The Bible’s Viewpoint
Should Marriage Be a Lifelong Union?
WHY even ask that question? Isn’t marriage, to quote Western wedding vows, “for better or for worse” and “until death do us part”? Yes, marriage vows usually state that the bride and the groom are entering a lifelong commitment. But many no longer consider themselves bound by those solemn promises. Married couples in alarming numbers are breaking up—some after a few months, and others after decades. Why is esteem for marriage diminishing? The Bible gives the answer.
Please examine 2 Timothy 3:1-3, and compare it with what you observe in the world today. In part, those verses state: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, . . . unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, . . . without self-control.” That prophecy is striking in its accuracy. Those attitudes have scarred and weakened marital relations worldwide, which high divorce rates prove.
Clearly, many people have lost respect for marriage. In view of this, we might ask: Should marriage be taken so seriously? Is there such a thing as the sanctity of marriage? How should Christians view wedlock? What help does the Bible offer to married couples today?
Has God’s View Changed?
In the beginning, God did not speak of the marriage bonds as temporary. His joining of the first man and woman is related at Genesis 2:21-24, and there no mention is made of an option to divorce or separate. Instead, verse 24 says: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” What does that scripture mean?
Consider the human body, how its different tissues are woven together seamlessly and how bones meet in strong, frictionless joints. What unity! What durability! But what agony when this matchless organism is seriously injured! Hence, at Genesis 2:24, the term “one flesh” emphasizes the intimacy and permanence of the marital union. It also gives implicit warning of great pain if that bond is dissolved.
Although the winds of change over the past millenniums have shaped and reshaped human views, God still views marriage as a lifelong commitment. About 2,400 years ago, some Jewish men had taken to abandoning their first wives and marrying younger women. God condemned this practice, declaring through his prophet Malachi: “‘You people must guard yourselves respecting your spirit, and with the wife of your youth may no one deal treacherously. For he has hated a divorcing,’ Jehovah the God of Israel has said.”—Malachi 2:15, 16.
Over four centuries later, Jesus reaffirmed God’s original view of marriage when he quoted Genesis 2:24 and then directed: “What God has yoked together let no man put apart.” (Matthew 19:5, 6) Years later the apostle Paul instructed that “a wife should not depart from her husband” and that “a husband should not leave his wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:10, 11) These scriptures accurately state God’s view of marriage.
Does the Bible ever allow for the termination of a marriage? Yes, a marriage ends when either mate dies. (1 Corinthians 7:39) Adultery can also dissolve a marriage if the innocent mate so decides. (Matthew 19:9) Otherwise, the Bible encourages couples to remain together.
How to Make Marriage Long-Lasting
God wants marriage to last, not as a struggle for survival, but as a happy journey. He desires that a husband and wife solve their problems and deeply enjoy each other’s company. His Word furnishes guidance for a happy, long-lasting marriage. Please note the following texts.
Ephesians 4:26: “Let the sun not set with you in a provoked state.”* One happily married man believes that this scripture helps him and his wife to resolve disagreements promptly. “If you can’t sleep after a disagreement, something is not right. You cannot allow the problem to continue,” he says. Sometimes he and his wife have talked through problems well into the night. But it works. He adds: “Applying Bible principles has wonderful results.” By doing so, this man and his wife have enjoyed a happy marriage for 42 years.
Colossians 3:13: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely.” A husband explains how he and his wife have put this into practice: “Marriage mates can irritate each other without necessarily doing anything wrong, since everyone has foibles and habits that bother other people. We put up with each other by not allowing these things to come between us.” Doubtless that sentiment has helped this couple during the 54 years that they have been married!
The application of such Scriptural principles reinforces the tie that binds husbands and wives. Thus their marriage can be joyful, satisfying, and lifelong.
According to first-century Middle Eastern timekeeping, the day ends at sunset. Paul was thus encouraging readers to be at peace with others before each day ends.