Thinking About Marriage…
The first thing that you should notice is that the above word is marriage and not wedding. The deepest concern of the church is for your marriage. Sure, you should have a nice wedding, but more important is the stability and longevity of your marriage.
“Unfortunately in many cases the church has contributed to the divorce problem of our nation by promoting easy weddings,” says H. Norman Wright, a pastor and author of several marriage counseling books. Easy weddings ask nothing, provide nothing, and do nothing. The intent of the church is not to make your wedding hard, but to make your marriage meaningful. Like so many things in life, you will get out of it what you put into it.
Marriage is a sacred relationship that was instituted by God. Christians understand that God is love and, therefore, God is positively involved in every marriage. The essence of marriage is a commitment that has its foundation in the faithfulness of God’s love. The Pastor ceremonially offers the marriage God’s blessing. Those who attend the wedding are the community of support who join in affirming the marriage and offering support and thanksgiving for the new family, created and blessed by God. However, to seriously offer God’s blessings means that the marriage must have God’s approval. The marriage must conform to the will of God. That means that those who are getting married must aim their marriage at God’s purpose for marriage.
If the church offers marriage without any expectation of Christian faithfulness on the part of the couple, the church would be hypocritical — guilty of saying one thing and doing another. The vows of Christian marriage can only work if we make promises we intend to keep – and then keep them. The vows of Christian marriage necessarily involve promises to God and Jesus Christ because of God’s active involvement in Christian marriage.
“Marriage is an honorable estate, instituted of God, and signifies the mystical union which exists between Christ and his Church,” says the introduction to the traditional wedding service. The honorableness of marriage comes because it is a life-long commitment to your wedding promises.
The wedding vows are more than promises between two individual people. They involve whole communities as the couple lives out their lives together as husband and wife. Marriages literally unite families, and families of families. Consequently, faithfulness to the marriage promise will effect the promise-keeping abilities of entire communities. Marriage is a public promise every bit as much as it is a personal affair. Marriage is personal, but not private. This is attested to by the public nature of the wedding ceremony.
We all must take care that the institutional and social aspects of marriage and promise-making are not damaged or lost. (Actually the institutional and social aspects of promise making in marriage have deteriorated greatly in the past century, and we in the church need to reclaim and revive them.) No promise between people is purely private or individual; rather, every such promise has social consequences. Keeping a promise builds up human society, just as breaking a promise contributes to social disintegration. So the church asks that the promises of marriage be “uttered aloud” and that the ceremony occur “before God and these witnesses,” an underscoring of the public nature of marriage.
The church’s ministry to those who marry is similar to its ministry to all:
- to provide nurture and support for living out our promises to God and to each other
Consequently, Christ’s church stands ready to help you and your family as you begin to live together – and on into the future. We care about you, about your spouse, about your children, and about the success of your marriage.
The wedding ceremony itself, like all ceremonies of the church, is first and foremost a worship service. The primary purpose of any church service is worship. Your wedding service is no exception. Therefore, what happens at your wedding is important to the church. We want you to have the best possible experience as you enter into your new life together. So, we will do everything that we can to insure a good, worshipful experience for you.
“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder,” says Jesus of marriage in Matthew 19:6. Christian marriage is not merely a legal contract that can be broken or revoked just because someone has their feelings hurt or becomes unhappy. It is a life-long union of a man and woman based on sacred and solemn life-long vows to God and to one another. If the vows are not taken seriously, the marriage will suffer — and the community will suffer as well.
Divorce is a real problem — it always has been. But God is merciful, thanks be to Jesus Christ. People can make a new beginning. Divorce does not mean that you cannot be remarried.
No matter what your experience, when you come to a church to be married it must be with the conviction that you are meant for each other for life, and that as you live into future days and years it will be in harmony, with increasing understanding, respect and love — regardless of the disagreements you will encounter with each other. (And you will encounter disagreements!)
Your love and commitment to one another will be confirmed and your faith strengthened if you know that the pastor is also confident that your love is based in mutual trust and understanding. In a series of personal sessions with the couple the pastor will help to confirm your understanding of yourself and your potential mate. He will talk candidly with you about biblical marriage responsibilities, about open, honest communication and share with you some insights and practices that will help you to establish a happy and enduring home.
There is much to consider long before you walk down the aisle. Like anything else, a good foundation is important for a long-lasting and meaningful marriage relationship.
A Christian wedding service presumes that those who are to be united in marriage are active members of a Christian church, that each party has professed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Why? Because a Christian marriage is built upon the support of the worshiping community. No couple can survive the storms of our times without the support of a loving and actively supporting community.
If the bride or groom is not an active member of a Christian church, the pastor will initiate discussion about personal commitment within a Christian community as a prerequisite for a successful marriage commitment. To do otherwise is to belittle the purpose of Christian marriage or a church wedding.