For many the world stopped for about four hours on April 29, as an estimated 2 billion people (presumably 95% female) tuned in to “The Royal Wedding”. It was quite a gala affair (I am told by the ladies in my house). There were a couple of interesting points brought up about the wedding that I think are applicable to Christian marriages, especially in the USA.
I have always been intrigued by the part in some weddings where the minister declares, “If anyone here knows of any reason why this couple should not be joined as man and wife, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace.” In television movies and sit-coms there has been a lot of drama associated with that phrase. There is a lot of controversy as to how this British tradition started, but you can find it at least as early as the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
It does make sense to get sound and godly counsel from trusted persons before entering into marriage. However, it seems a little silly to ask those who are witnessing the wedding to “speak now or forever hold your peace”. There is a time and place for everything, and “speaking then” is a little late. “Speaking earlier” would be much preferred. As a pastor I see sessions of pre-marital counseling as extremely helpful with those who desire marriage. What better time is there to work through the important issues of “two becoming one flesh” than before they come up? What better time to deeply meditate on the duties of husband and wife, than before they are joined? If there are valid objections to the marriage, and sometimes there can be (our Confession names a few), they should be made before the bride and groom are standing at the altar.
Which brings us back to the Royal Wedding: the vows taken by both were “to love and cherish”. Every wedding I have officiated has used the vows for the groom of: “Love, honor and cherish” and for the bride “Love, honor and obey”.
These latter vows, if taken seriously, are Biblical and will keep the marriage intact and God honoring. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. This is a self-sacrificing love that puts her needs first. He is to give her due honor as the weaker vessel. He is to cherish her – and if he cherishes her – he will never ask her to do something to her harm or detriment. The wife can safely trust her husband to do her good as Christ does the church.
The wife promises to love and honor, but many balk at “obey”. Obey is the sticky point in today’s culture. “Why should a woman obey? She’s not a slave”. True. But neither is she an independent entity. “They two shall become one flesh.” She is to obey her husband as the church obeys her Lord. Of course the Lord will never harm His church, while a husband may do wrong. The command to obey (or submit) is not absolute, but it is part of God’s design.
There are balancing principles. The husband who does not consult his wife and communicate with her on important issues is a fool. The woman who seeks to control the marriage is a rebel. Both sin against God, their spouse and against themselves. The sin stems from a root of selfishness and is self-destructive. It is little wonder the divorce rate in America is so high. As Christians we desire something better. We desire to live in our marriage the way God commanded in Ephesians 5:22-33. There is no better way – no matter what the culture says.Steve Marquedant, Pastor Sovereign Grace Baptist Church Ontario, CA