A recent article in the Wall Street Journal indicates that young couples are increasingly co-habitating and putting off getting married till later. Couples today feel that they need to reach a certain degree of economic stability before they enter into matrimony and, with the economy the way it is, that economic stability seems elusive to many. Add on to this that many couples today are not comfortable going to church if they are not married because they feel they will be judged. Joining into a Christian community does not seem viable to them at this stage of their lives despite the fact that they are having children and are facing many issues with which churches could offer help. And we might just be waiting for a long time if we wait for the economy to get back in gear (and by then, will the emphasis/need still be seen in the same way?).
In church, we base our ideals for morality based upon the Bible. Yet in Biblical times, people got married in their mid to late teens (especially young women). When we apply Biblical standards on our society, we need to recognize that nowhere in the Bible is God advocating that humans should wait until they are in their mid to late twenties to get married (the norm in our society today). We therefore set up a dilemma for many young Christians because they do not see how to abide by the standards that are set for them (don’t get married until you are through with college or can support a spouse and/or child and do not have physical contact with the opposite sex until you are married).
I have two “horses in this race” as it were. I am concerned as a minister that people live a righteous life before God. But I am also concerned as a parent and don’t want my children to rush off and get married once they start dating in their mid-teens. So what is the answer?
I think we do need to be open to all who come to worship God. There is no commandment in the Bible that we should exclude people from church that do not meet our moral/ethical judgments. This doesn’t mean that we advocate couples living together outside of marriage but neither does it mean that we judge/condemn them. I think it also means that we need to let go of the idea that young couples need to be 100% self sufficient the moment they say, “I Do.” I guarantee you in Biblical times, when a young man and woman were married their parents did not send them off to fend for themselves. They were expected to become self-sufficient but were not cut off from all support once they were married. I do not think it would hurt our society a bit if the average age of matrimony dropped back into the early twenties as it was in the not so distant past. How many of our WW2 veterans and their spouses waited till their late twenties to get married?
It is a complex issue and most of all, we need to emphasize the importance of everyone, at all ages, keeping an active relationship with God and that includes being a participant in a worshiping community. We need to take away the image, “need not apply if you don’t meet our standards.” And young couples need to recognize that it is more important that they participate than receive the universal acclaim of their peers. And if they are with someone they believe is the person to be with for the rest of their lives, they need to get married. Sometimes, maybe more than sometimes, God calls on us to step out in faith.
What do you think?
Until next time,