Before And After Marriage
Few will deny that most of the problems that occur in marriage could have been avoided if there had been better preparation for marriage. Too many such problems are the result of unions that are almost accidental. Many other problems result from lack of understanding on the part of the man and his wife regarding the responsibilities of the marriage relationship. So many young people have been given some conception of the benefits of marriage by watching movies or reading cheap magazines, but from those sources have learned absolutely nothing about the obligations of marriage. And, significantly, such sources are the only ones that many young people have for information.
Young people should even be taught the responsibility of pre-marriage conduct, as well as the dangers of it. Perhaps too many are simply taught to be discreet and pure in conduct, but are not taught to exercise wisdom in choices for even the most casual dates. Many mistakes would be avoided if parents would teach their children not to even have a date with one they could not marry. That one simple date may seem insignificant, but it may lead to romance and marriage. Boys might well remember that the girl they whistle at today may be the one they someday say "I do" to. And the Christian girl who accepts the company of a Catholic boy today to attend a football game, may later love him so much that she agrees to rear her children in his faith! The best time to prevent such - in fact the only real time to prevent such - is before romance begins.
Some teach the youth of today that if they love each other enough their marriage will succeed. I do not believe this theory. Such things as conviction and conscience might make success impossible even though love is deep and true. Let not a Christian youth suppose that because he and a Catholic girl love each other so much they will be able to work out their religious problems successfully and make their marriage a success and still keep the favor of God. If her convictions are as deep as his, then her love for him becomes no guarantee that prejudice will be removed in consideration of religion. (Of course some such marriages do succeed, but if someone will come to me with a list of those that succeeded, I promise to produce a list, many times as long, of failures - either to make the marriage work, or failure to remain faithful to God.)
Again, let no Christian youth suppose that because he loves her so much some drunkard will quit his meanness. Love for a woman will not remove the desire for liquor. He may vow that he will quit, and he may, honestly try to do so (and sometimes succeeds) but he will not be able to accomplish this tremendous task simply because he is deeply in love.
So, besides love, we must look for depth of character if we are to expect happy and successful marriages. Social, cultural and financial backgrounds may enter into the picture of choices, and some similarities in these things may make for smoother sailing on the seas of matrimony. Natural characteristics such as ambitions, temperament, health, age and race may certainly deserve serious attention, and where there is a high degree of similarity in these things there is surely greater opportunity for compatibility in marriage. On the other hand, perhaps the greatest complement to love in producing successful marriages is character.
I shall not try to solve in this discussion the old problem of the scripturalness of certain marriages - or their unscripturalness. Most people in love are not ready to listen to much scripture. However, most marriages are consummated in efforts to gain the maximum in happiness, and perhaps herein lies the greatest appeal to youth that will motivate them to make proper choices. It is not hard to show young people how unhappy two religious people would be, loving each other sincerely, but each thinking the other was lost. Again it is easy to point out the heart rending scene as husband and part of the children go one way to worship and wife and other children go the other way. Think of the anxiety, the terror and the anguish when two people love each other but do not eat at the same table (The Lord's Table), do not sing praises to God together and can have no fellowship in prayer. Think of the difficulty about giving when the wife has to depend upon her denominational husband for money to help in the Lord's work, or when the husband is called upon by his denominational wife to help in her church work.
I would not for a moment minimize the importance of true love and of the part it plays in marriage and marriage relationships. On the other hand we must not confuse love with passion, and we must not conclude that two people who are "passionately in love" are necessarily ready for marriage. A casual reading of the Old Testament is sufficient to show that in those days success in marriage was dependent upon dedication, character and love that developed simply because the two knew they were to wed, or after they had married and without the romantic atmosphere usually prevalent today. This simply means that the kind of love that makes for success in marriage is mostly dependent upon the will or attitude of the participants.
Again there is another extreme. Some think that if two people are Christians that their marriage is bound to succeed. But two people may be entirely true to God and obedient to his word, and be completely unsuited to each other - and because of the differences in their characteristics they may have difficulty in making the adjustments to a happy life together.
The adjustments referred to in the previous paragraph must come to every marriage, and the greatest chance for success is had by those who are prepared by previous training for such adjustments. Each must try to please the other rather than self and each must try to adapt himself or herself to the needs of the other instead of requiring that the other do all the adapting. Each husband should remember that he has not only taken a wife but that he has given her a husband. Of course the wife should reciprocate in her attitude toward the marriage. For instance, each husband should remember that he will not likely have a better wife than he helps her to be. Only a few become the best of companions without full cooperation from the partner. Many wives, who have become complete failures as partners to good men might have been happy and successful companions to wiser men. And, many men have deserted noble and godly wives who loved them dearly but who did not possess the understanding to help the men make the proper adjustments.
Marriage is the action that God intended to bring union, and in which a man and woman become a husband and wife. The two are made one! The most significant "we" among human relationships is the product of marriage. God intended it that way. Woman was made "meet" (Gen. 2:18) for him (man). They were made for each other. In marriage the aims, purposes, plans, hopes, desires, likes, dislikes, happiness and joy of two different people merge into the union as though thev were just one. Two different homes blend in marriage to make one new home. Old relationships are abandoned so that husband and wife can walk the way of life side-by-side, one life complementing the other, until the two, together, develop a oneness surpassed only in the spiritual realm.
It was God's intention that marriage be the means for the legitimate perpetuation of the human race and for the most sublime happiness possible in this life. In contrast to God's intentions, man has made marriage a mere plaything a toy to be taken up and cast aside at will. Marriage is probably the subject of more jokes than anything else, and in many places it is spoken of in jest more than in any other way. But the writer of the Hebrew letter wrote, "Marriage is honorable in all . . ." (Heb. 13:14). To certain ones Paul wrote (I Cor. 7:9) "But if they cannot contain, let them marry . . . for it is better to marry than to burn." Again inspiration gives approval of marriage by pointing out that it would be false teachers who would forbid to marry (I Tim. 4:3).
Not only is marriage honorable, but it is intended to be permanent - until death. Paul wrote, "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth" (Rom. 7:2). God never did sanction "trial marriage." He did not intend that his people "try" marriage to see if it would succeed, but he intended that we be married and make it a success. However, the union thus made, though a holy one is nevertheless a tender one and must be nurtured and cultivated with forgiveness, patience, humility and submissiveness. Real determination, on the part of each partner, to maintain his or her fidelity and also to exercise the greatest concern and care to help the companion avoid temptation, will be a great factor in preventing trouble, separation and divorce. In another article next month I shall write on the related subject, "Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage."
Truth Magazine III:2, pp. 8-9, 14