Have respect for marriage. Always be faithful to your partner, because God will punish anyone who is immoral or unfaithful in marriage.
-- Hebrews 13:4
For better or for worse, there's been plenty of talk the last few years about our country's need for fundamental change. But the fact is that America has changed drastically since the end of World War II without the help of celebrities and politicians. There are the obvious things -- like the growth of the suburbs, 24-hour Walmarts, and cable TV. And of course, there's the Internet.
Those changes may be good or bad depending on your perspective. But one change that's definitely negative involves society's attitude toward marriage and family. Fifty years ago, news of a couple living together outside of marriage would have been considered scandalous at the very least. And in some states, it could actually lead to jail time for the offending parties. But consider how much has changed now that we are so much more "enlightened" than our parents and grandparents! Think of everything we've gained now that such a large segment of the populous has turned its back on committed marriage (the "death 'til you part" type). With more flexible laws and the literal promotion of adultery in popular culture, it's no wonder that more than 40 percent of marriages end in divorce. It's also no wonder that so many people figure that marriage isn't worth the trouble. Living together becomes their rational option.
But along with the devastating emotional toll comes the burden from the skyrocketing rates of out-of-wedlock births - now reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to near 40 percent. The common denominator here is that our society has walked -- or more accurately run -- away from Biblical ideals like marriage. Specifically, we have turned from God and His teachings as a whole -- the ones He gave us for experiencing meaningful, fulfilling lives. What were once considered clear black and white issues of right and wrong have blended over the decades into murky shades of gray. But it's all relative, right? Who needs those pesky 10 Commandments and Jesus' teachings, anyway?
That's obviously not God's standard when it comes to committed relationships between men and women. He had a perfect plan from the very beginning -- and He was quick to share it. We need read only a few pages of the Bible's very first book before we reach this ancient yet refreshing passage:
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
That sounds very permanent. But to many modern-thinking couples, living together without any strings attached is a more progressive and tolerant lifestyle choice. After all, commitment is such an uncomfortable word - a word that implies responsibility, faith and total dependence on a much greater and wiser Power.
But come to think of it, isn't that what it means to be a Christ-follower?