There is a very wrong conception about "love marriage" among the believers. As one preacher in Kerala said, "no one should get marry before they love each other." Love does not start after marriage rather love leads to marriage. The most important example given to us in the Bible is of the Church and Jesus Christ.". We have the examples of Adam & Eve, Isaac & Rebekah in the OT.
Marriage is not just an affair between a man and a woman. Nor is it just a matter between the families concerned. It has got much wider scope and implications since God is the founder of this institution.
In Gen: 1:27 and 2:18-24 the Scriptures tell us that God created man as male and female and established an inseparable life together. God has also given us clear guidelines, through the examples and teachings of the Apostles for carrying on this relationship in this world.
In the Old Testament we have the examples of Adam, the first man, and Isaac the promised seed of Abraham. Then in the New Testament we have a much better picture of Christ and His Church.
What are some of the lessons we may call from these examples?
Gen.1:27, 28 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth”.
Though man had such an exalted position over the creation, there still was an indeterminate need in him. We read in Gen 2:20 that, “In all the creation of God Adam did not find a helper compatible to him”. The expression ‘did not find’ indicates that he was looking for one. God recognized this need. So God said “it is not good for man to be alone” (Ch.2: 18) God Himself made a provision, as we read in Verses 20 and 21 of Chapter 2. God separated a rib-the female part-from Adam and a woman was made and was brought to the man. Adam found in her something that he has been looking for in other creation so intently, (‘A helpmate-a compatible helper’) but could not find. She was the bone out of his bones and the flesh out of his flesh. Adam accepted what God has provided and his need was met.
Isaac’s need for a bride was recognized by his father Abraham and he took the initiative in finding a solution. But he did not do the choosing for his son. He left it to God and depended upon the leading of the Holy Spirit. Isaac accepted God’s choice without any question or complaint. (Gen 24:67). His bride did not come without a price. (Gen: 24:53) Jewelry of silver, gold and clothing were given to her and her household.
It was the desire of God the father to provide a bride for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The bride was chosen by God Himself, and was given to Christ. (“Of all He has given me”. John 6:39, “My father who has given them to me” John 10:29). But Christ paid the price to redeem His bride.
How sad it is that, today we, though claim to have understood the Word of God clearly, have neglected these Biblical teachings for the sake of earthly gains? We have taken some of the practices from the heathen society in which we grew up and tried to match it with the Word of God. We have not paid any attention to the principles taught in the Bible. Both the Eastern and Western ways are equally evil and heathen.
In the East (India) marriages are traditionally arranged by parents. They fix up certain criteria for the bride to be, such as dowry, family status, physical beauty, educational qualification, profession etc. When the girl satisfies most of these, they say it is the will of God. But the fact is that neither the parents nor the bridegroom did ever seek the will of God! They were following their own hearts’ earthly desires. The practice of seeing several girls, as “proposed brides” must be condemned, as it is nothing but a beauty contest and evil in itself.
In the West young people find their own life partners after courting and changing several partners. They go out and spend time together and even try living together to find out if they are ‘compatible’. After dating several partners they finally decide on one and get married, only to find out, after all, they have married the wrong person! This should be condemned with the strongest disapproval, as the most pagan practice of all. It is against the Word of God. It is just a permissive, licentious living, simply to fulfill their fleshly desires.
Let us look at the lessons from the examples given to us:
1. God understands the need of man and it is God who makes the provision to meet this need. It never fails – we should allow God to bring His choice before us. We are to wait upon Him prayerfully.
2. The first wife was made out of Adam’s body; they had a common origin, the family of God. Abraham made his servant to swear that he will not take a wife for his son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom he dwelt, but shall go to his country and to his family, and take a wife for Isaac. The principle here is: Both the partners should be from the same family, the family of God-not from the community we live in, nor the culture we are accustomed to, but of the family of God. A child of God should only marry a child of God.
3. The bride was chosen by God. Neither the bridegroom nor the bride, nor their families had any role in the choice. Eve was presented before Adam and he accepted her without any questions. The Church, the bride of Christ was chosen by God and Christ accepted all that are given to Him.
It is often heard from many a pulpit that Isaac’s marriage was arranged by Abraham and therefore all marriages must be arranged by parents. It is a distortion of the truth. This idea comes from our culture in which we live and our desire to Christianize it. In fact Abraham had nothing to do in choosing a bride for his son. He depended upon God, (Gen 24:12-20) and trusted Him fully to bring the right choice for his son.
4. The bride and bridegroom recognized each other as God’s chosen partners and accepted each other. To recognize the leading of God, both the partners should be in fellowship with God and seek His will. In Gen: 24:63 Isaac was in fellowship with God at the time he met Rebecca. Adam was in fellowship with God. Jesus was in constant communion with God the Father. They all accepted God’s choice for them as soon as they met-realizing that they are meeting God’s own choice. There was no consultation with anyone. God will never fail a person who is seeking His will and trusting Him to do His job. God is sovereign. He will never make a mistake. Let us leave to God what He desires to do for us. The root cause of most of today’s marital problems is that the couples have not sought God’s will in their life. Rather they depended on their own or their parents wisdom and discretion in finding a compatible partner.
5. Abraham took the initiative in seeking a bride for Isaac. It was the desire of the God the father to provide a bride for His Son and He sent His Son to purchase her. All through the Bible wherever marriage is mentioned, we see the same principle repeated. Man takes the initiative in seeking a bride. Whereas in Indian culture we wait for the girl’s party to come to the boy first. It is again a conformation to the heathen culture and not a Biblical model.
6. The price must be paid to the bride. Abraham sent gold ornaments and dress to adorn his son’s well equipped for a woman to live, as Sara lived there for long time.
7. A unique lesson is taught in the relationship between Christ and the Church.
The Church today is betrothed to Christ and not married. They are in an engagement period. During this period she is to love Him and get to know Him, and wait for His coming in all fidelity and chastity, to take her home to be with Him, for the consummation of the marriage. Christ will, never take strangers to His wedding feast. Those who are betrothed to Him are washed and sanctified by His precious blood. They are expected to know Him intimately and to be conformed to His likeness while they await His coming. Such are the ones who will accompany Him to the wedding feast.
The idea of an engagement period is often considered unimportant for many reasons. But it is Biblical. A couple has to get to know each other and develop a love-bond between them during this period before they are formally married and begin a family life. Learning to love after marriage is not the Biblical pattern. Dating and courting as it is practiced in the Western society should only be done during this time. Such things are not essentially wrong, after two people have known God’s choice for them and have decided to accept each other. In fact such a period might be necessary to understand each other and develop a strong affection for one another. Dating and courting are not necessary to find out God’s will and are not acceptable before knowing God’s will, before making a firm decision to accept one another. It should be remembered that, it is possible for even a highly spiritual couple to become prey to the desires of flesh. So, utmost care must be taken to avoid any possibility of yielding to temptations. Engagement does not give a license to do all what they want.
The book of Song of Solomon is not only an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the Church. It also portrays the love between a bride and her bridegroom in a romantic setting. That is why such an explicit language is used. A couple is encouraged to develop this kind of love and romance between them during the engagement period just as the church is expected to develop this spiritual intimacy with Christ while she is in the world. Bible never gives any freedom for physical intimacy before marriage. They are to live separately and not to ‘come together’ until they are united in holy matrimony. It is also clear in the writings of the apostles.
In the book of SoSo. the Holy Spirit gives some clear guidelines and steps of restrains a couple should maintain. Ch.2:7 “I charge you… …..” This chorus is repeated in ch.3:5 and in ch.8:4. In the first two places it was before marriage or during their engagement period while they continued to cultivate their love. This expression is clearly is the evidence of her commitment to a chaste life before and during the marriage. She invites accountability to the daughters of Jerusalem. She knows that the intensity of her love to her beloved cannot yet be experienced until the wedding. So she invites the daughters of Jerusalem to keep her accountable regarding her sexual purity. This is a good example to be followed by every couple before marriage. This will help a couple to keep themselves from falling in to lustful temptations and keep themselves pure during courtship.
In ch.8:1 she says if you were my brother I would have kissed you outside without being embarrassed. This indicates that she withdrew herself from publically expressing her love to her husband even after marriage. By this time the marriage already took place(Ch.5). Yet it was not suitable or fitting to the culture to express their love in public. It was acceptable for a sister to express her love to her brother in public. But, not between husband and wife. So she restrained herself and waited until they are in a privet circumstance.
Young couple should take this very seriously. You have three generations of people before you. Before you involve in any act of affection in public you must consider these three generations. While some form of expression is acceptable to your generation will it be acceptable to the older generation and will it be an example to the younger generation, will it offend anyone? Will it create confusion and dishonor to the Lord or bring harmony and honor to the Lord?
Throughout the Bible wherever the topic of marriage is discussed, it speaks of man ‘taking’ a wife for him and the woman ‘given’ in marriage. (Luke 20:34). Christ also speaks about the one that are given to Him by the Father (John 6:39; 10:29). Isaac took Rebecca (Gen 24:67) and she was given (Gen 24:51). This teaching is evident in Paul’s writings also. The man has the right to take a wife for himself, but not without the permission of her parents. She has to be given in marriage. The mystery concerning Christ and the Church is being unraveled progressively through this picture of a man and a woman coming together according to the design of God.