COVENANT OF MARRIAGE
Recently, I was privileged to officiate a wedding for a couple I will refer hereto as J__ and M__. I was asked, by the couple, to speak on the biblical topic of the covenant of marriage. Dale Mannon, the preacher at Greenlawn church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas, studied, prayed, and counseled with them prior to their marriage. He instilled in them an understanding of what God expects from both a husband and a wife. In conjunction with Dale, the couple stated that, the shepherds at Greenlawn church of Christ, also, shared encouragement toward a healthy and godly marriage. What follows is what J __ and M __ signed at their ceremony in the presence of many witnesses. It states:
We believe that God, in His wisdom and providence, has established marriage as a covenant relationship, a sacred and lifelong promise. We believe that marriage is meant to reflect our unconditional love for one another and that God intends for the marriage covenant to reflect His promise to never leave us nor forsake us. In our desire to glorify God through our marriage, we do hereby affirm our solemn pledge to fulfill our marriage vows. Furthermore, we pledge to exalt the sacred nature and permanence of the marriage covenant by calling others to honor and fulfill their marriage vows.
The journey of life cannot be foreseen. We realize that there is no way we can know what we might experience in the future. Hence we expect the vows of our marriage to be tested. When the vows of our marriage are tried and tested, we also vow that rather than first consulting a lawyer about divorce, we will consult the shepherds of this congregation about reconciliation. We believe that they are interested in our ultimate spiritual welfare, and thus we entrust them with helping us strengthen and/or restore our marriage. Above our selfish struggles and human failings, we want to glorify God through the vows we keep and the way we attend to one another’s needs in our marriage. Now, please read a close representation of the words I spoke concerning the covenant of marriage.
A long time ago, I read a proverb that came from the nation of Ghana. It states, “The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people.” I believe there is truth in that statement. Sadly, we live in a world that is torn. It is torn because mankind, as a whole, does not have strong and godly homes. Many people, sadly, do not put God first in their lives. If they don’t put God first than how can they keep their homes strong? Think of it this way, as a parent wants good for their children; so, God wants good things for mankind.
Marriage was always intended to be a godly act. It was created by God. You see, marriage is not just between two people; rather, it is between two people and God. A Christian understands this implicitly. In the Book of Genesis we read that God created man and, in turn, from man then God created woman. It is at this moment that God created marriage (Gen. 2:20-24).
The covenant of marriage is similar to all other covenants found in Scripture (cf. Gen. 15:17ff; Ex. 20; Deut. 5; 29ff). If you obey the covenant then you are blessed. If you harm the covenant then you will receive its penalties. It is a matter of truth that God ALWAYS upholds His covenants. God promises that He will be there in your marriage. He promises blessings for faithfulness, for unity, and for loving intimacy. Challenges in life are absolutely certain but so is God’s commitment to covenant.
M__ and J__, I know that both of you have already, individually, committed yourselves to an obedient faith to God, through Jesus Christ, by being baptized for the remission of your sins. Now, together, you are committing yourselves to God in a marriage covenant. You realize, from 1 Corinthians 13, love stands firm above all things. GOD LOVES YOU. GOD LOVES BOTH OF YOU.
We live in a world that leaves God out of commitment. But I believe that the ruin of a nation, any nation, will NOT start from J__ and M__’s covenant marriage commitment that begins here today. I petition God’s blessings for you with a growing love, a shared intimacy, and a mutual respect for one another that is found in a godly marriage. If you are blessed with children, I know you will teach them of godly things. As you develop neighborly relationships, I know that you will be a beacon of light to your community. As you go forward and make decisions, I know you will seek counsel from God and the godly.
In the Book of Ruth, a great love was shown between Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. It was an example of love, commitment, and steadfastness. “But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you’” (Ruth 1:16-17). I believe, all of us, here today, are witnesses to a similar example of commitment that is shown between God, J__, and M__.
The Lord's humbled . . . John A. Reeves