Marriage is a divine institution designed by God for His glorious purposes. So when a culture devalues the very first institution God made—by cohabiting, no-fault divorce and redefining Biblical marriage to mean something completely different—it is no surprise that devastating consequences follow.
In Ephesians chapter 5, marriage—a lifetime bond between husband and wife—is compared to the relationship between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His church, the bride of Christ. Revelation 19 describes Christ’s return for His church as the “marriage supper of the lamb” and says “His bride has made herself ready.” Not coincidentally but rather providentially, Christ performed His first public miracle during a marriage celebration at Cana.
Study after study shows the benefits of heterosexual marriage—social and economic well-being; increased relationship satisfaction compared to cohabitation; and significantly better outcomes for children, as well as health benefits for their married parents.
Remember the secret to success? For generations, the Success Sequence has proven wise time and time again: graduate from high school, maintain a full-time job, get married before having children and stay married. Simply follow the sequence and you have a 97% chance of avoiding poverty.
Undoubtedly, God’s design for marriage produces a plethora of direct and indirect benefits.
Furthermore, a recent nationwide study by Communio reveals that the demise of marriage “may offer the best explanation for the decline of Christianity in the United States.” The study reports that fewer than 50% of all young adults are from families with intact marriages. Yet, 80% of 25- to 29-year-olds who attend church regularly come from a home where their mother and father remained married. Amazingly, if you consider unmarried men 25 to 29 years old who regularly worship in church, 87% of them grew up in a family with an intact marriage. The study found a strong correlation between the unmarried men’s regular church attendance and their parents’ stable marriage as well as a present father. The Communio study found that “Family decline appears to fuel faith decline.” Conversely, strong marriages appear to be substantially more effective at producing disciples.
So, what can followers of Christ and the church-at-large do to answer the call to regain a high view of marriage? The study’s summary concludes that in the 21st century, “we must reverse the declining number of marriages, improve marital health and increase the effectiveness of fathers in those marriages.” One huge piece in the effectiveness of fathers is for fathers to be present and committed to their marriage and children as the spiritual leaders of their households.
When I served on the North Carolina State Board of Education, we heard presentation after presentation about students being raised by a single parent, grandparents or aunts and uncles. Well-intentioned and caring school board members and administrators were seemingly drawn to the idea that the school system should fill the parental void. Consequently, funding, expanding programs, and allocating more money and resources for dysfunctional families seemed the most viable solution. But what about a social science curriculum that was honest and intentional about the incredibly healthy benefits of stable families and marriages? Why not bless the next generation with the simple truth? Truth matters, and Biblical truth about family and marriage pour common grace on believers and nonbelievers alike who understand and commit to God’s design for marriage and family.
And what about the church? Communio found a practical link between marriage and faith. The study also found that 85% of churches allocate zero dollars for marriage-building ministries. Thankfully, recognizing the cultural challenge before us, some churches are engaged in intentional marriage ministry. If the Communio findings are even partially accurate, enhancing marriage ministry, Biblical messaging and discipleship are worthy pursuits.
With the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in 2015, five of the nine justices on the high court redefined what marriage had been understood to be for all of history, to include a new, expanded meaning for the purposes of manmade law. That bare majority of justices declared that a same-sex legal union must be recognized as marriage.
But for Christians, and many other faith traditions, Biblical marriage can only mean a relationship between husband and wife, a fundamental building block of a stable and flourishing society. In our desire to protect marriage in the federal courts and law, we lost. Yet our merciful and long-suffering God has blessed us with the divine institution of marriage to showcase the Gospel for the temporal and eternal good of families and societies.
The Communio study and a host of others can enlighten culture to see the beauty and purposes of Biblical marriage. And as many of the faithful said after the unconstitutional Obergefell decision, we can still win in the court of public opinion. For that, each one of us must endeavor to remain faithful to our merciful King, Jesus Christ, and honor the sanctity of Biblical marriage for the sake of the Gospel and our families. ©2023 BGEA
Todd Chasteen serves as vice president of public policy and general counsel for Samaritan’s Purse.
Above: Chaplain J. Warner Wallace officiates as a husband and wife renew their wedding vows during a retreat at Mystic Lake, Alaska
Photo: ©2023 BGEA