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Friday, August 05, 2005

"Til Death Do Us Part" or Whatever

An article at addresses a disturbing trend in wedding vows. It appears that instead of the traditional 'Til death do us part," some couples today are opting for these much less permanent-sounding alternatives:

  • "For as long as we continue to love each other."
  • "For as long as our time shall last."
  • "For as long as we are together."

If you want to go that route, why prettify the language? Why not just say what you really mean? "Until I get sick of you," or "Until someone better comes along," or "As long as I'm not bored, inconvenienced, or unhappy."

Marriage is a life-long union of one man and one woman. Divorce happens and I understand that. That is evidence of the brokenness of creation. All of us children of Adam are sinful and do sinful things. In some circumstances, divorce may actually be the lesser of two evils. It can be very complicated. Divorce, when it happens in the church, should be addressed with loving application of Law and Gospel (Call to repentance and Absolution). Compassion must be shown to those whose hearts, lives and homes are broken. But to begin your life together publicly acknowledging that "hey, we're gonna give it a shot, but this gig may not work out y'know," is insane. What kind of commitment is that?

Human marriage is an image of the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Holy Church. If I look in a carnival mirror, my face may be all elongated and distorted in funny ways. But thankfully, that's not how I really am. Honest. Human marriage, after being expelled from Eden, is sadly often a warped reflection of the beautiful thing it is meant to display.

What would our Lord's wedding vows sound like? "I will love you with an everlasting love," or "I'll stick this out until someone with shaplier legs saunters by?"

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Andrew said...

Well put. The lack of conviction in marriage is something that I see all the time. Especially in the lives of my friends whose parents even after long periods of time are losing touch with what they vowed to keep. As long as we keep looking to the world for our solutions things will never change.

Anonymous said...

All relationships require effort to work well. If the idea is that the relationship is only temporary, it becomes too easy to let it go when things get hard. If it is known that it is forever then the husband and wife will be more likely to address the difficult issues and keep the marriage working.

Kurt Wall said...

Dropping "'til death do us part" indeed betrays the intent of both parties not to stick it out, but the trend also betrays a lack of spiritual depth and a failure to believe God (as opposed to just "believing in God"). I take Psalm 127 at its word: "Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain (v1)." My new wife and I put God front and center at our (Lutheran) wedding and used the traditional vows because we both felt that without God's presence and making Him the foundation of our marriage, our marriage would certainly fail. That Pastor Riesen wouldn't permit deviation from the standard vows didn't matter.

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Great comments.

Making marriage into what we want is such a symptom of the sinful nature.

G. Keillor recently had a little sketch on his radio show about marrying oneself, a spoof on gay marraige and opening up marriage so one could marry oneself.

I suspect that is the ultimate human temptation in marriage: to marry self. To be absolutely free to do what "I" want.

Carl said...

This is just another symptom of an
increasingly godless culture (in good old "Christian" America!) and further proof that as a society we are well on our way to oblivion, with the same end as Rome.
Hate to be so negative, but that is what I see as the reality. God help us!

Anonymous said...

As a divorced mother of two...When I took my wedding vows I used the "till death do us part", and other vows that were traditional, which I intended to keep all vows. However, death did not happen to either, and I find myself with a "stigma" of being Divorced. I withheld my separation from my family members for as long as I could, making excuses for his absence, due to this "stigma". Yes, I was unhappy, but would have stuck to the marriage had he'd stuck to the marriage. Am I that horrible that I must be labeled? and generalized with all divorced people? Maybe we should all be branded with a scarlet letter "D".

The Cubicle Reverend said...

As a single man it has often made me shy away from trying to meet someone. A friend of mine who is a believer just seperated from his wife, who is also a believer(?), because she had found someone else and wanted to consider this first marriage a loss and just wants to move on.

John said...

Hi Anonymous,

I don't think they are saying you should be branded or stigmatized for being divorced.

Moses instituted divorce because humans are not perfect, but that was not the original intent of God. See Matthew 19:1-12. But none of us are perfect; we have all fallen short of God's commands and have sinned. (I am not saying you have sinned in this specific case, but that we are all sinners and have committed sins.)

The complaint is that marriage should not be approached as a temporary situation. Changing the wording of the vows to exclude "until death do us part" indicates a desire to make it only temporary.

Sometimes divorce is the lesser of two evils. Also keeping a marriage together is not under the control of only one spouse, both must be committed to the relationship to succeed. But divorce is also a continued source of pain and suffering for all who are involved, husband, wife, children, relatives etc. The pain may become easier to deal with, but there is always some sense of loss, resentment, betrayal and awkwardness, etc.

This is where the Gospel comes in; we know that God sent His son Jesus to die to pay for my sins, your sins, your husband's sins, your children's sins and every other human being's sins; that we are forgiven. And we know that through His resurrection we are promised eternal life. It helps us to forgive when we know that He forgave us while we were still sinners. Seeing God's grace and mercy helps us to be gracious and merciful. These promote healing in our relationships. The promise of eternal life also gives us peace and joy during times of trial, because we know that we have been saved, and this sinful world is not permanent.

Darrell said...

It's a sad, sick world.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Kurt Wall,
By Pastor Riesen, do you mean you are a member of Zion, in Brentwood, PA? If so, I must be your neighbor.

Bob Waters said...

Well said, John.

Another issue should, perhaps, be raised- and in precisely the fashion in which I suspect that "Old Missouri" would have raised it: whatever the State may say, in the eyes of God- and of the Church, if it's faithful- couples whose ceremonies include the newfangled vows enumerated above, or specifying any arrangement other than a lifetime, exclusive committment, are not, in fact, married at all.

They're simply shacking up, ceremony and license or not.

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