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Young Christian Marriage = Marriage before the age of 25.

 

In the United States young marriage has been on a steady decline. The average age of marriage for a man and woman today is 30 yrs and 28 yrs (respectively) versus 1920 when those numbers were 24 yrs and 21 yrs (respectively). This trend is neither biblical nor wise. It stems from worldly thinking that is both selfish and satanic.

 

1. Young (Christian) marriage is the biblical paradigm. Covenant kids would enter into (their first) marriages between 12 to 20 years of age (Mar 5:39-42 “girl” [Grk., korasion]) = Unique word referring to a young girl who has gone through puberty [sexually mature] and ready for marriage (See LXX, Gen 24:4; Ruth 2:5; Zec 8:5 “boys and girls [Grk., korasion] playing in the streets” = More accurately, sexually mature boys and girls dancing in the public square for the purpose of seeking out a spouse (e.g., Jug 21:14-23 w/Exo 32:6; See also Mat 14:6-11 “girl” [Grk., korasion]). Hence the reason Solomon can speak of “the wife of your youth” (Pro 5:18 = Wife taken at a young age). This is the time also when Christ speaks of taking Israel as His bride (Eze 16:7-8 “your breasts were formed…you were at the time for love” = At the age of sexual maturity). Joseph and Mary (Jesus’ parents), were also married (betrothed – Mat 1:18) at a young age. Scholars believe they were between the ages of 12 and 16.

 

2. The false assumptions made by many ignorant people is that shorter lifespans and the necessity to produce many children were the only reasons for the young marriage model of the Bible (or ancient times). In reality, sexual purity was another equally important reason (1Co 7:1-9 w/36) (36a) “past her youth” (the expected time when marriage would occur) = Paul’s instruction (in vv1-9) is in respect to the young, those who are beginning to experience strong sexual urges. His prescription? Get married (v9 – “it is better to marry than to burn with passion”[alternate interpretation = “burn in hell”]). (36b)“if…he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin” = The father’s neglect/refusal to find his daughter a husband (arrange a marriage for his daughter during her younger years) is ignoring his daughter’s natural sexual desires- as well as putting at risk her ability to remain sexually pure. (36c) “If it must be so” = She has not been given the gift of celibacy and therefore needs to be married so as to secure satisfy her sexual desires and maintain sexual purity. This is the same reason Paul commands young widows to pursue remarriage (1Ti 5:11). This is also the reason betrothals are to be no longer than 6 months (See document, The Biblical Model For Marriage).

 

3. Numerous studies confirm the biblical paradigm of young marriage to be the wisest for Christians – i.e., young married Christians/religious people are far more likely to achieve happiness, stability and permanence (not divorce) than those who are not religious and/or wait.

 

3.1. “There’s a general assumption – so widespread that it no longer requires demonstration – that in order to have a high-quality and lasting marriage, it’s necessary first to finish college, start a successful career, and then look for a partner with the same qualifications. Despite the ease of divorce, marriage is still perceived as being characterized by exclusivity, fidelity, and permanence. As a consequence, another idea that has become widely shared and promoted before embarking on such a definitive commitment is to give the relationship “a test drive” first — a period of cohabitation — to see how being together within the same walls works when you have shopping and chores to do, work commitments to juggle, and perhaps already a child to raise. Willingly or unwillingly, we have borrowed this popular approach to marriage from a consumer [worldly] mindset: before confirming a purchase, I need to test whether the product or service meets my expectations. But the sociological research shows that this is not the best approach when it comes to marriage [emphasis mine].Psychologist Galena Rhoades, who studies young adult relationships, argues that:

‘We generally think that having more experience is better [or getting to know the person for longer is better].

But what we find for relationships is just the opposite. Having more experience was related to having a less happy marriage later on. For example, we found that people who had been married before, people who had lived with a boyfriend or girlfriend before, and having had more sexual partners before marriage, were each associated with having lower marital quality later on.’ Sociology professor and director of the National Marriage Project (University of Virginia), W. Bradford Wilcox… showed in a study how much more efficient the so-called traditional and much disparaged model is: ‘The conventional wisdom holds that spending your twenties focusing on education, work and fun, and then marrying around 30 is the best path to maximize your odds of forging a strong and stable family life. But the research tells a different story, at least for religious couples [emphasis mine]. Saving cohabitation for marriage, and endowing your relationship with sacred significance, seems to maximize your odds of being stably and happily married.’” – Paola Belletti (“Research shows that marrying relatively young without living together first results in the most durable marriages”)

 

3.2. The point not to miss: Research confirms that Christian (religious) couples marrying young have a better chance for marital success than those who are older, deciding to pursue other life goals first or (because of waiting) have had more romantic and sexual encounters. In respect to the last, sociologists posit this may be due to the fact that the more romantic relationships and sexual encounters a person has (pre-marital), the more accustomed they become to severing and surviving the bonds created by such relationships and encounters making them more likely to do the same in their marriages when things get rough.

 

4. The Bible provides the answers to why Christians getting married young is indeed the wise choice:

 

4.1. because sexual purity is still a priority with God and marriage is His solution (1Th 4:1-6 “how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor” [which includes thru marriage based on v.6]; 1Co 7:2 “because of immoralities” = The solution to sexual immorality is marriage [e.g., parents w/immoral sons and daughters sb praying for them to find a spouse]).

 

4.2. because time is on their side (Ecc 4:9-12) = The key to possessing the benefits of verses – i.e., security/stability financially (9), emotionally (10), and physically (11-12a) is only achieved where you have the ingredients found in “a cord of three” (12b): 1) a marriage (first and second cords) and 2) time (third cord). Not experience, but time. Young married couples therefore gain the advantage of this third and vitally important ingredient. Time is on their side – meaning they have the potential to achieve sooner – and enjoy longer, the benefits of financial, emotional and physical stability. As the saying goes, “the sooner you are strong, the longer you will run”.

 

4.3. because the ultimate key to marital success is not prior knowledge or experience but a commitment to covenant faithfulness (Gen 24:62-67) “loved her” = Gave himself fully in covenant faithfulness to her. Consider that Isaac did this without copious amounts of knowledge or experience with respect to Rebekah’s personality, personal tastes or habits. This because covenant faithfulness does not require such knowledge or experience in order to be successful since what determines faithfulness is not the person or the reception of favorable circumstances in the future, but the covenant itself – i.e., my faithfulness is to the covenant not the person (Gen 2:24 – “The blood of the [marriage] covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”[1]). As self-programmed robots with stupid computers (computers that don’t attempt to reason you out of your stupid decisions), what you make the target of success will determine when your brain sends you the feeling of satisfaction/happiness (e.g., kid winning or losing at Chutes and Ladders). When that target does not change, it becomes easier to hit – or receive such emotional reward, strengthening our commitment to it. Covenant gives us that kind of target, people (including the people we are married to) do not. Unlike covenant, they change – making it harder to receive the same satisfaction we experienced in the past. Once more, however, when we live for the covenant (being faithful to it as our target of success- and not the person themselves) we continue throughout our lives to receive satisfaction (even if that person is difficult or disappointing). As long as the covenant remains intact, our potential for continued satisfaction remains intact. The worldly idea of “try before you buy” – or get to know the person (sexually or otherwise) to make sure there is a good fit, infers that the goal of marriage is selfish and satanic – i.e., self-gratification/glorification is the highest goal in life – which includes our marriages (Gen 3:5), versus what the bible teaches: the highest goal in marriage is covenant faithfulness/fidelity.

Lastly, it must be mentioned that this is by Divine design. We were designed by God to find our greatest joy, happiness and feelings of affection in the pursuit of covenant faithfulness. Hence the reason also that our yes is to be yes and our no is to be no. Not simply for the purpose of being righteous, but so that we might experience the joy of covenant faithfulness (since that is what we are making when we make verbal commitments [“yes” and “no”] to others). Two examples from marriage that prove covenant fidelity is how we are designed (or at the core of what truly makes us happy): 1) the increased sense of commitment and affection we experience when imagining our spouse becoming disabled, 2) the greater happiness experienced by those in arranged marriages. Multiple studies show those in arranged marriages tend to be happier for longer than those in non-arranged marriages (For consideration see the short article by Paul Bentley, “Why an arranged marriage ‘is more likely to develop into lasting love’”). Our move away from arranged marriages is actually a detriment since it puts the focus on self rather than covenant fidelity (and therefore sets us up for failure/unhappiness). Given the current social climate, and the false idea that a person needs to feel love before they can commit to love, it would be almost impossible to return to this more ideal framework for marriage without causing undue harm to the covenant community[2].

 

5. In biblical times, sexual maturity was not the only factor determining when a child could/would marry. Mental maturity (or being recognized as a adult) was also a factor. Unlike today however, children reached mental maturity at – or around, the same time they were becoming sexually mature (e.g., Bar Mitzvah [male] = 13 yrs old.; Bat mitzvah [female] = 12 yrs old). Hence allowing them to be married at a much younger age than today. The deficiencies associated with the modern American models of parenting, education and justice make it hard to consider most children today as mentally mature until the age of 18. Wisdom therefore dictates that this be the general rule when determining the minimum age acceptable for our Christian youth to marry (though exceptions do exist).

 

[1] Since it is a marriage covenant we enter into w/Christ and His church when we become Christians, this principle applies here as well. Our loyalty to Christ and his church supersedes all other relationships. Hence Mat 10:32-39. It is our marriage covenant w/Christ that also proves this principle to be valid. We come to Christ knowing very little about the Christian life – or what the future may hold, yet are able to be happy and successful – irrespective of such ignorance.

[2] Given the biblical understanding, how should we view feelings of love (e.g., “I am in love with him/her”)? A nice but unnecessary enhancement that can add extra motivation to our pursuit of marriage with the right person. Never however should it function as the piece determining who that person is.