Marriage: Contract or Covenant?

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

– Genesis 2:18

A young couple decided to write their wedding vows. On the day of the big event, they stood face-to-face in front of me and declared before all their deep affection for each other. Then, at the conclusion of all the flowery affirmations, the soon-to-be husband and wife pledged their mutual commitment with the words “as long as our love lasts.” Talk about setting yourself up for failure!

Yes, love is indeed a many-splendored thing, as the young couple professed, but it is also a lifelong commitment that requires much hard work in the inevitable struggles and challenges of life that will arise. If your commitment to your marriage extends only “as long as our love lasts,” and love to you is simply how you feel, rest assured, the time will come when love seems absent and the temptation to flee is overwhelming. That’s the time when only a commitment made to something greater than the feeling of love will be sufficient to sustain the relationship.

But that is exactly one of the reasons so many marriages are failing today. We lack understanding of what marriage truly is and mistakenly assume the feeling of love is the barometer we use to measure the health of our marriage. If the feelings of passion and excitement cool (though they don’t have to), we conclude that the marriage is dead and we are free to leave. That might be true if marriage were nothing more than a contractual obligation based on the mutual benefit that could be dissolved when both parties agreed the arrangement was no longer beneficial. And sadly, that is just the view many people today —even some within the church—hold of what was once known as the “sacred institution of marriage.”

But marriage is not a contractual agreement, my friend. It is a covenant made between one man and one woman before God, and that puts it on an entirely different level. To boil it down to a legal contract cheapens it and almost certainly sets the scene for failure. To raise it to the level of the covenant, however, affirms its sacredness and greatly increases the chance of its success. That’s what this first chapter of Happily . . . Even After is about —the covenant of marriage and what that means to you and me right where we live today.

Whether you have never been married, are currently married, or were once married but now find yourself single, there is something for you in Happily . . . Even After. You can learn how to do marriage right, how to do it in God’s way. It all begins with understanding God’s intention for marriage and grasping the fundamental principle that marriage is a covenant, not a contract.

Excerpt from “Happily… Even After” now available on Amazon.

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BARRY STAGNER

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