DEBATE: Marcia Dixon on why fewer Britons believe marriage is as relevant as it once was
WITH THE approach of Valentine’s Day I couldn’t help but think about the state of marriage within society.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s taken a bit of a battering in recent years.
It’s not difficult to see why attitudes towards marriage have changed. Social developments during the past five decades have played a major part. The swinging sixties and the arrival of the pill meant that sex and marriage no longer had to go together.
The feminist movement of the 70s and 80s ensured that the pressure for women to get married decreased and it became socially acceptable to pursue a career.
The 1990s and noughties have seen a decline in the numbers of people getting married. It’s acceptable to co-habit, and no-one bats an eyelid if individuals choose to have children outside of marriage.
Furthermore, increasing numbers of people are foregoing relationships and marriage altogether either because they don’t want the headache of being in one, or are happy to live on their own.
The Christian community has not been immune to these societal changes. Where once upon a time Christian couples took their wedding vows seriously, and were committed to staying together for life, through good and bad, happy or sad, this is no longer the case.
Like their secular counterparts Christians are forsaking their marriage vows for a variety of reasons that include adultery, unreasonable behaviour, domestic violence, a desire ‘to find themselves’, the realisation that they may be incompatible with their partner or the fact that they just want out because their relationship is going through a bad patch.
Everyone admits marriage is hard work, but it can be worth it. What if Michelle Obama had called it quits when her marriage went through a bad patch? She would not be enjoying the great and well deserved benefits that come with being the wife of the first black President of America.
The voice of church leaders in the black community must be heard to be ringing out loud and clear about the importance and permanence of the marriage relationship, and putting resources aside to strengthen this union.
It’s easy to forget, in our individualistic, fast paced, materialistic and hedonistic society, that marriage is highly valued by God and he wants his creation to treasure and respect it. It’s a divinely ordained relationship, sanctioned in the Garden of Eden.
The relationship between God and the church is compared to a marriage. Jesus declared it should be a life long union and the apostle Paul stated that the marriage bed is honourable and undefiled, underscoring the fact, that for Christians anyway, marriage is the relationship in which sex is permitted.
Unfortunately, due to the increased breakdown in marriage and the incessant depictions of unhealthy relationships on TV, there is now a generation of children and young adults who have no idea of what a healthy relationship between a man and a woman looks like.
The church has a major job on its hands to help change this state of affairs.
But it must take this task onboard if it is to teach not just church members, but the wider community about God’s heart on the subject of marriage.
The marital relationship is the foundation upon which society and families are built. Strong marriages play a crucial part in building strong communities so its important churches do what they can to shore up this precious and valuable union.