12 September 2012
The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." Matthew 19:10
Watching the bears at the zoo is a favorite pastime in Bern, Switzerland. John Phillips tells how that at one time there were two pits of brown bears with a male and female in each den. He writes, "As I watched from above one day, the male below me climbed the tree to a point where he could look down over the wall into the other's pit. Gazing with longing at the female on the other side, he curled his lips and uttered low plaintive sobs. Meanwhile, the other male had climbed his tree to gaze mournfully across the wall at the first bear's mate."
"It's obvious," he remarked to the keeper standing nearby, "that these two couples are not well matched. Why don't you change partners?" "I do," said the bear keeper with resignation, "every month!"
Bears are not the only ones who change partners, but bears are not people and people are not bears. Our first father, Adam, was created by the hand of the Almighty and was endowed with intelligence, communication, and the ability to reason and think. "Yes," some would add, "and so are animals," yet lacking among lower species is the commitment of a marriage that embraces the pledge of fidelity.
Only a public relations stint would include a wedding for Mr. and Mrs. Brown Bear, but in recent days weddings for those who come to watch the bears are getting fewer and fewer. In recent days the whole institution of marriage has become fractured and neglected. As long as male hormones are raging and women want to be esteemed and loved, couples will cohabitate. Then why are so many today hesitant to commit to a long-term marriage?
Reason #1: The mentality of give it a try to make sure you are good for each other. The parallel is before you buy them, try on a pair of shoes to make sure they fit, and perhaps even wear them for a few days. If you don't like the feel, or what you get is not what you saw, or another pair displayed in a different store looks more attractive, then take them back for a refund or exchange. This one refuses to recognize that people are not shoes. There is a psychological binding when you have a sexual relationship with each other--a powerful one for women in particular.
Reason #2: Weddings are too expensive. That's entirely true, yet it is no justification for no wedding. Lost is the dream a little girl grows up with, the joy of celebrating your love with family and friends, the security of going public with your commitment, and the security of knowing you have a partner who has vowed before God to be there in good times and bad.
Reasons #3: Weddings are no guarantee of happiness. This is both true and false. Obviously it's no guarantee, but the commitment which a marriage requires goes far beyond the "I'll just move out if we agree to disagree” relationship of living together. A marriage license is a piece of paper, but so is a birth certificate, and the slip of paper which has the winning numbers of the lottery on it, and the pages of the Bible which give you the certainty of what God asks of us.
Reason #4: Once burned, twice shy. Usually it is men who want the easy no-commitment, I get what I want and you get me" relationship of just living together. People who have been unhappily married are less prone to marry again than those who have never been married.
Changing partners never changes people. As an anonymous writer put it: "It is not marriage that fails; it is people that fail. All that marriage does is show people up." (As quoted by George Sweeting, Who Said That?", p. 319).
Resource reading: Matthew 19.