We all know that the Bible, while recognizing the institution of marriage, says nothing substantial about how one becomes married. Jesus went to a seven-day wedding celebration, but we don’t know what the ceremony itself looked like. The bible doesn’t prescribe specific kinds of civil or religious ceremonies. We don’t know what promises brides made to bridegrooms, or visa versa. We can be sure that the presuppositions of those entering into marriage were more sexist than we'd be comfortable with. The law of levirate marriage, for example, which required the brother of a deceased man to marry his sister-in-law should she be childless, sounds like legalized rape to us moderns—even if it was meant to protect the widow back then. I mean, what if they hated each other? And it is interesting how some people take the Old Testament’s condemnation of homosexuality seriously, but not the levirate law about marriage--which, after all, touches on one of the cornerstone institutions in their view of the world. And then there is the Apostle Paul, who suggested that single people never get married, since Jesus was coming back any time now! Well, who is listening to Paul now?
The Bible doesn’t have much to say about the institution of marriage. Does what we think of a common law marriage now count as marriage in the Biblical sense, for example? What if people can’t afford to get married? What do we make of David's or Abraham's multiple marriages or couplings or whatever you call them?
We can know something of the qualities that a marriage should have by the sort of things God’s prophets say about Israel acting like an unfaithful spouse. We can know something about the qualities a marriage should have by extrapolating from the Genesis story about Adam and Eve. Though not a story about marriage, per se, it does suggest that attachment (to use a contemporary marriage-therapy buzz-word) is a positive quality—most of us want other people in our lives who will be “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh."
So why this musing about marriage? Well, basically, this coming Sunday I am preaching on the theme, “Ever Thought of Getting Married?” I’m preaching on this theme in a context where marriage (as culturally defined, today) is definitely not thought of as something the Bible demands. People live together and no one thinks anything of it. Nor do I--morally, that is. But in this context, why might something like marriage as we understand it today be advisable or user-friendly or wise or beneficial or fun for today’s young people?
Help! Let me know, please!