In The News
THE SINGLE NETHERWORLD
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers,” Paul enjoins his readers (2 Cor. 6:14). “But what sort of partnerships did he have in mind? Were they marriage partnerships (cf. 1 Cor. 7:39), or was it the more general notion of partnership in pagan practices (cf. 1 Cor. 10:14-22)? In the light of what follows (vv. 15-16) the later seems more likely” (Colin Kruse, 2 Corinthians, p. 136). In any case, marriage appears to be a prime case in point.
Recent studies confirm the wisdom of the apostle’s admonition. For instance, the divorce rate between those of Evangelical faith approximately doubles when such marry with Nones. As an aside, I qualified as a None during my youth. So that upon entry into the Military during World War II, the clerk asked concerning my religious affiliation. “None,” I candidly replied. This was before the term was commonly employed.
“You have got to be something,” he insisted. Upon request, he identified Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish as the most common designations. I was obviously not Jewish. Although years later a rabbi observed that I seemed very Jewish, except for the fact I was not religiously observant. So I settled for Protestant, in keeping with the persuasion of some in my extended family. While the term None was more accurate.
Life took a remarkable change once I decided to follow Jesus. As evidenced by the fact that I met regularly with a Bible study and prayer fellowship out by the flight line. Which served as a means to refine my commitment.
“More than half of the people in interfaith marriages did not actually talk about how they wanted to raise their children before they got married,” author and columnist Naomi Schaefer Riley observes. Then, should they discuss the matter, the result might be indecisive. As in the case of a couple who decided to let their offspring decide for him or herself. While failing to take advantage of the implied injunction, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6).
Riley further observes that many persons currently marry during their late 20s or early 30s, when engaged in a single netherworld, and not associated with a faith community. This period terminates once they marry, have children, and have to decide how to raise them. This results in about half of them returning to some religious assembly. Most of the remainder retain some form of spirituality.
Meanwhile, marriage no longer has the appeal it once had for an increasing number of persons. For instance, some reason that living together allows persons to decide whether they want to make it official or not. While repeated studies confirm that such relationships are much less likely to endure. Then, too, women are more likely to anticipate marriage than their male counterpart, who may look upon sexual intimacy as a convenience.
Children have also been a key feature in the preservation of marriage. So that when my father and mother were experiencing difficulty, they were concerned for the welfare of my siblings and myself. If for no other reason, the marriage was preserved, and eventually took a decided turn for the better. As if a reward for their resolve.
Commitment is often of little consequence. So that one is at the mercy of feelings, which are notorious for their lack of continuity. Which, in turn, recalls a lay church leader, who was married and with children. However, he was attracted to another woman. They prayed about the matter, and concluded that God would have him divorce his wife, so that they could marry. Since it felt right to them. Not surprising, the church officials took issue with this decision. The man eventually reconsidered, and his marriage was preserved.
What is involved in such a commitment? “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony.” Which is an honorable estate, instituted of God. “For be well assured, that if any persons are joined together otherwise than as God’s Word allows, their marriage is not lawful.” And if according to his Word, then to be voluntarily embraced.
Likewise, marriage has extended social implications. “The family often suffers from what seems at the time some more pressing concern,” I previously observed. “Consequently, it is not uncommonly the evil we do but the lesser good that adversely effects the family structure. Not only the family, but the larger society suffers as a result. In military imagery, it leaves relatively little high ground from which to negotiate life” (Thumbs Up For the Family, p. vii).
Finally, it has personal implications. “Will you have this woman (man) to be your wedded wife (husband), to live together after God’s ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love her (him), comfort her (him), honor and keep her (him), in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep only unto her (him), as long as you both shall live?” If in word, then in practice.
Which comes first, the loss of faith or indiscriminate marriage? Sometimes one or the other. So that in focusing on one problem, we may fall prey to the other.
All things considered, this calls for a reality check. One which allows us to appraise the situation, and take appropriate steps to counter adverse circumstances. Then to distinguish between change and what remains constant in the midst of change. Moreover, with the courage to swim against the cultural current.
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