Previously in Nehemiah we looked at the Israelites as they learned what it means to obey God and keep his commandments. For them — and for us, too — that’s the first commitment: To know God and obey him.
This past Sunday we encountered the second commitment to God — and it has to do with marriage. The verse we focused on — Nehemiah 10:30 — talks about a commitment the people made to God, as they promise “not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons.”
Valuing and raising up the marriage commitment is as important for us as it was for the Israelites. But just as the Israelites came out of a culture devoid of God, we find ourselves in the same predicament. Our culture today clearly doesn’t value marriage the way God does. Divorce and sexual immorality aren’t just rampant; they’re the norm. And sadly, it’s not so different a lot of the time with Christians and the church.
These days our culture — and many Christians, too — view marriage through four lenses: Experience, passion, culture and school, and entertainment. So … what has your experience taught you about marriage? Perhaps you come from a broken home or saw your parents fighting all the time. Or perhaps you’ve been divorced or are in a difficult marriage right now. All of which probably tells you that marriage maybe isn’t such a great thing or a wise choice. Or maybe you’re viewing marriage through the lens of passion. In other words, sexual attraction. And if that’s your criteria for choosing a mate, you will find yourself ultimately disappointed.
Then there’s the influence of culture and school — both of which are driven by humanistic values rather than biblical values. Scripture says “in the beginning, God” — the Lord is the One who is in control. But with humanism, things happen by chance and evolve. It’s about how we feel. These days if you approach sexuality and marriage from a biblical foundation, those in our schools and in our culture say there’s something wrong with you. You’re out of date. Behind the times. And worse, if it’s discovered that you don’t endorse the trend of “gender fluidity” and LGBTQ acceptance, you’re seen as an enemy. Of course, we’re not talking about doing away with compassion for those caught up in such values, but at the same time it doesn’t mean we compromise ours.
Finally, there’s the lens of entertainment. And we don’t have to say much about that, do we? For many years now, movies and television and the media in general have been celebrating sexual freedom and liberation, and it’s sold to us every time we look at a screen — and a biblical view of marriage is nowhere to be found. That’s a lot of daily pressure on Christians.
But just as the Israelites have decided they want a new commitment to God and want to do marriage right, we believers today must do the same.
For young people especially, don’t fall in love — you’ll only fall overboard! Instead, plan your love life. Ask God to provide a person for you who isn’t merely a Christian but also who’s on fire for Christ and growing in faith. Don’t make your marriage choice based on physical attraction and compatibility. That’s the world’s criteria — and it’s an unstable foundation. Why? Because people change over time. The person you’re so compatible with now may develop new interests over time, and you’ll find yourselves not enjoying the same things you enjoy together now. What’s more, the person you’re attracted to physically at present may not be so physically attractive to you five or 10 years down the line. Equating sex and attraction is a recipe for disaster. It’s the world’s way. But God designed sex for something much better: Spiritual oneness. It’s part of your devotion to God with your spouse. Sex is actually a spiritual activity. It’s about deep commitment and connection. And that will last.
So, ask yourselves: Is the person I want to marry kind? Is that person sacrificial? How does that person treat others? How devoted is that person to the Lord? While we live in a broken world, God is still in control — and he gave us principles to help us grow and keep us close to him. Let’s all approach marriage valuing as highly as God values it.