Why Marriage Is Good
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Curt HamnerCurt Hamner is a pastor and cofounder along with his wife, Rhonda of Between Two Trees (betweentwotrees.org), a marriage ministry designed to resource couples and communities with tools and coaching to pursue God's design for marriage. Together Curt and Rhonda speak at conferences and retreats throughout the US and around the world, with messages grounded in a biblical theology of marriage, recent research and practical tools for couples to nurture...more
John TrentJohn Trent, Ph.D., is President and Founder of StrongFamilies.com, a ministry committed to building strong relationships in these stressful times. Dr. Trent’s main focus includes writing and speaking at retreats, conferences, business settings, churches, and seminars across the country. In addition to building family teams, Dr. Trent regularly speaks to corporate America on teambuilding, recruiting and retaining outstanding employees. He has authored an...more
Cohabitation has become a cultural norm. But is it really equal to marriage? John Trent and Curt Hamner help couples think through the marriage vs. cohabitation dilemma.
Why Marriage Is Good
Bob: Most people, who get married today, have already lived together before marriage. Curt Hamner says we need to understand why that is the conventional thinking in our day.
Curt: You have to be compassionate towards folks that are moving into this idea of cohabitation. I mean, they look at divorce, and they think they know what caused it—and it’s marriage—so they want to stay away from that. The pain is so deep; and the culture is saying, “No, there’s freedom to do it.”
All we’re saying is: “Think about it before you do it. There’s far more that we want you to understand about what marriage is.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 22nd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. How can we have a conversation with people about the glory, and the beauty, and the majesty of marriage as God designed it when they are preconditioned toward cohabitation? We’re going to talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. I have a story I want to tell you about a conversation related to cohabitation, but I first want to make sure our listeners know they just have a few days left if they want to take advantage of the special offer we’re making for FamilyLife Today listeners to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway for couples and save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. This week is your last chance to sign up for a getaway and take advantage of the savings.
You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to find out when a getaway is coming to a city near you or to a city you’d like to visit this spring. Find a weekend that works for you, then you and your spouse head off for a fun, romantic, relaxing getaway weekend, where you will together learn more about God’s design for marriage and how your marriage can be the marriage that God intends for it to be.
Information about the getaway is available on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com; if you have any questions or if you’d like to register by phone, call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Just make sure you get in touch with us this week so you can save 50 percent off the regular registration fee and take advantage of this special offer. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and join us at an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
Now, I was sitting down with a friend of mine just last week, and he said, “I need your help.” He said: “I’m going to be having a conversation with a guy. He’s actually the drummer in our worship band at church; and he and his girlfriend are living together. He doesn’t see anything wrong with that. In fact, he says, ‘I don’t think you can prove to me from the Bible that there’s anything wrong with us living together.’”
I thought to myself, “We’re in a whole new world, when the drummer in the worship band, going to church, doesn’t think that there’s anything wrong with living with your girlfriend before you get married.” That would have been so unusual 50 years ago/100 years ago, but today it’s more commonplace than we realize. We’re trying to address, not that specific issue, but the bigger issues of: “What does God have to say about marriage?” as we’re talking this week with Curt Hamner and John Trent. Guys, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Curt: Thank you!
John: It’s great to be with you guys.
Bob: Dave, you and Ann have dealt with these kinds of questions and issues with people in your church, who are going, “Yes, we don’t think about marriage from a biblical viewpoint.”
Dave: Yes; I’m smiling, because I’m the bass player in that band; [Laughter] and I know this drummer.
Dave: Different church, obviously, but the same conversations.
Most of us are being discipled today by the culture. I mean, it’s always been true; but I think, in some ways, it’s so heightened with social media—it’s every day; it’s right in front of you. It’s like: “This is how I think. This is my theology. I don’t really know; I’m immersed in it”; so then I come and hear a different theology, which I think is a new theology; and it’s as old as time.
I want to ask—we have the experts, sitting right here—
Bob: Yes, and let me explain why they’re—
Dave: —what do you say to this guy?
Bob: Let me explain why they’re the experts. Curt Hamner and John Trent have been working for a couple of years on a project that has now culminated in a book called Marriage: Its Foundation, Theology, and Mission in a Changing World. You guys have gathered theologians, practitioners—experts on marriage and family—and had them address the foundational questions: “What is God’s plan for marriage?” “What’s His purpose for marriage?” “Why does marriage exist?” “How do we glorify Him in our marriage?”
In putting this book together, you’ve taken those questions, head-on. They show up in the culture in the kind of thing that we’re talking about—right?—where somebody grows up in the church, meets somebody—because of all the movies they’ve seen, or because of what they’ve watched their friends do, or because they watched their parents get married and get divorced—they say, “We don’t want to do that.” They say: “Well, let’s just do a trial run; there can’t be anything wrong with that. As long as we love each other” or “We’re planning to get married, then it’s okay for us to do this.”
Your book—I don’t know to the extent that you address that specifically, but you’re getting at all these kinds of issues by saying, “We have to think, biblically, about marriage.”
John: Yes, and you know, you think back all the way to Isaiah, Chapter 40. These people are struggling; and they’re saying, you know: “Is there really an answer?” “God, can You see what’s going on?” and “The justice due me escapes the notice of my God.” That’s really what we’ve done a lot—is just forgotten. We think God can’t see us; or He’s not stepping in to act, because, “Look at all the injustice in the world”; right?
Then it goes to a rhetorical question—He says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” What used to be rhetorical; meaning, it used to be that we had lines in the bottom of the pool; now, there are no lines in the bottom of the pool.
I think, for a lot of people—I mean, you hate to say it; but that drummer in the band: “I mean, it’s not in the culture.” He doesn’t realize that—that, “Wait a minute; you have to go back to God’s Word and look and see, ‘What is it that really is foundational?’ God’s Word hasn’t changed.” So boy, this is what’s really fun—is to get to jump in on this.
Bob: Curt, we had a guest on FamilyLife Today a number of years ago. I’ll never forget this young couple, because they told this story—they said: “We met on a missions trip. We were both out of high school; we were on an extended missions trip.” They said: “Both of us were kind of the outcasts from the group, so we ended up together. The hormones took over; and by the end of the missions trip, we had been having sex together. So we get back home.” He said, “I said to her, ‘Do you want to move in?’” So she said, “Yes.”
They move into his parents’ house. This has been going on for awhile, and they’re going to church. One day, he says they were asking for volunteers to help with the kids program. He said, “I went to the pastor and said, ‘You know, we’d be happy to help with the kids program.’” The pastor said, “Well, you know, that’s not going to work; because you guys aren’t married, and we don’t think you should be living together before you get married.” He said to me, “That’s the first time I’d ever heard anybody say that.”
Bob: So I thought, “Huh.” He said, “We wound up going to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway; and at the getaway, we go to the engaged workshop.” At the engaged workshop, we say, “You know, we believe that you shouldn’t be having sex outside of marriage; that you should save sex for marriage.”
He said: “It dawned on me, ‘They’re right! We shouldn’t be having sex outside of marriage.’” He said, “I went to my girlfriend—we were engaged; we were going to get married three months later—I said, ‘I don’t think we should have sex anymore until we’re married.’” He said, “She thought I was breaking up with her; and she was afraid, if we quit having sex, ‘He’s going to leave me.’ So, what she’s hearing me say is, ‘I want to break up with you.’”
But that wasn’t what he was saying at all. He was saying, “I want to do it God’s way!” They worked it out; she began to trust that that was okay. They quit having sex prior to marriage; and now, on their honeymoon, they come together. But this was because nobody had ever told them, “God has a plan for marriage and family,” even though they were in the church!
Ann: Well, I think—I mean, that was my story as well. I didn’t grow up in the church, and I had heard somewhere out there that God doesn’t want you to have premarital sex. I thought, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” I thought: “That’s ridiculous. That must be the 1800s,” whatever.
I remember giving my life to Christ, wanting to obey; and then I’m searching the Scriptures. I’m thinking, “Where is it?” I remember going into a Christian bookstore, all by myself, looking for a book but too embarrassed—because I was only 16 years old—to ask the lady: “Is it okay if I have premarital sex?” and “What is premarital sex?”
That was back 35 years ago, so even more confusing today. How do we address that today?
Curt: Yes; I do think, you know, you asked the question: “How do we help people to think theologically?” I think it begins with: “How do we help people to think?” The average couple, who move in together—cohabitation—it’s not a thought process; it’s convenience. It is the idea that says: “Hey, listen; I’m staying late at your house. I think I’m just going to stay over.” Then the next time, I’m staying late: “You know what? I’m going to bring a change of clothes,” until finally, it’s just easier.
Ann: —and it can become financial.
Curt: It is often financial.
All we’re saying is, “Think about it before you do it.” You have to be compassionate towards folks that are moving into this idea of cohabitation. They look at divorce and they think they know what caused it—and it’s marriage—so they want to stay away from that. The pain is so deep; and the culture is saying, “No, there’s freedom to do it.”
We had a couple that stayed at the bed and breakfast, that we ran a number of years ago, that had a focus on marriage ministry connected to it. Couples would come/they would stay at the bed and breakfast; we’d have four conversations about marriage.
One night, as this couple checked in, Rhonda said, “Hey, I think they have different last names,” which is not that unusual; but she said, “I don’t think they’re married.” So we said, “Okay, we have to talk to them.” After the meeting was over, I go up to their room and I knock on the door. I go, “Hey, it appears to me that you guys aren’t married.” They said, “No, is that a problem?”
We said, “Well, let me explain to you.” We kind of talked to them about a Christian view of marriage/a theology of marriage, just short and brief, and said: “By the way, we have an extra room that we could allow one of you to participate in the conference; and both of you can participate by staying in separate rooms. Why don’t you think about it and talk about it; then come back and tell us.”
The next morning, they came down. Eventually, we had a conversation with them, thinking through, in a conversational setting/a safe setting, to be able to get to the place—that they weren’t ready to stop living together—but they were ready to honor; so that night, they said, “Hey guys, we’re going to take the separate rooms.” We said, “That’s great, because what we’ll do is—we’ll honor that when you come back after you’re married and give you a free weekend.”
They left; they got married; came back. Again, it was the idea of helping them to think about it by conversation. Instead of just mandating everything, we had a conversation.
Bob: So, if you’re sitting down with somebody today—who’s like the drummer in the worship band; or the young couple, who’ve never heard this before and they say, like Ann said: “This is the dumbest thing I ever heard of. Why should we wait to have sex?”—what’s your answer?
John: I think the question, “Why should we wait to have sex?” is: “What and why do you want to have sex? Is it just that you’re compelled by your instincts/by your physical desire? Is it just the idea of being able to physically be involved with each other? Do you have any understanding that sex is far more than just a physical act?—the bonding that happens, physiologically, between a man and a woman in sex.” To help someone to think through it/have a conversation, where it’s safe enough to help them to walk through that.
Also the idea that says: “Hey, listen; we’re not telling you to wait to get married so that you can have sex. Marriage is far more than just legalizing and legitimizing sex. There’s far more that we want you to understand about what marriage is.”
Ann: Well, and maybe now, in the band, you have same-sex marriages or same-sex attraction. You guys dealt with everything in the book. You really tackled all the issues. How do we address that, as a church?
John: You know, just to go back for just a second to that question—you know, that couple comes up to you that’s a same-sex couple, or they’re cohabiting, or they’re just not where you’re at—it’s interesting, but Shakespeare has one of his characters in King Lear say, “He laughs at scars who, himself, never bore a wound.” There’s a sense in which all of us—man, when we realize our brokenness, that’s, as Curt said, that’s what drives us to be compassionate. That’s what helps us say, “Well, Lord, You have healed that in me, so now let me be compassionate with this person.”
I grew up in a single-parent home. Let me tell you—there were people that just looked at my mom/a single parent like a pariah. But boy, when you realize—I mean, she was a wonderful person. She made some really not-great decisions before she came to know Jesus, but guess what? She came to know Jesus; and through that, it was really through love, not through judgment. I do think that’s one great thing we get to do—is we get to live out God’s love; and that includes just patience, and love, and encouragement.
Dave: I remember sitting with a couple, 25 years ago—our church is 30 years old, so it was in the first 5 years. I was going to do their wedding; didn’t know them. A friend of mine calls me up—this was before cell phones—“Hey, you know, you’re doing Scott and Jessica’s wedding; right?” I go: “Yes, some couple; I got their name. I don’t know anything about it.”
He goes, “You know, they’re living together. I know the policy at your church is—you know: “Our church is this...” He goes, “I’m going to talk to them.” I go, “No you’re not; I am.”
Dave: That’s not something somebody else—so they came in, and—loved this couple. They were just the sweetest thing ever. They had never heard theology about marriage. I remember loving them—feeling compassion for them/no judgment—just say, “Hey, let me…”—truth and grace; I gave them the truth and the grace. I looked at them; I said: “So today’s a line in the sand. I’m asking you to really make a hard decision, and I’m going to love you whatever you do; but I’m asking you to really consider doing it God’s way.” They said, “Okay; we’ll think about it.”
This couple called me that night and said, “Okay, we moved out.” I did their wedding a few months later, or maybe it was six months later. I’ll never forget—two or three years later, I get this call. They say: “Hey, we’re having our first child. We’re naming him after you.”
Curt: Oh, wow!
Dave: I’m like, “We don’t know each other that well!” They said: “You were the first person that ever spoke the truth, and you loved us as you spoke it. It changed our life; we want our son to be named after you.” I was teary. Now, that boy’s 20-something years old, you know; it’s just really cool to think how God works.
John: Dave, I would really hope that, as a pastor for 25 years, and other pastors that are listening to that—that it’s an exhortation that says: “Not only do we teach a theology of marriage, but we live it in our own marriage,” and “We live it as we work with couples, and that we make sure that weddings are welcome at our church, and that couples come to our church to get married, and that the theology of marriage is expressed in that wedding ceremony as well.”
Dave: Yes. I can tell—the way you’re talking, there’s a real sense of a spirit of compassion. I can tell by the way you’re talking about these conversations with people that there’s compassion. Talk about that a little bit, because—you know, in our churches, sitting in the pews, are couples living together—same-sex attracted, maybe even married gay couples or homosexual couples—they’re actually married now in the state or by the state—they’re sitting there.
If they would come to you and say—you know, because you’re theologians but you’re practitioners—and now, they want a little of both; but they’re coming to you, saying: “I need to understand why you’re taking these positions on my life. I feel like I’m making choices that I think are God-honoring”; right? I’ve had these conversations. How do you talk to these couples, and how do they feel?
Bob: What does truth and grace look like in that moment?
John: I think part of it is it always comes back to the question of: “What is the marriage that you’re staying away from?” If you are a same-sex couple, and you’re moving towards marriage or you are married, “What is marriage?” Again, asking them to think through it a little bit.
The Christian church is not the only one that’s been infiltrated by the culture. There is an agenda in the culture that is changing our thinking, as a culture at large. We’ve said that there’s been common Christian values for many, many decades; and that’s changed over the last half century. So how do we get people to engage with that?
Well, it has to begin by conversation that engages thinking. We’ve got to get to that place; and it has to be that heart of compassion that says: “No, I get it. I understand the brokenness that would take us there.” But it’s not the sense that we stop at our brokenness. We have valued the idea of brokenness to the place that we never get to redemption. The idea of this is that the brokenness is—not just aligning yourself with others, who are broken—it is aligning yourself with the One, who can bring healing to you. It really is Jesus. I mean, that is the whole idea—that the marriage relationship in the New Testament talks about Christ as the Husband giving His life for the bride, the church.
Bob: We’re back to kind of where we started. Curt, talk about the idea of the “holy echo” and that concept; because that’s foundational to what you’re talking about, not just in this issue, but all throughout the book.
Curt: It really is that sense of the “holy echo.” I see that as we look at it in Genesis, when we talk about the imago Dei, the image of God, in both a marriage relationship as well as within the church—the sense of God as a God of relationship; a God of love, revealing Himself through the marriage relationship—again, back to that idea of passion, commitment, and intimacy. Those are the values of love in the church as well.
But it also is a very echoing kind of sense when we look at the relationship between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His church, the bride. Christ gives Himself. He becomes vulnerable to the point of death, sacrificing Himself, for His bride/for the church—for us as individuals.
How does the church respond to that?—what is the call of Christ on our lives? It is to what? “Deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him.” We echo, as husbands love our wives sacrificially, to the place of death. That’s not just a physical death; but that’s the death of my ego, that I will serve my wife in a way that is like Christ.
But it is also the call to the wife that says, “I will be like the church, like the Christian is to live before Christ”; and that is the idea that I’ll deny myself. That sense of mutual vulnerability really brings us to the place of where real unity happens; that’s intimacy. When we are vulnerable together, that’s intimacy—that’s marriage.
Bob: Yes; I love the idea that the Scriptures are the call of God for all of us, and our response is the echo back. When we live out God’s call, we are that response echo that the world can hear and see, not just the original call, but then they hear the echo back; and there’s something grand and glorious about the call and response, the voice and the echo.
I think you guys have captured so much of that in this book. This is a gift to all of us, for you to have gathered the different names. You talked about some of the people who were involved in this—Juli Slattery was involved, Darryl Bach was involved in this, Craig Blomberg, Greg Allison—I mean, the name, Sean McDowell’s, involved in this, Brett McCracken, Mike Mason, Crawford Loritts. This is just a great gift to have assembled all of these people to write on this subject and give us a foundation for marriage.
We’re grateful for your work; grateful for you being here on FamilyLife Today.
Curt: Thank you!
John: Thanks for having us.
Bob: We have copies of the book, Marriage: Its Foundation, Theology, and Mission in a Changing World, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Hope you’ll go online to find out how you can get a copy and use this with your small group, or go through it together as a couple. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. The number to call to order the book, Marriage: Its Foundation, Theology, and Mission in a Changing World—the number is 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Let me just say—the theological foundation for marriage that we’ve talked about this week—when you come to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, that’s a part of what you come away with. Whether you’re new to the faith or whether you’ve been going to church for years, people come away with a better, more biblical understanding of marriage.
We have the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, here with us. David, I talked one time to a guy—he said: “My wife and I had been leading the youth group at church for ten years, but our marriage was a mess. We came to the Weekend to Remember; and we walked away, saying, ‘How come nobody ever told us this is in the Bible?’” [Laughter] It was a revelation for them.
David: That is why I want to challenge everyone to carve time away and to get away with your spouse—come and sit under amazing teaching and sit under what God’s design for marriage and family is—because such amazing transformation happens in that place, no matter where you are in your spiritual journey or even in seasons of life.
I got some comments from people who went recently to a Weekend to Remember. They’ve been married at all different stages; one of them for one year, one of them for sixteen years, one of them for twenty-nine years. They said things like, “There’s going to be no more absent husband for me; I will be there for my gift of God, my wife.” Someone else said: “It reminded us that our marriage is too important for us to do on our own. We need God at the center.” This last one said: “It’s even better the second time around. We put our guard down and truly opened up to communicate like never before; totally life-changing.”
That’s what happens when we sit under God’s authority and apply it, practically, to our lives.
Bob: You talk about seasons of life. You and Meg have four kids. For you to do a weekend like this—it takes some planning and some orchestration, and it can be a hassle. You think, “Oh, I just don’t want a hassle with it.” But after you do it, you go, “That was so worth it.”
David: Well, we did it about a year ago; and obviously, we’ve been before, but I’m telling you—it took until about Saturday morning at 11 a.m., but oh my goodness, something just kind of opened up. It ministered to us in a place that we really needed in this season of life.
Bob: Well, again, if you want to take advantage of the special offer we’re making this week for FamilyLife Today listeners—save 50 percent off the regular registration fee for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Find out when a getaway is coming to a city near where you live or a city you’d like to visit this spring. Register online; or if you have any questions, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can also register by phone. Plan to join us for one of our upcoming getaways; and again, save 50 percent off the regular registration fee by signing up this week.
We hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. We’re going to talk with a couple who had their marriage go off-course at one point, and they’re now helping other couples figure out how to keep their marriage on-course rather than having it drift. You’ll meet Clint and Penny Bragg tomorrow, and I hope you can join us back for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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