Parental Involvement in Marriage (Part 2): The Divine Model

I'm a bit surprised that no one has yet responded to my previous post, because (1) the issue is very relevant, (2) the subject is highly controversial, and (3) I overstated my point in the last sentence.  This was the last sentence:

"It is time for us to re-examine the relationship between God and His Son in all its facets and to very seriously ask ourselves if our practices of engagement and marriage reflect the model that God the Father has displayed for us in His choosing of a bride for His Son."

Upon re-reading the post (especially this last sentence) and talking to a couple people about it (one of them being my wife Cindi), I realized that my words implied more than I wanted them to, and more than I currently believe.  And it wasn't because I was trying to overstate things just to stir up a discussion.  Even if I had tried to do that, it apparently didn't work.

Either way, for the record, I don't believe the Bible teaches that a strictly arranged marriage is the only acceptable method for finding a spouseIt may not even be the most biblically acceptable method for finding a spouse.  I haven't studied Scripture enough to have a responsible conviction about it.  I won't throw out the possibility just because our culture recoils at the thought of a guy-girl relationship with that much parental involvement.  But I won't jump at the possibility just to be counter-cultural, either.

All that being said, I don't want to suppress my original point, so here are a few thoughts on the issue, some recycled, some new.

1. The relationship between the Father and the Son is indescribably beautiful.  One of the facets of this beauty is the love and wisdom the Father displayed in choosing and purifying a bride for His Son, and the humility and submission of the Son in delightfully accepting the Father's gift.  If all relationships between parents and children were like this, we would no doubt have a lot more arranged marriages.  Good and happy ones.  If there's a problem with arranged marriages, it's not the method, because God chose it as His method, and He's in the process of making it work beautifully.  The problem is with us.

2. Although Scripture describes the marriage between Christ and the church in terms that sound like an "arranged marriage," Scripture does not explicitly prescribe that type of "arranged marriage" as the one method for finding a spouse.  In other words, the trinitarian example of God the Father choosing a bride for Christ the Son is not a spouse-finding-method that we're explicitly told to emulate.

3. However, there are some aspects of God's relationship with Christ or with us that we are clearly supposed to follow.  I am directly instructed to love my wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:22-33).  It is assumed that the relationship between fathers and their children will reflect the relationship between the Heavenly Father and His children (Hebrews 12:5-11; Matthew 7:7-11).  This implies that there are many things God models for us (not just general things like holiness, but also specific things like parenting).  If this is true, then it is wise to always look to God's example in Scripture as the ultimate model and then to ask how we are to scripturally follow that example.

4. Just because circumstances on earth are not ideal (while trinitarian circumstances certainly are ideal) does not mean that a given method is bad.  It would be easy to argue that of course it worked for God to choose a bride for Christ because God's relationship with His Son is perfect, but because my relationship with my parents is so poor (I speak hypothetically), that model can't influence me in any way.  That's not how the Bible speaks of other models, though, so it's not a very valid argument.  For example, God doesn't say that if a wife has an uncaring, unthoughtful, unbelieving husband, she is all of a sudden exempted from her responsibility to respond to him in a way that reflects the church's submission to Christ.  Rather, she is told to fulfill her role as a godly wife even if he is an ungodly husband (1 Peter 3:1-7).  She is supposed to follow the model of Christ and the church even if her husband doesn't.  In fact, it's in her gentle and quiet obedience that the husband may see the beauty of Christian holiness.  In this way, rebellious husbands "may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives" (1 Peter 3:1).  Certainly God could also use the gentle, joyful submission of a young Christian man to his unbelieving parents (in the issue of his relationship to a girl) to bring those parents to Christ as they see the model of happy humility that so reflects Christ's submission to His Father.

5. "My culture thumbs its nose at any thought of parental control or influence, especially in regards to the issue of marriage."  This is true, it is growing, and it is bad.  Parents have been designed and ordained by God to have a natural, comprehensive, authoritative influence in their children's lives.  I'm not talking about parental totalitarian regimes.  I'm talking about caring, full-orbed influence.  To deny this is to deny the authority of God, the God whose parental authority is reflected in earthly parents.

6. The objection (to parental involvement) that I most often hear from Christians pursuing marriage goes something like this: "My parents just don't understand.  They want us to wait to get married.  They didn't have a relationship as good as ours and they don't know my girlfriend very well, so they want us to wait.  It just doesn't make any sense."  Or: "Her dad's so strict.  He doesn't think we're mature enough to even date, and he's told her that he wouldn't want her to marry me, anyway.  But she's not even sure if her dad is a believer, and if he is, he's not a very mature one.  Don't you think he's being unreasonable?"  I sympathize with anyone in that situation (both the children and the parents).  But I'm afraid that too often, we younger people exalt our knowledge of our particular situation above the wisdom of those whom God has ordained to lead us.  This a perilous path.  I would much rather err on the side of oversubmitting to my parents than the side of undermining their influence and stiff-arming their counsel.

7. My initial question that I posed to myself for meditation (and included at the beginning of my original post) was: "Is God's choosing of a bride for Christ a model for parental involvement in their children's engagements and marriages?"  I'm not making a hard and fast argument for arranged marriages.  But I am making an unashamed call for strong parental involvement in issues of dating, courtship, engagement, and marriage.  And I'm basing that call (partly) in the "parental involvement" which God the Father had as He chose the church to be the bride of His Son.

Finally, even if you don't have a studied, settled view on this issue, stop and marvel at the pure wonder of the endless love and immeasurable trust between God the Father and God the Son.  And find joy in the upcoming marriage that we as the church will enjoy when we begin to experience full and everlasting intimacy with our faithful covenant husband Jesus Christ.

Purify yourself for that day.  No bride muddies her dress and smears her makeup and prostitutes her body in the days before her wedding.  How much more ought we to be found on our heavenly wedding day wearing spotless garments of righteousness, having put on pure and heart-deep spiritual beauty, and having kept ourselves pure for the Bridegroom.  We are the Father's gift to the Son.  May the Son be pleased.

The day is coming.


4 thoughts on “Parental Involvement in Marriage (Part 2): The Divine Model

  1. I applaud your article. It’s nice to see someone these days questioning our cultural norms. I believe God does use parents to help direct you towards your spouse. Many of the Bible greats are at minimum directed by their parents when and where to look for a spouse.

    Abraham sent a servant to find a wife for Isaac in Genesis 24:14 “This is my request. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink from your jug.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’—let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife. This is how I will know that you have shown unfailing love to my master.”.

    Later in Gen 28:6… Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram.” Here we see Isaac choosing the right time for marriage and narrowing who Jacob could pick from. Rachel’s father is also involved in the decision.

  2. Some of the questions i have concerning parents involvement in marriage are as follows:

    1. Why do parents find it so hard to accept the woman their son love, just because she don’t reach some area of qualifications? Say for example different community.

    2. Why is it so necessary for parents to think that if their son doesn’t do what they want, their son’s life will not be happy?

    3. Why is that the parents don’t care about their children’s feelings rather remain gloomy and sad when their children told them about how they feel?

    4. What if in any case the children accepted the parents will just because he/she cant bear to see his/parents agony, do you think he/she will be really happy after marriage? And is that what God wants?

    I’l be very glad to hear from you.
    Thank you..

  3. honestly( sorry i dont know who i may call you) parental involvement is quite needed atleast for those who have parents but my question is to what degree.
    God choose the church for Jesus Christ is a wonderful model but hey, is that a prescribed model in the strict sense?
    I am 30years old. i have dated and dated and i have come to an idea of who my life partner should be or be like.i told my dad of her and he accepted the idea but supprising he went behind my back without my involvement in the decission and concluded marriage with the father of the lady we both did not choose as my wife. His reasons are that she is working class and the family is rich and stable therefore she is preferred by him to the initial.this has broken my relationship with father as i see it as betrayal of my trust in him. please tell me was this the case between God and christ.

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