I’ve heard people joke about it before, but never really heard anyone speak about it seriously. Yet, there it was on the radio being seriously discussed like it was a desirable, workable possibility—contractual time limits for marriage, an end point for marriage other than “until death do us part”.
The rationale? “People live a really long time, these days; it’s not unusual for people to be married 40, 50, and 60 years these days. And when marriage was “invented” people didn’t usually live but to 40 about years old and weren’t married for more than perhaps 20 years. Now that we live so long, we have the time to change, grow, morph, become someone new; and we oftentimes outgrow an old relationship that we entered into into our 20’s.”
When I hear such nonsense, I’m reminded of a movie line (a near-quote, anyway) out of Her Alibi as the main character explains the reason his ex-wife divorced him, “She said she needed to grow. I thought she was full grown, when I married her.” The problem, seriously, isn’t about growth.
The problem is a fundamental misunderstanding of, or ignorance of, or even wanting to ignore the meaning of covenant; and marriage is a covenant (Malachi 2:14). Covenants are a kind of agreement or contract, but one far, far more binding, life-long in duration, and requiring far more from those that enter it than any paper contract or handshake agreement that someone might make under ordinary circumstances. Covenants are essentially the making of family through incorporating someone not in your immediate family into your immediate family. Adoption, for example, is a covenant, and helps to illustrate the nature of covenant. Adopted children are considered as much the children of the parent as the naturally born children—having an inheritance with natural children, loved like natural children, having all the responsibilities and duties of natural children, and being children of the parents for their whole lives. And marriage is a covenant (the making of family), too, with its own special set of responsibilities, duties, and loyalties—and equally as durable as any adoption, because durability is the nature of family, of covenant. Marriage cannot be modified any more than sonship/fatherhood or any other family relationship.
As 21st century Christians we must be careful not to embrace the world’s ever-changing and sinful values and views. The world has chosen to try to redefine marriage significantly in the past several years: “Open Marriage”, same-sex marriage, leadership changes in the family, and now time-limited marriages. We have new (we think) ideas about what makes marriage good, beneficial, and viable—thrill, romance, deep friendship, etc. Thinking that marriage is an invention of human society, mankind comes to the wrong-headed notion that humans can modify it as they see fit without harm or sin. But they are terribly misguided.
Marriage is not a human institution or convention, it is a God-made covenant which we have no right to modify outside of the parameters that God has laid down. It is God who has set the ground rules, men have no right to alter, tweak, or change the “deal” that God has set down.
- It is only between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:18ff)
- The husband is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:22-33)
- Husbands and wives must love one another (Ephesians 5:25 and Titus 2:4)
- Sexual expression is permissible, encouraged (Genesis 1:22), and a rightful expectation (1 Corinthians 7:2-5)
- Sexual expression is exclusive to one’s husband or wife (Exodus 20:14)
- Its duration is as long as they both shall live (Romans 7:3)
- Divorce is allowable only for the cause of adultery (Matthew 5:32)
There are other parameters that could be listed here, but the main point is that we must pay attention to and obey God’s laws for marriage, even when the rest of the world says something different. Men and women may argue that it just isn’t working for them; but when you cut through the baloney, the problem isn’t in marriage the way that God created it—it works just fine. The problem is that God’s parameters don’t fit their desires, and it tells them that they’re wrong. Men in their “wisdom” may not understand why, but rightness or wrongness doesn’t lie in whether or not we can figure it out; it lies in the fact that God has said it.