Source: HELLENIC Communication Service
It seems everywhere you look nowadays somebody is talking about marriage. In the political world, the subject of so-called “gay marriage” is all the rage. In society the New York Times recently reported that for the first time in American history single American women outnumber married women at 51% of the population.
Commercials on the TV and the internet advertise web sites designed to help you fine a mate, and they are making big money. Articles about loneliness, the troubled state of marriages, and personal fulfillment all drive a popular mindset about relationships that seem contrary to the wisdom preserved in the Church.
So, how are we to interpret these “signs of the times?” I’d suggest that the prevailing understanding about just what marriage is and what relationships are meant to be is faulty to say the least.
We live in an age where “don’t I have a right to be happy” seems to be at the forefront of most everyone’s mind. Marriage is seen as a way of personal fulfillment and happiness. Relationships are measured by how “happy” they make a person, and when that person is no longer “happy” then the relationship is “over.” “My happiness” is the overriding measure and when that is affected then escape is the answer.
|Photo: Alexander Garaschenko, http://photo.orthodoxy.ru|
If this is the way most people treat marriage and relationships today, is it any wonder there is such a fear of commitment and such a high rate of divorce?
But the Church offers us a radically different view of marriage and relationships. The Faith tells us that marriage isn’t about personal happiness as much as personal salvation. Relationships are given to us, not for some utilitarian reason to make us happy or to make children or even to have economic success, they are given to us to help us become like Christ in our attitudes, actions, and behavior. Relationships are meant by God to serve as ways to call us to be Christian.
No wonder the Apostle Paul insisted that “do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”(2 Corinthians 6:14) With this Christian attitude about marriage and relationships, you just don’t pick someone to be your spouse based on looks, or economics, or even physical attraction. You choose a mate primarily based on how that person can help you be the best Christian you can be. Without this as the primary criterion for your life long partner, you will just perpetuate the notion of disposable relationships.
Here are three ways to avoid being “unequally yoked” and make a wise choice for a spouse.
First, Choose based on Faith. No one should fear finding a mate that loves God more than them. The truth is a spouse that is committed to Christ and His Church is a better choice than someone who has lukewarm faith. A committed Orthodox Christian will take seriously the commands of the Savior to love and serve and make the marriage as strong as possible.
Second, Choose based on Fellowship. A spouse is more than just an economic partner or even a source for physical pleasure. Your spouse is your companion in life. That means this person needs to be someone with whom you can go through tough times. This is a person that can help you in hard times and rejoice with you in good times.
Finally, Choose based on Family. What is your potential spouse’s attitude toward family? Is it the same as your attitude? Will you be committed parents and raise your children in an Orthodox Christian home? The answers to these questions are vital for any marriage to be what it is meant to be.
The wonderful paradox to all of this is that when you seek first the Kingdom of God and you put your faith as the top priority in your life, happiness and joy will find you. You won’t always be striving to make yourself happy or worse yet, depending on others to make you happy. You will discover that focusing your life on Christ brings all the other things you hoped for to you and you are able to receive them as gifts rather than the soul shrinking “entitlement” of a self centered life.