I was talking to a young person who was thinking about getting married and the question came up how one can identify the feeling of love and how we can distinguish it from the more superficial attraction.
There are three important issues regarding this: being in love means that,
1. one feels that he/she would like to live all his life with the other;
2. one feels that he/she would never want to get into such a relationship with anybody else;
3. one feels that he/she can love the other with her/his full personality - including her/his mistakes! - and one can accept the other for all his/her life. This feeling is not a requirement of a religious dogma or an external law but it breaks through freely from the heart of the person who is in love.
Can we believe this feeling and its content? Can such an enduring and exclusive relationship exist in the reality of human life for several decades? Is it a romantic illusion or does it reflect the stable reality which we can build on? If it does, how shall we do it?
The Bible's answer to these questions is marriage.
In marriage two persons become one and they cannot be separated without causing serious damage. When the Pharisees asked Jesus whether it is permitted to divorce, he answered with no except for the case when the other party commits adultery. The main aim of the service of Jesus was that people arrive in their hearts to a life that is truthful and based on love instead of further forcing moral laws through external pressures. Therefore it is never right to interpret his words as a "prohibition" that does not have to do anything with us or as a formal religious "order" because this is completely the opposite of his intention. Instead we should look for the true solution for life's real content, and inside we should consider his words as a truthful advice. Jesus explained his answer with the fact that in marriage two persons become one and they cannot be separated without causing serious damage.
The complete Scripture consistently proves that during sexual union the personalities of the involved parties are interlocked in a lasting way, they give themselves to each other. That is the reason the Biblical language calls this "knowing" each other ("and Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived..." - Genesis 4:1) as during sexual union the two persons entirely open up themselves to each other. This is also manifested by the specific fact that they uninhibitedly show parts of their bodies to each other which are hidden from others and they behave emotionally and psychically in a way that otherwise can never be seen.
The Judeo-Christian tradition is unambiguously on the point of view - although it is also naturally self-evident - that during sexual union not only the body but also the mind and the spirit unfolds and makes itself known to a much deeper extent than during a conversation or a spare-time activity spent together. (The Holy Scripture's languages use the same word for getting to know God in the deepest possible way.)
During this process the two personalities are blended and from this time they can be separated only at the expense of each party losing something from him/herself and stealing something from the other.
According to the prophet Malachi this split causes such damage in one's spirit that is equivalent to the spiritual-mental death: "Another thing you do: You flood the LORD's altar with tears. You weep and wail... You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one?... "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,".... So guard yourself in your spirit..." (Malachi 2:13-16)
According to the prophet Hosea adultery "takes away the heart" (Hosea 4:11). In Hebrew language the heart and the spirit refers to the center of a human being, the deepest inside, the true self. God's revelation considers this problem much deeper than most people do: when splitting up with someone, one loses his/her true identity, and his/her personality is "deprived of its center".
The Law of Moses punished adultery and fornication with death because its basic principle was to punish everything with the consequence that was caused by that particular deed ("eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life"). Based on this it is evident that the Word of God considers sexual immorality as an act that indirectly causes death.
If somebody slept with a virgin girl who was not engaged to anyone, they could avoid death penalty if they got married, and "he can never divorce her as long as he lives". This also shows that if sexual union already took place, the situation could be still saved by avoiding the breakup. According to the Christian interpretations, the punishments of the Law of Moses should not be carried out today but the Law's set of values still reflects God's point of view regarding the judgment of our deeds.
The prophet Malachi also emphasizes that the wife is a covenant partner. Sexual union takes place between a man and a woman but it goes beyond sexual roles as - whether they want it or not - the full personality participates in it. That is why the Bible considers sexual life that is the complete unfolding, cognition and union of personalities as a fair act with a positive impact only if beforehand the two persons gave a similarly deep proof that they want to belong to each other – and only to each other – forever. So they enter into a covenant related to all aspects of life not only as a man and a woman but as two complete personalities (therefore with aging and the ceasing of sexuality the relationship will remain just as substantial and meaningful.) Only this commitment can entitle them to take possession of each other during sexual union.
The Apostle Paul clearly states that the union of personalities also takes place if the aim of both parties is solely physical satisfaction, sexual immorality, or even prostitution. (1 Corinthians 6:16). The Holy Scripture refers to this with a more casual word as "sleeping together" but the above described problem, the spiritually and mentally deadly damage of the breakup following sexual union occurs in these cases as well, even though it is not as strong emotionally, it is just as real.
In the ancient Israel the common way of entering into a covenant was that they killed an animal and cut it into two pieces, they placed the two pieces facing each other, and the parties entering into the covenant (according to the Hebrew expression "cutting the covenant") walked through the parts of the animal's body. This act and the bloodshed indicated that the covenant partners laid down their lives for each other: they died to themselves and lived for the other.
This is characteristic to the marriage covenant of the Bible as well: each party gives his/her full personality to the other (and therefore he/she can get him/herself back only in the other person, so to say, "pay one, get one free"), they both live for the other and in the other and not for themselves anymore.
But is not this what everyone who is in love wishes for? The Scripture is nothing else but a really seriously taken romance. According to John, "the apostle of love", love means that someone gives his/her life for the other. This does not only stand for "heroic death" but it is the basic daily principle of a good marriage, the secret of happiness.
In one of the radio programs which dealt with this issue, somebody misunderstood this principle and qualified it as an external pressure mandated by the church(es) which we cannot build upon. Indeed we could not build on it if it was an external pressure. However, it should not be an external obligation but rather an adult decision that comes from one's heart freely, happily and based on love. At the same time it has great responsibility and an irrevocable obligation since the other person commits his/her life and destiny to this decision. But can all this really work in practice?
Marriage made in Paradise
When Jesus expressed his opinion against divorce, the Pharisees brought up the counter-argument that the Law of Moses permitted divorce (and polygamy as well). "Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning." (Matthew 19:8) This sentence exhibits the profoundness related to the story of salvation, connected to the most sensitive and current question of marriage.
According to Jesus, 1. human heart is too hard in its natural state to be able to give one's life to the other as described earlier, so 2. God took this into consideration at the time of setting the Law by giving some allowance, 3. but it was not like this "in the beginning". The Rabbi from Nazareth refers here to the fall of man: before that Adam and Eve did not have stubborn hearts and that is why they were able to live in a happy marriage in monogamy and without divorce.
The answer of Jesus and the allowance of the Law of Moses both contain the assumption that the fallen man is not capable for this as he cannot step out from himself, he is not able to fully give up himself that is necessary for the marriage, or at least after a while, when the emotional fire and ecstasy of love diminishes, he "takes himself back" from the other. This is the real and deepest reason of this type of crisis in a marriage. Jesus, however, "appeals" to the human state at the time of creation and sets it as the example to be followed.
Nowadays several religion historians claim that Jesus did not consider himself to be the Messiah. The above sentence, however, contradicts this statement. Jesus challenges man to restore complete love, which was the quality requirement of the original state in the Garden of Eden and he revokes the allowance given by the Law of Moses. With this Jesus declares that he is able to take the human heart back to the state of pure love of the times in paradise before the fall of man. And according to the Jewish way of thinking only the Messiah is capable to do this as this is nothing else but the redemption of marriage.
Redemption has been unfulfilled so far and the historical Christianity has failed – this is indicated by the fact that during the two thousand years of the western Judeo-Christian civilization nations have never been able to realize multitudinously the ideal of the monogamous – and at the same time happy! – marriage that lasts for a lifetime.
It is not true that marriage is a conservative value: in the past neither provincial nor noble and civil societies could ever manage to realize it in great numbers. Adultery and sexual immorality were only mixed with some hypocrisy, which is demonstrated by folk poetry, noble and civil literature and history as well.
The religious enforcement of the verdict of Jesus via external pressures only further complicated the problem – it would be now time to follow the example of prince Shechem of the Bible and speak "tenderly to her". First he raped Jacob's daughter and only after that he started to talk to her heart, which is similar to what historical Christianity has done with humankind. The "marriage made in the Garden of Eden" cannot be enforced with external pressure, that is why secular society throws away the requirements of a monogamous marital relationship lasting for a lifetime – and in fact these requirements have never been adopted by society.
During the last centuries Christianity aggravated the already troubled situation in another area and that was the question of sexuality within marriage. The Catholic tradition brought the anti-sexuality of some ascetical pagan mystery religions into the Christian tradition and Protestantism could not be fully unloosened from this. Even though Luther had done a lot to rehabilitate sex within marriage, unfortunately Calvin's strict anti-joy and anti-pleasure ideas had a negative impact. Therefore most Europeans think of Christianity as a prudish and anti-sexual religion.
According to the Catholic tradition sexual life is only legitimate with the intention of begetting an offspring otherwise it is a sin even within marriage. In contradiction to this, the Word of God states that one of the main aims (!) of marriage is taking part in sexual pleasures. "Do not deprive each other – says the Apostle Paul to the married parties – except by mutual consent and for a time..." (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)
It is written in the Old Testament that "if a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married." (Deuteronomy 24:5) So besides the fact that the husband was exempted from being enlisted as a soldier, the newlyweds did not have to pay any taxes for one year! The purpose of this was that the husband should bring happiness to his wife – theologians and rabbis share the opinion that this unambiguously refers to sexual pleasures as well. (Those who are malicious may note that since they did not pay taxes and so had more money, they were in better mood thus had a better basis for sexual pleasures. Anyhow, according to the Jewish tradition it is the husband's main moral duty to do everything in order to give sexual satisfaction to his wife. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who jokingly calls himself the "prophet of love", explains this in detail in his book about kosher sex.)
What family support! In the childless period of marriage the biblical approach greatly emphasizes the realization of the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical unity of husband and wife which can later become the basis of strong families and they in turn become the basis of a strong society. (We would propose the Hungarian legislation to implement a tax-free "wedding year" but of course with the restriction that it is valid for the first marriage only, otherwise lots of people would get re-married year after year...)
The revelation of the Bible is not prudish and not anti-sexual. Due to this blunder of historical Christianity the European civilization has fallen off the ground: they rejected the positive, pure and blessing impact of sex within marriage, therefore the Christian model of marriage became unfeasible, which led to hypocrisy and later contributed to the fact that secularized society threw the whole idea away.
Even though the past cannot but the future can still be dedicated to marriage. However, in order to reach this it is not enough to refer to old values that had never existed: Christians have to reconsider their faith from the very basis regarding this topic as well as others.
(Tibor Ruff, Hetek)
Meaningless lives cannot be successful together
A lot of people today live their lives in a very isolated way and hardly meet anyone else besides their colleagues. Struggling in loneliness they cannot wait to fall in love – even if this is not conscious to them – so they fall in love with the first person who gets closer to them. Jozsef Váraljai Kiss (the leader of one of the Hungarian dating agencies – note by translator), calls this the "straw effect" (people cling to any straw that comes their way), and according to him a relationship today typically starts like this.
However, a man in love does not see the character of the other realistically, so it often happens that for a long time he does not even get to know that the other one has children. This way, relationships quickly get destroyed, which generates frustration and disappointment in both parties.
It is characteristic of modern societies that the majority of people live their lives without setting any goals. This is also reflected in their search for a partner: most people cannot clearly define what kind of person they are looking for. When asked about their vision of the future, they often say that they want to live a peaceful and happy family life: we will be sitting in the room holding each other's hand and we will be very happy. That is all. This is a typical answer of women in their forties particularly. But relationships usually end with failure – or at least the couple is not happy – if the appropriate self-knowledge and the consciously created vision about the future are missing from any of the parties.
"Based on my experience a relationship is optimal if the individuals have goals, and there is an overlap between these goals, it is even better if there are common activities (hobbies, pastimes) as well." – said the leader of Mirolen Studio, one of the Hungarian dating agencies.
During the last decade the aim of searching for a partner has also changed a lot. While earlier people used to look for a partner, and way back before that they had exclusively looked for a husband or wife through this channel, currently the main business is to arrange a sex partner, followed by arranging a partner and a leisure time partner. Only 30 percent of the applicants look for a spouse and most of them are women.
With sure eyes
Jewish culture has a serious tradition of matchmaking – this is confirmed by the leader of Mrs Györgyi Matchmaking Agency. Several centuries ago this tradition was adapted by Central European nations as well. Just think of the famous film, Fiddler on the Roof, in which Yente played the part of the matchmaker. These people, mainly women, called "Sadchens", went around villages and towns in order to arrange marriages; they brought the news where single women or men intending to get married were found and they also knew their financial status. People were somewhat uneasy about these "Sadchens" as those who brought news also tended to gossip but irrespectively of this they considered it "mickvé" ,that is a good deed if someone searched for those who wished to get married and needed help in this. If the marriage took place, the matchmaker was remunerated from the dowry.
Marriage is not a substitute
"It is a big mistake to confuse loneliness with solitude and to escape to marriage from loneliness because in most cases it leads to bitter and disappointed marriages that are ruined from the beginning" – warns Dr. Edit Mlinarics, who works for the Sound Life Christian Health, Family and Youth Protection Association.
For women it is more difficult to tolerate loneliness than for men but marriage is not an instrument to solve problems, it must be established for itself and for the fact that the parties belong to each other.
(Emese Szűcs, Hetek)
True love waits
There are more than 1 million members of the Christian youth movement launched in April 1993 which fights against sexual relationships before marriage. Its members are teenagers and young people in their twenties and they all became the participants of the "True Love Waits" demonstration by accepting the following statement: "I do believe that true love waits therefore I commit myself towards God, myself, my family, my friends, my future spouse and my future children that I abstain from sexual relations from today until the day when I enter into a biblical marriage covenant."
The movement – which was brought to life by South Baptist believers – is interdenominational and its success is proven by the fact that more and more churches and pastors join it, of course together with the youth of their congregations. Research shows that in case of teenagers who commit themselves this way it is 34% less likely to have sexual relations before marriage than in case of those without a chastity pledge – this is stated by one of the renowned American sociology magazines.
The movement's organizations advise parents as well how they can help their teenage children but they emphasize that the number one "prevention technique" is the importance of family life.
When to get married?
Good and long-term marriage is highly influenced by the age of the parties – claims Dr. Neil Clark Warren, a Christian psychologist. Social scientists found that people who got married very young were seldom ready for their role in marriage. According to Warren, young people cannot choose their spouse successfully if they do not even know themselves well enough. The psychologist says, "Until they cannot define their identity precisely and in detail they are not in a position to find the person with whom they want to live their whole life together".
In his new book he explains that in Anglo-Saxon culture this identity search takes place in the first 25-28 years of one's life. The realization of self-identity is not complete until the person is not separated from his/her parents emotionally and does not discover the details of his/her own unique personality.
Warren indicates that the number of divorces among those who got married when they were 21-22 is exactly the double compared to those who got married at the age of 24-25. This rate is extremely high among those who got married as teenagers, 80-85% of them gets divorced. If a couple gets married in their mid-twenties, their marriage is statistically more stable than that of those who get married at a younger age. Of course this depends on several factors: maturity level, the ability of making a living, the status of studies and so on.
However, research shows the most stable marriages are the ones that start at the age of 28. According to a study, most young people do not determine their goals and needs before their mid-20s, "by this time they have not have enough time to learn how to be independent, they have not grown up to be themselves, they simply need more life experience" – claims Warren. The conclusion of the author is the following: in the early relationships of young people fantasy dominates and there is little reality.
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