In our post-modern, do-what-feels-good culture, many foundational beliefs have come under harsh scrutiny. One of these is the view of marriage. Nowadays, if something doesn’t make you happy, you throw it out or give it back. Such is the case with anything from abortion to online shopping. In some instances, such as buying disposable products, there is nothing wrong with this. However, when it comes to the destruction of human life (i.e., abortion, euthanasia), it is not morally acceptable under any circumstances. Marriage has also become subject to the same issue. Divorce, homosexual marriages, affairs, and the like have become almost the norm. Was marriage intended to be this way? Certainly God must have had a better plan in mind, and He did.
Where did the institution of marriage begin, even the idea for marriage; where did it come from? The answer comes surprisingly soon in the Bible. In Genesis 2:24, Moses reminds us of the origin and requirements of marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” What about the purpose of marriage? That comes even earlier, in Genesis 1:28 to be specific. “Then God blessed the, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it . . .” In Genesis 3, we find the distribution of authority in the marriage: “‘. . . Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16) The men are to have the role of leadership and authority in the marriage. That doesn’t mean they always do the best job of it, but nevertheless that is God’s design. It is worthy of note that the sinful desire for women to have rule over their husbands resulted from the Fall. Thus, one result of sin was more difficulty in following God’s design for the marriage relationship.
As the narratives of Genesis and throughout the rest of the Old Testament progress, we see the effect of sin on the sanctity of marriage. Many of the wholesome desires that God ordained to be fulfilled within the context of matrimony were abused in evil and morally degrading ways. Polygamy (Genesis 4), homosexuality (Genesis 19), prostitution (Genesis 38), rape (Judges 19), adultery (2 Samuel 11), and many more evils were performed by the people of Israel and pagans alike. All these acts were specifically and utterly condemned in the Law of Moses (see Exodus 20, Leviticus 18, etc.).
But God’s standards didn’t change in the New Testament. Jesus sets the precedent that God still desires that the marriage covenant be honored (see Mark 10). Through Paul also, God relates to us the standards of marriage (see 1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5:22-33, Titus 2:1-10). In these passages we see that Paul’s main concern for women is submission to their husbands, just we saw in Genesis 3:16. But the guys aren’t off the hook on this one. Not only are they to be godly authoritative figures in their families, but they are to sacrificially love their wives as Christ also loved the church (Ephesians 5:25).
While the Bible does give us an excellent basis for marriage, there are a lot of things that it doesn’t, even couldn’t, talk about. Some problems in marriages that come about today didn’t happen two thousand years ago when Paul or Peter or Mark penned the words. But God knew that He couldn’t address every issue, past, present, and future. He is a practical God, after all. Right before a major passage concerning marriage in the New Testament, Paul reminds us of this truth: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Essentially what Paul is saying here is that, under the New Covenant, anything that God doesn’t condemn in one way or another is acceptable. However, he says that not everything is helpful. So, those things that are acceptable might not always be helpful. What we first must do is to line up the issue at hand with the Word of God. If there is a warning against such an act, right then and there, you’ll know it’s wrong. But if it’s not stated, implied, or divined from the text in any way, we have to look at it objectively. Is this going to be profitable to my marriage, to my relationship with my brother in Christ, etc.? Paul leaves that up to us to decide. The point is, what’s acceptable for one person, might cause another person to entertain sinful thoughts. This is what distinguishes Paul’s approach from situational morality. The issue might cause one person to think sinfully, while to another it is completely fine and causes no problems. Situational ethics applies this to everything.
Obviously then, I am looking for a spouse who fits the qualifications of Scripture. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have to do anything. To be a good match for my future spouse, I have to fulfill my part of the covenant, as outlined in God’s Word.
However, Scripture doesn’t take into account my own personality or my own likes, dislikes, or character qualities. In fact, since the Bible wasn’t specifically written for me (or any one person), it can’t do this. Therefore, not every woman who fulfills the qualifications of Scripture is going to be “the one” for me.
In looking for a fitting wife for myself, I would definitely want someone who is kind, caring, and compassionate. Someone who loves kids, loves her family, and will love me. One of the most important things to me would be someone that I can serve God comfortably with, whether it be sharing the gospel, stacking chairs, singing, maintenance, etc.
I also recognize that God has specific timing in these kinds of relationships. Going on a search for a future spouse may not be according to God’s will. When He thinks the time is right, He will bring that person into your life. Also, for certain people, God has ordained them for singleness. Paul even said that he wished all were as himself, meaning single (1 Corinthians 7:7). That doesn’t mean that God wants us all to be single, in fact, many missionary men, pastors, and other well-known servants of God were married and their wives provided much help to them where being single might have left them lacking.
Prayer is also a huge part of not only seeking a future spouse, but also for anything that the Christian encounters in his walk with God. I believe that if the person that you’re interested in fulfills the requirements of Scripture and lines up with the majority of your own preferences, has the approval of both sets of parents, and God has brought them into your life for the purpose of serving God together through your marriage covenant, that person is the one for you.