I was raised in a loving Christian home by parents that taught me the Bible and lived before me the beautiful example of a loving Christian marriage. My wife, Maria, also enjoyed this same blessing from her parents. Because of our parents’ striving to live according to God’s will, we both received a blessing of immense proportion. We grow more thankful for their example with each passing year. It was first because of our parents’ love and faithfulness to each other that we, individually, also wanted to marry.
Unfortunately, this scenario is not the case for many young people in our day. In fact, the rate at which young people are marrying has been steadily declining since 1970. The annual number of marriages in the U.S. declined to its lowest number ever in the most recent US census. Younger generations are not marrying at anywhere close to the same rate as past generations.
Along with the general decline of marriage as a way of life, the very definition of marriage has become fluid. The definition of once static terms such as wife, husband, family, spouse, and parent, are now open for personal redefinition. I don’t believe this fundamental change in the direction of our society will be solved by legislation—either on the state or federal level. Young people have not been forced into their current way of thinking or living, and no coercion of law will be successful in moving them away from it. Young people have increasingly abandoned the Christian model of marriage because they have rejected it as an undesirable relationship. They want no part of it. They see few benefits in it, and at best, feel the drawbacks of marriage far outweigh its advantages.
It is my hope to win hearts and minds by re-presenting what it means to prepare for Christian marriage. My prayer is that many young couples will be persuaded to seek out, and enter into, marriage—one of God’s best blessings. We must convince the next generation that God’s ways are both right and good. We must teach young singles how to enter into the blessing of marriage because there is no substitute for marriage.
The bulk of this book is a guide to help prepare young singles for marriage, and then how to progress from singleness to marriage in a pure, wise, and God-honoring way. As with all things, the foundation laid will determine the strength of what is built upon it. If the meeting and marrying of a young couple is based on spiritual immaturity, sexual impurity, a wrong understanding of each person’s role within the marriage, financial irresponsibility, and without thought to children or the blessing of parents – the marriage will begin with a foundation unable to support the stresses of life. However, a young couple will find the strength of Christ in their relationship through spiritual maturity, sexual purity, a correct understanding of each person’s role in the marriage, financial responsibility, a joyful preparedness for children, and with the blessing of parents. Upon this firm foundation their home will stand.
Marriage is by God’s design, not an invention of any society. Despite the many destructive forces that have come against marriage over the years, marriage has not been utterly destroyed or replaced. It is amazing that even in our day, overrun with the celebration and defense of sex outside of marriage, many young people still hold out hope for marriage. This basic desire to marry is rooted in the hope of finding another person that will deeply, even unconditionally, love you. Few people hope for a life lived alone and without love. However, this hope can be gradually beat down in young people over the years, as material ambitions replace the hope of relational happiness. Also, there are those who seek companionship and sexuality in the wrong way and become jaded with bitterness after repeated relational failures. Those hardened by repeated relationship failure begin to view marriage as the worst possible situation, because it symbolizes for them the binding together of two people into a relationship that will inevitably fail. From this perspective, marriage only causes the inevitable break up to be a more painful split because of its many legal and financial consequences. Why start something that is doomed to fail?
This book is based on the notion that a marriage that begins according to God’s design, and that is maintained according to God’s commands, will not fail—but thrive. Marriage, as God has designed it, will produce joy upon joy, not sadness upon sadness. This book is about how to build a biblical foundation for marriage so that young couples can meet and marry in the best possible way. Courtship is the process of preparation, meeting, and marrying.
This book will also strive to present biblical principles of courtship in a way that are understandable and applicable to modern young adults. Unfortunately, many attempts at explaining courtship have been presented in ways that make it seem as if courtship can only work in rural communities, or in a bygone era. This book will present courtship in a way applicable to where most young adults are—in urban or suburban situations, or away at college and separated from their parents and home community. God’s will for meeting and marrying is just as applicable in the city as in the country. It should be noted that many of the Scriptures that will be examined in this book come from the letters of Paul, which were not written to isolated rural communities, but to struggling urban Christians.
It is also important to make clear that this book is both for young adults and parents. Courtship will not work without engaged parents, or at a minimum, engaged Christian adults when parents will not get involved. Courtship is about the older and wiser parent shaping and preparing their child to enter marriage at the right time. We live in a time when many parents are intimidated by the prevailing notion that they have little of spiritual or cultural value to pass on to their children. Parents must instead discern those things which are unchanging from those things which are cultural. Marriage is not a cultural fad. Parents should live lives of godliness and then instruct their child according to a pure and wise pattern of life.
Courtship is comprised of certain fundamentals, but those fundamentals work out somewhat differently in every case. Courtship is not a mold, but a set of biblical principles that should govern the meeting and marrying period. Sometimes a young adult considering marriage will bring these principles to their parents who were previously unaware of them. At other times a proactive father will rightly take the initiative to prepare his children for marriage. At other times a concerned mother will begin urging both child and husband to apply the principles at hand. Let me say that I am glad to see any progress in the right direction, and that God is gracious to bless and multiply many of our fractured efforts to walk in His perfect ways. We should seek progress and not perfect adherence to an artificial system.
No matter what situation you may come from, the goal of this book is not to follow an artificial system, but to form Christ-honoring marriages in which love overcomes a multitude of sins and failings. Young person, no matter who your parents may be or how dysfunctional your background may be, God will put together the broken pieces of your life if you will submit to His plans. Parent, even if you have not begun well with your children, by God’s grace the tide can change, and the result be altered if you will train your children according to God’s truth. May Christ be praised for His good design of marriage.