Building up believers and the New Testament church

The Mystery of Marriage

Parental Involvement

If we look to the scriptures for direction, we will find that in past days, parents were very much involved in their children's choice of a mate. In our day and age, we may find this hard to accept. Many of us have grown up in a culture that encourages us to be independent and express our own desires. The end result is a generation that has thrown off God's restraints in marriage and is reaping the results of sin. It is has gone so far that it is increasingly difficult to find a couple that has stayed true to their first vows. Divorce and adultery are rampant, and children have suffered greatly because of this.

To see the effects of this pattern reversed in our own lives, we must look back to God for fresh direction. We cannot take our example from what we see around us. God is the one who designed marriage, and He will give us the direction we need, if we are open. Young people need the guidance of their parents in this most important matter, choosing a life partner. Parents have experienced marriage. They may not know everything, but they certainly know more than a young person who is just thinking about marriage. In any other area of life in which we are "beginners," we look for teachers who know more than we do. Should this be any different?

One concept that seems to be widespread in our day is that when a person becomes 18, he or she is now an adult, and all accountability to parents should cease. This probably comes from several natural things in our culture. It is the age that most people finish high school in America. It is the age that young men may serve in the military. It also is the age that people may be allowed into bars, or be allowed to vote. But what do these things have to do with God? Where do we find anything similar in the scriptures? It is not there.

One indication of the age that God holds men accountable comes from the time Israel was judged for their unbelief in not going into the Promised Land. Every man 20 years and older was held accountable for his action. Certainly it is true that young people at the age of 18 must begin to take more responsibility for their own decisions, but that does not mean that they should suddenly cut off their parents. A wise man or woman will always hold their parents' counsel in high esteem through life's journey. In the final analysis, we must make the final choice, but wisdom will involve parents very carefully when making one of life's most important choices.

Because of the effects of sin in our present culture, many of us may find ourselves with parents who do not acknowledge God or who are actually living in adultery themselves. How can we involve them in these weighty matters, seeing that they themselves have failed? Consider these scriptures: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth" (Eph. 6:1-3). "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brother and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26). "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit everlasting life" (Matt. 19:29). If we consider these scriptures carefully, we cannot come up with a formula, but I believe we can gain some solid direction.

First of all, an attitude of honor and respect for our parents is an essential foundation in our own lives as we begin this journey of life. No matter what our parents' condition is, we do not accomplish anything by a rebellious or know-it-all attitude. They have labored in our lives and given much to bring us to where we are. If our parents are in the Lord, their counsel needs to be taken very seriously. This is God's order, especially in family matters such as marriage. If they are not in the Lord, we need to keep a submissive and respectful attitude--even if we come to a time when we cannot obey them in faith before God. If it comes to this, we should definitely have the witness of other brothers and sisters in our spiritual family before taking this road. It is very easy for a young person to think that he is more spiritual than his parents and thus does not have to obey them. That may in fact be true, but he needs to establish it with the witness of mature older brothers. They are the additional fathers that we gained when we chose to submit to Christ and be a part of what He is doing.

In our day and age, it is very possible that one or both of our parents have actually entered into the sin of adultery themselves. We may also find ourselves being raised by parents who are not really our parents. These are certainly difficult areas, but God who sees the hearts of all men knows how to work. If we are properly facing the question of marriage and responding to God, then our relationship in God has had some time to mature, and it is almost certain that God has brought spiritual fathers and mothers into our lives that can fill the void left by our natural parents. Recognize the hand of God, and give all diligence to their counsel.

How far should parents go in helping us? The answer is according to the leading of the Spirit. If we consider the case of Isaac and Rebecca, we find that many of our preconceived ideas must be laid aside. Yes, that was in another time and culture. But are we so very different from the people of that time? Can we dismiss this account completely? Who initiated the sending of the servant? How was Isaac able to accept God's choice for him? How was Rebecca able to agree to go, when she had never met Isaac? (Read Genesis 24.)

Now, what about us? Where is our trust in God? How far does it go? Are we willing to let God choose for us? Are we willing to have our parents involved in that choice? Even as Christians, we may not realize how much the sin of our time has affected our thinking. Are we willing to lay down our preconceived ideas and come to God with no conditions attached? We might be amazed at the results if we do.

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