The Bible told me to marry you. Notice that I didn’t say, “God told me to marry you.” There are plenty of people today who claim that God told them to marry a specific person. As a pastor, I’ve encountered this more often than you might expect. Here are two brief points to consider when navigating the waters of marriage:
Some Problems That Emerge
Even if God did say, “Marry that girl!” he’s probably not going to tell you exactly how to care for, love, provide for, protect, and raise a family with her. A Christian should use wisdom for all of that. As a general rule of thumb: if a person gets married without needing to exercise wisdom, it’s likely that they won’t be pursuing wisdom when they actually are married.
We see this in the example of figuring out where God has called us to work. Often, that answer is really right in front of us:
- What do I enjoy doing?
- What am I good at?
- What do others think I’m good at?
Asking and answering those simple questions can help us navigate what career path we should try to pursue—and God would also have us exercise such wisdom in order to find a suitable spouse. Vocational life is very ordinary, in that sense, and so is ordinary marriage.
Now, I don’t want to say that God could never speak to someone about a potential partner—I’m not God—but even if God did speak to them, there are better reasons to marry a person than by divine fiat. I know this because God told me so in the Bible. The nice thing about reading the Bible (instead of seeking a still, small voice) is that the Bible speaks more clearly about an issue like this than a voice inside of my head. With confidence I can say, “The Bible told me to marry you,” and because of that, I know God is truly pleased with my decision to get married and with whom I am marrying. Let’s consider what the Bible teaches about marriage.
Christian Liberty in Marriage
The Bible does not tell us specifically whom we should marry. There is no Bible verse with my wife’s name written on it (though I’m sure there are many spouses out there who married someone with a “Bible name”). But it does tell us the kind of person we should have in mind if and when we marry.
A Christian must “marry in the Lord” if he or she wants to pursue marriage and decides not to remain single (1 Cor. 7; 2 Cor. 6:14-15). That phrase, “marry in the Lord,” simply means to marry another Christian. We can really see God’s wisdom in this whenever a couple has children. If one spouse is a regular church attendee and the other one isn’t, the parents and children are faced with some difficult conversations and decisions. Practices in the home also become more difficult, and there’s always going to be a tension that ultimately cannot be resolved.
Aside from marrying another person who confesses Jesus as Lord, however, the Christian has liberty to marry whomever he or she wants. One fellow minister I know often counsels young men, “Is she a Christian?” meaning, a) are you marrying a person of the opposite gender and b) are you marrying a Christian? If the answer is “yes” to both questions, then he responds, “Then what’s the problem?”
There is more to choosing a spouse than that in most cases, but it’s certainly not less! This is where your church community, your family, and your friends really come into play to help you discern who might be the best fit for you—this is, after all, how God ordinarily works in the world.