I read a fascinating Twitter comment from Al Mohler this morning before leaving for work - it linked to a book review of a book called; "Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers" by sociologist Mark Regnerus. His point is simple, shocking and sincere;
"Evangelicals tend to marry slightly earlier than other Americans, but not by much. Many of them plan to marry in their mid-20s.Yet waiting for sex until then feels far too long to most of them. And I am suggesting that when people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry, it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex. It's battling our Creator's reproductive design".
Now let me be clear, I haven't read his book - only Mohler's review. But I must admit as a single person (and one that is sometimes slightly anti-cliche Christian marriage) I found the review and the concept he presented intriguing and stirring. I don't quite see it as far as Mohler states;
"As men and women, we are made for marriage ... Marriage is the central crucible for accepting and fulfilling the adult responsibilities of work, parenthood, and the full acceptance of mature responsibilities".
As excellent a scholar and theologian as Mohler may be - I would argue he has forgotten that Paul makes explicit room for celibacy. Maybe Mohler is reflecting the modern Church he represents, who have also forgotten that Paul made explicit room for celibacy. Rather most single people get treated as odd, different and not quite making up even numbers at dinner parties or social events. Anyhow - back to the book review.
"Mark Regnerus certainly drives the point home when he argues that "when people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry, it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex." Nevertheless, Christians are called to a moral standard that, by any secular standard, is profoundly unreasonable. I would prefer to argue that the delay of marriage is unwise, not only because of the demonstrated risk of sexual immorality, but because of the loss of so much God gives to us in marriage".
Probably the cruelest thing that any church leader can do is to deny a couple the chance or opportunity to get married or to delay their wedding. You may argue you have never heard of this happening in the 21st century Christian church. Well I have. And not only that, it is also mentioned in the New Testament;
1 Timothy 4:2-3; "(Such teachings come) by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron - they forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth".
In the Expositor's Bible Commentary Ralph Earle comments on this often-forgotten and rarely taught on verse;
"The apostle uses strong language in describing the teachers of the false doctrines he is about to mention. He declares they are "hypocritical liars" (the teachers who forbid marriage); this implies that they know better but they have deliberately forsaken the faith and teach falsehood ... Paul now mentions two of their false teachings; forbidding marriage and ordering people to "abstain from certain foods" ... what these false teachers forgot is that marriage is an institution that God established as the normal thing in society ... the apostle struck out forcefully against it as a negation of our freedom in Christ".
Marriage is one of the most beautiful and complete expressions of the grace of God that He can give. What can get closer to the image of His love, desire and passion for His Bride than that of marriage? In marriage, God has given mankind the opportunity to get a taste - just a taste of what we will enjoy at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Why am I so utterly passionate about the Song of Solomon being understood in it's true Biblical context? Because nothing excites me more than considering the tangible expression of love and glory that will be ours on that Day when our glorious Bridegroom returns. The glory will be such - we are told - that human marriage will not be in heaven. That's not something to mourn because the wonder of marriage that Christian couples enjoy now is nothing compared to what will be. That is why I so vigorously contend against the false emphasis that men like C J Mahaney and Mark Driscoll put on the Song of Solomon. Such teaching is distracting and putting too much emphasis on human marriage and too little on ultimate marriage - Christ and His church.
I wonder if that happened because too much emphasis was put on human marriage. Christian marriage is a serious undertaking because it is for life, it is done in the sight of God and man - but let us not forget that the apostle Paul himself said;
"But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion".
He's not down-grading the sanctity of marriage. But he is also not unnecessarily over-exalting the sanctity of marriage to a near-gnostic level so that marriage is forbidden unnecessarily and thereby sinfully exalting lust. Any leaders who do forbid marriage surely stand before God in accountability for causing those under their care to fall. All that aside - I stand convinced by Mohler's review of this book. Maybe the church has over emphasied too far in one direction and it is time to have the balance of truth adjusted somewhat. Young people!? Get married!!