I was a great husband before I married my wife of now almost 16 years. I was a great father until I became a 4-time dad. And so it happened, and God’s marvelous sanctifying work in my heart and mind kicked it up a number of notches.
At a marriage conference I attended in 2001, Dr. Danny Akin, now president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, noted that getting married is like going to college, and having children is like going to grad school. I’d add that when you start having teenagers, you’re working on your Parental PhD–with PhD meaning pretty hard days.
Your pastors are strange by the culture’s standards (I heard that Amen from you out there). Between your pastors, we have 13 children–with #13 coming into the world late August (and frankly, we can’t have enough Morters in the world, can we?). The culture says, “Marriage shouldn’t be until later–you need to live your life to the full measure before settling down.” The terms ‘ball-and-chain’ are often used to describe your spouse–not very flattering. When it comes to children, a Chicago writer named Linda Hirschman felt that college-educated stay-at-home moms were a detriment to society because they were wasting their time staying home and depriving the marketplace of their skill-set.
Thus, the culture in which we live. And thus, an opportunity to convey something far, far better.
What does the Bible say about marriage and family?
1. God designed it (Genesis 1:26-31; Ephesians 5:22-24). God designed marriage to be the way that children come into the world, by the love of a husband and wife into a home of commitment, fidelity, and accountability. Couples are commanded by God to be fruitful and multiply. If in this fallen world that is not possible, God provides opportunities for couples to help others along in bearing fruit for Christ’s kingdom.
2. God defined it (Matthew 19:2-6). God tells us that He created marriage as that of male-and female, exclusively. One husband, one wife, for life. Every section of Scripture defines it thus (see especially Matthew 19:2-6). Anything outside of God’s stated definition of marriage is sin. On this, the church must not budge.
3. God refined it (Ephesians 5:25-33): Marriage serves as a picture of Christ wedded to the church, where Christ love His wife and gave Himself for her, and the wife submits to the headship of her Husband, Jesus Christ. This brings a fine point to what God aims for church and for marriage.
4. God consigns it (1 Corinthians 7:2-5; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17). God entrusted marriage to us, under his mandate that the couple not be “unequally yoked.” Believers must marry believers–for if you do not have Christ in common, and Christ is not Lord, then the ‘yoke’ that leads you will be a different size and take you on a different row to hoe.
5. God assigns it (Ephesians 6:1-4): My assignment as a Dad? Train my children in the way of the Lord. But now I see that the main ‘small group’ that I must disciple is not my congregation, not my Sunday School class, not my pastors or staff–they are a priority, but not the main driving priority. I must not pass on the responsibility, nor pass it off to my kiddos’ teachers at church. They help, but it’s my assignment from the Lord. The main discipling group God has provided me is my family. I’m the only husband my wife has–I’m the only Dad my kids have. And this applies to you as well.
I didn’t marry until I was almost 27. God knew what He was doing when He brought Cindy may way. And never did I imagine having four children–but God knew what He was doing in giving me the children He did.
Our hope and joy is in Christ, who not only helps us take the next steps in our family life. What steps do you need to take?
Matthew Perry (D.Min, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as Lead Pastor at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in Centennial, CO. This was originally published in our church newsletter, The Challenger for July 2014.