AT A RATHER large wedding I at tended, a very fine young couple were being married. The bride, I was told, asked the minister to leave out the words "until death do us part." Naturally, the pastor omitted them. Was this good? Was it bad? What do you think? You know that five words won't hold a marriage together. But why did she ask to have these left out?
Christ and the Spirit of Prophecy teach that marriage is for life. That's the ideal. Many don't reach it, but it is still there. I am of the conviction that if we really believed the teaching of the Word of God and had an experience with the Lord Jesus Christ, many divorces could be prevented.
Many in our present culture accept marriage as a very tenuous experience. The Bible, however, does not justify such a position. After Adam awoke from his God-imposed sleep he found one rib missing, but he had something far more precious—a wife. "And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." Then God added: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:23, 24).
Where did Adam get the idea that he and his wife were one flesh? Did he dream this? Jesus, speaking about 4,000 years later, said: "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:6).
God "created . . . [them] male and female" (Gen. 1:27). One male and one female unite as one flesh. In God's mathematics, one plus one equals one. This union of two people into one flesh was for life and, in spite of all cultural changes, still is.
"One flesh" can refer to sexual union, but there is much more beyond mere sexuality. Unfortunately, we are living in an oversexed generation. Sex seems to ooze out of every TV tube and is prominent in all advertising media. Not even toothpaste can be sold without wrapping it up in sex language, it seems.
Marriage is more than two people living together and sharing the same bed. Many exist under one roof but don't know what marriage is all about. Marriage is a total commitment of two wills to each other, the blending of two minds into the mutual expression of God-given emotions. God brings man and woman together and unites them in a unique and profound biological-spiritual bond that reaches to the very depths of their souls. When two people kneel at the altar they pledge to unite their lives, not for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years, but as long as life shall last until death parts them.
"Every marriage engagement should be carefully considered, for marriage is a step taken for life. Both the man and woman should carefully consider whether they can cleave to each other through the vicissitudes of life as long as they both shall live." —The Adventist Home, p. 340. (Italics supplied.)
The Home Is the Heart of the Nation
Since God pronounced the marriage that He performed good, certainly we can consider the union between man and wife as the law of highest blessing and development for man. "Out of the heart are 'the issues of life'; and the heart of the community, of the church, and of the nation is the household. The well-being of society, the success of the church, the prosperity of the nation, depend upon home influences." —Ibid., p. 15.
This statement is still true. People can get along without a gallbladder, a kidney, tonsils, and even a stomach, but they can't get along without a heart. A nation could get along without an army and a navy, and without factories, but not without homes. The home is the heart of the nation. A church could get along without institutions and evangelistic campaigns, but a church could not get along without a home. The home is the heart of the church.
Marriage, to be successful, must also be a growing, maturing experience. We hear young people say, "We fell in love." The facts of the case are we don't "fall in love." Marriage is not made a success by falling into it. Two people—husband and wife—have to climb into it. It is a steady climb up the ladder of mutual understanding and forbearance. We climb inch by inch, day by day, week after week, year after year—always climbing into the fullness of God's love shared with each other.
Dr. John L. Thomas' opinion is that the most prevalent myth about marriage can be expressed this way: "Somehow or other marriage is an end in itself. Some people think that when you get married you've got it made, that it will take care of itself, rather than seeing marriage as a process of constant mutual interchange, interaction and growth. Marriage is not a static thing, rather it is dynamic. When you get married all you have is a learner's permit. Marriage is a way of life." —Marriage and the Family, June, 1976, p. 3.
In order to grow there must be the right atmosphere. You can't raise roses when it's 30 below zero. Poinsettias don't do well even in 30 above zero. The husband and wife cannot grow in an icy atmosphere. The tender plant of love will never grow unless there is warmth, understanding, and much of the love of Christ.
We should not expect to grow and mature just because we live in the same house, go to the same church, have the same children, eat at the same table, or because we made a vow at the same altar. Some have done all of this and still are engaged in a civil war fought in the home. Why? Because the plant of love does not grow nestled between two icebergs—husband and wife.
There are some who grit their teeth and feel that since they are united for life they must stick it out, live together in torture day after day, month after month, and year after year, even if it kills them. Many times it does just that. What does this attitude do to their own personalities and their children's? The answer is obvious.
A little girl, about to be confirmed, was asked by the minister, "What is matrimony?" She evidently got matrimony mixed up with purgatory, for she said: "Matrimony is something that you enter into, but it's a terrible torment and you've got to go through it in order to get to heaven." Too often, marriage "is a most galling yoke. There are thou sands that are mated but not matched." —The Adventist Home, p. 44.
If married life is lived in an atmosphere of love, then husband and wife will be helpful to each other and to their children. "A husband said, 'I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. That is, I love you for putting your hand into my heaped-up heart, passing over all the foolish weak things you can't help see there, and for drawing out into the light all the beautiful longings no one else had looked quite long enough to find. I love you because you are helping me to make the lump of my life not a tavern, but a temple.'"—Great Preaching Today, p. 49.
After a few decades love should be more profound because two people have suffered together, laughed together, wept together, prayed together, and endured together.
Most of life is lived in the home. Most of the lessons of life are learned at home. Here we learn to live or fail in living. Here we realize happiness or fail to experience it. Here our children will learn from what they see and hear—good or bad. There will be no union "until death do us part" unless Christ abides within the heart. There will be no growth unless we grow in Christ. There will be no maturing except as we mature in Christ. There will be no communication except as we do it in the spirit of Jesus Christ, for "in Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28).