Your Second Most Important Decision
Before the Second Comes the First
What is your most important decision in life? Is it choosing a career, a city or country to dwell, or a cause to champion? These are important decisions but they are not the most important.
What, then, could it be? Getting in right relationship with God! God is our Creator and also our Redeemer. He is also very holy; but unfortunately, we are not. Our own good works and good intentions cannot rectify this situation. Only through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can have a right relationship with the living God.
But the Gospel is not automatically downloaded into our life. We decide to say ‘Yes’ to the Gospel. When we do, we receive the ‘new birth,’ salvation from sin and condemnation, the gift of eternal life, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and more. All these wonderful and everlasting outcomes spring from a simple decision to receive Christ and His Gospel.
Can there be no more important decision than this? Your relationship with God and eternal destiny depend on it.
The Second Most Important Decision
So what is the second most important decision you can make? It has to do with people. Jesus said that all the Law and the Prophets hang on simply loving the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40).
In short, our two most important decisions have to do with God and others. We decide to love (and obey) God and we decide to love (and serve) others.
Most specifically, our second most important decision—which will affect us for the rest of our lives—is choosing to marry. It is not merely a private decision. Your decision affects your family, church, community, and beyond. Like a sacred covenant—a binding agreement—if the marriage succeeds, everyone wins. If not, you and society pay the price. Billions of dollars a year are spent in Australia, the United States, and beyond for welfare payments, crime, and other by-products of broken marriages. And there is no way to gauge the cost of the emotional and spiritual damage that divorce brings.
Marriage in Focus
Let’s look at the issue of marriage in cameo:
Marriage is God’s idea. He ordained it from the very beginning of the world. ‘And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him’ (Genesis 2:18 KJV). Marriage is for companionship and partnership. According to Genesis 2:21-25, marriage is clearly between one man and one woman.
God designed marriage to provide a godly framework for the exercise of human sexuality and procreation. Within these boundaries there is pure pleasure and blessing; but outside these godly parameters sin and danger are waiting to pounce and destroy.
Marriage is universally recognized in all cultures and societies. Hebrews 13:4 (NKJV) says ‘Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.’
Because the stakes are so high, it is important to make the right decision at the beginning, even before entering into marriage.
Some Stats to Chew On
In Australia in the year 2006, when the last census was taken, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 114,222 marriages were solemnized. In the same year Canada had 146,738 marriages; New Zealand 21,419; Singapore 22,189; the United Kingdom 306,214; and the United States 2,279,000.
Back in Australia in 2006, 38% (44,117) of the marriages were solemnized by a minister of religion while 61.1% (70,105) were conducted by a civil celebrant. Of interest is that 86,937 or 76% of those getting married were living in a de facto relationship (also called ‘cohabitation,’ a term I will use interchangeably) prior to their wedding. And the rate of divorce has risen from 28% to 33%.
What we can gather is that while marriage is still very popular, entering into a de facto relationship before marriage is becoming more common; the use of clergy is declining while divorce rates are rising. In addition, 79% of boys and 86% of girls born in the mid-1980s will end up marrying, while 69% of boys and 74% of girls born at the start of this century will do likewise. Fertility rates are also declining, too, due to the heavy use of contraception, delaying marriage to a later age, and less healthy, highly stressful lifestyles.
These trends are worrisome. And we need to address them head on. As we ponder the second most important decision of our lives, we need to choose marriage even before we choose a spouse. The community, and especially the church, should be decidedly ‘pro-marriage’ and do everything in their power to preserve it. By choosing alternatives to marriage, either by default or design, will greatly diminish your chances for a successful marriage and even undermine it.
Co-habitation is neither ‘pre-marriage’ nor marriage on training wheels. Neither is it a ‘marriage look-alike.’ It is an alternative to marriage. In many ways, it seeks to draw out the benefits of marriage without the corresponding commitment. It is like ‘fools gold’ rather than the real thing.
Co-habiting before marriage can be hazardous for your marital health. It has been statistically shown that those who live in a de facto relationship prior to marriage are far more likely to divorce than those who do not. While the mantra of ‘try before you buy’ may work well when purchasing a car, it is a disaster when it comes to a healthy marriage.
How can this be?
Because the foundation of the relationship is bad. Like a high-rise building in an earthquake zone, without a good, strong, healthy foundation, the first tremor can cause the entire building to collapse.
Sexual relations between a de facto couple—or any unmarried couple—is called ‘fornication.’ You would be amazed how many times this word is found in the Bible. The Hebrew word תַּזְנוּת [taznuwth, taznuth /taz•nooth/] is used 20 times in the Old Testament and is translated ‘whoredom’ 18 times, and ‘fornication’ twice. The New Testament uses the word porneia (πορνεία, 4202—where we get the English word ‘pornography’) 26 times and refers to ‘illicit sexual relations,’ be it fornication (sex between unmarried people), adultery (where one or both persons are married), same sex relations or sex with animals (bestiality). Of the seven lists of sins found in the Paul’s epistles, the word ‘fornication’ is found in five of them (Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:11; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5). That why Godly commitment and Biblical morality provide the only means of creating a good foundation for a healthy, long-lasting marriage. Such a foundation is not possible in a de facto relationship, no matter how loving it may be.
Why is all this emphasis given on fornication? Because morality is a protective hedge for you and your family; if it is breached, the damage can be incalculable. The consequences are very serious and that’s why the warnings are equally serious. God promises to judge fornicators and adulterers (Hebrews 13:4ff) and ostracize them outside the walls of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:15).
After speaking in a church, a woman came up to me for some advice. She was troubled by the fact that she and her boyfriend where having sexual relations, though they were unmarried. She knew it was wrong and tried to explain it to her boyfriend, who also claimed to be a Christian. She needed some Biblical ammunition. So, like a doctor writing a prescription, I offered her the following verses:
Acts 15:20 (KJV—Guidelines by the Jewish elders of the early church for Gentile believers)
20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Acts 21:25 (KJV—ditto)
25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
1 Corinthians 6:13 (KJV)
13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
1 Corinthians 6:18 (KJV)
18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
1 Corinthians 7:2 (KJV)
2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
Ephesians 5:3 (NKJV)
3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;
Colossians 3:5 (NKJV)
5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Hebrews 13:4 (NKJV)
4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
Revelation 22:15 (NKJV)
15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
I handed the ‘script’ to the woman and she went her way rejoicing.
If you have kept yourself pure—then keep going. If not, repentance towards God and faith towards Jesus Christ can bring forgiveness and cleansing (Acts 20:21; I John 1:7-10; Revelation 1:5-6).
The following three questions received a unanimous response of those Christians who formerly practiced fornication:
1. Do you regret having practiced fornication? Yes!
2. Did fornication help prepare you for marriage and sexual relations? No!
3. If you could live your life over again, would you abstain from sex until marriage? Yes!
Your second most important decision—to marry—will also have related decisions, like who to marry, when to marry, etc. These may be the topics of future blogs. Let your decision to marry be also a vote for chastity and moral purity before marriage. Those who do will have no regrets, now or ever.