It’s September, which means it’s football season!!! All of the hard work teams put in during the offseason will now be on display for the public to enjoy over the next four to five months.
Much of that offseason effort went into acquiring the best players at negotiated prices dependent upon skill, health, time, and various other factors. For the 2017 season, Matthew Stafford, quarterback for the Detroit Lions, comes in as the league’s highest paid player with a whopping $27 million deal (see http://www.nfl.com/photoessays/0ap3000000809063).
They call these negotiated agreements “contracts.”
Whether it’s sports, entertainment, housing, labor, or various other business contexts, we live in a contract-oriented society.
In general, a contract guarantees that persons and businesses will live up to their claims. It’s an agreement by two or more parties, signified by signatures, that they will all do something. If a party fails to fulfill its end of the agreement, then legal action will force the predetermined or equitable outcome.
Question: If we live in a contract-oriented society, where does this leave marriage? Is love, culminating in bond of marriage, just another form of “business” transactions between parties?
The Scriptures provide a much deeper, more beautiful picture for marriage: covenant. And although a covenant may involve contracts (as our society requires), there is an extreme difference between the two.
The following has been taken from Gary Chapman, Ph.D. (see http://www.lifeway.com/Article/HomeLife-Marriage-Covenant-or-Contract)
There are four general characteristics of contracts:
1. Contracts are often made for a limited period of time.
Although most marriage ceremonies involve the phrase, “till death do us part,” many couples interpret that as, “We’re committed to each other if this relationship is mutually beneficial.”
2. Contracts often deal with specific actions.
Most informal contracts made within the marriage also deal with specific actions. Such informal agreements can be a positive way of living out a covenant marriage.
3. Contracts are based on an “If…, then…,” mentality.
Couples with this mentality in which one spouse relies on the other spouse for happiness may struggle deeply in the first several years of their marriage.
4. Contracts are motivated by the desire to get something.
People sign a lease contract because they want to have a car. The salesman signs the contract because he wants the commission. Many conversations in marriage are motivated to get something.
Here are five general characteristics of covenants:
1. Covenants are initiated for the benefit of the other person.
Many of us can honestly say that we entered marriage motivated by the deep desire to benefit the person we were about to marry. Our intention was to make them happy. However, when needs aren’t met, spouses can revert to a contract mentality.
2. In covenant relationships people make unconditional promises.
Covenant marriages are characterized by unconditional promises, such as those spoken in traditional wedding vows.
3. Covenant relationships are based on steadfast love.
In a marriage, steadfast love refuses to focus on the negative aspects of one’s spouse. Steadfast love is a choice.
4. Covenant relationships view commitments as permanent.
Unquestionably the biblical ideal is one man and one woman married to each other for life. As Christians, we must not lower the ideal. This standard can only be attained if we practice the fifth characteristic of covenants.
5. Covenant relationships require confrontation and forgiveness.
These two responses are essential in a covenant marriage. Confrontation means holding the other person responsible for his or her actions. Forgiving means a willingness to lift the penalty and continue a loving, growing relationship. Ignoring the failures of your spouse isn’t the road to marital growth.
I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.
Will you have this woman/man to be your wife/husband, to live together in holy marriage?
Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor, and keep her/him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her/him as long as you both shall live?
The above excerpts are traditional wedding vows that all of us have heard and observed. The details may be a bit different from ceremony to ceremony, but these have been with us for hundreds, if not thousands, or years.
As written above, they express covenant. They are unconditional promises. Contracts require a few “might” or “maybe’s” to be inserted in them since contracts are conditional agreements.
Regardless of one’s background (secular or religious), I find that this topic forces us to honestly analyze how we view and treat marriage, the bedrock for family and society.
Also, whether your parents still faithfully love each other presently, or your parents dissolved their marriage, or maybe they never married in the first place, we cannot flippantly dismiss this topic. It demands our attention and careful examination.
Matters relating to “family of origin” is very serious, and the love seen between one’s parents lives with a child throughout the rest of his/her days. We must choose and live carefully, understanding that our choices plant seeds for future harvests.
When you think of marriage, how do you feel? What comes to mind?
I think for a lot of us, myself included, this topic conjures up a lot of emotion. It’s a mixed bag because we have seen, heard, and dreamed of what it could be, but we’ve also seen, heard, and felt what it was never meant to be.
For years, I never wanted to get married. It seemed to be a failed institution that wasn’t worth the risk or hassle. People who get married just want a tax break, right? They’re after those health benefits.
But as I stated before, marriage is perfectly fine; it’s what married people do with it that causes all of the heartache, frustration, and confusion. And as inconvenient as this might be, our views of marriage are undeniably connected to our views of love, happiness, holiness, family, and purpose.
So, are you the type of person who is faithful to his/her word or, like a chameleon, do you change with your environment? Are you a person who lives by principle or preference?
Come back next time as we continue to discuss the grandeur of God’s thoughts and intent with marriage. Until then, keep seeking the Bridegroom who loves us with a reckless, covenantal love.