Divorce in my parents’ generation was extremely rare; living together outside of marriage was also taboo.
I am not saying the World War II generation was as pure as the driven snow. It had its share of adulterers and adulteresses, but marriage overall was looked at as sacred. The common belief was that the wedding vows were exactly that – vows – a pledge between a man and a woman and God. Vows were a person’s word, and the reliability of that word was directly related to a person’s reputation and their family’s reputation. A promise and a handshake were how deals were finalized, in other words, a person’s word.
Views about marriage shifted as my generation grew into adulthood. Divorce went from rare to common, living together before marriage was no longer taboo, more babies were being born outside of wedlock, deals went from confirmed by a handshake to needing a contract with three copies. About marriage – fewer weddings were conducted in churches, and people started calling a marriage license, “a piece of paper.”
Today, the shift continues. Divorce has gone from common to expected. Living together before marriage has grown into the way people hope things to happen. The thought about marriage has shifted from a vow between a man and woman and God to a relationship between two people based on feeling. We’ve moved from the honest handshake to paranoia that our identity and every dime we have stolen. Things have changed.
In today’s American culture often the man is absent, leaving the woman to raise the children and fend for herself. Usually, there is a legal arrangement where he will throw some money her way to help with expenses, and he will have appointed times to see the children. Sadly, there are many instances where dad is absent, and mom receives no help from him whatsoever. Yes, these circumstances have existed with every generation, but today it is no longer unusual.
The opposite of love is selfishness. Love always gives (John 3:16). When my sister died, my parents gave me an example of love. The grief of losing a child may be the most heart-wrenching thing a person can go through. During those days after Brenda’s death, mom would cry. Dad would put aside his grief for a few moments to help mom; put his arm around her, console her, wipe away her tears, talk about Brenda. Mom would gradually gain her composure; the tears would stop. Then a few minutes later, the tears would start flowing from my father’s eyes. Mom would do for him what he had just done for her. The back and forth care for each other occurred for a week or more. They were able to get through this time of grief by loving each other – putting aside their feelings to tend to the sentiments of the other.
In many families, everyone is looking out for his or her wants and desires and not each other. Pieces of evidence of this – separate bank accounts, comments like, “You can’t use that it is mine.” When a couple weds they become one (Genesis 2:24). Two cannot become one when living separate lives even when living under the same roof. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying they cannot have different jobs or careers, but their goals, what they desire life to be like in the future, how to raise the children, handle the money, thoughts on dealing with the in-laws and a score of other things must be in agreement or serious problems will arise. How can these things be in agreement if not discussed?
Talking things out long before they occur will make life a lot happier. Julie and I discussed how to educate the children, our goals in life, how we would come to decisions and much more before we were married. In the 40 years since, we have averted many arguments by going back to those early talks and acting as we agreed. Doing this has kept us one. Neither of us is looking out for our selfish desires, but the betterment of each other, in other words, love.
Love when coming from both sides of a relationship brings joy, happiness, self-worth and purpose to life. When love is only on one side of a relationship, it brings sadness and heartache to the loving party and usually a sense of loss and loneliness to the unloving person. When a relationship is void of love, filled with selfishness from both sides, misery, destruction and destroyed lives are usually the outcome.
Many today equate a physical attachment as love. This thought could not be further from the truth. When true love, a complete giving of two people to each other, exists, the physical bond through marriage is enhanced. When a man and woman are fully unselfishly devoted to one another, and God is brought into the relationship everything in life is improved.
Here are two last points. You cannot make someone love somebody else. It is a choice everyone makes. They will either be selfish or loving.
Also, God is essential; 1 John 4:8 says, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
Preacher Tim Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Indiana. Email him at [email protected] Sermons and archived Preacher’s Points may be found at preacherspoint.wordpress.com.