There was a time when little boys and girls grew up and dreamed of getting married. It was a goal of most people in American society. I’m not much of a nostalgic, take-America-back type of guy, but you don’t have to be a sociologist to realize that marriage as an institution is changing. This means Christian parents must teach the next generation about marriage. We can’t assume our children will automatically understand God’s creational design for men and women and why this venerable institution represents Christ and his Church.
While this isn’t cause for fear or alarmism, but it does call for a redoubling of our efforts as parents toward what we should have been doing anyway. Here are three keys to remember:
1. We must teach our kids what marriage is. Every generation of parents must teach their children, from the Scriptures, exactly what marriage is and why it was created by God. We must pass down a fresh, gospel-shaped view of manhood and womanhood.
Christians have imbibed some false views of marriage. The Human Rights Campaign offers a distorted view of marriage, and the bridal magazines offer another. Both are distortions. Marriage is more than a relationship between two people who fall in love with each other. Marriage is a vivid image to the world of the love Christ has for his bride and the opportunity for two sinners to live out the gospel through lifelong rhythms of repentance and forgiveness. Angela and I have found that the best opportunity for these lessons are not only in family worship time, but in random teachable moments.
2. We must model for our kids exactly what marriage looks like. Part of the reason so many are disillusioned with marriage is because very few have actually seen, up close, what a good marriage looks like. Followers of Christ must not only teach their kids why marriage matters, they must model why marriage matters. And this has to be in a more than simply “staying together for the kids.”
The welfare of our children is a good motivation for a good marriage, to be sure, but love for Jesus is a better motivation. You can’t fake intimacy. Do our kids see that we love to spend time with each other? Do they see visible displays of affection? The best apologetic for marriage is a good one.
3. We must equip our kids with a gracious apologetic for marriage in a fallen world. The danger in being intentional about teaching and modeling marriage is that we can raise up little finger-pointing, angry marriage Pharisees without realizing it. There are broken marriages and broken relationships all around us. Christians are not here to simply model the sexual ethics of the Kingdom, but to be on mission in the world, a world crushed by sexual and relational sin (John 17). The Great Commission is Jesus sending broken sinners into a broken world to point other broken sinners toward a loving Savior so that they, too, can be a part of the Marriage that all other marriages point toward. Our desire should be for our kids to live out the gospel on mission in a fallen world.