Vol. 32 Num. 1
“The Myths of Marriage (3)”
First Published: January 7, 1999
In December, we started a series of very helpful articles on marriage by Dr. Glen Knecht (of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC). We continue them this first week of the new year. Eventually, we will pull them all together and produce a little pamphlet on marriage.
The Myths of Marriage (3): Love holds a marriage together
In these articles I have been trying to reveal and remove some of the more common misconceptions that exist in our society about the married life. The more we free ourselves from fantasy and myth, the more we can embrace the truth and live in touch with die reality which the Bible commends to us.
The third myth I would drag into the light is the idea that it is love that holds a marriage together. Granted, without love a man and a woman ought not to enter into marriage. That is the terrific pull that draws them together and enables them to leave the familiar arms of their families and cast their lots in with a relative stranger.
Yet once that step is taken and the commitments made to one another, it is those commitments that hold the marriage together, not love. Love may actually wax and wane and there may be moments when it is quite absent altogether, but that does not mean the marriage is over. If marriage depended on love as its basis then it would signal the end but we look further for the bedrock on which a marriage rests.
Its foundation is not love but loyalty. That loyalty remains steady even when feelings toward the other are strained and stressed. Love may come and go but the loyalty continues.
Loyalty is embodied in the vows taken on the wedding day. They are sacred promises, which God takes very seriously (Ecclesiastes 5: 4-5). They are a couple bringing their own marriage under the standards that the Church has set over the years and repeating similar words as thousands of Christian people before them have done. They are saying, “We bind ourselves to these standards, until one of us dies.”
All the days of your marriage are spent learning what is the meaning of these vows. That meaning is only discovered as they are worked out in daily living. And as the meaning is found the couple is held in the grip of the vows. They are kept faithful and working and loving and cherishing by the vows. The vows keep the couple in the embrace of marriage. They are precious and essential.
In the vows each person removes himself from circulation effectively. They are no longer available to anyone else. The vows declare that I will continue to love you whatever happens. Even if you begin to show signs of aging, or are disabled in a terrible accident, I will be by your side. I will not leave you nor forsake you.
In a way, the vows are a formal way of giving up one's rights: to the single life, to a mate that is healthy and attractive and able to work and enjoy life, to a flirtatious life style. All these are over when one utters those sacred words. That's why it is loyalty as expressed in the vows, not love, that is the foundation of the marriage God has designed and gives to His children.
These are powerful words, especially for a generation seemingly allergic to words like “commitment,” “loyalty,” “duty,” “faithfulness,” and the like. May God grant us a zeal for loyalty, them we might fulfill our vows to one another, in his sight.