Normally, I don’t pay too much attention to the things that celebrities do and say, but lately, I have heard three separate celebrities all say the same thing. When asked about their current love life, all three ladies said, “I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me that I love someone.” They went on to say how the institution of marriage was archaic in nature and that just to obtain a “piece of paper” was not a good enough reason to get married.
And I agree, but is that what marriage is?
When I got married, I wasn’t thinking to myself, “Man, I can’t wait until I get that piece of paper!” I would argue that for a lot of couples, when they get married, they don’t even fork out the extra 50 bucks to actually receive a copy of their marriage license. When I hear about the current statistics of failed and successful marriages in the U.S. or when I hear conservative Christians arguing against homosexual marriages, I don’t hear anyone arguing for what marriage actually is. Instead of fighting for what marriage is not, instead of fighting for the rights to protect the institution of marriage, let’s actually be the example and help the world see what marriage should be. Because it’s more than a piece of paper.
If we want to be critical, the technical aspects of a marriage ceremony are not in the Bible. When I was younger and I saw marriages in the church performed by a pastor, they were always reading from a little black book, but now I know that the book in question is really The Book of Common Prayer (pub. 1549). For some cultures, a marriage takes place at the wedding service with the exchange of vows. For others it takes place where the marriage license is signed, and even for others, it begins when the offer of betrothal is spoken.
But for us, as Christians, the institution of marriage goes back further than a book of liturgy or Queen Victoria’s wearing of an all white dress. From the earliest pages of scripture, God lays out His design for how He sees the joining of a man and a woman.
First, marriage is a union. When God makes Eve and introduces her to Adam, God says, “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Marriage is more than a piece of paper; it is the idea of “one flesh.” It’s more than just living together and having sex. It’s the understanding that these two people are now a single entity. God’s divine intent in creating man and woman is that the two of them become one, one flesh that can no longer be divided. Real marriage and real commitment carries with it the idea that this man and this woman are together for life.
Second, marriage is a promise. When we read the 19th chapter of Exodus and Moses receives the 10 Commandments, this is God’s “marriage contract” with His people. Moses comes to the people and says, “God is coming to fulfill His end of the promise,” and the people respond, “We will do everything the Lord has said” (Ex 19:7). And then the people clean and prepare themselves to meet their bridegroom. If we think about it, the first commandments are the same ones you would want from a marriage partner.
• You will not cheat on me.
• You will love and adore me only.
• You will not misuse my being or defame my character.
Yeah, marriage is more than a piece of paper. In the wedding ceremony you stand before friends and family and you each take vows. You swear before witnesses that this is the person that you will become one with. This is the person that you will exclusively hold to.
Sorry celebrities, marriage is more than holding hands, living together and having children. Marriage is more than sex, and it’s more than picking out window treatments together.
If we have communicated that “marriage” is just a piece of paper, then we have done a great disservice to the world. If we have simply boiled it down to a big, elaborate ceremony with a live D.J. that costs thousands of dollars, then we have the wrong idea also.
Sure, there is a lot more to marriage, and we could go on and on about what God expects it to be, but let’s first agree to model marriage accurately to the world. Remember that what we do and what we say, says something about God. If the world has the wrong idea about marriage, who gave them that idea to begin with?