Marriage in Honor - Dr. W.G. de Vries

Dr. W.G. de Vries Dr. W.G. de Vries (1926-2006) wasa minister in the Reformed churches in the Netherlands.He received his doctorate from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches in Kampen.He was also editor of Petahja, a monthly publication for the Reformed Men's Societies in the Netherlands.
Back One Page
Next Page

Tensions during the engagement Return to   Index

Because each person has his own character and disposition, certain tensions will develop during the engagement. Two people have to grow towards each other. They will get to know each other's peculiarities, limitations, partialities, shortcomings and faults. That is good because they will have to accept and love each other as they are -as people of flesh and blood to whom nothing human is strange. Knowing each other in this way is good, for love will prove itself as it surmounts faults and shortcomings. Naturally, they will not love each other's faults, but they win love each other, faults included. They feel responsible for each other precisely because they want to go through life together.

Marriage is often presented to young people in a radically different way. Simply 'finding each other" provides happy endings for movies and books. There the stories end. In reality, it is there that the story begins. People dream of undisturbed marital bliss. Certainly they have seen unhappy lives; perhaps even their own parents' marriage was not blissful, but the conviction remains: "We will do better; our marriage will be a perfectly happy one."

Who would want to say anything against this earnest resolution? Is it not one of the exciting and beautiful things of every engagement that an intimacy develops in which the two become entirely wrapped up in each other? How many love letters are written, and how eagerly replies are awaited. How painful parting becomes, and how strong is the longing to see each other again] The couple is happy, dreaming of the golden time to come. The Lord, who has made all things beautiful, provides this rich springtime of life.

However, few young people consider lifetime marriage to be a gift of God, let alone a mandate. In our time of supersaturated prosperity, this thought is unpopular. Today more and more marriages end in divorce. In part this is caused by underestimating the dangers that threaten every marriage - egoism, love of pleasure, lack of self- denial, unwillingness to sacrifice.

Although the couple may have discussed their future thoroughly, they will have to bear in mind that the future does not lie in their hands. Unforeseen problems may arise. A person of twenty views life differently from a person of forty.

When inescapable difficulties come, many questions will demand answers. On what is the marriage based? Is it founded on love that can grow cold, on interests that can change? How will each partner react in further trial, in illness and childlessness-or in prosperity? Is there any human assurance that happiness can last? Is marriage not a great risk?

Must two young people face marriage full of uncertainty? Indeed, if they do not accept each other "from God's hand, " and if their mutual promises of fidelity do not rest in God's promises to them, there can be no certainty.

The only certain way is to venture out together on the strength of God's promises. The future holds no promises if both people have not first said "yes" to God's promises. Actually, no one should become engaged until he has first professed his faith before God and His congregation. Only a life dedicated to the service of God can be a life dedicated to serving husband or wife, a life in which both serve each other in love (Gal. 5: M Whoever is determined to live for a maximum of pleasure and happiness regardless of his partner's needs should not marry. After all, the first rule of marriage is to please God and one's neighbor- one's closest neighbor, one's spouse.

Engagement is a period of "leaving oneself" and of seeking the other; it is a time of learning self- denial because of love for each other. The engagement is a trial period. It does entail obligation, for the two must be intent upon accepting each other for life. Yet they are testing themselves in order to come to a lasting agreement before God.

Letter writing can be a great aid to mutual understanding. Often it is easier to write something heartfelt than to express it verbally. It is also good for an engaged couple to separate on occasion. The sadness of parting can be formative. While they are apart, it will become evident whether their hearts go out to each other and continue to do so. If they do realize their dependence on each other, they will begin to reflect on why they need each other and what causes their longing.

Of course, people cannot get to know each other through letters alone. They must meet regularly in various situations and in good and bad moods. They must discuss issues and feelings in order to learn about each other. Two young people must be able to understand each other as they talk together. On the other hand, they must also be able to be comfortably silent together.

During the engagement clashes will most likely occur. Quarrels can sometimes arise over matters so trivial that the partners will laugh over them later. Couples who have never had a quarrel should ask themselves if one of them has not been too complaisant or too domineering.

A couple must know what they can rightfully expect from each other. One partner must not be overbearing while the other remains passive. It is important that after a conflict the two can become truly reconciled. Both must be prepared to say the first word towards reconciliation, wishing to "submit themselves to each other" or, to become the lesser.

Very often two contrasting personalities attract each other, making the task of adjusting to each other rather challenging. Each will have to learn to accept the weak and strong points in the other's character. If each is constantly annoyed by the other's weaknesses and shortcomings, the relationship should probably be terminated. Although it is possible to ignore some annoyance in the ambiance of physical captivation and caresses, such blissful ignorance can't continue. The secret of true love is that two people accept each other wholeheartedly.

An intense interest in each other's work and environment develops as the couple grows older. Whoever has absolutely no interest in his partner's work, studies, ideals or plans, cannot expect to grow close to his partner. Whoever has no desire to discuss his partner's life and thoughts thoroughly will not be able to be a help to the other in marriage. When there is only a physical infatuation with caresses and tenderness, there is no real acceptance of each other as human beings living in all spheres of life.

The engagement is so important because it gives the couple a chance to discuss what moves them, what they expect and want to make of their work and their future. After all, together they are heading for an all-encompassing communion of life.

Cultural backgrounds Return to   Index

An engaged couple's eventual choice of lifestyle will be crucial to their marriage. Class differences do not mean nearly as much today as they have in the past. However, age, professional status, and education do play a great role. A marriage which joins different expectations for living standards can become the source of many difficulties. Marriage is everyday living together; therefore, when the first gust of intensity has passed, everyday differences begin to play a greater role.

It is important, then, that the two become familiar with each other's family, relatives, and friends. They will be associating with these people for a long time. If there is no firm intention to accept each other in these respects, tremendous tensions can arise. No one can completely disassociate himself from his past. The longer one is married, the more apparent this will become. Engaged people sometimes act as if they may live only for each other and have nothing to do with anyone or anything else. However, soon they will have to face reality.

On the other hand, it is wrong to marry someone because of his or her status or descent. Someone who marries for such reasons is expressing no more love than someone who marries only to satisfy his sexual desires, to feel secure, or to become richer. In all these cases, the other person becomes an object or a means to an end. That is the opposite of true love which fosters mutual understanding, giving of oneself to another, and spiritual as well as physical desire for one another. Someone who desires his partner only physically degrades marriage to acts of sexual consumption.

On the other hand, someone who wants only spiritual communion injures the essence of marriage as well since it is a physical-spiritual communion. If engaged persons are no longer captivated by the sight of each other or if kissing and caressing become repugnant to them, they are not prepared to serve each other totally. A marriage on such a basis may not be solemnized. The two should certainly not cling together out of pity or sympathy, for a healthy marriage cannot be built on such a foundation.

May an engagement be broken? Return to   Index

Can a couple's promises of faithfulness be broken? May they break their engagement? just asking these questions shows Christian concern. Nowadays engagements routinely break up after a short time, but Christians should realize that every engagement should be more than 'Just giving it a try." The couple comes together with the firm intention of becoming bound for life.

Young people should not become engaged too quickly, for engagement is a public act, an acknowledgement before God and His people to "promise faithfulness with a view to marriage." If the act is done properly, parental supportis asked and given, to signify that through the coming together of two people their families will be joined as well. This fact may not be minimized. The rule then must be: Those who have promised to be faithful to each other may not break this promise.

Should tensions arise between the couple because of their different personalities, breaking the engagement should not be mentioned hastily because love is built of faithfulness. It is built on an awareness of responsibility which is not dependent on erotic feelings and momentary delights. The couple must realize that they are joined together by God.

It would be foolish, then, to break an engagement simply because one's expectations are not completely fulfilled. Ideal people do not exist, and a perfect marriage will not be found on earth. During engagement, while two people learn to know each other better, they can learn to be patient with each other's weaknesses and shortcomings. Those who break engagements because of any difficulty or shortcoming will become more and more incapable of really loving, and finally will not be able to find true love anywhere.

On the other hand, however, engagement is not a marriage. It is the deliberate preparation for marriage with a particular person. In some cases, the process of becoming unified takes years. As a rule, therefore, engagement should not be too brief. Those who marry shortly after they have met will only begin in marriage what should have been done beforehand; namely, getting to know one another thoroughly. A hasty marriage can have bitter consequences.

Even if a couple's love is overwhelming, it needs time to mature and take form. American statistics indicate that in the most successful marriages, the partners had previously known each other for years. No one should plunge head over heels into marriage.

Foremost in an engagement must be a definite desire to marry and a sincere intention to remain faithful. However because we live in an imperfect world it can happen that one partner repels the other as their contact becomes intensified and their association more regular.

Marriage has been given in order that two people may fulfill together the life task given by God. During the engagement it may become apparent that this goal is impossible; perhaps one partner does not long for the other physically and spiritually nor does he want to give himself completely to the other. The realization that their marriage may hinder their service of God may come to the couple after both have sincerely done everything possible to stay together.

Sincerely before the Lord, who tries the heart and mind, both partners may have to admit: 'We cannot help each other in the task given us by God; instead we would be a hindrance to each other." Once their eyes have been opened to this fact, continuing with marriage plans would be unwise.

Some engagements are too quickly and callously broken. Yet it is not true that an engagement can never be broken. God's guidance in this too is decisive. He who stops halfway is only half in error.

At the same time, a person must think deeply when he becomes engaged. It must not happen in a burst of love. Every engagement should be preceded by a time of getting to know one another, a period of time long enough so that the couple may say with conviction: "Yes, we belong together; we choose each other; may the Lord confirm our intention. "

Again, the engagement is not marriage itself. In exceptional circumstances a couple must admit with grief that it will not work. They confess that they have done everything to keep their initial promise, but that knowing each other more intimately, they find they cannot fulfill the mandate of marriage together. The Scriptural view of marriage, not their own idealism, must guide them to this decision.

Do we suit each other? Return to   Index

No one will deny that there can be many uncertainties, doubts, and hesitations during engagement. There can be moments when one is at the crossroads wondering: should we break up or not? That is exactly when the advice in James 1:5 should be heeded: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him."

In such a situation it will be necessary to be honest with each other about our motives and our sincerity towards the Lord. Do we not confess that He will not withhold His help from us and will teach us the way to go?

We cannot set out without seriously weighing the circumstances. With marriage, as with every calling, we must ask: What possibilities, capabilities, talents, gifts of feeling, understanding, and will does the Lord grant?

Then the question arises: Do our different gifts and possibilities complement each other? They need not be identical, but will they allow us to support one another?

In true love one does not seek oneself but the other. As Trobisch once strikingly put it: "You are the one for whom I long. Without you I am incomplete. For you I want to do everything and give up everything, also myself. For you I always want to be here. For you I want to work and live. I am prepared to wait for you no matter how long it takes. I will always be patient with you. 1 will always be honest and open towards you. I want to watch over you, protect you, help you, and care for you. I want to share everything with you. I will always listen to you. I do not want to do anything without you. I want to stay with you always." That is love which does not seek itself, love that lives for the other.

Someone who wants to share everything will also want to share his faith and hope in the Lord. What believer could be one with someone for whom Christ and His work meant nothing? Only a shared true faith can be the foundation for a good marriage.

That is not to say that one loves someone as husband or wife simply because he or she is a Christian. Brotherly love is not the same as marital love. Answers to the following

questions will make clear the differences between the two types of love: Does my heart long for him? Can I imagine life without him? Do 1 want to be everything for my partner, giving not only a part of myself but all of my life?

At once the question of parenting arises. Those who do not probe deeply enough to ask themselves whether their partner will make a good parent are foolish. What mother would want to give her children a father who is a sluggard, a boaster, a miser or an alcoholic? What father would give his children a mother who is a wanton, emptyheaded person, a vain egoist, or a silly fashion doll?

A summary of the foregoing discussion bears repeating.

One's manners, taste, character and upbringing are not unimportant in a marriage. If one cannot discuss his problems, faith, struggles, joys and needs with his partner, if he cannot speak freely because of insurmountable differences in mental disposition, interests and insights, the marriage will become increasingly tormenting.

Whoever wants two-oneness in marriage should consider these matters. The two must be able to become one.

Each marriage is something unique. Two people completely different from all others come together. There are always surprises, happy and sad ones. There are always elements no one foresees. With God's help, difficulties will be overcome.

Sexual intercourse during engagement Return to   Index

As two people grow closer spiritually and physically, the desire to possess each other completely grows as wen. For an engagement to remain purely spiritual is unnatural and not according to the teachings of Scripture.

It has already been stated that there is a difference between eroticism and sexuality. Eroticism is the strong inclination and attractive force between a man and a woman. Not physically strong, it does not seek direct sexual relations. However, when two engaged people love each other very much and caress one another, it is not without the desire for more intimate sexual contact. On the contrary, sexual desires are constantly aroused. It is normal to long for each other physically.

The intense sexual feelings which dominate the engaged couple while embracing and caressing are no cause for shame. These feelings may be thankfully accepted as a gift of God. The couple are experiencing physically powers hidden in them that await their fruition in marriage.

In a long engagement the danger of becoming more and more intimate lurks as each discovers more of the other's body. It can be extremely difficult not to overstep the last limits when everything cries for total physical union.

Restraint causes a certain amount of stress. Many engaged couples question whether they must stop their caressing at a certain point when they love one another. They ask: "If the engagement is a preparation for marriage, a time when our suitability for each other must be proved, is it not necessary to test our physical compatibility as well? If we love each other, we will be committing no adultery. We have promised to be faithful to each other for life, haven't we?

Countless engaged couples no longer make a problem of this. Many people, even people within the church, live as husband and wife long before their wedding day. In a sexual respect, their marriage brings nothing new.

What does God's word say about premarital sex?

We must first of all remember that an engagement is not the same as a marriage. An engagement can be broken. Yet engaged people who have taken each other as husband and wife become one flesh. Scripture clearly teaches that such a relationship can never be broken. Consequently there are men and women who have to admit: 'We had already gone so far that we did not dare break the engagement; we could not break it even though it appeared we could make nothing of our marriage." For the rest of their lives they have to pay the bitter price of having made a wrong step during their engagement.

Sexual life may not be regarded as being isolated. It may not be taken out of the total relationship in which God has placed it. Everything that has earlier been said about extramarital sexual relations is applicable here. This is not to say that physical desire between two engaged people is sinful. However, they may not separate what God has joined together. And sexual intercourse during engagement has further far reaching consequences. Fear of being discovered, fear of the consequences, and tense, hurried actions all mark this relationship as something quite different from the all -encompassing relationship of marriage and family.

After all, neither engaged partner is able nor wants to accept the responsibility of having children. There is no home waiting for a child, no cradle standing ready, no joy in the pregnancy. There is only fear and disappointment upon discovering they "have to" get married. The couple's own joy will be overshadowed under such circumstances, as well as the happiness of the child who will later find out that it was conceived and born too soon. It is not impossible that the untimely death of the man will leave the woman to face life as an unwed mother.

Here the great commandment that love may do no harm to one's neighbor must be heeded. How much harm and trouble, grief and despair can one bring upon his neighbor by reaching for sexual intercourse too soon?

Furthermore a woman experiences intercourse more intensely than a man. Coitus (sexual intercourse) is so interwoven with a woman's whole spiritual being that she is only really ready for this when she has experienced spiritual unity. In a mistaken effort to achieve such unity, she may, in fact, give herself to her fiance in order not to grieve him. The opposite also happens: a girl may do everything she can to lead her partner to physical union in order to bind him to herself.

In many respects, then, premarital intercourse conflicts with true love. When a young man argues: "If you really love me, then you will give yourself completely," he is not worthy of marrying the woman to whom he speaks. Should he threaten to break the engagement if the girl does not give in, she should realize that it would be best to break off such a relationship immediately.

Likewise, a girl who keeps pressing her fiance across the last limits, not wanting to save her virginity, works at destroying the splendor of marriage. Two engaged people have to struggle together to receive the day of their marriage as a precious gift.

In all this, one thing may not be forgotten. The first sexual experience is often disappointing. Such disappointment can only be borne in the total joyful communion of marriage. Before marriage it can only become a source of misery. The full, rich communion of marriage can only be experienced within a relaxed and quiet context of trust and patience.

Finally, the essence of life together during engagement is being together full of expectations. Those who try too hard to become richer often become poorer. Someone who hastily grabs everything, meets the day of his marriage without any expectations. None remain for him because he has taken everything already.

The engagement is the time during which many things remain concealed from the couple. Together they are on the way to a joyful revelation. But they may not yet completely reveal themselves to each other.

Someone once said: "On your wedding day, a piece of undiscovered land should be before you." Those who cannot wait deprive themselves not only of the joy of expectancy beforehand, but also of the joy of surprise when they experience unity in the totality of spirit and body.

The young man is responsible for his partner and for her future. The young woman is also responsible for her partner and must protect him from premature desire. This mutual sense of responsibility will deepen their love. Those who dodge responsibility allow real love to suffer defeat and threaten the glory of motherhood.

Of course, all sorts of methods can be used to prevent pregnancy. Alas, it must be said that those who "have to" get married are usually not the worst degraders of sexual love. How many engaged couples do not consistently make sure their lovemaking does not result in pregnancy? They too will stand before God and His people to be married, but the glory of their wedding day is gone, as is their innocence.

Those who engage in premarital sex and know very expertly how to avoid the consequences insult God in His joy and pleasure as Creator. Ignoring God will produce bitter fruit later in marriage. Young people only damage themselves and their future marriage when they give in to their desires.

One of the great values of the engagement is that the couple learn to submit themselves to the discipline of the commandment of love. How true what a girl once wrote to her fianci: "I felt even more drawn to you because you did not try to come to me that night. I realized that you were interested not only in my body, but in me myself; not in an hour of pleasure, but in a whole lifetime together. "

The caresses of two engaged people are a foretaste of what is to come. They must take care, however, that their sexual longings do not create such a haze that they overstep the limits set by God around their love. They must not lead each other into temptation. It may be necessary for them to say to each other out of love: "I am going now." They will love each other all the more for tins restraint.

The danger that meager spiritual interaction may leave too much room for very intimate physical contact -that the latter may even "compensate" for the former-is also very real. If two people can communicate with each other only physically, there is a short-circuit in their relationship which must be repaired before marriage.

Whoever seeks marriage merely to satisfy his sexual desires damages the essence of marriage. Naturally, sexual desire must not be missing, but neither may it become all and everything in the relationship.

Engagement is an important period also because learning to control oneself is formative. One is seriously naive if he or she thinks that all sexual problems are solved by marriage. Someone who does not know how to control himself before marriage and will not struggle with his partner about this will later find his impetuosity detrimental to marriage.

It happens that a man has to nurse his sick wife or a woman her sick husband for years. Or one of them may be unavailable for some time. Perhaps the husband will have to be away from home for his job for long periods. At such times the benefit of a controlled engagement will become evident.

Forced marriage Return to   Index

When two young people have given in to their strong sexual desires, pregnancy can result. What is expected and received in marriage with great joy causes grief and shame before marriage.

Such a pregnancy may be the result of an hour of thoughtlessness, of not resisting the overwhelming longing for each other. Or perhaps such a pregnancy is preceded by regular sexual relations, even though an increasing number of young people are "handy" enough to prevent pregnancy. A decrease in the number of forced marriages is certainly no indication of spiritual improvement but rather of greater corruption.

As we make remarks about forced marriage, bear in mind that many engaged couples who appear blameless are, in God's eyes, worse than the couples who "have to" get married. God sees the secret things as well.

Almost no sin is more severely punished than premarital sex. People's judgment of this sin is often cruel and merciless. A premature pregnancy is eagerly gossiped about and sometimes haunts the couple for a lifetime. How wrong and heartless people's judgment can be.

Why is it that many Christians regard sin against the seventh commandment as more serious than other sin? In a forced marriage, is the sin only against the seventh commandment? After all, it forbids adultery, the desire for sexual relations with someone else's wife. Can we even speak about the sin of adultery when it concerns two young engaged people who desire each other within a promise of fidelity? On the other hand, in a time when relationships between young men and women are all too free, too many People "have to" get married who have promised nothing to each other but have simply taken each other in a moment of overwheIrning sexual desire.

But in either case, the seventh commandment, which applies to controlling desires in all sexual life, is broken. Premarital sex takes something which belongs to marriage without acknowledging its God-given ordinance in the solemnization of marriage. Marriage must be solemnized before the authorities which God has instituted.

Whether it is the authority of the father who in the past was head of the family and tribe, or the authority of the government and the church which is usurped, the fifth commandment is also violated. The couple sins when it reaches out for the unity of marriage without being authorized to do so by the authorities appointed for this purpose.

Granting a violation of the fifth commandment, the question remains: 'What made these two young people take something that belonged to marriage?" Did the couple momentarily lose control or did they have regular relations over the years? Did their giving in to their physical urges indeed concern the seventh commandment?

Yet even though the engaged couple did not covet someone else's husband or wife, they still fell victim to their desires, desires held in check by God's laws as written in the seventh commandment. Therefore, the sin of premarital sex falls under sin against the fifth commandment and the seventh commandment as well.

In the form for the solemnization of marriage, the married persons are even required to promise to live in holiness with each other. Naturally this does not mean without sexual relations -as if there were something unholy about the sex drive. It does mean that in marriage the sex drive must not be unrestrained. Even in marriage it must be controlled. In marriage, too, one may not injure his neighbor, that is, his spouse, by unbridled sexual intercourse. For engaged people, living in holiness with each other means they may not have marital relations with each other, nor should they fall into this sin out of weakness. They must learn to see it as an impurity.

In no other area of life do people learn to know their weaknesses as well as in their sexual lives. One moment may be filled with good intentions, but the next moment we have already fallen into the sin of impurity. With our eyes, our desires, and our deeds we seriously and frequently transgress this commandment of God.

But the light of the Gospel falls on this commandment too. After all, Christ tells us that by His death He delivered us from the power of sin. The chain of slavery, including the chains of urges and desires, has been broken.

To someone standing before the holiness of the seventh commandment lamenting: "But I feel the greatness of my sins; I see my sins before my eyes constantly," the Savior says: "I take away those sins. I will no longer remember them. They will never be spoken of again. " Fortunately this applies to those who "have to" get married too. People in their cruelty often speak about the fact for years, but Christ never brings it up again.

Another pertinent question arises here. Do the two people faced with a forced marriage have to confess their guilt before the whole church council or even before the entire congregation? It has already been mentioned that churchgoers often consider sin against the seventh commandment more serious than other sin. Not that long ago two young people would have had to confess their guilt about their forced marriage in a public worship service. Is that in keeping with the gospel of forgiveness?

Here too the right measuring rod must be used. Christian morality can become bourgeois. What do we do with people like Rahab, the harlot? She became an ancestor of Christ. The Pharisees despised Christ because He ate with harlots and tax collectors.

Christ never condoned sin. To the adulterous woman He said: ". . . go, and sin no more" (John 8: 11). Yet He became angry when people determined for themselves which sin was more grievous than another.

Is someone's sexual misconduct worse than "piously' slandering a neighbor? Is a whore a greater sinner than a rich employer who pretends to be a gentleman but underpays his employees? Is a girl who "has to" get married a greater sinner than a churchgoer who is indifferent about the church and the office of all believers?

Many sins are not due to weakness of the flesh or burning desires. For example, it is sinful to have no interest in the gospel of God or in the struggle of faith. Yet people excuse this sin as slight indifference while soundly condemning someone who has sinned against the seventh commandment and is suffering its obvious consequences.

Is then no confession of guilt necessary before a forced marriage? Of course confession is necessary. The minister and appropriate elders should,in a spirit of Christian gentleness, discuss with the couple their sin as outlined in the Scriptures. The minister and elders of the church must stand beside the two young people to help them gain true insight into their guilt and to bring them to an honest confession of it.

A sober report of this meeting could be made to the church council in order that the office-bearers of the congregation may note it with thankfulness. God's forgiving grace will be richly apparent in the lives of the repentant couple.

There is no simple "yes" or "no" to the question of whether or not it is necessary to add "after confession of their guilt" when a couple's desire to be married is announced to the congregation. It may be necessary to do so in a small congregation because the congregation may be offended if it thought the church council showed little concern about the matter. It may be necessary too to keep other young people from taking forced marriages for granted, especially in congregations where forced marriages have become a common sin among the people.

Dealing with a large congregation, one must remember that Matthew 18 says that the sins of brothers and sisters must be kept within the smallest circle possible. It is not wise to inform hundreds of people about a sin the consequences of which would have been noted by only a few.

A final question arises: must a pregnancy always be followed by marriage? We have already seen in Deuteronomy 22:28, 29 that in Israel someone who raped a virgin had to give her father fifty pieces of silver and had to marry her-whether or not she became pregnant. The simple fact that the man had become one flesh with her obligated him to marry her. The Lord stipulated that he might not "put her away all his days." That is why, when it becomes evident that a woman is pregnant, the general rule must be: the man involved is obliged to marry the woman.

On the other hand, Exodus 22:17 teaches us that the father could refuse to allow his daughter to become the wife of the man involved. The man paid a bride price to the father, and there was no marriage.

Today parents of a girl who has been raped might say: "I would rather keep my daughter as an unwed mother than bind her for life to such a man." It can be a greater evil to solemnize a marriage on the basis of an unlawful sexual intercourse than to eschew such a marriage. It is not possible to make a firm rule for an cases.

It can be generally stated that the man who takes sexual initiative must face the consequences of his actions in a Christian manner, not only because he is a man of honor but also because he has implicitly taken upon himself the responsibility of making a certain woman his wife.

But here again, not all cases are alike. There are girls who manage to bind their boyfriends to them in this manner. I dare not say that parents are never allowed to object: "Anything rather than having my son bound to such a woman for life. "

There is also the possibility that the couple themselves may come to a similar conclusion. 'Just because we did something together in an hour of thoughtlessness does not mean that we are going to bind ourselves together as husband and wife. There appear to be insurmountable differences of faith, goals, and ideals. We do not want to compound the initial disaster by making it last a lifetime." Exceptionally farreaching consequences and immensely difficult things are involved here. The insight of the couple involved may not be the only deciding factor. The advice of parents and office-bearers is invaluable.

Even though marriage will follow pregnancy as a rule, it has been rightly pointed out that "marriage because of sexual intercourse" is not the rule of the Bible but rather originates from an old German law. In the Middle Ages the Church taught that mutual agreement, not sexual intercourse, brought about marriage. Consensus, non coitus, facit matrimonium.

Discussion of this sad topic should end here but not without a final reiteration that the sin against the fifth and seventh commandment is no more grievous than other sins which grieve the Lord. Human guilt feelings must not be determined by human norms but by the golden measuring rod of God's norms. Through His grace He forgives and is able to make the marriages of all of His children rich with blessings.

Even those Biblical women such as Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth who lived before the coming of the Christ display His grace. Jesus Christ is the secret of great blessing and happiness, even in marriages that began with a confession of guilt. Is it not fitting for everyone to remember that blessing means unmerited gifts?

Back One Page
Return to   Index
Next Page