“Holy Estate of Matrimony”
Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church
We’ve heard these words in every church wedding we’ve ever attended, right? But have you ever thought about what they are saying, and whether there might be more to it than just what is on the surface?
To begin with, we don’t really refer to marriage as an “estate”, do we? Instead, we zero in on the word used in the wedding formula for the creating of marriage, “instituted by God.” Commonly, we say that marriage is an institution. And it is this idea that we worship, that Matrimony, Marriage, is a holy condition. That somehow, saying the words “I do”, confers upon a man and woman a state of grace that isn’t available to the unmarried.
Okay, so we talk of marriage as an institution, but shouldn’t we still consider it as holy? After all, didn’t God “institute” marriage? And didn’t Paul say,
Marriage should be honored by all… (Heb 13:4)
Why, yes. Yes he did. God DID institute marriage.
But He Who instituted Marriage instituted Government, as well. How highly do you, do we, “honor and esteem” the institution of Government. After all the same Bible that has Heb. 13:4 tells us:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Rom. 13:1)
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Rom. 13:7)
How highly do we speak of Government, and how highly do we esteem those who make our laws? Try as you might, I’m guessing that you can’t make a statement about marriage that can’t be applied to government. After all, when all histrionics are over, we’re still left with the fact that God instituted both marriage and government.
A Simple Truth
A couple of years ago, my wife and I were talking about this, about so many bad marriages and yet trying to hold to the idea that “Marriage is a Holy Institution”, when she said something that seemed to lift the fog. She said of the people who enter into this institution, “The Institution is worthless if you don’t honor it.”
The Institution is worthless if you don’t honor it.
In essence, any institution is only as good as the people who are in it. Government is only as good as the people in it, and a marriage is only as good as the people who are married.
So, how should we think of marriage, then, if it isn’t some hallowed state of grace that God has set apart? Is it just a piece of paper, or a relic of a previous era? No, of course not. It is true that marriage was created by God, and we know that God said “It is good”, that it has God’s blessing on it.
I think that the problem is that we don’t esteem marriage high enough. In our society, any two people can get a license and get married, no matter their state of maturity or preparation. And no matter how ill-matched, how ill-mated or ill-prepared, we are willing to pronounce their union “good,” to accept that the naifs are part of the Institution of Marriage.
And then we nail them to the cross!
… to be continued.