An Outside Perspective on Marriage and Parenting
Marriage and Parenting are the 2nd and 3rd most important of the 12 aspects of life. They say that the most crucial life decision outside your decision to follow Jesus is who (and if) you choose to marry.
As a single man, I am curious to know how much I would agree with G.K. Chesterton's quote on marriage. Who ever said early 20th-century authors couldn't make fantastic YouTube clickbait?
"Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline."
― G.K. Chesterton
As of this writing, I'm not married or dating. By extension, I'm lightyears removed from the wild, wonderful world of dad life.
As an outsider, here are reflections on our battle-tested Bible, the teaching I've heard, and the books I've read.
Before you read anything else by me on marriage, realize I probably read it here first.
Outside scripture, this is the best Christian treatment of marriage I've ever read:
Food for thought
Paul and Jesus gave scripture-level insight into the universal institution of marriage while they remained unmarried. First-hand knowledge does not trump wisdom we can trust directly from the Holy Spirit. Much of this insight is readily available to us too!
We find the powerful Proverbs, the sensual Song of Solomon, and family problems plaguing polygamist Pentateuch fathers. Prophetic references to marriage are open to exploration and reflection. Much of David's family life is openly explored as a central theme of his story. Let's remember the occasional outstanding Old Testament examples. But also realize many of the examples are cautionary tales.
Married people can provide powerful insight into single life, and single people can share powerful wisdom for marriage.
Everyone learns from surprising places when humble enough to receive advice. There are always things invisible to ourselves that are very apparent to others watching.
God created marriage. It's not merely a legal construct with tax benefits.
First comes light, the world, animals, one human, and then marriage. Don't forget the baby in the baby carriage. Two become one flesh. It's one man, one woman, and it's all good (for the most part).
Genesis displays the institution and infection of the first couple. From day one, we contend with sin and the curse of the fall.
We only combat sin when we acknowledge it's there.
We diagnose problems accurately when we understand the underlying causes. Knowing about sin in general and our weaknesses, in particular, is a considerable advantage.
Married couples play out the drama of fall and redemption in different ways. Married Christians reenact God's love for us in miniature. An excellent marriage will look, feel, and sound like a pleasant but slightly distorted version of God's love for us.
While it may not seem 当たり前 (obvious), healthy marriages are a powerful evangelistic witness. Christian marriages should be desirable. When a home is evidently full of love and grace, it's much easier to see God making that possible.
Our Bible starts with Holy Matrimony because God loves unity, diversity, and families. God instituted marriage to create deep companionship and encourage ongoing refinement into the character of Jesus. Exclusive, "til death do us part" commitment allows true love to take root and flourish. Sacred is an apt description of the most profound relationship given to one man and one woman.
Marriage requires change. This nearly unbreakable agreement enables men and women to overcome shortcomings by sticking with their beautiful and challenging course.
Men and women are different by design. These differences make us complementary and, at other times, foreign. Navigating this otherness will require changes and challenges foreign to a single life.
The Bible begins and ends with marriage. Every earthly wedding symbolizes the consummation of Jesus' love for us as his church. It's interesting to reflect on the number of wedding references and wedding-related parables in Jesus' ministry. John's Gospel records Jesus' first miraculous sign as making wine at a wedding feast. Getting married is precious to Jesus, who is excited to end a long engagement.
Classrooms need love, discipline, and boundaries as much as families do. My teaching experience with children is at least vaguely similar to parenting. Godly discipline with encouragement and affirmation of love is essential for each.
Parenting efforts can fail for similar reasons to marriage. Many non-Christians don't correct the variety of sinful tendencies in children because they can't see idolatry or other problems addressed by scripture.
Common idols include fame, money, success, looks, lovers, children, and even religious performance. If we serve idols like these, we necessarily pass similar dead worship to the little ones we love most.
Parenting must be a united effort from Mom and Dad, with continual reliance on the Holy Spirit for situational wisdom. Each child is different, requiring unique insight and additional strategies.
Besides faith in Jesus, a child's most important gift is two parents who genuinely love each other.
Unresolved spiritual matters between mothers and fathers threaten severe consequences for children. This is most pronounced when a non-Christian and Christian person marries; the children frequently end up with faulty foundations for faith.
They float around in limbo, hearing simultaneously that "Jesus is essential" and "nothing special." In trying to please both parents, many children need significant tie-breakers before coming to Jesus as Lord. Jesus said he would bring division, which is inevitable in certain families.
Perhaps parents hold to different Christian traditions; for the kiddos' sake, the family must faithfully decide where to attend together. Disunity in marriage is most damaging to the children's future.
Consider this recent sermon illustration by our pastor, Josiah, who likely heard it somewhere else. Presenting the world and Jesus as equally acceptable is like offering your child milk and poison simultaneously. We cannot honestly assure children that all worldviews are healthy and proper choices.
Christianity is either precisely the life Jesus said it was or nothing. We're unwise to argue with a perfect man, raised from the dead, who has taken our punishment on himself. Let's not pretend all worldviews have the same value or will end up in the same place.
Younger children require different discipline strategies than older children. Often younger children need immediate feedback for wrong attitudes and actions in the form of appropriate spanking.
Older children also need discipline and love. As a child begins to reason more effectively, punishments reflect more natural consequences for pursuing those actions. Children make connections between present and future actions more concretely as they grow.
According to our Paz Bible College course, the best-written manual for parenting in any culture or period is Proverbs.
That's my two cents. What are your experiences with marriage or parenting? Do you have any favorite bible passages about these essential topics?