I just ran across a news article with the unfortunate headline Love doesn’t necessarily mean marriage: survey:

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – Four out of 10 Americans say they don’t need a marriage certificate to prove love or commitment, according to a new online survey.

Overall, 44 percent of the 7,113 Americans aged 20 to 69 who took part in the poll by Zogby International and AOL Personals said they didn’t need marriage to validate their relationships.

“Across all age groups, you just don’t need a marriage certificate to mean love,” AOL Personals Director Keith Brengle told Reuters.

“People are coming online to find that special someone but that special someone doesn’t necessarily translate into a marriage, and more so with the folks in their 60s.”

Half the respondents between the ages 20 and 29 said marriage wasn’t necessary.

A majority of respondents also said they would prefer to live together first before marriage and most said marriage should truly be until “death do us part,” especially those in their 30s (73 percent).

All in all, it’s an interesting survey. Most importantly, it reflects a false understanding of love and marriage that is present not only in the American culture but also in the American church. So here’s where I’m going to get very opinionated.

Is marriage merely a “stamp of approval” for a couple who already love each other? Or is it the foundation of the couple’s love for one another? The former is cultural; the latter is biblical.

The Bible’s teaching on the subject indicates that a husband should love his wife for the simple reason that she is his wife. We see this clearly in Ephesians 5:22-33, among other passages. Love is not to be founded on chemistry or compatibility or shared interests or physical beauty or money or sex. Ultimately, it is to be founded on marriage. While a husband may love his wife for all these things, he must be able to say to her, “Above all, I love you because you are my wife, and that love will never die as long as you are my wife.” This is the attitude of Christ toward the church.

If we look at love and marriage with an upside-down worldview, we will simply be following the failures of the culture around us. If we look at these issues through a biblical lens, it will change our attitudes. In particular:

  • Dating. We view dating as a means to building a romantic relationship with another person. This relationship is then given the stamp of approval with a marriage license. Logically, then, marriage is often seen as subsequent and unnecessary to the relationship. This perspective is backwards; marriage should be seen as the basis for the relationship. The goal of dating or courtship or whatever should not be to build a relationship; its goal should be to determine whether the couple are fit to be husband and wife. (Hopefully, a close friendship is being built in the process!) If the highest goal of dating is to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, that’s a pretty childish attitude—one that will likely bring about sin, hurt, and confusion.
  • Divorce. If a husband and wife are to love one another simply because they are husband and wife, then this eliminates most grounds for divorce found in our culture. A man’s wife may not be “the woman I married,” but she is his wife. He is to love her regardless. I know a friend who did this; he refused to stop loving his wife even though she was mistreating him. His unconditional love brought them through a rocky period in their marriage in which almost anyone else would have given up.

Our worldview has a tremendous impact on the way we live. This is an area where the church has gone along with foolish thinking, unaware of the dangers. How we need the truth of God’s Word to change our attitudes and transform our minds!