended by God to be monogamous. (Matt. 19:4-6) (2) It is an honorable estate. (Heb. 13: 4) (3) Christians are to marry Christians (I Co. 7:39; 9:5). (4) Divorce is to be avoided like the plague. (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:7-9)
It would seem, then, that any thoughtful person who realizes marriage is a very binding arrangement under any circumstances would be very careful about what person he (or she) chooses for a marriage partner.- Even more, it would seem, Christians would be concerned about this matter. Yet, as I look about at the church of Christ, I see many members of the church (especially the young) being married to and regularly dating those who are not members of the church. When I question this arrangement, I receive such answers as: (1) "Shes a good girl even if she isnt a member of the church." (2) "You dont trust my judgment."; (3) "Some of the members of the church are no good.", (4) "It is just puppy love and wont last."; and, so on, ad infinitum. In answer to these I say: (1) Not every person who is not a member of the church is immoral or a basically bad person as the world judges them, but the fact remains they are not members of Christs church and do not share with the 11 common faith." (2) Of course I do not trust a person I s judgment when that person shows little judgment to trust. Furthermore, a seventeen year old boys judgment is a seventeen year old boys judgment, not a forty or fifty year old mans judgment. (3) There is no question that some members of the church are hypocrites and thoroughly bad people (4) "Puppy love" (so-called) may not last and then, again, it just might last at least long enough to incorporate a marriage ceremony later regretted by the parties to it.
But really this is all mere prattle when we get down to it. We may argue these questions all we wish, but the Bible still teaches: (1) Marriage is a gift of God, (2) it is an honorable estate, (3) Christians are to marry Christians and (4) divorce is to be avoided like the plague.
In order to insure these things in ones own life, it is vitally important that Christians form no romantic attachments except with those who are eligible marriage partners for Christians. But you may say, "I dont intend to marry her!" This well may be true, the first time! But what about the fifth time or twenty-fifth time? Is it still true then? Furthermore, is it still true when presents are exchanged on holidays, parents are being introduced" telephone calls of thirty minutes or more occur every day, and... ?????? Exactly what is the intent at these points in time? Just a friendship? At this point it soon becomes a question of the Christian entering into a marriage that violates some of the truths stated in the Bible he solemnly af firms to believe or "breaking up" with a young woman he loves. The occasion for his choice ought never to arise. It has happened to many a young man before now to find himself beginning to fall in love with someone he ought not to fall in love with. "This is the moment of critical decision," and the right decision is that he should cease his romantic association before he faces an agonizing choice between love and duty.
You may say, "Isnt that stretching it a little to assert that Christians should marry Christian (only)?" Thats a good question and worthy of careful consideration. So lets have a look at it.
An Important Principle
Insofar as I have knowledge, God has always willed that His people marry their own. I know believing student who of no fundamental Bible-believing student who challenges this point. Even the old patriarchs, Abraham and Isaac, were very determined that their heirs marry "their own" and that they not marry the Canaanite women about them. (Gen. 24:1-4; 28:1-2)
The people of Israel were strictly forbidden to contract marriages with inhabitants of the land of Caanan. (Dent. 7:1-3) The Israelites were told: "For they will turn away thy son from following me that they may serve other gods" (v. 4) Joshua further reinforced this precept and added that if they did make marriages with the inhabitants of the land "they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land" (Josh. 23: 12-13)
Nehemiah was very vehement about mixed marriages and insisted that foreign wives be put away. A telling argument used by Nehemiah was that Solomon, that great king, was caused to sin by "outlandish" women. (Heb. 13:23-27)
But you may say, "You are citing the Old Testament and we are not under it." This is true, but remember, I am merely pointing to a principle, at this point. Dont forget that Paul suggested that things written before were written for our learning. (Rom. 15:4)
New Testament Teaching
Now, let us look at what the New Testament says on these matters. Paul said: "Have we no right to lead about a wife that is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?" (I Cor. 9:5) Please note that Paul specifically stated that his right was to have a Christian wife ("believer") and he said that this is what other of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Peter had. Now if we are to be instructed by precept, example, and necessary inference, what do you make of this verse? I see Christians marrying Christians, dont you? To the widows Paul said they are to marry "only in the Lord." (I Cor. 7:39) He also admonished the Corinthian Christians to avoid being "unequally yoked with unbelievers." (2 Cor. 6:14) Now in what condition is a person more "unequally yoked" to an unbeliever than in the marriage relationship?
Are Mixed Marriages Invalid?
Some may think I am saying mixed marriages are not valid before God. This is not true. Insofar as I have knowledge, God recognizes marriage as valid as long as those contracting it are eligible to be married according to His law. (Read Matt. 19:1-9). What I am pointing out is the danger to the Christian partner and the Bible principles that should guide him in contracting marriage.
How Shall We Treat The Mixed Marriage?
We must treat both the Christian and the non-Christian the same way we should treat any other Christian and non-Christian and that definitely excludes treating them as though they had leprosy. Our duty to both is to so act toward them and to teach them that they will be united in Christ by the conversion of the non-Christian.
But, remember, unmarried Christian, if you can not convert your fiancé before you are married, the likelihood of accomplishing it later is not very great.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 46, pp. 12-13