Our culture loves weddings. Entire stores, books and TV networks are dedicated to having a beautiful, memorable wedding. The recent Royal Wedding in Britain, too, revealed our fascination with weddings. Our culture, however, does not seem to enjoy as much the lifelong work of marriage.
I do not have to cite statistics to demonstrate that countless people today are opting out of marriage. The average age of a person getting married is on the rise, and we are seeing all-time highs in cohabitation in America. While much of the talk in society focuses on so-called “gay marriage,” the real question is what is the future of marriage?
This Valentine’s Day, millions of dollars will be spent in the name of romance between men and women. Untold pounds of chocolates, teddy bears, flowers, long lines at restaurants—all of these expressions of love will be shown this St. Valentine’s Day, a holiday celebrated in many parts of the world. Interestingly, the holiday began as a celebration of a Christian saint (Valentinus), who was martyred for officiating Christian marriages at a time they were forbidden.
Valentinus’ story is one of sacrifice, and it is just this component of love that is lost in society today. Marriage, we are taught by today’s standards, is about “me and my feelings,” instead of serving each other. As Southern Baptists, however, we understand that marriage means more than raw emotions.
In the Baptist Faith & Message (Aricle XVIII), it says, “God has ordained the family as the foundational institute of human society. Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.”
More than these things, marriage is the very picture of God’s love for us. The BF&M goes on to say, “The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people.”
Our society today wants none of this. We see billboard advertisements for “quick and cheap” divorces. Infidelity happens at an alarming rate, including through online portals. We laugh at Hollywood celebrities whose on-again-off-again romances entertain. Yet the laugh is on us, as divorce and family breakdown in Oklahoma persist and close to home.
As Christians, we recognize this war on marriage is the work of the enemy. The great writer C.S. Lewis understood this as well and wrote about it in his seminal work, “The Screwtape Letters,” which depicts two demons plotting against a Christian. The senior devil “Screwtape” says to his understudy “Wormwood,” “Humans who have not the gift of continence can be deterred from seeking marriage as a solution because they do not find themselves ‘in love,’ and, thanks to us, the idea of marrying with any other motive seems to them low and cynical. They regard the intention of loyalty to a partnership for mutual help, for the preservation of chastity, and for the transmission of life, as something lower than a storm of emotion.”