Summary: A look at what defines what marriage is
Last week we began our Growing Great Families with the message “Sex, God’s Wedding gift” and I talked about how in God’s perfect plan sex was reserved for within marriage. Now most people know what sex is, perhaps with the exception of Bill Clinton. With that in mind it would only be fair to define what marriage is. Often our perceptions of an event are coloured by what we see in the media and certain there are all kinds of movies about weddings and marriages, 4 Weddings and a Funeral, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Runaway Bride and Big Fat Greek Wedding are only a few. And it’s not surprising that movies about weddings are usually chick flicks. But guys if you are looking for a movie wedding scene with all the essential elements, heroes, villains, giants, peasants and the underlying threat of physical violence there’s only one. Here is one of my favourite movie wedding scenes.
. . . ( Wedding clip from Princess Bride) Well that’s one view.
Let’s start with Marriage: What it is.
Socially: It Protects the Family Let’s start here with some secular definitions The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language mar•riage (mărʹĭj) noun
1. The legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife.
Encarta Encyclopaedia Marriage, social institution uniting men and women in special forms of mutual dependence, often for the purpose of founding and maintaining families.
Collins English Dictionary mar•riage (mărʹĭj) noun
1. The state of being married: relation between husband and wife.
Of all the definitions I read I think I enjoyed Sydney Smith’s the best, Smith was an English Clergyman who lived between 1771 and 1845 and he said “Marriage resembles a pair of shears, so joined that they cannot be separated, often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them.”
Throughout history and in cultures around the world there have been procedures and celebrations set in place that allowed a man and a woman to come together and start a family. In North America that is recognized as our modern Weddings, there is music (Link to music) that when we hear it we immediately think “Wedding” there are words that are said “Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedding husband?” that we automatically think “Wedding” there are clothes that we see them we automatically think “Wedding.” There are even automobiles that when we see them we think “Wedding.” And what we think of as normal might seem a little strange in other lands and other cultures and perhaps even in our own land a couple of generations ago. Weddings have become big business today. Sometimes when I’m talking to a couple who is living together without being married and I query them as to why their response is “We can’t afford to get married.”
No being married doesn’t cost much more then living common-law. The cost of a licence and the preacher pretty much covers it, and if they can’t afford the preacher I’ll do it for nothing. What they can’t afford is the Wedding and that is completely different then a marriage.
In the late eighties a gentlemen in our church in Truro approached the men’s group with a unique appeal, Jack had been a missionary in Zambia several years before where he became a good friend and mentor to a young man. Now the young man was graduating from Bible College and wanted to get married but his future father in-law was asking four cows for his daughter. She was educated as a teacher and so her getting married would hurt the family financially. Now you probably think that is strange and wrong, but in that culture that is all part of the marriage process. Guys without looking at your wife, keeping your eyes straight ahead, how many cows would you have paid? The Wesleyan Men’s group in Truro helped raise the money, they’ve been happily married now for 20 years and he is an ordained minister, has his masters degree from Asbury Seminary in Kentucky and teaches theology at the Bible College he graduated from and now heads up the International Leadership Institute of Southern Africa
The reason that cultures throughout history have tended to lean toward a monogamous form of marriage was to strengthen society through stable family units. Without some type of formal agreement, there was nothing to hold family units and thus society together.
We are starting to rediscover that with the rising divorce rates, men who are paying child support to children from one or two failed marriages, while not really being fathers. Mom’s who are left raising children by themselves or ending up in blended relationships where parents can’t really function as parents. Is it any wonder that the concept of “till death do we part” was an integral part of society up until the last thirty years. When I was a kid I knew one kid who was living in what we now call a blended family, back then I just thought it was strange that his last name was different then his parents.