Sunday, September 26, 2010

Toward a Theology of Marriage - Interlude

I began this series a while ago and realized that I bit off more than I could chew (given the time constraints of my life!) So, while I do want to look at biblical models of marriage, I am going to jump ahead a bit. I've been thinking lots about marriage lately. I am more and more convinced that the problem is one of language. The problem I see is that words like vow, covenant, and even to some extent the word promise, are not functional in modern vocabulary. Partly because they aren't part of our language of commerce - you don't vow to do anything with retailers, and while you might promise that promise is based on a contract which is specifically designed to deal with the failure of meeting those promises. So in our culture marriage is envisioned in more contractual terms than covenantial terms. The promises have a different character in covenant.

I am thinking about how God treats covenant. It seems to me that our theology of Israel has a lot to do with the shift in thinking about covenant. If we feel that God simply gave up on the covenant with Israel then it is really just a contract that failed. But the first testament seems to show God patiently renewing covenant, over and over again. So if we instead interpret Jesus' as both heightening and widening the covenant to include all those who would place their trust in God, then we have a God who takes covenant a lot more seriously than a contract.

Certainly, there are benefits to the covenant being intact, just as there are problems when that covenant is ignored or taken for granted. Just take your spouse for granted a bit and see if this isn't true! But that doesn't necessarily break the covenant. One party needs to necessarily opt out of the covenant for that to happen - and if the prodigal son story tells us anything it seems that even this does not deny that covenant becomes the most desired state of relationship between God and humanity - so why not also with those who are married?

I am musing here. Rambling theologically. But it gives you a sense of what my mind has been wrestling with. At some point I will take up this series again and dig into the textual examples. Not in a Grudemesque manner, lining them up to try and figure out what God definitively says about marriage, but in a search for wisdom. How have the people of God wrestled with the formation of families.

Yesterday I had the awesome privilege of marrying a couple from our church. It was an amazing service. Many asked me where we got the service from. Really I work with the couple and put together something that will call them to a covenant relationship, declare God's blessing and allow all who have come to stand with the couple with the common desire that they can and will make it in a world where marriage has taken on an air of convenience. One lady told me the service brought her to tears. When I heard the vows that the couple had prepared I almost ended up in tears! It was that good. I'm including a picture for your enjoyment.


Chris Tilling said...

Nice post

"we have a God who takes covenant a lot more seriously than a contract"

YES, and Amen!

Thank God this is the case, too, or we would all be in trouble.

byron smith said...

Looking forward to hearing more thoughts on this.

And you could also post their vows (if they are happy for you to do so).

One of Freedom said...

They had two sets of vows actually - we did a traditional hand fasting set which were really nice. But they never gave me the ones they had prepared. I'll see if Sarah posts them on her blog and put up a pointer.