SOME TIME AGO, at the invitation of friends in our neighbor hood, I attended a Christian wedding ceremony performed by a minister of another denomination. Most of what he said was what you would hear in any Adventist ceremony. Conspicuous by its absence, however, were the usual vows, "to love, honor, and cherish, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in prosperity or adversity, and keep yourself only unto him (her) until death do you part."
During the reception I asked the pastor whether it was his custom to omit such vows. He replied that it was. He said that he used to include this in the ceremony and still felt that it should be there, but he had seen these vows broken so quickly and divorce come so often that he could not conscientiously ask his people to add the sin of lying to the sin of adultery.
This is altogether too typical of what is happening in our society today, and it is making serious inroads into the Adventist Church. In response to a question asked by one of our young people as to his attitude toward premarital sex, one of our pastors replied, "A ten-minute service doesn't make that much difference."
We have come to the place where we must stop short and examine not only our attitude toward scriptural counsel in such matters but also that of the entire subject of marriage and the sanctity of the wedding vows.
It needs to be stated over and over again in our church, our schools, and our homes that God's standard has not changed. Immorality in every form, by whatever name you may call it, is still sin and will exclude people from the kingdom of heaven and bring measureless sorrow and distress to the life here. Under no circumstance must we conform to the customs of the world in this matter. Failure to maintain the Bible principles in this regard robs the church of much of its spirituality and power, and goes a long way toward destroying the peace and happiness that God intended should be found in the Christian home.
The time has come for a genuine revival and reformation to take place in this area. There are too many broken homes, far too many unhappy homes. There is much too much divorce and remarriage in the world and in the church, and a whole army of victims are the result of this tragic breakdown. Something must be done and soon or, for too many, it will be too late.
Sacredness of the Marriage Vows
In the marriage ceremony, following appropriate counsel, the bride and groom are asked to take the following vows: "I______, do take thee, ______
to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance."
With the taking of such vows, a new home is established with all its hopes, ideals, and limitless possibilities for peace, health, happiness, contentment, and security. But today the chances for such high hopes to be fulfilled are almost nil. Only a few, a pitiful few, succeed. One out of three end up in the divorce court and the largest portion of the rest live out their lives in misery and unhappiness, merely enduring each other, living under the same roof, but daily enjoying it less. No real love, no peace, no contentment, no security, broken health, broken homes, broken hearts.
Yet no one marries for unhappiness. The broken dreams, the constant heartache, the disappointment, is almost unbearable. But the husband and wife are not the only ones who suffer. Think of the children. Those poor, unfortunate children who must grow up in a broken home or be placed in the custody of some who have little or no mother or father love to give to them.
Root Cause Revealed
The root cause of all this misery is selfishness, and selfishness can be cured only by the implanting of the love of God in the heart. This love true love the love of God, is the foundation principle of every home where real happiness exists and must be the basis of every successful marriage.
Every marriage starts out with high hopes of success. Every wife wants to be a good wife and mother and homemaker. Every husband wants to be a success as a husband, father, and provider. True, this is quite idealistic, but where would we be without such idealism? A man may fail in business or in his profession, he may make no name for himself in sports or politics or any other field, but no man wants to fail as a husband and father. The same is true of the mother. Why then do so many fail? And why is there so much misery in so many homes today?
"While men are ignorant of his devices, this vigilant foe is upon their track every moment. He is intruding his presence in every department of the house hold, in every street of our cities, in the churches, in the national councils, in the courts of justice, perplexing, deceiving, seducing, everywhere . . . breaking up families, sowing hatred, emulation, strife, sedition, murder. And the Christian world seem to regard these things as though God had appointed them and they must exist." --The Great Controversy, p. 508.
"Conformity to worldly customs converts the church to the world; it never converts the world to Christ. Familiarity with sin will inevitably cause it to appear less repulsive. . . . The tempter often works most success fully through those who are least suspected of being under his control. The possessors of talent and education are admired and honored, as if these qualities could atone for the absence of the fear of God or entitle men to His favor. Talent and culture, considered in themselves, are gifts of God; but when these are made to supply the place of piety, when, instead of bringing the soul nearer to God, they lead away from Him, then they become a curse and a snare."—Ibid., p. 509.
There is no doubt that such influences are undermining the principles of morality upon which the true, happy Christian home must be established. The taking of sacred vows in the presence of God and witnesses only serves to reinforce the principles that the Spirit of God has already placed in the hearts of those who are surrendered to Jesus Christ. The taking of these vows and the keeping of them in the spirit of true Christlike love produce a bond of union that neither man nor devil can destroy. When such vows are taken, a circle is established into which no one but the two are to come. Neither father, nor mother, nor brother, nor sister, nor uncle, nor aunt, nor friends, nor neighbors, not even sons or daughters. The vows taken are between two consenting adults and are as sacred during and at the close of life as they were at the beginning of the marriage relationship.
O that God would help us as ministers to present these principles clearly and distinctly to our dear people. Especially is this important as we seek to prepare young people for marriage. Marriage must never be entered upon as an experiment but with a full lifetime commitment of life, talent, and energy of body, soul, and spirit. By the grace of God we must redeem the solemn covenants that are made and enter fully into God's purpose and plan as envisioned in the Eden home.