The Marriage Covenant
If you're married or you've been to a wedding recently, you probably remember hearing the words "I do!" This often quoted marriage vow is of course only part of a larger litany of commitments couples share with each other on their wedding day. I [Groom’s name], do you take [Bride’s name] to be your wedded wife, to live together in marriage? Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to her, for as long as you both shall live?
As promises go, this is a strong declaration. This type of vow is a solemn promise that is made and can withstand life's struggles and challenges. In the Bible, we call this a covenant. Most couples don’t have a full understanding of what a marriage covenant involves. Many think of marriage as a simple contract or special type of promise. As I talk to more and more young people, I’m struck by how little they discuss marriage with family, friends, or even pastors before they make this commitment.
I think because Leon and I had a long-distance relationship, we spent a lot of time considering the decision we were making. As a result, we enrolled in a pre-marital class with an experienced couple. This gave Leon and I the start we needed. Part of the class involved reading a book and discussing marriage topics during weekly meetings so that by the time we said, “I do” we knew what the words really meant. Leon and I knew deep in our hearts that God would help us have the marriage He intended for us to have.
What is a covenant? A covenant is a commitment before God, each other, family and the community to remain steadfast in unconditional love, reconciliation and sexual purity, while purposefully growing in the marriage relationship. People can negotiate out of contracts, but not out of a covenant. The heart of covenant marriage is “the steadfast love of the Lord,” which comes from the very heart of God and “never ceases” (Lam. 3:22, RSV). Marriage is a covenant relationship between two people before God. The giving of your life to your spouse as Jesus gave His life for us is at the heart of the covenant relationship. Keep this in mind if you're separated or considering divorce. You've made a promise before God and man to stay committed to your spouse.
Although this type of commitment might sound limiting, it actually brings great freedom. No longer do you need to weigh which person or way of life will bring more happiness. Once you've said "I do!" all your energy goes into making the commitment work. No longer are other possibilities a distraction. You've promised to stay faithful to your spouse "till death do you part".