By Amy Hauptman

Marriage: The Holy Grail?

Last March, I had the honor of being a bridesmaid for one of my dear friends from work. The other bridesmaids and I decided to put together an amazing bridal shower a couple weeks before the wedding. As the guests arrived, I started talking with one of the guests, who proceeded to ask me, “Are you dating anyone?” 

When I replied with a ‘no,’ her facial response was mixed with shock and horror. She immediately informed me: “Besides Jesus, marriage should be a person’s highest goal.”

I will be the first to admit that anytime someone starts with, ‘I knew he was the one…,’ or ‘I first met her at…,’ I get a twinkle in my eye, a smile on my face, and join the collective sigh that communicates: Don’t you love love?

But when I have encounters with other Christians like the one I described above, I have to ask – how did marriage become the holy grail of Christianity? Is marriage truly the ideal for the Christian life?

According to Greg Carey, Professor at Lancaster Seminary, the Bible actually talks very little about marriage. In a Huffpost Religion article, Carey examines the fact that most Bible verses read during wedding ceremonies are not in reference to marriage at all, but are instead in reference to conflict resolution, declaration of loyalty between family members, and even divorce.

He goes even further to talk about the fact that there are more verses in the Bible that explicitly teach on singleness. (Do I detect a collective cringe?) When’s the last time you’ve heard a sermon or a talk on “Remain single! It’s better that way!”  or “Singleness: Following Jesus and Paul’s example”?  Probably never. 

While I agree that marriage is good—I honestly do love love and would love to get married one day—it is refreshing to know that our cultural ideal of marriage may not be the holy ideal of Christianity. That what the Bible actually says and what our culture adheres to is different. That despite whether we are married, single, divorced, or have lost loved ones, the Bible explicitly gives us an ideal worthy of chasing after with our entire being:

“So let us throw off everything that stands in our way. Let us throw off any sin that holds on to us so tightly. Let us keep on running the race marked out for us. Let us keep looking to Jesus. He is the author of faith. He also makes it perfect. He paid no attention to the shame of the cross. He suffered there because of the joy he was looking forward to. Then he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”   Hebrews 12: 1-2

Amy Hauptman is an InterVarsity Campus Leader at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, NV, and a part-time Campus Staff Member at the University of Nevada, Reno. She graduated from UC Davis in 2006 with a BA in Comparative Literature. She has a heart for the ‘towns’ and ‘villages’ of college ministry (the junior and community colleges). She would also say that the three driving forces in her life, besides her love for coffee, are to see, learn and enjoy as much as possible.

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Hi Amy! I love your writing and I'm so glad and proud that you're now writing for the IV Blog! Myself and many others are looking forward to many of your writings. -Burt

BURT!! Thanks for identifying yourself =) (we're still working on changing the 'anonymous' to people's names). THANKS! I am SO GLAD that you're enjoying the blog posts.

Thanks! Whoever you are! =)

As a former single adult director I used to often speak to this topic. I think it is more challenging in the church than it is outside the church. It seems to have become an "idol" in Christian culture. A book that I've found to be particularly helpful on this topic is The Christian Family in Changing Times. Sorta destroys the "myth" of the biblical marriage and family. Keep up the good work! Vicki

Thanks Vicki for your comment and the excellent resource! I am intrigued!

I know we were discussing this article while watching The Bachelorette (of all things), but I wanted to let you know I really enjoyed this post and second Burt's sentiments that I look forward to many more to come! Jen :)

Thank you for your article. I was wondering if you could clarify on the part about the Bible talking very little about marriage... I thought there is so much imagery between Christ as the Groom and the Church as his Bride, that even culminates in descriptions of a wedding at his second coming. The constructs of a physical marriage is the reflection of the relationship Christ wants to have with each individual. However, it is very interesting the part about verses that teach on singleness- I'm going to look into that more. Thanks!

I was referring to Greg Carey's article in the Huffington post, article found here: Greg Carey was pointing out in his article, that there are few Biblical teachings on marriage (he cites a lot of Bible passages that are read in weddings, that ultimately are not referring to marriage). I agree with you- Marriage IS indeed one of the great illustrations that God uses to teach us about our relationship to Him. But there are others as well: He is the Good Shepherd and we are His sheep. He is the Master, and we are his servants. He is the Father and we are his prodigal sons and daughters. He is our commander, and we are his soldiers. In the end, I think the main point I took away from Greg Carey's article that I agree with is that our culture's ideal of marriage is not the ultimate goal of Christianity. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, whether married, divorced, single, widowed, remarried, God's call for us is the same- to share the good news of Jesus Christ and teach others how to follow Him.


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