Summary: Biblical view of marriage and family.
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
The instability of marriage as an institution and the continual increase of dysfunctional families is a major concern for social scientists and politicians who are properly alarmed that the very fabric of our society is in danger of collapsing. Some have claimed that the continued dissolution of families in America may be the greatest threat to the republic since the Civil War. A well ordered family and a cohesive marriage is one of the essential building blocks of any enduring society. No one questions that the structure of family life in America is under attack. Though the legislature may make laws that are favorable to the family, they cannot legislate the morality, goodness and fidelity upon which these families depend for their survival. The America family continues to break apart in record numbers. Ironically, most people marry because they believe it will make them happy and in our culture personal happiness is a marketable commodity. The airwaves are flooded with entertainment and advertisements that stress the importance of being happy and fulfilled. We are led to believe that happiness takes place best when one becomes a self-authenticating person. The psychotherapist describes such a person as “open, self-asserting, expanding, and erotic.” If one lacks such descriptive appellations, the therapist will soon convince him to believe that he ought to be dissatisfied with his humdrum existence. She needs something new and exciting. Marriages and “significant other” relationships ought to enhance one’s life; serving as a catalyst for personal growth. Consequently, one is often encouraged to ask the question, “Is my marriage giving me all I need for growth and enrichment?” Marriage, it seems, ought to be a romantic and deeply personal self-actualizing experience. In my own counseling practice I have often heard the complaint, “she doesn’t make me happy,” or “he doesn’t meet my needs and I feel neglected and unfulfilled.”
SECULAR VIEW OF MARRIAGE
The average Christian has been warped by a secular view of marriage. David Wells, the author of No Place for Truth, commented in a periodical a few years ago, “In society, as well as in the evangelical world, we are witnessing the triumph of the therapeutic. The self becomes both the object of our concern and source of our values; truth is replaced by feelings and relationships; the goal is not so much to be righteous as to be whole and happy.” This is the age of self-esteem and ego-strength psychologists (self-image, self-acceptance, self-worth, self-trust, self-love). There is, however, no evidence that high self esteem causes anything. People with low self esteem are often high achievers: Gloria Steinem for example, describes herself in this way. On the other hand, your illiterate neighborhood drug dealer may have very high self-esteem. The problem is that we have accepted the myth that personal happiness is an obligation and it has become the great American pursuit. Neither the entertainment industry nor the media at large has much to say about goodness or duty as a source of personal contentment. Rather, you are told that to be happy you must love yourself. Mental health gurus tell us that happiness is realized though self-fulfillment. Does it not seem odd to you that more than one third of the world’s psychiatrists and more than half of the world’s clinical psychologists practice their trade in America, which has only 6% of the world’s population. In 1968 the USA had 12,000 clinical psychologists while no other nation had more than 400. Today we have more than 40,000. This pursuit of self fulfillment and personal happiness has often been at the expense of marriage and family.
THE MARRIAGE COVENANT
The biblical pattern for marriage requires that a man and a woman be covenant keepers. That is, they are to be loyal, trustworthy, committed, dependable, perhaps even heroic in the fulfillment of their marriage vows. The primary purpose of marital fidelity is to develop a oneness with your spouse - not just a physical union, but an intellectual, emotional and spiritual unity. The secondary effect of a steadfast marital relationship is its strengthening affect upon the community and, ultimately, the nation. When men or women violate their commitments to one another they may be guilty of adultery regardless of whether they have been sexually promiscuous. The biblical prohibition against adultery is not to be understood as merely physical. It encompasses everything that might violate the marital promise to be devoted to one woman or one man. While it is difficult for some to accept, God is not so much concerned about your happiness in marriage as He is about your obedience in marriage. God’s law calls us to be vow-keepers in defiance of our culture. Our culture urges us not to define our life in terms of past commitments but in terms of present needs and future possibilities. However, the Christian makes decisions that affect his uncertain future based on a promise made in his unalterable past (i.e., marriage vow).