Living Up To Your Marriage Vow!
THE wedding day is a joyful day. It is also a very serious occasion. The bride and groom make a solemn promise that will affect the rest of their lives. Those present at the wedding as guests are witnesses to this solemn promise, but Jehovah God is the principal Witness.
The Bible does not require specific procedures or a special kind of wedding ceremony. Yet, in recognition of its divine origin, marriage is customarily solemnized through the use of wedding vows during a religious ceremony. For some years Jehovah’s Witnesses have been using the following marriage vow: “I —— take you —— to be my wedded (wife/husband), to love and to cherish (Bride: and deeply respect) in accordance with the divine law as set forth in the Holy Scriptures for Christian (wives/husbands), for as long as we both shall live together on earth according to God’s marital arrangement.”*
Something to Think About
If you are contemplating marriage, it would be very valuable to think about the depth and meaning of this vow before the wedding day. Solomon said: “Do not hurry yourself as regards your mouth; and as for your heart, let it not be hasty to bring forth a word before the true God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2) What if you are already married? Then you would benefit from meditating on the importance of the solemn promise that you made before Jehovah. Are you living up to it? Christians take their promises seriously. Solomon continued: “What you vow, pay. Better is it that you vow not than that you vow and do not pay. Do not allow your mouth to cause your flesh to sin, neither say before the angel that it was a mistake.”—Ecclesiastes 5:4-6.
A phrase-by-phrase consideration of the wedding vow will no doubt enrich your understanding of this solemn promise.
“I —— take you”: These are the opening words of the vow. They highlight that you take personal responsibility for your decision to marry.
Under the Christian arrangement, there is no Scriptural obligation to marry. Jesus Christ himself remained unmarried and recommended singleness for those who “can make room for it.” (Matthew 19:10-12) On the other hand, most of Jesus’ apostles were married men. (Luke 4:38; 1 Corinthians 9:5) It is clear that the decision to marry is a personal one. No human has the Scriptural authority to force another into marriage.
Hence, you are responsible for choosing to get married. Likely, you selected the one whom you are marrying. When you make the marriage vow, saying, ‘I take you ——,’ you take or accept that person with his or her virtues—but also with his or her faults.
In time you will likely discover unsuspected aspects of your mate’s personality. There will be occasional disappointments. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) So you may need to make adjustments in order to accommodate your mate. This may be difficult, and at times you may feel like giving up. But remember, the marriage vow is made in the presence of Jehovah. He can help you succeed.
“To be my wedded (wife/husband)”: At the very first wedding, when Eve was given in marriage to Adam, Jehovah God said that “they must become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6) The marital union is thus the closest relationship that can exist between two humans. Marriage brings you into a new kinship. You accept someone to be your “wedded wife” or “wedded husband.” It is unlike any other relationship. Actions that cause little harm in other relationships may cause deep hurt within the marital arrangement.
Take, for example, the Scriptural counsel found at Ephesians 4:26. There the Bible says: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state.” Perhaps you have not always resolved your problems with relatives and friends as quickly as you should. But your mate is closer than any other relative or friend. Failure to resolve matters quickly with your spouse might endanger the special kinship between you.
Do you allow a disagreement between you and your mate to develop into an ongoing source of annoyance or vexation? Do misunderstandings and upsetting situations linger for several days? In order to live up to your vow, when difficulties arise do not allow a day to go by without making peace with your mate. This means forgiving and forgetting as well as acknowledging your own faults and errors.—Psalm 51:5; Luke 17:3, 4.
“To love”: The husband-to-be vows “to love and to cherish” his bride. This love includes the romantic love that likely brought them together. But romantic love is not enough. The love that a Christian vows for his or her mate is deeper and broader.
Ephesians 5:25 says: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation.” Jesus’ love for the congregation could hardly be in the same category as the romantic love between the sexes. The terms “loving” and “loved” used in this scripture come from the word a·gaʹpe, which refers to love guided by principle. The Bible is here commanding husbands to manifest constant, unswerving, enduring love for their wives.
It is not simply an “I love you because you love me” type of emotion. A husband seeks the welfare of his wife even ahead of his own, and the wife loves her husband in the same manner. (Philippians 2:4) Cultivating a deep love for your partner will help you to live up to your marriage vow.
“To cherish”: According to one dictionary, “to cherish” means ‘to hold dear, to feel or show affection for.’ You must express your love in both words and deeds! A wife especially needs to receive constant demonstrations of her husband’s love. Her husband may take good care of her physical needs, but this is not enough. There are wives who have enough food and a comfortable home but who are desperately unhappy because of being neglected or ignored by their marriage partner.
On the other hand, a wife who knows that she is loved and cherished has every reason to be happy. Of course, the same can be said of the husband. True love is greatly enhanced by genuine expressions of endearment. In the Song of Solomon, the shepherd lover exclaims: “How beautiful your expressions of endearment are, O my sister, my bride! How much better your expressions of endearment are than wine and the fragrance of your oils than all sorts of perfume!”—Song of Solomon 4:10.
“And deeply respect”: Throughout the centuries, there have been men who have abused and degraded women. Even today, according to World Health magazine, “violence against women occurs in every country and in every social and economic class. In many cultures, wife-beating is considered a man’s right.” Most men may not be guilty of such conduct. Still, it does seem that many men fail to show genuine interest in the issues that concern women. As a result, many women have developed a negative attitude about men. Some wives have been heard to say, “I love my husband, but I just can’t respect him!”
Jehovah God, however, gives credit to the woman who strives to respect her husband—even if he falls short of her expectations from time to time. She recognizes that he has a God-given assignment, or position. (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:23) Deep respect for her husband is thus part of her worship and obedience to Jehovah. God does not overlook the obedience of godly women.—Ephesians 5:33; 1 Peter 3:1-6; compare Hebrews 6:10.
Respect in marriage must be mutual, and it should be earned rather than merely expected or demanded. For example, cutting or offensive speech has no place in the marital arrangement. It would not be loving or respectful to make derogatory comments about your husband or wife. Nothing good can come from revealing your mate’s flaws to others or talking about them in public. Even in jest one could show gross lack of respect in this area. The words of Ephesians 4:29, 32 apply to both husband and wife. There the Bible says: “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be . . . Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate.”
“In accordance with the divine law as set forth in the Holy Scriptures”: God wants us to enjoy freedom of choice and action. He does not burden us with an exhaustive list of rules regulating married life. Yet, for our own sakes he has set forth some guidelines.
Today, there is an abundant variety of printed material on marriage, and many people have their own philosophies. But be careful! On the subject of marriage, much of the information circulating is in conflict with the Bible.
Recognize also that circumstances vary from one couple to the next. In a way, married couples are like snowflakes; they may look identical from a distance, but in reality each one is unique, different from all others. The combination of your personality with that of your mate is not duplicated by any other married couple in the world. So do not be hasty to accept the personal viewpoints of others. There is no man-made formula that applies to every marriage!
In contrast, all of the Bible’s commands are true and applicable. The apostle Paul wrote: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight.” (2 Timothy 3:16; Psalm 119:151) If you read the Bible and accept its teachings as a guide in your daily life, you will be able to live up to your marriage vow.—Psalm 119:105.
“For as long as we both shall live together on earth”: This points to long-term togetherness. God commands that “a man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife.” (Genesis 2:24) Jehovah wants you to be together. Serve God together. Study his Word together. Take time to walk together, sit together, eat together. Enjoy life together!
Some couples make an effort to set aside time every day just to talk to each other. Even after many years of marriage, this togetherness is vital to marital happiness.
“According to God’s marital arrangement”: Marriage is a gift from Jehovah God, who established the marital arrangement. (Proverbs 19:14) Failure to follow his arrangement will threaten not only your marital happiness but also your relationship with the Creator. On the other hand, when husband and wife cultivate a good relationship with Jehovah, manifested by obedience to his arrangements, they will have peaceful relationships with others, including each other.—Proverbs 16:7.
Never forget that Jehovah is the principal Witness to your marriage vow. Continue to live up to this solemn promise, and your marriage will be a source of praise and glory to Jehovah God!
In some places there may be a need to use an adjusted version of this vow in order to comply with local laws. (Matthew 22:21) However, in most countries Christian couples use the above vow.
[Blurb on page 22]
In a way, married couples are like snowflakes. All of them may look identical from a distance, but in reality each couple is uniquely different