The Criteria for a Christian Marriage -- By: David J. MacLeod

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 16:1 (Summer 2007)
Article: The Criteria for a Christian Marriage
Author: David J. MacLeod

The Criteria for a Christian Marriage1

David J. MacLeod

Dave MacLeod is Dean for Biblical studies at Emmaus Bible College and Associate Editor of The Emmaus Journal.


Several years ago Dr. Haddon Robinson—then a pastor, but later a seminary professor—received a phone call from a young lady who wanted him to conduct her wedding ceremony. He invited her and her fiancé to come over for an interview. The young couple shifted uncomfortably in the comfortable chairs not only because marriage was a strange new experience for them, but because sitting in a pastor’s study was equally as strange. Neither of them had ever attended that church—or any other church so far as Dr. Robinson could gather—though both had lived in that city most of their lives. They wanted Robinson to conduct their wedding ceremony because the young lady’s parents were vaguely connected with the pastor’s denomination. The young man was interested in costs. Not the costs of building a worthwhile marriage—apparently neither of them had given much thought to that—but rather the pastor’s fee for performing the ceremony. Robinson told the young man that he gave a lifetime guarantee with his weddings and, because of this, the only demand he made was for them to have several conferences with him before he would perform the wedding.

“In that case,” said the young man, “this will be impossible, because we want to be married tomorrow afternoon.” “Why did you come to me?” Robinson asked. “After all, the Justice of the Peace will be happy to marry you, and he doesn’t have all these sticky questions to ask.” The young lady was shocked at the pastor’s suggestion, and she blurted out, “Pastor Robinson, we came to you because you are a preacher. Bob and I want to be married in a church. We want our marriage to be sacred.”

One certainly has to admire a couple’s eagerness to have a “sacred marriage,” but at the same time, one cannot help but wonder what they meant. Apparently they felt that getting married in a church building before a minister was all that was required to take God home with them. He could be carried out in the same way that you take home a church bulletin on Sunday morning.

Dr. Robinson read that young couple a passage of Scripture from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (5:22–33). In this passage Paul describes the ideal of a Christian marriage and of a “sacred marriage.” When my friend had finished reading it was quite evident that the young couple felt that what he had been reading was religious gob...

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