November 7, 2011
Christian Marriage: "The Most Excellent Way"
Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor
And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal...
1 Corinthians 12:31, 1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
Have you ever found yourself in a room of marriage cynics? The comments sound something like this:
1. Wait as long as you can to get married. Live your life before you have to give it up!
2. Marriage is hard.
3. Marriage just doesn't "work" for most people.
4. My husband doesn't... (fill in the blank here with unmet desires)
5. I wish she wouldn't... (fill in the blank here with built-up frustrations)
There's a lot of negativity out there about marriage. I'm sure I haven't even covered the full spectrum of comments. It's enough to give a bride an anxiety attack.
What kind of credence should we give to such comments? I've had to think about this a lot lately. I mean, am I really just a blind idiot entering into a broken, unfulfilling institution? Looking around at the broader culture, it can sure seem that way.
But, not long after I got engaged, a married coworker slipped into my office. She shared: "You'll hear people tell you how awful marriage is. Don't listen to it. Trust me, a marriage centered on Christ is very fulfilling!"
Then I ran across this inspiring article titled More Than a Table for Two: The Difference a Christ-centered Marriage Makes by bride Stephanie Duncan. She observes:
Our culture tells so many stories of relational wreckage. Instead of learning love from a Personal Being, a secular marriage too often practices love not as a sacred quality but a sentiment divorced from its very Creator. In a sense, they are borrowing an attribute that belongs to a God they don't know and exercising a representation of a spiritual truth they don't believe.
This disconnect from the Author of Love seems to be at the very root of why there are so many marriage cynics out there. After all, scripture tells us clearly "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). How on earth could we love another human being at all, much less for life, if we're cut off from the source of all love?
I would also like to read the book that instigated the article - Rebecca Price Janney's Then Comes Marriage?: A Cultural History of the American Family (once we're done with Fr. Wojtyla's "greatest hits" of course). Janney is a "theologically trained historian" who sets out to put American family life in perspective by debunking some of the myths fueled by 1950's pop culture. Duncan shares:
Rather than condemning the culture, Janney turns this scenario on its head by placing the weight of responsibility on Christians to display "the most excellent way" and shine all the brighter… After intriguing tales of bride ships, Victorian modesty, and feminist activism, Janney brings her readers to the conclusion that the restoration of the American family is up to the saints.
In other words, challenges to marriage are nothing new. But no matter the era, Christian couples can help others see "the most excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12) of true love. What a wonderful mission for married life!
Of course, it's a bit presumptuous to think that just because you're Christian, you can start preachin' and teachin' marriage seminars. So I appreciated Duncan's thoughts on how she and her fiancé want to take up the challenge to redeem the crumbling state of marriage. She shares:
Zach and I may not have company china or the kind of house that can accommodate a church retreat, but we will get to know our neighbors. In August we plan to run a 5K together to support the local crisis pregnancy center, and once we find a church we plan to get involved. This is not because we think we have anything fantastic to offer, but because we feel that opening our lives to others is part of spiritual obedience and we want to start this habit now.
I couldn't agree with this approach more. Normal people doing normal things to grow closer to God, each other, and as a result, shine a light in the surrounding community. Fiancé and I look forward to joining Stephanie and Zach in this "most excellent way." Christian marriage may not translate into the "most easy way" or "the most obvious way," but I suspect the Christ-centered journey will be the most joyful way. And hopefully we'll take a few people along the road with us.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Are you frustrated and exhausted with the constant political wrangling over the definition of marriage? You may feel there is little you can contribute to the issue, but as a Christian, your life is a witness to the world of Christ's love. If you're married, your marriage is also a special witness of Christ's love. Are you living in a way that allows His love to shine clearly and brightly to a hurting world?