In Australia, says social researcher Hugh Mackay, 76 per cent of couples cohabit prior to marriage and over 45 per cent of contemporary marriages end in divorce.
This has dire consequences both for the couples and the “1,000,000 dependent children who now live with just one of their natural parents, the 500,000 children who are regularly migrating from the home of the custodial parent to the non-custodial parent, and the 25 per cent of families who are sole parent families” (“Social Disengagement: A Breeding Ground for Fundamentalism,” March 3, 2005). Child abuse is also increasing, with one case occurring every 13 minutes (Sydney Morning Herald April 11, 2005).
So, the “try before you buy” philosophy doesn't seem to be working when it comes to marriage. What can we learn from the Bible that can help us do better?
1. In whose image were human beings created that shows equality with each other?
Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image ...male and female he created them.”
2. What instructions were given to the first man and woman?
Genesis 1:28 “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.'” God created us as sexual creatures, male and female, with the ability to have children. Our sexuality is not something sinful as some have considered.
But sexuality, as with all of God's gifts, can be abused, and often is.
3. What boundary did God set to show freedom of choice?
Genesis 2:16, 17 “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Being able to choose is what makes us moral creatures. According to Mackay, “Australians are finding increasing difficulty in making confident moral decisions. Parents report that they are finding it harder to establish a basis for the moral instruction of their children.” Without God there's no basis for morals.
When God created Eve from Adam's rib, Adam's response when he first saw Eve was, “Wow!” (my free translation). Actually he said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,' for she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23).
4. With what words did God express the deep physical and spiritual unity that is meant to exist in marriage?
Genesis 2:24, 25 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
5. How does the writer of Hebrews describe marriage?
Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Ron Farmer, psychologist at Sydney University, was a pioneer of sexual liberation.
“I was wrong,” he says. “When I look back on what I said and taught and did, I feel embarrassed and remorseful. I wasn't any happier. My lifelong depression and sadness was still there. I was at the point of physical exhaustion. I was telling people to go down a road I knew didn't lead anywhere.” On premarital sex he now says: “I couldn't recommend it.” His own experience demonstrates that life without sexual boundaries is no life at all.
“Marriage is a demarcation point, society's inbuilt safety mechanism. The rise of sexually transmitted diseases is a warning. AIDS was a truly exquisite signal. It is as if our bodies have screamed out for a change in direction” (Time, 15/12/86).