Back in 2008, Newsweek published an atrocious hack-job against Christian ethics for the sake of villainizing (of all things) traditional marriage. Of course, we covered it here. From my perspective, everybody wringing their hands about the current state of "marriage" in the laws of the United States ought to re-read that post, and all the comments which followed, for the sake of hitting their own reset button on this topic.
But because I am taking a little summer vacation from my permanent hiatus, I have a few more thoughts on this topic not-quite-a-decade-but-more-than-an-epoch later.
The first thought is this: it's critical to keep in mind that the facts of the matter are that those who express serious judeo-christian fidelity are still the least likely to divorce. From a merely-sociological standpoint, that item is constantly eroded by false declarations by biased advocates who are trying to poison the well against the strongest advocates for the view of marriage which made Western Civilization possible. And let's be clear: I list among those detractors the Barna Group, which is the worst wolf among the sheep when it comes to understanding who Christians really are.
But the follow-up to that note is critical: "divorce" is a terrible measure of whether or not people are doing what they ought to do in marriage. It's like measuring the competency of drivers by how few people they kill while driving. Since a lot of people lately have been worried about what Jesus might have said about this subject, when the Pharisees asked him about divorce he said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery." If what we're trying to measure is hard hearts, maybe divorce is a good key indicator. A measure for great marriages ought to be looking for something else.
Let me suggest something to you which will make everyone angry -- which is the only good reason to take a break from hiatus anyway. The proper measure of whether or not there are good marriages in the ranks of actual Christians ought to be whether or not husbands love their wives the way Christ loves the Church. The rest of this post is for our primarily-male readership. I have 4 good reasons for this, so if you're not already rolling your eyes you can at least hear me out.
In the example of Hosea, God tells the prophet (which, btw, this is a great object lesson for people who want God to give them a word of knowledge: if you really want to know what God knows, you are bound not to be made famous and well-regarded by it; you are likely to wind up doing something everyone else will see as a terrible idea) to "Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom." From God's perspective, His wife -- that is, his chosen people with whom he has a covenant -- is not merely a bad housekeeper or a lousy cook. God's covenant partner has sold what belongs uniquely to Him to everyone for money and nice dinners. And in that circumstance, God doesn't pretend that His wife has done nothing wrong -- but He also does not pretend it is her problem to make it right. It is His problem to make it right. And when He makes it right, it will be Right:
I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.You may not like this example because God actually promises to punish Israel for what they have done, and that's fine -- I understand we are all squeemish about Old Testament modes of Justice. But Hosea doesn't punish Gomer: he buys her out of slavery, and when she returns to her old life, he goes and does it again. And when God tells the prophet how to reflect on this, here's what he says:
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?Look: faithfulness has to come from someplace. The foundation of the promises your marriage is based on have to come from someplace. In an original sense, they come from God. In the immediate sense, somebody right here and now has to start by being the ordinary means God intended for marriage.
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.
But look at this, fellas: this is what it means in the Old Testament for God to love his people.
Third, if we are measuring how good our marriages are, or we want to gauge them in some way, measuring the other people in our family is a fine form of legalism. It is not a fine form of faith. Reforming other people is for Politicians and other Charletans. It also is a great way to create enemies. We have a saying at our house: "You" is a full-time job. Stick to your full-time job, and I suspect that what will happen is what God expected to happen when husbands love their wives the way Christ loves the church. Everything else aside, the husband's job is to love his wife the way Christ loves the church. Like his own body. Not like a contractor.
to help to think through what we were talking about when we said "marriage." A highlight was this:
Now fire up your imagination for a second. Imagine you are at dinner with some other person, and you've been thinking about this for a long time. As the waiter leaves with your order of eats for the evening, you clench up a little, and then screw your courage to the sticking place. You take a deep breath and you begin, "What I really want is to avoid incest, and embrace endogamy. I want some rights and duties regarding sexual intercourse and property, and to establish a nominal division of labor. I want a visible household economy. And you seem like exactly the right person to do that with, at least for now. Will you marry me?"
Is there anyone who would really say that, or really want that?The answer is apparently "yes" right now, except for the endogamy part. Maybe the re-write from the script of the victors in this skirmish would be, "What I really want is for other people to celebrate all my urges, all the things I think I deserve including sexual pleasure. I wants rights over property and to make sure someone doesn't cheat me out of it. I also want someone to share my living expenses with in a way that the law will enforce, and a way to make them settle up like any contractor if they don't live up to their end of the bargain."
I bring it up as my last reason here because let's face it: what we ought to have makes that look like the corrupt and morally-blighted trap it is obviously intended to be. If husbands loved their wives as Christ loves the church, when some famous idiot goes on TV and tries to make anything else look like that, what it really is gets painted with neon colors and stands out like an Easter egg on a putting green.
We ought to want to do that, gents. We ought to want to expose the unfruitful works of darkness, exposing them to the light with the light which is Christ in us.