Marriage isn’t a Culture thing

I was just having this random thought today. Anything that can be considered a cultural thing is an invention of man. For example, whether you eat with your hands or with a knife and fork is cultural. How you speak to people older than you is cultural. Whether you shake hands or hug is cultural.

Marriage is not cultural. A lot of the trappings of marriage are cultural. The form which the ceremony takes, even the interactions of the husband and wife for the duration of their marriage might be largely dictated to by culture, but the concept of marriage itself is not a cultural human invention.

Cultures can even twist marriage. They can add things on to it that God didn’t invent, like polygamy or gay marriages. Those, too, are cultural things. But still marriage itself is not an invention of humans.

It’s amazing to think that every culture in the world consists pretty much entirely of things conceived of by humans, when you realise just how many different cultures there are and how complex they all are! But they all have a concept of marriage, and none of them invented the idea. Marriage is one of few things God gave us at the beginning of time, other than His love and the earth itself of course. Everything else, we have developed over the intervening millenia.

The reason I was thinking about this is cause I have some friends who think the church pushes marriage a bit hard. In churches, it’s often assumed everyone who is single will get married sooner or later, and because statistically most Christians do, it’s mostly a harmless assumption. But I can understand how it would come to be an annoyance to those who actually aren’t all that interested in pursuing the idea of getting married, in the near future or later.

But if marriage is not a cultural thing, then the expectation that it will occur one day is not just a cultural expectation. Marriage isn’t just a cultural thing Christians do. Having church services on a Sunday morning is a cultural thing churches do. And usually we expect everyone to be there, even though God never invented the idea. There’s nothing in the bible about Sunday services. But there is marriage in the bible, right in the beginning. So why is it we seem to sometimes find the expectation that we’ll get married more annoying than the expectation that we’ll be at church every week?

Marriage is something God gave us. Clearly it doesn’t happen to everyone, but it does seem to happen to most. To some God will give singleness, but in lieu of that, I don’t find it all that unreasonable to assume most Christians will get married. And that’s before I even start on the whole church being the bride of Christ thing, which isn’t irrelevant, but nor is it the point I’m trying to make. What do you think???

6 responses to “Marriage isn’t a Culture thing

  1. It is fair to say that the institution of marriage itself is not a cultural thing as it is given by God himself. But the process of getting married, the celebrations are influenced by the culture in which you grew up in. To assume that it is not would be to think that we all come from the same cultural perspective would it not?
    So what we see around the world is the way in whcih different cultures respond to the concept of marriage! Marriage as you know does not work in isolation, it takes place in a context which is culture, hence the diversity of experiences regardless almost of the faith which the couple hold!
    It seems above all that in west african culture, family have a big role to play in a marriage1 It is seen not as the joining of one to another but as the joining of families, becoming a bigger and stronger unit. A sense of oneness, therefore more people are involved and feel like they should have their say in what happens on the day. This must stand in stark contrast to the experience of others.

  2. There’s a difference between giving up meeting together and not having church on Sundays. If I had to compare the average CU/ICF community which meets every day in one form or another to the average congregation and tell you which one’s doing a better job of being church according to the scripture you quoted, I’d have to say CU and ICF are miles ahead. Incidentally, I used that scripture at the end of the AGM video in 2008 :)

    In regards to singleness, I think my closing comment in the blog is fair: that to some God will give singleness, but in lieu of that it’s not unreasonable to assume they’ll get married. There are many reasons why Paul could have been promoting singleness, and trying to boost the singleness team so that he didn’t feel like such a loner wouldn’t have been one of them. He may have been trying to prevent status games of married people thinking themselves above single people. He may have been trying to prevent people from marrying for the sake of being married, rather than because they are burning with the desire which makes it good for them to marry. Both those reasons could be tied together. I don’t know.

  3. Hmm, I am not entirely convinced. Yes, marriage is good, but if there is an expectation in the Church for everyone to marry then that is problem — in fact, there is biblical precedent that it is better in some respects to remain single.

    Paul says in I Corinthians 7, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am […] I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.”

    It seems fairly clear that both marriage and singleness are blessed, each in their own way, so surely it is the responsibility of the Church to support both.

    Regarding Sunday services, it is true that their precise form is not prescribed, but there is certainly an example given by the apostles, and instructions such as “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ” (Hebrews 10:24–25) Whether this is meeting with 1000 people in a purpose-built church building on Sunday morning or meeting with 5 friends over dinner is not terribly important, but I think it is entirely reasonable to expect all Christians to be meeting with other Christians, regularly, to worship God, pray, support each other and be a witness to their community through presence, service and whatever other means.

  4. the assumption you speak of translates to “soon” not just “at all”. Sorry I worded this badly.

  5. Spot on. Yea it isn´t a dangerous assumption in my opinion either. I for one believe that yes marriage is for most not all people as you have said so I kind of trust God with that in terms of my own relationship status. I don´t feel any pressure on myself to marry. It´s funny, and you may or may not find this relevant, but someone once said to me that Christians often marry younger than non-Christians because they are hot for each other. This may be an overstatement but it begs to question how sometimes with some people the assumption you speak translates to “soon”. But it differs I guess.

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