I am a fan of marriage! I get a thrill out of seeing people prepare for a lifetime together and know they are entering into the best relationship that is possible on this earth (with the exception of a relationship with God) But marriage is under attack! Look at the stupid humour associated with marriage. You know the sort of thing - “Last free night before prison!” or “Marriage is worse than murder–you only get 12 years for murder!” The stag or hen nights which allows men and increasingly women to act out sexual fantasies and get as drunk as they can – presumably so they won’t feel the pain of the actual ceremony!
All these things undermine marriage.
Why have so many people abandoned this approach to close relationship preferring instead to either have casual contact or a “no commitment contract” approach. Even those who choose to marry “officially” in a church or registry office do so with more hope of permanence than certainty - pre-nuptial agreements are not just being signed by the rich and famous! It is our carelessness of approach and Godless thinking that has brought us to the state of relationship confusion we now live in. Stable family life is foundational for society. The marriage and family context should be the place where we are taught and practice moral values that enhance and order the way we live. Adults pass on their relationship values to the next generation – our children copy us! Sobering thoughts!
Have you noticed the ad about a hair colour brand? A woman comes on talking about how important faithfulness is but then says that if she finds something better she would change! The ad ends with her encouraging those who watch to be unfaithful, and change your hair colour brand because you are worth it! This reflects a value system in which permanence in relationships is fine as long as it suits ME. Commitment is being spelt with elastic! We live in a selfish age where personal rights overrule responsibilities as the basis for decision making. The argument is that personal happiness is more important than anything else. We choose according to what we want with little regard to personal responsibilities or consequences. Faithfulness should be practiced in marriage even in the hard times. It is much easier to play the field and never stay with anyone long enough to enter into this effort zone than to stay with the same person happily until death separates. A couple who please each other emotionally and sexually throughout their lives are to be admired and modelled. Love may be the emotion that begins the relationship but it can either smoke and go out or burn brightly. Staying in love requires effort and determined action.
How are you made happy in marriage? It’s simple -make the other person happy! If both people are committed to making each other happy then they will both be happy. This approach is as old as our creation. The ideal that marriage represents is evidenced more when both leave aside selfishness as the drive and start to live for the other person.
It is essential that marriage changes the I to US. If we have not changed our priorities of relationship then trouble is ahead. The man who has married but is still living as a single man prioritising the pub, club, mates and football will never enjoy closeness with his partner. Realise that being married takes you away from the single life into a life long relationship that is all about US. If you live as single people you will never have a happy marriage, indeed it is probable that your marriage will not survive at all!
I knew a couple whose Mother thought the new wife was not good enough for her son (sound familiar?) They bought a house in a town and his parents (driven by the mother’s wishes) moved house and bought a home just across the street. She knocked her son up for work, brought good home cooking and insisted on washing and ironing his clothes! What a terrible pressure to place on their marriage. The highest priority in relationship is the husband/wife one – everything else takes second place including our in-laws! The Bible talks about leaving your father and mother’s house and starting a new unit that is independent of interference. A word to parents - don’t force your children to make choices between you or their partners. Encourage them to function as a new unit, independence of you.
We are afraid of failure, so often we just don’t enter into any form of real commitment. Don’t do that but take marriage seriously and plan carefully for it. I’m not talking about dresses, cars, receptions, honeymoons. I mean the real business of planning to live together – spend time equipping yourself and do a course that includes communication, roles in marriage, finance, sex, growing together etc. If a couple will not take time preparing for marriage then they don’t understand how serious it all is and shouldn’t get married yet! The reality is that good preparation means fewer problems and proper mechanisms for dealing with problems when they come! Sadly most people spend more time choosing a colour for the living room in the heavily mortgaged home they are buying and then they wonder why they have problems….
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Newry Baptist Church
31-33 Lower Catherine Street