Did you have a Christian marriage or are about to have one?
Given the nature of marriage, it needs some kind of endorsement. Endorsement is a big, fancy word. What do we mean by it?
Marriage has been referred to as an institution. This connotes that like a family and a government, it is part of society. It is an institution that finds its legitimacy in tradition, and that if two people are in love and get married, they contribute to the solidity of marriage as an institution. The family, for it to thrive, relies on the institution of marriage to perpetuate the human species, an important step in past, present and future civilizations. When God told Adam and Eve, “go forth and multiply”, he meant every word because only through newborns does humanity refresh itself.
Marriage has also been referred to as a social contract. Our educated guess is that two souls in love decide to come together in a union and play certain roles expected of them. The traditional roles include man as the breadwinner and woman as the homemaker. Of course we’ve witnessed the reversal of these roles in the last century, but there are acceptable deviations from such traditional roles, provided that they do not harm the sanctity of marriage.
Issues to Mull Over
Since we mentioned the word “sanctity”, we now come to a Christian marriage. The fundamental essence of a Christian marriage is that it is a union that is endorsed (that word again) by a spiritual set of laws originating in the religion that one was raised and nurtured in. A Christian marriage, however, has a broader, more encompassing coverage than that just one’s religion. You could be Episcopalian and get married in an Episcopalian church, officiated by an Episcopalian minister. Or you could be Catholic and have a Catholic wedding with a priest guiding you through your wedding vows.
Whatever the religion, a Christian marriage denotes a spiritual arrangement and the application of Christian values. People raised in two different religions may decide to have a Christian marriage with both religions blended in, or have a spiritual wedding without any preference for the religion of either spouse.
Susan Piver, who wrote The Hard Questions (2000) addresses some issues that a couple about to get married should face. She says there are questions that center around the spirituality of marriage. When couples make an honest attempt to answer these questions, they can have a peek into the viability (or otherwise) of entering into a Christian marriage.
As examples –
- Do we share a religion? Are we active members of a church or synagogue and how may each of us benefit from this religious or spiritual association?
- Do we share a religious practice (Baptism, Confirmation, Communion) or a spiritual practice (yoga, meditation, or some other type of non-traditional observance)? Would adding a practice enrich our Christian marriage in any way – make it stronger, more committed, and more resistant to contemporary ills?
- Do we each have a practice that we can engage in without any time or place restriction so that each spouse can respect the other in the practice of his/her faith?
- How will we celebrate births and deaths, and other occasions based on our separate religions?
- What role does religion play in our sexual relationship?
- What religious holidays can we celebrate together?
It isn’t enough to WANT to have a Christian marriage just because we were raised in a family that believed in the importance of religion. Before marrying someone from another faith, we have to examine our motives for wanting to convert or not wanting to convert, and in what ways the marriage can still work, in spite of two disparate religions. Some Christian couples (Catholic and Protestant, for example) find that their union is enhanced and spiritually enriched when each spouse is allowed to continue in the traditions of his/her religion.
Christian Marriage - How Counseling Can Help
A man and woman who decide to get married might feel overwhelmed by the nuances and demands of their respective religions. One way of overcoming those doubts and fears is to seek Christian marriage counseling.
What good does Christian marriage counseling do? A world of good, judging by what couples have said. In existing marriages, Christian counseling has helped husbands and wives wade through the troubles and ills of marriage so that measures can be taken way before the union disintegrates. If two people are truly committed, they will move heaven and earth to save their marriage and not disrupt the lives of their children.
When two people think outside the box – and we don’t just mean thinking creatively – then a lot of good can come out of that single effort. No matter how difficult the marriage has become, two committed and Christian-thinking people will think that they’re not only the ones who are hurt. Their children could suffer the long-term consequences of divorce. Instead of thinking of their own loneliness and inconvenience and feeling pity for their situation, they should “extract” themselves from the “what’s in it for me” mind set and think of the others in the family. With Christian marriage counseling, two people will invite God back into their relationships because their daily routines have alienated them from the spiritual being that brought them together in the first place.
A Christian marriage counselor may have a different approach from another counselor but there are basic elements that are tackled: general problems (communications, lack of intimacy, incompatibility), personal problems (psychological behavior, emotional hang-ups) and the loss of God in their lives. As one writer put it, “we live in a world that often encourages the destruction of marriage.” We find that too radical a view, but if we really look around us, there are more people divorcing, and maybe an even greater number of people NOT wanting to get married, no matter how Christian they have been in word and deed.
A Christian Marriage Has Responsibilities
These responsibilities are not the customary duties of raising and educating children, of providing the physical, financial and emotional support to one’s family. Being a Christian means putting back Christianity to where it belongs. In a symbolic way, we mean having a Christian heart and soul especially during times of duress. It is when we perceive our relationships to be in trouble that the Christian in us gets called into action.
We’ve heard of people tell their friends “goodness, that was so un-Christian of you.” Christian-like attitudes cover unselfishness, positive thinking, seeing only the good in each person, and the willingness to perform a kind deed for the lonely, the sick, the hungry. Our own families may not be on the throes of starvation as they have enough sustenance, but perhaps one family member is emotionally hungry and could use some affection. How often have parents dismissed the woes of teenagers with the expression, “oh, you’ll get over it.”
A Christian marriage therefore should be made up of two people who take their Christian orientation seriously, who will sow only the good seed.
And if you’re about to get married and feeling unsure of the future, you may wish to consider pre-marital Christian counseling. It may just wake you up to the vagaries of a fairy-tale marriage six months after you’ve settled down.