Thursday, September 11, 2008

Do I have to marry a Christian?

Parents and pastors have long counseled Christian young people not to marry anyone of a different faith, citing 2 Corinthians 6; the reaction might go like this:
But how important is all that faith stuff? If we get along OK 164 hours a week, what difference does it make if we do something different for a few hours Sunday morning? How much does a typical Christian couple talk about God anyway?

And marrying a Christian is no guarantee of marital bliss: someone you meet in Bible school can desert you and your children for a same-sex partner and then commit suicide. Seminary students can graduate but then leave their families--and their faith. (These are real examples!) Many Christian men, including some pastors in our churches, are addicted to pornography; some physically or verbally abuse their families. And of course there are nonChristian husbands who are faithful to their wives, treat their families gently, and don't use pornography.
If you're wondering what happened to the usual author of this blog, don't worry; I don't really believe those arguments. In fact, there is so much wrong with these arguments I hardly know where to begin. But what is my answer to them? Basically that they're based on wrong assumptions, that marital bliss is our #1 goal for example, or that guarantees either should be sought or can be obtained.

More generally, there's an assumption, shared I think by both moderns and post-moderns, that My Happiness should be at the top of the priority list. At this point I suppose said (post)moderns are thinking, "Duh!"

But is that Biblical? Two passages suggesting an alternate view come to mind immediately:
  • Know ye that the Lord he is God.
    It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
    we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
    Psalm 100:3 (AV)

  • You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
    from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
The idea that we are someone's (or Some One's) property is not a happy one to us (post)moderns, but there it is: our Owner thinks he can tell us what to do and how to live. (Come to think of it, the Lord Jesus also spoke with authority--in other words, like he expected people and things to do what he said.)

Fundamentally, in other words, the arguments are based on the wrong world view--an anti-biblical one that thinks it's OK for everyone to go their own way. How else are these wrong? Let me count the ways:
  1. If your faith only affects your life on Sunday mornings, then maybe we should have a conversation about whether you're following Jesus or just admiring him.
  2. When a couple agree on something (like their fundamental basis for life), they might not need to talk about Him explicitly very much. But if they have disparate value systems and disagree fundamentally on what life is for... well, this is not a sound basis for a long-term relationship.
  3. This is not about guarantees; you could be hit by a truck on the way to the wedding, no matter who your prospective partner might be.
  4. It's not even about prudence, though statistically, couples who pray together regularly and attend weekly worship celebrations have a much better chance of staying together.
OK, there not be as many other things wrong with them as I'd thought. But fundamentally they're still wrong-headed, because they ignore The Owner.

To the argument (not stated above) that "Oh, my brother married a nonChristian, and she became a follower of Jesus, and isn't that wonderful?" I'm--I'm sorry, but that's just dumb. If somebody falls off the roof and astonishingly survives, and in fact gets rid of a crick in the neck he's had for weeks... that doesn't mean you should go climb up on the roof when you've got a neck-ache. I mean really!

So do you have to marry a Christian? If you yourself are a follower of Jesus, then you shouldn't marry someone who isn't also following him, because such a thing would tend to impede your ability to follow Christ. I've written about this though not so much from the marriage angle. But I think this passage clearer about marrying only within the faith anyway.

In other words, if you're going to get married, then yes, you do.

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