<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> The Christian Marriage - Part 1: The Definition
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The Christian Marriage
Part 1: The Definition

By William R. Cunningham
1999 All Rights Reserved

 

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this article is to share what I have learned about Christian marriages. There are many aspects of a true Christian marriage that need to be revealed so that Christians will benefit resulting in highly productive and successful marriages. I believe that the typical teaching of the husband's and the wife's respective duties in a marriage relationship is inadequate and falls well below what is necessary to have a successful marriage.

This article is the result of research, interviews, personal insight and experiences, and the experiences of others. I have been married for about 11 years as of the writing of this article. I have experienced ups and downs as well as confusion as to what marriage is all about. Though I didn't have specific expectations of my wife and what she should do, I did have a concept of an ideal marriage in my head. This concept of marriage, which I will discuss later, was not consistent with my actual marriage to my wife Carla. Many related areas began to be effected by my not realizing what marriage really is. The concept of love had long left me. The concept of togetherness didn't seem to exist the way I thought of it. The responsibilities of my wife and myself became unclear. Though I didn't have a troubled marriage, I do believe that I had an uncertain one.

I therefore began to pray to God to teach me how to establish and maintain an effective, prosperous, and fulfilling marriage. God answered my prayer and is still answering it. I have gained a wealth of information concerning a Christian marriage and am very excited about sharing what I have learned with others. I have found that the typical teachings in the church are very inadequate in helping Christians have a fulfilled marriage. We will see in this article that a Christian marriage is a whole lot more than the husband doing his duty and the wife doing her duty within the relationship.

A Christian marriage can be beautiful if we acquire the necessary information about it from the right source. That source is the Holy Scriptures. I pray that this article will be a blessing to you and result in a prosperous marriage relationship between you and your spouse, or your future spouse.

The Authority of the Scriptures

It is very important that we ensure that we are on the same page regarding marriage. This means that we all use the same standard for evaluating the Christian marriage relationship. I will use the Holy Bible as the source for true marriage standards. In this study we will define marriage, the conduct within it, and those things relating to it, from the information given to us by the Bible in its proper context and considering the background (culture, customs, traditions, etc.). So the authority of what is a Christian marriage and how the marriage should exist and operate will be taken from the teachings and source information in the Bible. This is expected since we are discussing Christian marriages and the standards for the Christian life is revealed in the Bible.

The Relevance of Church Teachings

I also recognize that there are various church teachings regarding marriage especially in the marriage ministry of some churches. This includes the process of courting, the wedding, governing the household, sex, and conduct within the marriage. I have found that many church teachings on marriage are inadequate, non-biblical, male chauvinistic, demeaning to women, or just plain wrong in some cases. Therefore, the authority of scripture becomes increasingly important. I will not use the teachings from the church to define marriage or to analyze what a marriage should be. However, please consider that I am human and am subject to my own personal biases as well as conditioning received from being in churches. I will try my best to keep these to a minimum in this article.

What is a Christian Marriage?

A Christian marriage is more than just the union of two Christians of the opposite sex. A Christian marriage is characterized and governed by Christian principles that are taught in the Bible. Please note that a Christian marriage is not defined by the teachings of a church. A Christian marriage adheres to the standards of marriage revealed in the Holy Bible regardless of a church's teachings and practices. Let's start with the typical perception in the church community of what a Christian marriage should be, which I believe is incorrect.

The Typical Perception in the Church Community

I have found that the typical church teaching about marriage is a functional unit governed by duties and responsibilities. The typical teaching on marriage is composed of the duties of the husband and the duties of the wife. Typically, it is the husband's job to cater to the wife. His duties include, but are not limited to the following: Hold the car door for her, Hold her chair for her when she wants to sit down, protect her, comfort her, love her, and provide for her. The wife's responsibilities include, but are not limited to the following: Prepare meals for the family, raise the children, custodian of the house as far as cleaning and organization, provide sexual pleasure for the husband, and submit to the husband.

Though a marriage will contain these items, they are not the definition of a Christian marriage. A marriage is not defined as a union with responsibilities or duties for both parties. The fundamentals of marriage are hidden by these rulebook type teachings. Also a true Christian marriage that is productive and ever growing cannot be based on rules and responsibilities. Rules and responsibilities are superficial when it comes to a relationship. For example, a marriage based on rules and responsibilities alone will have little to no love, caring, and genuine happiness since these things are not part of the union. Our relationship with Jesus Christ and the Father is not based on rules. It is based on first God's love for us and our love for Him. We will talk more about this later.

Too many marriage ministries in churches are based on this rule mentality. Too often the marriage commitment is lowered to something like the husband remembering to help his wife take her coat off or to hold the car door for her. This is unfortunate and very damaging for the prospects of a fruitful marriage relationship.

So we are again where we started. What is a Christian marriage? We must head for the authority for Christian doctrine in order to get a satisfactory answer for this. Our source is the Holy Bible. So what does the Bible say about marriage?

The Origin of Marriage

We must understand the origin of marriage in order to help us understand the Christian marriage. What did God intend marriage to be? What was His purpose for marriage? Let's look at the Bible for the answer to these questions. The first scripture we will look at is in the book of Genesis.

(Genesis 1:27-28 KJV) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. {28} And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

What can we learn from this scripture? The first thing that we see is that male and female are created in the image of God. That will become important when we discuss the roles of the husband and wife as well as the authority within the household. Another thing that we see is that they were to procreate. One of the purposes or functions of the marriage relationship appears to have been for procreation. I personally believe that this idea of procreation included providing a secure and stable environment for the children to develop in. The two were also to have dominion over the Earth. This will also become very important in our discussion of the roles in marriage and authority within the marriage relationship. For now just consider that the male and female were to have dominion. This is not to say that it is the purpose of a marriage to have dominion over the Earth. The point I want to bring out here is that both the male and female had dominion and not just the male.

There is another thing that we should take particular note of. The Bible specifically says that the union was between a male and female. There was no provision for a male to male marriage or a female to female marriage. Though gay and homosexuals do have certain rights, as do any other human being, they do not have marital rights in the realm of Christianity. We should also note that a Christian marriage is not the only type of marriage. Those in the world have their own definition of marriage such as homosexual or gay marriages. These same sex couples have similar rights as do opposite sex marriage in some non-Christian environments. These marriages are not discussed in this study.

Now let's look at another scripture relating to marriage. Again we will turn to the book of Genesis.

(Genesis 2:18 KJV) And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

(Genesis 2:22-24 KJV) And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. {23} And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. {24} Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

First let's look at verse 18. God said that it was not good for the man to be alone. The important thing to see here is the establishment of the marriage union. What is good is for the male to have a companion-a helper with him. So we can reasonably say that God intended the union of a male and female to fulfill their need for companionship.

 BI-Sexual Adam

There is a teaching in the church community that suggests that Adam originally contained both sexes. This belief or teaching comes from the word alone. It is said that the word alone is an Old English word that means All One. Therefore, it was not good for Adam to be bi-sexual! There is nothing and I mean nothing in the Bible to my knowledge that supports this teaching. I should also say that the presentation of this teaching seems very logical and even makes sense (logically). However, logic is not the standard used to measure truth concerning biblical topics. The objective study of the scriptures in the Bible in their proper context is the standard that we should use to measure biblical truth. I can't stress enough the importance of knowing the scriptures in order to know the truth.

Woman from the Rib

Now let's focus our attention on verse 22 for a moment. Why was the woman created from a rib? What is the significance of the rib? I believe that the rib is significant in this story otherwise there would be no need to specify a rib. The story could have simply stated that the woman was created from man or something like that.

There are some that believe that the biblical account of creation was derived from or influenced by the Sumerian Dilmun poem (Sumerian theology).

Part of the poem speaks of the water god Enki who was cursed by the great mother god, Ninhursaq. Eight places of Enki's body became ill and his health began to fail. Enki's health is deteriorating fast and a fox promises the air god, Enlil that he will bring Ninhursaq back if properly compensated. The fox brings Ninhursaq. Ninhursaq seats Enki by her side and inquires about his sickness. She brings eight healing deities corresponding to the eight ailing body parts. Enki is brought back to good health.

What does that have to do with the rib and Eve? Well one of Enki's ailing body part was the rib. The deity that Ninhursaq created to heal it was called Nin-ti ("the lady of the rib"). The Sumerian word for rib is "ti." The same word also means to make life. Therefore, Nin-ti can also be translated "Lady who makes life." It is believed that these play on words carried over in the biblical narrative as well since Eve means the mother of all living and she came from Adam's rib.

However, the Sumerian Dilmun poem describes a very different situation then the Garden of Eden. Also the Hebrew word for rib (tsela) and that for "who makes alive" (hoveh) have nothing in common. Therefore, we cannot substantiate the claims that the Hebrew Bible's account of creation derives from the Sumerian myth. The two stories are very different in dissimilar settings. So then we are right back where we started. Why the rib? What is the significance of the rib? Let's look at the context of the biblical narrative of the creation of the woman.

We see in Genesis 2:19-20 that God created all of the animals from the dust of the ground and brought them to Adam because it wasn't good for him to be alone. However, we see that there still isn't a suitable helper for Adam. So now we are presented with the story of how the woman was created from Adam's rib (or side). Recall that God had already made animals from the dust of the earth and brought them to Adam but they were not suitable for him. So God created another being from Adam himself. He created the woman from the body of Adam, in particular his side. This may indicate that the woman is to be by the man's side and not beneath him, behind him, or in front of him. The man and the woman were partners together in a Holy union ordained by God. They were what we call today, married. The man and the woman share a union and a special relationship that no other creature has. They have a partnership and commonality. They are one, not with the earth, but with each other.

Now verse 24 sums it all up, which I believe was the point of the narrative preceding it. A man shall leave his mother and father and cleave (join) to his wife. They will therefore form one flesh or one unit in a marriage relationship. So the point of this narrative is to reveal the special relationship that a husband has with his wife-the God ordained union called marriage.

God Ordained

Let's look at another scripture from the New Testament that gives us more light on what a Christian marriage is.

(Matthew 19:4-6 KJV) And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, {5} And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? {6} Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

I believe that this particular scripture is paramount in understanding what a true Christian or godly marriage really is. Let's dissect this scripture further. Keep in mind that this scripture is Jesus' response to a question about divorce. First we see that God made male and female from the beginning. We discussed this in the previous section. As also in the previous section we see that a man should leave his father and mother to be joined to his wife actively. The next phrase is very important in my opinion. The two shall be one flesh. The union of marriage is just that-a union. Two people come together and form one unit. Next Jesus says in so many words that no one should take apart what God has put together.

I have to make one thing very clear about this scripture. It does not imply that God has ordained all marriages or that He has put all married couples together. Jesus' statement only applies to those that God has put together. Now this brings up the question of how do we know whom God puts together. I am not going to discuss that at this time.

The main point that I wanted to highlight in the above scripture is that the husband and the wife form one unit, one flesh. That is very important in marriage management.

 The New Union

I want to make a point now. Family members have no right to interfere with the activities of a married couple. Family members have no right or authority within the household of a married couple. The Bible says that the male will leave mother and father to cleave to his wife. He LEAVES them. Not in the sense that he is no longer a part of the family since we have to consider the Bible's teaching about honoring our parents. It means that we have to severe ourselves from the influences and operations of our first family and cleave to our wife to form a new family. We still will be a part of our first family but that family should not interfere with the family created by the union to the spouse. It is the responsibility of the couple to ensure that this is so. We will talk more about this aspect later in this article.

The Foundation Of Marriage

We saw earlier that a husband and wife have a special relationship that no other creature has. They are bound to each other forming one flesh. What is the foundation or glue of this union? What is the defining point of a marriage relationship and what will keep it together?

First notice that the Genesis narrative does not mention love. It instead implies a union that is established when a man leaves his family to join to His wife. There are two major beliefs concerning the foundation of a Christian marriage. They are love and covenant. Let's look at these.

The Love Component

First let's look at what love's got to do with it. There is a song by Tina Turner that asks the question "What's love got to do with it?" The song goes on to state that love is just a second hand emotion. Though some would adamantly disagree, I believe that there is some truth in that statement else a marriage based on love would last until death really parts the couple. Is a Christian marriage based on love?

A Christian marriage is not based on love nor can it be. This is very important, else the marriage will be very strained after only the first few years or so. Let me try to explain what I mean. Very often the love begins to diminish or fade after awhile in a marriage relationship. We will discuss the reasons for this later in the study. If love were the basis of marriage then most of us would have a rough time at it. There will come a time in a marriage where the bliss, romance, and infatuation, "love conquers all" mentality, and the newness of the marriage will wear off (unless you don't let it). Then what will happen? Love cannot sustain itself in a marriage relationship. It must be sustained by something external to it. This external energy source is more related to commitment than feelings for each other. Therefore, I submit that a Christian marriage is not based or founded on love though love is a very important component in the marriage.

Commitment

So what fuels this love or what fuels the marriage so that love can be maintained? The answer is commitment. Remember the wedding vows? Those are promises or commitments that both parties made to each other. For better or for worse they will be married to each other. We promised to love and to cherish each other. All of this is made possible by the fact that we made a covenant or an unconditional promise to do so. Therefore, a marriage is based on the covenant that the husband and the wife made to each other on that wedding day. This covenant was the result of the commitment to each other. So a Christian marriage is ultimately founded on commitment.

The covenant is not conditional. It is not based on whether the husband or the wife remain a certain way or look a certain way. It is not conditional on the couple's happiness or sex life. Love can remain if the commitment to the marriage remains. Happiness can be sustained if the commitment is maintained and acted upon. This raises a very important point regarding the marriage commitment-marriage involves a lot of work!

Work

I recall a question asked in the movie "The Preacher's Wife." The question was something like "What do you do when the fire goes out?" The question was in reference to the love that dies between a married couple. Later, the angle Dudley said that the answer is "You don't let it." How is that possible? How can you actively keep the fire between your spouse and yourself blazing, as it was that wedding day and before? The answer is work. You will only make an effort to work if there is a reason to do so-that is where commitment comes in. So you will work at maintaining a fulfilling marriage if you remain committed to your spouse and to your marriage.

The important thing to see here is that if you are no longer committed then you will no longer work to keep the marriage strong. If you are no longer committed then love will eventually die since you have cut off its fuel. The union will become weaker until the two separate either physically or effectively (living in the same house but not together). Let's look back at Genesis 2:24. The Hebrew word translated "cleave" is an action word. It means to cling or adhere; figuratively to catch by pursuit or to pursue. This pursuit is work and is constant. It doesn't end after the wedding day. There should be a constant pursuit for the wife, and likewise the husband. Both have to work at maintaining a healthy marriage.

Commitment, Love and Happiness

I stated earlier that commitment would keep the love alive or the fire burning between a married couple. However, I should make something very clear. That applies overall to the marriage and is not indicative of any particular point and time within the relationship. What do I mean? Just because you remain committed to the marriage doesn't mean that you will always feel great love and compassion for your spouse. Just because you are committed to your spouse and marriage doesn't mean you will feel good about them all of the time. There may be times where you feel really bad about your spouse and marriage. There may be times where you are tempted to look elsewhere for fulfillment because of the frustration you experience in your marriage. However, your continued commitment will help you get over these times and work to make things better thus establishing an environment where love and happiness will germinate and grow.

Commitment will keep you pursuing your spouse and working to establish and maintain a fulfilling marriage relationship. Regardless of the bad times or the good times, commitment will keep you stable, hopeful, and working to make things right. Of course it is a lot more effective if the husband and wife are committed to the marriage. If only one is committed then the committed one experiences a whole new set of problems and frustrations. We will discuss that aspect later.

So I don't want you to think that commitment equals love and happiness. There may be times where all of the commitment in the world won't make it right because the spouse really doesn't care and is not committed. However, commitment is the foundation for a prosperous and fulfilling marriage relationship.

The Fuel for our Commitment

Another very important aspect of a Christian marriage is not only a commitment to each other but also a commitment to God. Recall that marriage in general is not necessarily a Christian marriage. A Christian marriage falls under the realm of Christian beliefs and practices. We said earlier that commitment can cause love to be fueled but what fuels the commitment? What will keep you committed to your spouse during the bad times as well as the good times and through troubles and disagreements? The power of God! The Holy Spirit can empower you to continue in your commitment to your spouse regardless of the circumstances. Without the Holy Spirit fueling us and helping us, we would only be able to rely on our own energy to remain committed, which is very much influenced by the circumstances around us.

Therefore, the husband and wife in a Christian marriage must be dedicated to living a life pleasing to God and according to God's ways-Living a life in Christ. Each person is striving to live their life according to the principles that are taught in the Bible for the New Testament Church as well as gleaning from the activities and instruction given in the Old Testament. Each person is striving to fulfill the God given purpose of their marriage. This will enable the husband and the wife to rely on a "force" outside of them to sustain them in their marriage. We are always accountable to God so we are therefore responsible to ensure that our marriage remains a Christian one and that it remains vibrant, strong, and a ministry in itself to others.

A commitment to God is crucial in any aspect of a Christian's life and greatly in the case of a marriage relationship. A sensitivity to the Spirit of God is necessary to keep us going when things just doesn't seem to be going right with our marriage or our marriage is frustrating us and letting us down. If you can't turn to God for help then you are indeed in a lot of trouble. Your only recourse is marriage counselors, which I have been told are not very effective pertaining to Christian belief (not that they are a bad thing). It is a great thing to know that God is looking out for you and will help you if you turn to Him. So we must remain committed to God so that we can remain committed to our Christian marriage.

Divorce

I am not going to spend a lot of time discussing divorce, however I thought I should bring the subject up since divorce does occur even in Christian marriages. It is clear that God did not intend for divorces to occur. A marriage was designed to be a life long commitment. You and I know that this is not the case in our world. So why do Christians divorce? From talking to others who have gone through divorce and witnessing those who have gone through a divorce, I believe that a divorce operates on the same principle as a marriage. Let me explain. A marriage occurs because of the induction of a union. I believe that the couple is already united before they officially take their wedding vows. They already are "one flesh" before they go to the church. The wedding day is just an official public ceremony expressing the love and commitment the two have for each other. Likewise, a divorce is just the opposite. It is the official public ceremony expressing the loss of love and commitment between the two. I would also like to believe that divorce is also the result of the belief that the marriage will never be reconciled.

Sometimes people get married for the wrong reason and marry someone that they perhaps should not have married. For example, marriage based on sexual possibilities, infatuation, or emotions are not stable to begin with since none of these reasons offer stability and are in themselves very conditional. For example, a man who marries a women because she has a terrific body will soon learn that a terrific body and good sex is not enough to sustain a commitment to a marriage. A woman who marries a man because he is tall dark and handsome may soon find that those are not enough to sustain a fulfilling marriage.

Is there a union between the two? Was there ever a union between the two of you? Marriage is the result of a union. If a union never existed then the marriage is founded on false pretenses or rather unstable ground. A successful marriage is difficult to maintain if there is no union or togetherness.

Are both committed to the marriage or just one? This is a common one from what I have witnessed. There is one person really committed to the marriage and is working very hard to make it work but the spouse really doesn't care. Sometimes the spouse gets married for ulterior motives and is just tolerant the whole time. One person is working really hard to make the marriage work while the spouse is making no effort at all except to fulfill their own agenda. This is very unfortunate and one reason why I believe in a long courtship.

It may very well come to a point where a divorce is the next step (as opposed to a way out). A couple who is not together, not really married in the first place, or have fallen completely apart may opt for divorce. Now there are many opinions about this option. Some believe that the two should stay together no matter what (this may be true if children are involved). However, it is completely up to the couple to decide. They know if there is really a marriage or simply a legal agreement made at the church. I have seen people who have gone through much stress, frustration, and extreme emotional lows but still managed to salvage their marriage. I have seen others who made the same efforts but the marriage just wasn't restored and divorce was the result. I also see couples who are miserable together, full of stress and frustration and refuse to divorce or divorce is not even an option. Two people living together but not really committed to each other or united is a life of misery. My heart goes out to those people and I pray that somehow their marriage would be restored.

The main thing is that Christians who have gone through divorce should not be condemned. They have already gone through a very bad experience. I have seen Christians who were divorced, remarried and seem to be doing very well. Who are we to judge anyone for what they have done? Suppose they went against God's will from the beginning and was not supposed to marry the person? Anything could be involved so we can't judge. In one way or another we have all sinned. If anything we should do our best to comfort our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone through a divorce. They need our prayers and support not our condemnation and ridicule.

Why Get Married?

Why should a man and a woman get married? One may argue that they can simply live together. My question is not general as in questioning the institution of marriage. My question is specific in addressing a marriage to a particular person. At what point in a couple's relationship should they get married. I will present some points that will help answer this basic question.

Know What Marriage Involves

A couple must know what a marriage relationship is and what it involves. It is a life-long union involving a lot of work to sustain it. There is no testing phase where they are married for a while with the understanding that if things don't work out that they can divorce. From the beginning divorce is not an option.

A couple should also understand that a marriage should not be based on superficial things such as looks, sex, and the desire for children. Marriage is a union entered in because the two are committed to each other for the rest of their life regardless of how good the sex is, how good the spouse looks, and how many children are produced. Marriage is entered into because the two are committed to each other and desire to fulfill the God given purpose of their union-That's it.

My own personal opinion is that marriage, or rather the wedding, is simply the next step in the relationship. A relationship has grown and the two have grown to form one unit. They spend a lot of time together and share a lot of things. Their life is part of each other's. They may even go shopping together!

Friendship

Some believe that your spouse should be your friend. However, I think that this is rather relative. I believe that you should be able to confide in your spouse and able to be open about very personal things. However, a spouse being your friend is dependent on how you define friend. For example, you may have grown up and developed a criteria for a friend as one who you can play sports with and go out to sporting events. A friend to you may be someone whom you can train in the martial arts with or whom you can get rough and physical with as two brothers would. Your spouse may not be that person. Your spouse may hate sports or the great outdoors. So is your spouse your friend in these situations. In a strict sense, no. However, overall he or she may very well be a friend to you but they just don't get involved with everything you like. This is true for any friendship though. One of your friends may like sports and you enjoy sporting events with him or her. Another one of your friends may not like sports but you enjoy hanging out with him or her or just talking to him or her.

In general I would say that your spouse should be a friend. You should be able to trust your spouse, confide in your spouse, and openly turn to your spouse to reveal your "deep inner-most" secrets among other things.

Togetherness

Are the two of you really together in the sense of being one unit? Is your life part of your mate's and vice versa? Can you see yourself living with this person for the rest of your life-not that you have to know everything about your mate? I believe that the union exists between the man and the woman before the wedding day. I recall a former pastor of mine telling my wife and I (at that time we weren't married though) that we were already married. I didn't quite understand what she meant until some time later when I contemplated the idea of the marriage union and togetherness.

Togetherness should be based on the person and not superficial things. Togetherness should not be based on the prospects of good sex, being seen with such a fine person, money, or the like. You have fallen in love with the person and enjoy the company of the person. You are committed to the person and not what he or she has to offer potentially.

Let me say that having sexual intercourse together is not togetherness. That is simply sexual intercourse. Sex in a marriage can be an expression of that union. Sex outside of marriage is simply called fornication and the Bible teaches against it without a doubt. Also being together all of the time is not necessarily togetherness though it may be the results of such. Togetherness really takes place in the heart. Togetherness resides deep in the soul where you and your mate are part of each other in a spiritual or soulical way.

The Next Step

I was once asked why I married my wife? My answer is simply that it was the next step in the relationship. I didn't marry her because I love her, though I did. I didn't marry her because I wanted great sex or a better financial outlook. I married my wife because that was the next step in our relationship. We moved beyond the boyfriend/girlfriend arrangement. We moved into a realm of commitment where it was obvious that God put us together. We had known each other for more than five years before we were married. This provided a great amount of time for the relationship to grow and survive challenges.

The Family

Are you going to marry your mate or his or her family? That is a very serious question. You have fallen in love with a particular woman or man and not their family. If your mate is adamantly attached to his or her family (particularly the parents) then you may want to think twice before jumping into a commitment because your commitment will be to your spouse and his or her family. Of course this shouldn't be confused with a close family relationship. However, if your spouse will permit their family to influence the marriage then you have trouble waiting.

Also, you should know something about your mate's family. What are the parents like? What about the cousins, siblings, uncles, and aunts? Are they "crazy?" Is their family intrusive? You have to make the decision of marrying your spouse or your spouse and their family. Just know what you may be getting into before you commit.

Religious Beliefs

Since we are talking about a Christian marriage it is very important that your mate's religious preferences are known. Of course this should be established at the beginning of the relationship. The church attended should not determine religious beliefs. It should be determined by communicating with each other and discovering what your mate believes about God, Christianity, marriage, Jesus Christ, etc. After that it is your decision as to what you want to do. However, consider Paul's advice.

(2 Corinthians 6:14 KJV) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

The principle of not being yoked together with non-Christians applies in a marriage relationship even though this scripture is not specifically referring to marriage. The term "unequally yoked together" can be understood as the establishment of a committed relationship between two people with different motives or expectations. For example, a Christian and a non-Christian going into business together would be unequally yoked together. The same is true for a Christian and non-Christian entering into marriage.

Expectations

Expectations for a marriage or spouse can be very dangerous and the cause of much grief later. However, each person should have a general expectation for the marriage. This expectation could be to fulfill God's will for their union, have a fulfilling marriage, or to expect to work hard at keeping the fire burning.

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