Why Get Married?

Text: Ephesians 5:22-33

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

It seems that America is at a turning point or crossroads, if you will. We have known this for quite some time. The divide is seen everywhere. We see it at the election polls, we see it in culture, and we even see it with marriage.

More specifically, over the last 50-years in America, we have seen a reduction of marriages, to the point that marriage is now at an all-time low. With the decline of marriage, though, something interesting has also been simultaneously happening. As marriage decreases, cohabitation (that is living together apart from marriage) is increasing. Over the last 50-years, it appears that there is a direct correlation between marriage and cohabitation: marriage has decreased 65%, and cohabitation has increased approximately 60%.

To add another unique dynamic to the lower marriage rate and the increased cohabitation rate, people are getting married much later in life as well. In other words, for those that do marry, they are not getting married in their early 20s but are tying the knot later in life. 

Indeed, there is a significant change in how we view marriage.

But what has led to these changes? What is bringing about this apparent crossroad leading to alternative views and actions regarding marriage?

One of the many factors is that our culture is telling us that we have the supposed right to have pleasure and ease. But this cultural mantra does not jive with the reality that marriage is tough. Indeed, marriage is tough and hard, and as we know, people do not like things that are tough but want pleasure and ease at all costs. Thus, we see the divide, the tension.

Martin Luther once said of marriage,

The purpose of marriage is not to have pleasure and to be idle but to procreate and bring up children, to support a household. This, of course, is a huge burden full of great cares and toils. But you have been created by God to be a husband or a wife and that you may learn to bear these troubles.[1]

We also hear about how tough marriage is from our Epistle Reading. In our reading from Ephesians, we hear that in marriage, the husband is to sacrifice everything – to die – for the sake of his wife. And the wife is called to trust her husband, to submit in respect. Now, this is hardly the setup that someone seeking pleasure at all costs would aspire to – it doesn’t sound like fun. That is to say; if marriage is all about dying to self to serve a spouse, this is most certainly against the tune of our culture that sings self-love and the idea of ‘do whatever you want as long as you are happy.’

Tragically and bluntly stated, one of the main reasons why marriage is on such a decline is that marriage does not let life be about “You.”

Permit me to explain.

If there is no spouse, there are no children. And if there are no children, a person can selfishly indulge in whatever activities they want. All of the resources and efforts can be invested in self.[2] You see, marriage complicates self-pleasure and ease by calling a man to die for his wife and calling a woman to submit to her husband and calling both the husband and wife to empty their wallets, freedom, and energy towards their children.

But what about physical intimacy and emotionally connecting with a person of the opposite sex? Are these not important? Are these not enough of a reason to marry even if marriage is tough? 

Tragically, sex is cheap these days. In other words, marriage is no longer a prerequisite for sex in our culture, which allows a person to experience the benefits of marriage, like spending more time together, saving money, and spending romantic nights together, while still keeping the option open to split apart if pain and problems exceed pleasure and ease.

Unfortunately, the thinking goes like this. Don’t marry, just live together as if you are married because “if you don’t like your [boyfriend or girlfriend], you can just… leave. If [your boyfriend] turns into a huge jerk, just leave. Or maybe if you just aren’t feeling it . . . anymore [with your girlfriend]. . . . you can just break up! Sure, it [is hard] to move out all your junk and find a new place to live, but there are no complicated legalities like there are [with marriage].”[3]

And so, it seems that marriage has become like a curse in our culture – a ball and chain – something to be avoided. And if not a curse it has become like a fairy-tale dream that only lasts for a while – if you are lucky.

But is this all true?

Dear friends, marriage is not a curse to be avoided or put off for a better time and a better day. It is not something that ends dreams, ruins lives, and constraints. It certainly is not a ball and chain, but instead, a gift that creates a husband and wife and creates a blessed family.

Dear husbands and wives, Baptized Saints, we must remember that Satan – the prince and power of the air – continually attacks marriage. Satan can never create, but only perverts God’s gifts. And the evil one does just this to marriage. He attempts to distort marriage as a curse and a burden so that people will stay away from it. He holds self-love over sacrificial-love as the ideal. He strips sex out of wedlock and then sets it loose to cheapen it. He entices us to place other priorities above marriage as if marriage is some old-fashioned thing. He tries to convince us that marriage is just too inconvenient, which means that we can put it off until someday in the future where we will have supposedly more time and resources. Indeed, the evil one – with the world and our flesh – give a false view of marriage, sex, and family. They give a view that is not real.

So, what is real? What is marriage?

According to an old professor named Norman Nagel speaking about Biblical marriage, a bride and groom do not make a marriage, but instead, a bride and groom step into marriage and take their places. The reason why this is so, marriage is God’s gift. It is the perfect setup and the perfect gift that men and women are to receive. And within the marriage union ordained by God, the husband and wife learn to accept each other as the Lord teaches them to walk in the unforced rhythms of ‘love.’

So, what does this mean? It means that when young people in the church aspire to the institution of marriage, we should be clapping and dancing for joy. Their desire to be married is them wanting to receive God’s good gift! Yes, to desire to be married is good. To aspire to marriage is good.

But what if the couple is young and poor? Do we tell them to wait and avoid marriage? Well, no. Just as we work to be faithful stewards to support the local church in God’s gifts of the Word and Sacraments and as we work to be faithful stewards to support pregnancy centers with God’s gift of life, we certainly can be and should be stewards to support younger Christians in God’s gift of marriage. Frankly stated, we should be ready to open our wallets and show our children that we believe in marriage. This reality should be so real that we are willing to be there to financially support them if the going gets tough in their future marriage someday, rather than painting marriage as some sort of expensive burden that they cannot afford and should not aspire to at a young age.  

At this point, we can hear the voice of some saying,

“But what about having fun at a young age and taking everything in that life supposedly has to give? Do younger people really want to enter a marriage when they are so young?

To this the church responds: sure, there will be dying to self in marriage. That is the whole point. That is why it is tough. Dying to self hurts the sinful nature. But tough does not mean bad. Marriage is tough on the sinful nature, even though it is a good gift for you.  You see, as the husband and wife die to each other through trust and sacrifice – through the shed blood of Jesus for them - something grander emerges. At the end of each day being enveloped in the gift of marriage and the forgiveness of sins, the husband and wife will lay everything out before the Lord, nothing kept back, nothing held outside His forgiveness and His love. Yes, they will lay it all out before the Lord together as one flesh – as husband and wife – knowing that the Lord holds all of them, the good, the bad, the ups and the downs.[4]

Marriage is indeed a gift that brings a man and woman together. And we see that in our Epistle Reading from Ephesians. That is to say; Ephesians 5 is not about the husband lording leadership, power, and authority over his wife, but rather, it is about the husband sacrificing everything – dying to self – for the sake of his wife, just as Jesus did for the Church.

Furthermore, Ephesians 5 is not about the wife becoming a doormat to the husband, something he tramples to get his way. But instead, a wife is called to trust her husband, knowing that he is to be a husband to her as Jesus is a husband to the Church. The wife is to trust that everything the husband does is ultimately for her good because the husband is called to give his wife everything he has and all that is needed, even laying down his very own life to save hers. The husband is to set aside his comfort to defend and protect his bride no matter the personal cost. To submit to a husband who is called to defend her with his very life truly means the wife gets to rest in the protection of his loving arms.

This is marriage! This is marriage as a gift. This is marriage where sacrifice and trust happen out of a reverence of Christ. This is marriage, marriage that a husband and wife step into and take their place. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 5: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 26-30. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 5, p. 363). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
[2] Susan Cox, “11 Reasons to NOT Get Married,” Feminist Current, http://www.feministcurrent.com/2016/02/12/11-reasons-not-to-get-married/(accessed February 10, 2017).
[3] Cox, “11 Reasons to NOT Get Married.”
[4] Paraphrase from Norman Nagel.

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