Married or Living Together
Let me share with you several stages of marriage represented by a husband?s reaction to his wife?s cold. The first year or two: ?Sugar dumpling, I?m really worried about my baby girl. You?ve got a bad sniffle and I?m going to take you to the doctor right away. Don?t worry about dinner or the kids, I?ll take care of everything sweetheart. Years 3-5: Listen, darling, I don?t like the sound of that cough. You better call the doctor and go right to bed. Do we have any canned soup? Years 6-10: Now look, Dear, be sensible, after you feed the kids, do the dishes and mop the floor, you better get some rest. Years 11-15: Why don?t you gargle or something instead of sitting around barking like a seal? Years 16-20: For Pete?s sake, stop that sneezing. What are you trying to do, give me pneumonia?
For those who are married, you know what I?m talking about. For those who are single you?re saying that?s why I?m not married. For those who are thinking about marriage, you might be saying, ?Is that what I?m in for?? Marriage, despite stories like these, is good and one of the most important relationships of life. Jesus implicitly refers to the importance of marriage in the Gospel passage of the Samaritan Woman (5th Sunday of Pascha, John 4:4-42).
15The woman said to Him, ?Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.? 16Jesus said to her, ?Go, call your husband, and come here.? 17The woman answered and said, ?I have no husband.? Jesus said to her, ?You have well said, ?I have no husband,? 18for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.?
Why would Jesus make a point of the Samaritan woman?s marital status? Several biblical commentators note that the ?five husbands? represents the former religious affiliation of the Samaritans with the Jews and the five books of the Law/Torah. The one who is ?not your husband? refers to the Samaritans adulterous relationship with a foreign God. Another interpretation focuses on the the Samaritan woman herself. After all, she?s living with a man she?s not married to. Perhaps she needs to repent and be purified before she can partake of the living water of Jesus Christ.
13Jesus answered and said to her, ?Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.?
Why is marriage important? Why should men and women who live together be married? After all, a couple who lives together can get know each other better to see if they?re right for each other. If they live together they can save some money. Why pay two rents/mortgages? Lots of other couples have done it and they?re still married.
The commitment of man and woman to each other and blessing of God are necessary conditions for marriage relationship. These two things are signified by the rings on their fingers and the crowns on their heads during the Orthodox wedding service. Human commitment and Divine blessing provide the best context for all expressions of love and intimacy, both emotional and physical, and for the bearing and the raising of children.
Looking at the Epistle of Marriage (Ephesians 5:24-30), we see that marriage between man and woman is a Mystery. It is like Christ?s relationship to the Church. Are you willing to crucify/sacrifice your own selfish interests for the good of your spouse and your marriage? Are you willing to die for this person you?re living with? In the Gospel of Marriage (John 2:1-12) Jesus performs the first miracle of His public ministry at the Wedding in Cana of Galilee. God blesses the union between one man and one woman as holy, reflecting the Kingdom of God on earth.
Men and women who live together before marriage are more likely, not less, to divorce than couples who did not. Why is that? The special and sacred quality of marriage has been removed and it becomes a perfunctory rite to gain legal status and please those in the Church (parents, priests, other people). They do not learn, through ascetic chastity, that emotional intimacy is much more important than physical intimacy. They run the danger of falling in love with love, or making love, instead of falling in love with the person/ality of each other. As marriage continues, physical/sexual intimacy will inevitable diminish. What are you left with? Two people who don?t know or who don?t like each other?
Do you want and are you ready to have children with this person? We all know of couples who are married because they got pregnant before they got married. These situations, with humility and repentance before God, can work out and become successful marriages but it takes a lot more work and likelihood of serious problems and divorce is much higher.
If your answer is, ?I can sacrifice for this person. I am willing to die for them. I want to have children with him/her,? then the questions is, ?What are you waiting for?? Why not get God?s blessing now? Putting the marriage off and living together is like saying, ?We don?t need you now God, but will let you know when we want your stamp of approval.? That type of hubris and arrogance is good preparation for a great fall.
Let us hold the state of marriage in the highest honor by proper teaching, preparation and fidelity to its sacred character. Marriage is a gift from God. Let us receive and treat it as most special. Amen.