Question of Faith: Facing the facts, frictions in modern marriage

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"To have and to hold, from this day forward, until death do us part." That could be a really long time.

Traditional vows also ask partners to stick together during sickness or health, wealth or poverty.

Not every couple who want to get married should do so. What do faith leaders tell mismatched people? How do you counsel couples who want to part ways? What is the future for traditional ideas of marriage?

That's our Question of Faith. Here is a selection of answers.

Dale White, St. Luke Anglican Church, Lexington: Millions declare their love for their sweethearts, and for many, their relationships will be broken before the Valentine's Day candy gets stale or the flowers fade.

The wedding and honeymoon are over. Did I really promise "to have and to hold, from this day forward, until death do us part"? What was I thinking?

The truth is some of you weren't thinking; you were living out your emotions and responding to your physical needs, when you made the biggest promise of your life.

No person should enter into marriage lightly. If you cannot put your partner first, you should not marry him or her.

A successful marriage will be one in which the couple understands the marriage covenant is a sacrament patterned after God's love for his people. God wants to spend eternity in an intimate relationship with you and me. He will never "divorce" us once we have entered into a covenant with him for eternity, and he expects our faithfulness to him, in good times and bad. He designed marriage the same way, so we might become one together, for eternity.

Bob Evely, Grace Evangel Fellowship, Wilmore: When I meet with those planning to marry, I see little good in trying to dissuade them. They have already decided to marry. My best course is to help them to open lines of communication and talk about certain key issues: plans for children, managing money, cherished goals and visions.

As for the future of traditional marriage, it seems to be crumbling in our culture. What is truly needed are good, mature husbands and wives who model by example their love and commitment to one another — and who are willing to befriend and act as mentors to the upcoming generation who do not seem to see the merits of marriage.

Joseph N. Greenfield, Help Me to Live Again Ministries Inc., Wilmore: Dr. Laura Schlessinger's advice for couples is: "Love is not enough." Sadly, Dr. Laura misunderstands, just as millions of others do. On the contrary, the Bible says, "Love never fails." So, which is it going to be?

Despite what our culture says, marriage is not about the individuals themselves. Marriage is all about what the Lord can do and wants to do with two individuals as they give themselves to one another in holy, sacrificial love.

Anything less than complete trust and obedience to the creator and the relationship is bound to fail.

Love is more than enough because the Lord is more than capable for any two who are willing.

Mary Seeger Weese, Midway Presbyterian Church: "Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not envious or rude. It doesn't insist on its own way or rejoice in wrongdoing. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

I'd say that most of us have heard these words from 1 Corinthians 13 at a wedding or two. It's the "wedding passage" that everyone recognizes, and it goes along with the tuxedos, hand-stamped invitations, cake and the DJ playing Bust a Move. This passage has come to stand for what many of us hope a good wedding and a good marriage will be about.

The words themselves are so beautiful, and I get choked up every time I read them at a wedding.

I'm looking at this couple and at their families and friends, thinking of all the hope and the faith crammed into that room, and how they believe in this thing called love.

But after the wedding ends, marriage starts. The work of believing in love has to keep going. A living, breathing marriage isn't just a contract or a set of rules or a script with roles to play. It is the flesh and blood embodiment of two people believing in each other. And it takes God in between to help.

But through Christ, we still believe. We believe that God's love does not end and that God believes in us. No matter what our marital status. May we all be strengthened to embody love in the world.

Kory Wilcoxson, Crestwood Christian Church, Lexington: A marriage is a covenant between two people in the presence of God, as they make promises to each other in the form of vows.

We are called to honor those promises, regardless of the circumstances we encounter in life. Unfortunately, we are human and will not always do that. Sometimes that covenant will not be honored by one or both people.

While divorce is not what God wants for any marriage, it is a reality in our society today, and we should help a divorcing couple recognize God's presence in the midst of their situation.

In all instances related to marriage, I try to help the couple understand the promises they made on their wedding day and do everything in their power to honor them, recognizing the complex challenges of weaving two lives together into one.

If divorce is the end result, then I try to help the couple "end well," for their sake and the sake of any children involved.

God can work through all situations to bring about good, even situations that are borne out of pain, hurt and broken promises.

Myron Williams, Southland Christian Church, Lexington: In the beginning, God established marriage between man and woman. At some point, the man and woman determined they knew better than God how to live, and so they replaced their intimate relationship with God and his creation with imperfect relationships between themselves, with God and with all creation.

It is in these imperfect relationships couples begin to experience conflict and suffering.

We counsel couples seeking marriage to ground their marriage on their individual and corporate relationships with God. This means living within the covenant of God and covenant of marriage.

As long as imperfect people live and marry there will be divorce. This was not and is not God's plan.

However, when divorce is chosen, the church must continue to love and extend grace and love to the individuals. Divorce is no reason for God, or Christians, to stop loving the people who were once married.

We in the church have failed to challenge and prepare couples seeking marriage to live faithfully in all their relationships.

If the church focused on building healthy relationships, or repairing and restoring broken relationships, marriages might have a greater possibility of enduring.

Roger Bruner, Mill Street Church of Christ, London: The Bible teaching on marriage is clear. The marriage institution was created by God and intended for man's happiness.

While God instituted marriage for man's benefit, it is not a requirement for salvation. In other words, one does not have to marry.

Divorce is also legislated by the Bible. There are two reasons for which a marriage may be dissolved: physical death and adultery.

In view of the significance and role of marriage, care must be taken in the selection of a mate. This is where the problem of broken homes, abuse and neglect originates.

Ernie Heavin, Oasis Church of Christ, Georgetown: Below is a prayer that I ask couples to live and to pray:

Because of my love for you, I have made a decision to be patient and kind when the impulse is to be rash or harsh. When we disagree I will do my best not to be envious (particularly when I realize I was wrong) or boastful and proud (especially when I know I was right).

I have committed myself not to be rude when the temptation is to offend or insist on my own way when my desire is adamant. I will do my utmost not to be angered or annoyed when I really feel angry and annoyed.

Instead of keeping a record of wrongs I want to focus and dwell on the things you do right. When I tell you I am committed to live out Christ's love, I mean to never delight in what is evil or wrong but to rejoice in the truth, even when that truth may shed light on my flaws.

To always protect, to always trust and give the benefit of the doubt, to always hope and persevere because true love never fails.