A young man wrote me the other day asking if he should marry someone he doesn’t love. My response was simple and immediate. I told him it was not advisable. You will suffer, I said.
Outside of ancient cultural mores such a proposition would ordinarily not make sense. The issue shouldn’t even arise in Christianity. But the idea crept into Pentecostal circles in the 1980s. And it became normative and prescriptive. In order to distinguish themselves from the world Christians on university campuses in particular evolved a conjugation formula that rechristened boyfriend/girlfriend relationship “engagement.” This proceeded from a prophetic declaration of marital intent. It was a radical editing of sociology. Boyfriend/girlfriend relationship was considered prurient and worldly. A young man having “heard” from God proposed to a young woman by telling her “Thus saith the Lord…” Never mind the Shakespearean English. That generation was bred on the 1611 King James Bible. Upon the proposal the lady proceeded to pray to verify the prophecy, if she hadn’t “heard” from God already. This conjugation formula was based on total submission to God. The theology dovetails into God’s sovereignty. If you accept God as sovereign you must be submitted to his will, even if it goes against the grain of your natural desire, the reasoning went. According to them, a sovereign God can direct his submissive servant to marry anyone, affection or no affection. Indeed the proof of that submissiveness to God is acceding to painful and difficult matchmaking by God. Not my will O God, but thy will be done. The approach was theologically captured as the “leading of the Spirit.” God is leading me to that sister, a young man would say.
The challenges of this conjugation system are of course obvious. First is the fact young people who know nothing about life are being railroaded into matrimonial decisions and lockdowns. The relationship must work for the simple reason it was a prophetic declaration. If you declare God commanded you to marry someone you cannot turn around and state otherwise, even when you discover things you don’t like in your partner. One of the attributes of God is inerrancy. The marriage prophecy cannot be wrong. God does not change his mind the way we change ours, so you have to work out the relationship despite incompatibility issues.
The second major issue is human factor. Humans are prone to mistakes. What if the claim is wrong? What if the man didn’t hear from God? How do we know he heard? And how do we know he heard right? Did he “hear” what he wanted to hear? And both parties can “hear” wrong. There are a lot of voices out there.
The third challenge is the circumventing of societal norms, the redefinition of sociology. The word “engagement” had to take on new meaning. It was no longer the secondary phase of a relationship – that intervening stage between boyfriend/girlfriend relationship and marriage. It was now the primary and only stage before marriage. And because it is a fait accompli it doesn’t have an exit. Neither does this engagement allow for a period of assessment to allow the boy or girl make up his or her mind and determine whether he or she even wants to be in the relationship. The march to the altar commenced upon acceptance of prophetic declaration.
Those who questioned this conjugal system were of course labelled carnal and unspiritual. They “loved the world” contrary to the admonition of Apostle John in 1 John 2:15-16. And so was humanity edited away from humans and spirit beings began to get engaged and marry. Whereas the biblical standard is that spirits don’t marry it is humans that do. The new definition of spirituality became the bleaching away of likes, desires, love, beauty, attraction and even freewill. Doubtless to say distortions were generated in industrial quantities. Confusion soon emerged as two or more brothers claimed to have heard God speak concerning one sister. An ombudsmanship was needed to sort out the confusion. Boys and girls began to make matrimonial decisions even when they knew nothing about matrimony. Some of the relationships worked of course. That is statistically expected, though they might have worked based on some other parameters. But the ones that didn’t work out wrecked psychological havoc including depression. A loveless marriage is a dungeon without windows.
Unfortunately, without the benefit of history some young people today are buying into variants of this unnatural system. The phraseology employed is not radically different from that of old – “leading of the Spirit.” “I am led,” the young man says. It’s more civil than the magisterial “Thus saith the Lord.” Suffice to say there’s no instance in scriptures where marriage is by prophetic declaration. The choice of marital partner is entirely man’s. But that’s not saying a young man or woman shouldn’t be led by God’s Spirit. That will be anti-scripture. The Spirit is our mentor. John 16:13. But when it comes to marriage God recognises individual preferences. There’s no generic standard for husband or wife. Standards of aesthetic appreciation differ from human to human. We have different backgrounds, different tastes, different worldviews, are shaped by different experiences. We desire different things. God recognises personalities. The apostles had different personalities. God used them all. It is most doubtful God will force you to marry who you don’t want or are not attracted to. Especially given the fact the consequence of that is depression. Jesus died to take away our sorrows so why would Jesus impose matrimonial sorrow on us? Depression is in the package of atonement. Isaiah 53:4.
When you marry someone you don’t want, someone you don’t love, someone you’re not attracted to, sex will prove daunting. You’ll barely tolerate your partner. In time he or she will be despised. If you’re not careful you may find yourself in extra marital relationship. Such a situation will distort your life in ways you can’t imagine. And one day you will look at yourself in the mirror and not recognise yourself. Spouses are not meant to be tolerated or alienated. So one must wonder when an unmarried young man with no life experience recommends a failed approach to marriage in ponderous tones on social media. Those who are wise will be quick to avoid theoretical pontifications. Such young men quote scriptures illiberally, most out of context. Pushing suppression theology they decree personal tastes and preferences in the opposite sex “worldliness” and “carnality.” There’s no arguing with such. It is pointless. Life will teach such a lesson or two. Only some lessons are not worth learning by experience. Tuition is cheaper. Proverbs 1.
It’s as if such people never read the story of Jacob and Leah. That’s a classic illustration of a loveless marriage that the plenitude of offspring couldn’t cure. Leah believed her husband will love her if she had a lot of children. Leah named her first born Reuben, saying, “The Lord has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me.” Genesis 29:32 NLT. He didn’t. She named her second son Simeon, saying, “The Lord heard that I was unloved and has given me another son.” Genesis 29:33 NLT. She named her third son Levi, saying, “Surely this time my husband will feel affection for me, since I have given him three sons!” Genesis 29:34 NLT. He didn’t. What a miserable marriage!
These things were written for our admonition. They are biographical case studies. In the scriptures we see Isaac caressing his wife. He was sensually attracted to her. Genesis 26:8. We see Jacob prefer Rachel’s beauty to Leah’s. The Bible takes time to tell us Rachel was “stunningly beautiful.” Genesis 29:17 MSG. We’re told she had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. Seems anatomy matters. Sarah was of course a sensation. Genesis 12:11-15. If physiognomy were irrelevant why would God regal us with the physical descriptions of these women? There’s surely a reason Song of Songs was included in the Bible. There are parts of that book that cannot be spiritualised. Read Song of Songs 7:1-9.
When “brokenness” is considered a condition precedent to choosing a marriage partner one has to be worried. These are radical ideologies masquerading as spiritual exhortation. Christianity is not communism. The challenge for many Christians is balance. And the scriptures are balanced when it comes to marriage. There’s a balance of spirituality, responsibility, sensuality and sexuality, as well as friendship and romance.
The other thing is that some people don’t want to take responsibility for marital choice, so they delegate responsibility to their spiritual mentor, usually their pastor. But the pastor cannot know you. He only knows about you. Your pastor cannot prescribe a wife for you. He has limited knowledge of anyone. There’s not one instance of marital divination in scriptures. If the marriage goes wrong, even if your pastor is to blame for erroneous consultancy service you suffer alone. And marriage is so deep. When it doesn’t work health suffers severely, especially mental and emotional health. Bad marriages have been known to send people to asylums.
You must take responsibility for your life. You must take responsibility for your choices. Get to know the person you want to marry before you make a commitment. That is wisdom. Don’t marry a stranger. That is gambling. Be honest with God about your desires. He knows them anyway. The man who can be honest with God will experience God’s mercy.
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org.The man who can be honest with God will experience God’s mercy. Click To Tweet Get to know the person you want to marry before you make a commitment. That is wisdom. Don’t marry a stranger. That is gambling. Click To Tweet