What the Bible Says about
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

John Coblentz

How is marriage being undermined in Western culture today?
Pages 10 - 17

The home is a basic unit of society. It follows then that the deterioration of homes results in the deterioration of society and that general deterioration in society likewise undermines homes. The Apostle Paul warned numerous times in his writings about the peril of social deterioration in the last days. While most of these warnings are about society in general, they all affect the home as a unit of society, and some of them speak to family relations in particular.

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" (II Timothy 3:1-5).

1. Marriage is being undermined today because people are lovers of their own selves.

Modern psychology has assured us that self needs are primary needs. We are told we need self-esteem, a good self-image, self-confidence, self-actualization, and self-love. All-important is the need to accomplish MY goals, to realize MY full potential. This focus on self is exactly what the natural man does not need. It lies at the heart of much of the discontent, irritation, and frustration in the modern home. The world fortunately doesn't revolve around any one human being.

Christ calls us to deny ourselves to follow Him. That doesn't make for very popular psychology, but it is basic to Christianity. There is a grain of truth in the self-talk. We do have inner yearnings for acceptance and fulfillment. But according to the Scriptures, we find those needs met, not by serving ourselves, but by serving God and others. We need the mind of Jesus, "Who, being in the form of God . . . made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6, 7).

2. Marriage is being undermined today because people are covetous.

Covetousness is the opposite of contentment. Discontent is fostered in children with multiplied toys and pleasures and in adolescents with bigger toys and spicier pleasures. It is hardly a wonder, then, that adults grow discontented with one lifelong companion. How can we expect married people not to covet someone else's companion if they have spent their whole life in patterns of discontent and covetousness?

In our day people not only want things they do not have, but they demand things they do not have. The mood is one of instant gratification. People seldom see the tie between covetousness and hostility, but invariably when material things and personal wants have priority, relationships suffer.

3. Marriage is being undermined today because people are disobedient to parents.

This speaks directly to children and may be applied to anything from the tantrums of two-year-olds to the rebellion of sixteen-year-olds. We must not understand this, however, to mean that somehow a batch of bad babies will be born in the last days. Children have always been children. But in the last days, their disobedience will not be restrained. The problem is a pattern of disrespect for parents, regardless of age.

Children are in many ways a reflection of their parents. Disregard for parents, disrespect, and disobedience are not the exclusive problems of those under twenty-one. The disobedient children are only mirroring the disrespect and general disobedience of the age. In any case, the disobedient mindset wrecks the respect, order, and peace which should grace the home.

4. Marriage is being undermined today because people are without natural affection.

The literal understanding of "without natural affection" is "without natural human affection." It refers specifically to paternal love and the natural ties between close kin. We are seeing this prophecy unfold today in the heart-wrenching accounts of battered wives and abused children. We are seeing it, furthermore, in the abortion clinics, where in the United States alone, 171 rejected babies each hour around the clock are being snipped apart by the abortionist's shears, drowned in saline solution, or torn limb from limb.

God has given humans a natural affection for their kin, which calls for strong family loyalty and loving parent-child bonds. In a self-seeking age, these natural affections are choked out by the love of money, love of career, love of pleasure, love of going, love of getting, love of the world. Instead of strong family love, therefore, we have those families who split apart as by whim, those parents who can tolerate only one or two children and who gladly farm out their children to baby-sitters and day-care centers while they pursue their own interests -- void of natural affection.

5. Marriage is being undermined today because people are truce breakers.

Commitment in relationships gets a poor following today. Self, sex, and sin are more important to many people than honesty, faithfulness, and integrity. "I promise" means "that's how I feel today, but tomorrow I may feel different." It is on the shoals of broken promises and shattered commitments that homes and marriages are wrecked.

Notice that the list in II Timothy 3 also includes "traitors." A traitor is one who gives the appearance of loyalty, but in reality is working for personal interests. Trucebreakers and traitors use bargaining, lies, betrayal, flattery, bribes, bluffs, and such tactics to accomplish their ends. Homes today are rife with broken hearts and scarred lives as a result of truce breakers and traitors.

6. Marriage is being undermined today because people are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.

No one in America today would deny that people are pleasure-minded. Fun mania has swept the land. It feeds the self-seeking, give-me attitudes and so doing undermines the love, commitment, and sacrifice necessary for strong marriages. The strong doses of entertainment our culture gulps down are detrimental, however, not only because they feed selfishness and erode godliness, but often because of the vulgarity of the entertainment itself.

Movies, television, radio programs, videos, novels, and love songs of our day regularly and unceasingly show flirting, betrayal, unfaithfulness, extramarital sex, divorce, and even sexual perversions as entertainment. Such entertainment directly undermines marriage and homes. Children and adults who regularly live in an immoral imaginative world sooner or later find these things becoming a part of real life for them.

Unfortunately, many "Christians" are blind to the effects of pleasure-mindedness. In their blindness, they do not see any contradiction between their profession of life in Christ and their love of worldly pleasures. The Apostle Paul's warning concerning such people is pointed. "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth" (I Timothy 5:6).

7. Marriage is being undermined today by those who have "vile affections."

The Apostle Paul also wrote to the Romans about those with "vile affections." We do well to ponder the relationship between the increase of homosexuality in modern society and the breakdown of the home. The passage in Romans states:

"God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly" (Romans 1:26, 27).

We might ask why there is an increase in homosexuality today. The preoccupation with sex and self in our culture inadvertently empties relationships of meaning and commitment. In the absence of meaningful commitment, marriage for many people is unfulfilling and even pointless. Sex is the thing, and where sex is given this kind of priority, natural affections easily move to the unnatural. Inordinate sex drives, whether in heterosexual relationships or homosexual, are ruinous to marriage. Love gives way to lust, and when lusts are followed, people inevitably get hurt.

The influence of "vile affections" on our culture, however, cannot be measured simply by the number of homosexuals there are. Unisex trends are seen in simple things such as clothing styles and hairstyles, as well as in the more complex matter of male and female roles. Vile affection, in other words, is having its impact on society as a whole, not merely on a few perverted individuals.

To state these points positively, we could say that if marriages and homes are to be stable and strong, they must:

  • Focus on serving God and others as a means of fulfillment.

  • Practice contentedness with regard to material things.

  • Respect the authority of parents, including the counsel of grandparents.

  • Nurture healthy, loving ties between all family members.

  • Value faithfulness and fidelity in marriage commitments.

  • Love God supremely and refuse worldly pleasures -- "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (I John 2:16).

  • Honor God's moral standards, accepting the Biblical pattern for the roles of men and women and refusing all forms of sexual perversion.

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