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Part II - Creating a Culture of Marriage

September 14, 2009
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There is much consternation over the state of marriage today. The institution itself has suffered serious social diminution—so much so that same-sex marriage appears inevitable. But the blame for this lies less with the culture at large than with the church in America. How so, you ask? 

We seem to have forgotten an essential truth about the world and the nature of man. The world is fallen: all that was once good has been bent or broken, and something has gone seriously wrong. The nature of man is unremittingly inclined toward selfishness and sin and away from obedience to God. There are some who have, by God’s grace, been saved from this condition, their old nature replaced with a new inclination to obedience and righteousness. Thus a war is raging in the world between the darkness and those who walk in the light of Christ. 

Given these facts, the world will always drift in the direction of degradation and self-destruction. However, God in his mercy has come into the world to bring about the restoration of all things, calling men and women to repentance and the church serves as an instrument by which this redemptive work occurs. Where the church is faithful—to love the Lord their God and love their neighbors—there follows a power greater than that, which is in the world. The kingdom is made manifest and light pierces the darkness. Hope replaces despair, peace replaces turmoil, and freedom displaces oppression. Conversely, where the church is lackluster in its pursuit of the kingdom—indifferent to God and his purposes—the wicked rule and darkness will, for a time, subdue the light. Hope appears to vanish and disorder and oppression seem to reign everywhere.

Such is the case when it comes to marriage. How can the church expect the world to honor the marriage covenant when we do not? While I certainly believe that citizens of a free society should oppose all legal and public policy measures that undermine the biblical design for marriage and the family, these efforts will ultimately fail if the church does not collaterally create a culture of marriage. This “culture creation” occurs when the church demonstrates what life under the reign of God looks like—and under the reign of God, marriage is a sacred covenant, not to be broken. Furthermore, this demonstration of life lived under the loving rule of God is essential to our bearing witness to the gospel of the kingdom. Our lives, lived under the lordship of Christ, communicate to the world that there is a God who has acted in history and that this God is loving and merciful … but also that this God calls us to abandon our rebel ways and return to his lordship.

When we live in obedience to God, the church provides the moral gravity that orders the world under God’s design. The church remains distinct from the world—and where it touches the world, there follows personal and social transformation. However, when the church abrogates this responsibility, the moral orbit of the society will naturally deteriorate. The church becomes indistinguishable from the world and the world begins to transform the church. 

Beyond currently lacking the moral authority to preserve marriage, the church seems generally indifferent to the idea, especially when it comes to tampering with no-fault divorce. This past week I spoke with my friend, Kelly Shackelford of the Free Market Foundation about my desire to abolish no-fault divorce and the FMF’s ongoing efforts to do the same in the Texas state legislature. Kelly, a respected attorney who has worked for years on this issue, told me, “So far, the biggest problem has been the apathy of the church on this. If they rose up, we could do this in one legislative session.” The biggest problem is the apathy of the church! This sentiment is shared by many Christian activist organizations.

Do we not see the inherent sinfulness of this deplorable apathy and indifference to human suffering and injustice? Do we realize that it is our apathy that has contributed to the establishment of a system that operates in direct opposition to God’s kingdom principles and commands? It is likely our apathy that seduced the church into its wanton participation with divorce on nearly the same scale and frequency as the unchurched. 

We are the only force in the world possessing the true nature and understanding of marriage, and as such it is our responsibility to first demonstrate and then press this understanding into the world as we seek first the kingdom. In the absence of such an effort, the world will naturally descend into a self-centered approach to marriage, which by definition erodes the essential characteristic of true marriage. 

I realize there are many in the church that have suffered divorce, perhaps even pursued divorce in defiance of biblical justification. I myself experienced a divorce many years ago while in my twenties. I believe this divorce was very clearly allowed under the provisions of 1 Corinthians 7:15, which refers to an unbelieving spouse who seeks divorce. While most Christians would agree that divorce under these conditions is indeed permissible, some would argue that my remarriage was unjustified and therefore sinful. Suffice it to say, there is much debate on the issue. Regardless, we can repent and seek forgiveness from a grace-giving God and make every effort to sin no more. 

What we cannot do is remain bound to our sinful past by reluctance to speak against unrighteousness because we were once unrighteous. We were all unrighteous until receiving grace and forgiveness! In fact, our past experience with sin can serve to bolster our opposition to the very same offense. Consider the case of John Newton, the former slave-ship captain, who despite once being an advocate and practitioner of this horrendous evil became, by God’s amazing grace, a powerful voice for abolition. 

The time has come for the church to take the Bible seriously, to become the creator of culture rather than its victim, and to establish as one of its priorities a culture of marriage within the church first. There is no shortcut to cultural transformation, no easy way.  It is only from this hard-won beachhead that the church can then begin to shape our culture and its institutions in ways that honor marriage and exalt the supremacy of Christ!

© 2009 by S. Michael Craven


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Response from : John H. Armstrong  

September 14, 2009 9:51 AM

I've been reading Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship the last few days. If ever there was a time in North America when these words were prophetic it is now. A Christless Christianity without a cross has resulted in a church that is passive about its own sin while it condemns the sin it sees in others. The answer is to restore the Mediator to his rightful place and to put ourselves before him and his word.

Response from : Greg Williams  

September 14, 2009 10:08 AM

Mr. Craven

Extremely well said and handled especially the part about divorce and remarriage and God's amazing grace through it all! What a great article and testimony!

I used some of your info from "Uncompromised Faith", giving you due credit, for the fact that one of the most needed steps in today's world is for the Church to awaken as it has certainly contributed to this 'post-Christendom' world as you've shared and most in the 'church' aren't even aware that they have little or no influence on the culture around them!

Thanks again and God bless in Christ!

In His service


Response from : Ronald A Newcomb  

September 14, 2009 10:09 AM

From simple observation and recollection of recent history (the last 400 years) it seems that it is indeed the church that has moved to change the world in significant ways and, that the same time, failed to empower itself by failing to move swiftly enough when times called for action.
Slavery is a one example. Why did it take us so long to find a Wilberforce? Or finding one, why did not the church rise up suddenly and strike a death blow to the institution in the western world sooner?
The answer is that the culture flavors us. We are too often salt that has lost its flavor and so what you sample in the church is the flavor of the world, perhaps with a little milk toast flavoring added.
Yes, the church brings in many divorced people, as well it should, but that is not why the ranks of divorce are swelling in the church, it is the church members who are divorcing. My brother’s wife refused to stay married and forced her second divorced which proclaiming to be a Christian and she was supported by her Bible Study group. A man who my wife and I taught Bible in High School now a pastor at a major church but divorced his wife, the daughter of a Christian family in the same church.
The church is finding itself filling with pastors who are divorced and we are ignoring the Biblical Mandate which related to this. We have lost our flavor, extinguished our light.
Let’s move on to suffrage and human rights. Yes, there is a difference in the way the Bible treats women and men, but not that it denies rights to women, it seeks to understand the differences and does in fact teach each gender how to interact with the other, specifying men treat their women with love, women treat men with respect. There are the two primary needs of those respective genders.
Never does it treat them unequally in respect to human rights.
Why did the church not fill the ranks of the suffrage movements? The church was influenced by the culture.
How about civil rights? Yes, the Republicans pushed for slavery to end, we fought a war over that and paid a terrible price for our national sin, but moving beyond that, my old church, the Southern Baptists separated on this issue in pre-war periods and supported slavery. It is the church in the south that should have stood up and stopped slavery in the south but failed to do so for social and economic reasons.
After the war, why did not the church stand up and support blacks attempting to get into office and stop the Democrats from ending that for 100 years? Where was the church?
Jumping the political fence, why were we not marching with Dr. King? This would have credited the church with the civil rights victory rather than the Democrats. Dr. King was a pastor. When I think about the assassinations of John, Bobby, and Martin, all bring regret but it is Martin that brings tears to my eyes. What we lost that day set us back decades.
We are involved with a different kind of civil rights debate today. This is a newly created idea that homosexual couples have a right to marriage. They demand equality. However, this is really not the issue, is it? They currently have to same right as I do to marry a person of the opposite gender. The rights are equal. They want a special right to marry that has never existed before and does not come from God, the originator of human rights.
Now we have some leaders rightly standing against this on a moral basis, but Mike is correct, if the church had been doing what it was supposed to have been doing all along, flavoring the world, we would not be in this position.
If you, as a Christian, are not willing to stand and to what is right, stand against wrong, and turn from natural inclinations supporting the Biblical model for your life and be a light in this world, then the world will be a dark place.
If the church is not salt to the world, the flavor of the world will dominate.

Response from : Ashton  

September 14, 2009 11:26 AM

We are not accountable to each other so it makes it easy for us to act as the world acts. Every Men's training I attend touts the importance of having three close friends that we can trust and confide in. How many of us really have time to develop and maintain three, or even one. We move across the country for our careers and devote time to our children’s sports. Where does it fit into the busyness of life? Shoot I don’t even get a call from anyone when I miss my Sunday class. I think the answer starts at a higher level in how and when we communicate among members of the church. Show me you care about me and then I may care what you think about me.

Response from : gary47  

September 14, 2009 8:20 PM

Ron Newcomb could not be more wrong is Satan cued him. Civil marriage for same sex couples is not asking for a special right. You need to come up with a better reason to deny equal protection than myh interpretation of Leviticus bans this. Many churches (more so congregations than central bodies) support marriage equality for sound Biblical reasons. THey see faithful Gay couples in their midst, and can see the Spirit in these couples. These congregations understand the purpose of marriage is to form a family - kinship. In Genesis, we learn that it is not good for man to be alone, and that help mate is needed. You condemn Gay couples to fornication. Why are you anti-family?

Response from : Okwukwe NBC Ucheagwu  

September 15, 2009 12:16 AM

Ride on brother. God bless you for speaking out the truth. Not many Christians especially here in the US hold this fundamental truth you have here displayed. I raise my thumb up for you and praise God for your boldness and courage.I love you for speaking up the truth. May God raise many more people like you.I look forward to the day the Lord will fully restore the Marriage institution in the continental US.Our culture greatly affects the rest of the world most especially the third world countries.

Response from : Kenneth Acushla  

September 15, 2009 2:11 AM

In the Church, unless singles & spouses are totally committed to our LORD Jesus Christ they will yield to Satan. Homosexuals say our LORD did not speak about Homosexuality but HE did speak about Sodomy re Sodom & Gomorrah what End Times would be like. This is one reason why HE will come for HIS Bride before this happens.

Response from : Cynthia  

September 15, 2009 8:06 AM

This messsage is awesome. What a rhema word. So true in so many ways. God bless you for this and may He continue to give you vision and insight

Response from : Joyce Luster  

September 15, 2009 8:10 AM

Thank you for your writings. I agree with you--especially on the culture of marriage.

Response from : Joanne Munns  

September 15, 2009 8:29 AM

Amen! The institution of marriage has been reduced to sharing health insurance and tax benefits. It is a sad state. The church needs to push on the "no-fault" divorce issue. It should cost $10,000 to get married. People would think a little bit more if it is what they really want and be more committed to making things work then. Why has the church become so "politically correct" and afraid to offend people?

Response from : Aida  

September 15, 2009 8:44 AM

Experience is the greatest teacher of all. I believe Mr. Craven's hindsight of his personal journey gives this article weight and credibility.
The church slipped into a complacency and now a sector is begining to awaken to giants in our mists. Like Israel, the church stood looking at the giant intimidating the entire army, as he waited for one person to fight him. One person did and it made all the difference. In our lifetime the giant waited, no one stepped out and so he moved in with the rest of his army.
It is not yet impossible to regain lost territory, but is will be a much more difficult task.

Response from : Tammy Aguilera  

September 15, 2009 9:29 AM

I agree totally with the article. However, I have one question: Having divorced and remarried, realizing that I should not have remarried, I know God forgives. But what about the relationship? Are we supposed to then separate and not live as husband and wife?

Response from : Zebedee EYO  

September 15, 2009 9:38 AM

Thank you for speaking the truth. John 8:32 and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. the world is waiting for the manifestation of the truth and the truth is the light in the word of God. what you have enumerated should be published on te dailies, door post internet and radio etc. it is time for the church to rise.

Response from : S. Michael Craven  

September 15, 2009 9:53 AM

Dear Tammy,

Thank you for your honest comments and feedback. In answer to your question, the overwhelming theological consensus says "absolutely not!" You should not divorce your current spouse in an effort to "reverse" a prior decision. Neither, is your existing marriage "tainted" in the sight of God. At most you should acknowledge that the choice to divorce and remarry was sin (if this applies) and confess it as such and seek forgiveness, which God is gracious to give. Not knowing the circumstances of your prior marriage and divorce, I cannot say with certainty but if it falls within the exemption given in 1 Corinthians7:15 then I believe you have been "set free" from an unblical union and presumably placed into a more appropriate union by God. Given this possibility, then your second marriage is a gift from Him who has joined you together so go and "sin no more" is the appropriate response.

Regardless, there is no sin which God is not eager to forgive the regenerate sinner who confesses their need for grace.


Response from : carrie  

September 15, 2009 11:56 AM

the church needs talk about marriage, abusive, addiction, some people stay in marriage with childern with all kinds of abuse and addictions going on
and the kids are hurt emotional and physical, and the fact that our leaders are going astray is not helpful,sometimes, all minster

Response from : Voncele Savage  

September 15, 2009 5:32 PM

Excellent article. I have published 2 books and presently I'm working on another book because I was in a marriage involving domestic violence and incest. I eventually divorced, but am ostracized and ridiculed by some that feel I should have stayed in the marriage, and definitely should have remained silent. I want to help others in this predicament by using the Word of God.

Response from : Nova Buchanan  

September 16, 2009 8:21 AM

Abolishing NO-FAULT divorce is Ok so long as 'abused women' (emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually) have an out and can declare this abuse as a fault. Malachi2 places the fault of divorce of a christian couple squarely on the shoulders of the husband. Women as a rule were designed to seek relationship. God gave Adam a job first, but God gave Eve "relationship" first, and, he cursed (blessed?) her with "a desire for her husband". If she finds herself seeking a divorce, Malachi 2 implores the husband to seek WHY, as does 1PET3:7.

The LAST thing a wife wants is a divorce, and God KNOWS this.

Response from : Blake  

September 16, 2009 12:01 PM

The study of mariage through the centuries shows that it have grown from an institution of a "market for women" that gaurenteed progeny and tribal lines in the time of Moses to what is today a choice of love. Mariage has been transformed by Christ' teachings through time. God is patient and creation is only now comming to know what God's love truly means for us. Mariage nor any Church tradtion has been fixed in time. In a society of living together, divorce and self preservation, as Christians, we must encourage love and family in all the many forms. Also, mariage has existed outside of the West and well before Judeo-Christian times with many complexities.

Response from : cindy cooper  

September 17, 2009 9:22 AM

I couldn't have said it better!!! May God keep blessing you with a most truthful and grand message!! Amen!!!

Response from : Jade  

September 21, 2009 10:19 PM

Practically and specifically how do you think the church can create a culture of marriage that encourages singles to marry and for married couples to stay married?

Response from : Kevin Maginity  

September 28, 2009 6:38 AM

I know pastors who marry couples for $50. Very little if any pre marital counseling. On the other hand, I have a friend who counseled with her groom to be for a year. Prepared a budget and put everything on the table. They just had their first child after several years of marriage. Very solid. Pastors need to learn how to prepare couples for marriage or just say no.

Response from : Regina Basson  

October 12, 2009 3:59 AM

Your article "Creating a Culture of Marriage" Michael Craven
Thank you for this teaching and for sharing. As a divorced lady in her late thirties I find that there is much confusion and debate regarding divorce and seems to stand as an unpardonable sin and eternal condemnation. It is a pity that at first we are ignorant and have a lack of knowledge, but when we have these through the grace of Jesus Christ we should apply. I can look back now, and easily notice the snare of the enemy in the marriage I failed in (unbelieving husband, lustful, abusive and committed adultery, which lead us both downward into sin – I take personal responsibility for my own contribution – I make no excuses, but have confessed and accepted forgiveness, which has been a 9 -11 year walk toward healing restoration, and redemption). But praise the Lord for His love, grace and mercy - He sets us free from bondage, restores and redeems. I am and always will stand for the sacred marriage covenant, even though God knows I have failed in my first sincere attempt. I was a very young bride, but God imprinted the sacredness of marriage on my heart, although I married an unbeliever, unaffectionate and abusive man – I pray, I pleaded, I loved, I cared, I nurtured, endured but never had any support system (parents to consult and guide me)…… I become discouraged, grew weary, lost heart….. and then I noticed and realized that my own heart had been contaminated with sin towards him, and I was hardening my heart, had bitter-root judgments, resentment etc. As a divorced lady I have stood at the front-door of re-marriage more than once, but due to legalism in the Church - I have being called an adulteress and prostitute, and that any man that should marry me shall be living in sin, and be in direct disobedience to God. I continue to trust In God, and draw Jesus Christ close. The Father’s love I find shelter and refuge in. And stand in His son Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray that the sacredness of marriage will be upheld in truth according to your word God, Amen. I also realize that no matter what, God’s will, and purpose for me shall prevail.
Body of Christ - why are you divided?
Body of Christ - why do you debate and argue to lead the people into confusion and astray?
Body of Christ - why are we not known by our love for one another?
Body of Christ – where is the grace of Jesus Christ?
Please do not be offended into orphanship with these questions, please receive these in the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). In the name of Jesus Christ I pray that these questions will bring us insight, and understanding. And not be used for any division, but rather bring us together unified in the body of Christ according to Your will, Your word and Your purpose for the body of Christ and I pray Isaiah 54:17, Ephesians 6:10-18 and Psalm 91 with the blood of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Have a look at this teaching
The Fulfilled Family The Divine Pattern for Marriage--Part 5
John MacArthur
Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "MacArthur's Collection" by:
Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
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NUMBERS 6 : 22-27 The Priestly Blessing 22The LORD said to Moses, 23“Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24“‘“The LORD bless you and keep you; 25the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” 27“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”


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