Well, tomorrow is the big day here at the Mueller house as I walk a daughter down the aisle for the first time. Excitement is building. . . as is nervousness. Lord, help me to be anything but an emotional mess! As we’ve been thinking lots about weddings and marriages here at our house this week, I thought it would be good to finish up our three part series on marriage in today’s culture.
As a parent or youth worker, you’re called and uniquely positioned to systematically work to redeem and restore marriage in ways that rewrite the convincing cultural script your kids have come to believe. You stand between two worlds – the world of the Word of God and the world of today’s culture. Your calling is to bring the light of God’s Word on marriage to bear on the marriage messages they encounter each and every day in their world. Here are some strategies you can use to help your kids understand and embrace marriage, both now and for the rest of their lives.
First, teach them that marriage is part of God’s grand and glorious plan. Walk them through the Creation account (Genesis 1-3) to get them to see that God is the maker of marriage. Help them to understand that if He made it, He should be entitled to define it and rule over it. If they want to understand and experience the joy of what marriage was meant to be, they need to consult with the Maker of marriage.
Second, define, define, and keep defining marriage according to the Maker’s manual. God’s design for marriage brings one man and one woman together into a binding covenantal promise that they will commit to each other through all of life’s ups and downs without wavering or caving. . . even when their feelings tell them to do otherwise. I suggest that you read, study, and teach from two wonderful books on biblical marriage: Timothy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage and Paul Tripp’s What Did You Expect?
Third, re-define “love” in light of God’s Word. Culture has somehow succeeded over the course of time to transform “love” from a willful decision to commit to another, into a feeling. While infatuation might feel pretty doggone exciting, wonderful, and good, it’s only a feeling. It never, ever remains. Neither can it be the foundation for a marriage. Drawing the distinction between other-serving love that gives to another and self-serving love that makes me feel good might be one of the greatest favors we could ever do for our students and their future spouses.
Fourth, debunk the cultural myths and lies about marriage. As I mentioned before, they’re all right there in large portion in the cultural soup your kids swim in every day. Ignoring them will not make them go away. Instead, you need to recognize their presence, explain their influence, and expose their fallacies under the light of God’s Word. Always remember that great patience is required as you address these cultural realities. They are pervasive and convincing. Your students have all bought in . . . incorporating aspects into their beliefs and behaviors. It will take time for God’s Spirit to work through you as you tell the truth.
Fifth, expose your students to examples of what God intended marriage to be. Start with your own marriage. Let your kids know how you and your spouse understand and manage your marriage in the midst of a culture that’s hostile to Biblical marriage. Take your kids to a Christian wedding. Afterwards, hold your own “reception” with to process what just took place. Talk about the covenant of marriage, the vows, and the place that the Lord should hold in a couple’s marital relationship.
Finally, be forthright about the challenges, difficulties, and delights that will be encountered by all couples. After all, we are broken people marrying broken people. Together, our marriage in a sinful and fallen world will never be perfect. Anticipating the inevitability of struggles goes a long way in preparing your students to live out the marriage covenant when the feeling to do so might disappear or wane. Invite Christian married couples who are at different stages in their marriage journey (newlyweds, 10 years married, 25 years married, 50 years married, etc.) to share their stories and field questions from kids.
I sometimes wonder if the best and most truthful advice our kids have ever heard from culture on marriage come from that now-famous cleric who officiated at the wedding in The Princess Bride! Remember his words? “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.” OK. . . there’s some good stuff in there. But we need to do better. What’s been done to marriage in our culture needs to be undone with the glorious reality of marriage by God’s design. Commit yourself to teaching, modeling, and promoting that message of covenant love.