The statements: “I don’t love you anymore,” and “I think I married the wrong person” we all recognize. They are commonly said at the end of a failed marriage. It is no secret that many marriages fail in the world and a number of them fail among members of the church. Did they indeed marry the wrong person as they suppose? Is it possible to marry the wrong person? Anyone who is struggling in marriage, or knows someone who is, please consider this article and share it with others who you think might need it.
Certainly there are commands in the New Testament about marriage, but I do not wish to consider them just yet. I want to start by looking at how the people of the 1st Century viewed marriage, and gain a better understanding of what marriage was like 2,000 years ago when Jesus and His disciples taught on marriage. I believe a look into the history of marriage in the 1st Century will surprise us when we begin to tie the scriptures with the history.
A Look at 1st Century Marriage
For the Romans, they thought that there was nothing worse than marriage. Romans in general did not desire to marry. They looked down on the idea of it. Two people in love was laughable to the Romans. They used marriage for business, power purposes, or for the necessity of carrying on the family name by child bearing. If it weren’t for those necessities, a Roman would not marry, and a great many did not; but rather, like many today, they lived in fornication and had children out of wedlock.
Roman girls were allowed to marry when they reached the age of twelve, but their parents would choose their mate for them. Love was not a concern when entering into marriage. Nor did affection play a role. One Roman man, Cato the Censor, said that he never embraced his wife unless it was thundering loudly. Roman marriages generally did not involve physical intimacy or affectionate feelings, marriage was for social purposes only; In fact, married couples didn’t even share the same bedroom.
In some Greek families, the father would take the daughter (at marrying age) into a temple of a god, and would display her there until an interested young man had enough money to take her off the father’s hand. From what we have seen so far, the gentiles didn’t seem to look very honorably at marriage. But what about the Jews? Did they feel the same way?
For the Jews, they looked at love between a husband and wife in a similar way that we today look at the love between a brother and sister. A Jewish girl usually didn’t get a chance to fall in love before getting married, because she would only be twelve years old, and her marriage would be completely arranged by her parents. Marriage was often looked at as a business transaction, because the father of the bride would be losing a vital worker at his home, and the groom would be gaining a worker. Therefore, the groom would be expected to provide compensation to the father of the bride, this is better known as a dowry.
I do not want to paint an entirely dark picture of ancient marriages. Just like today, some marriages were filled with love. For example, a Roman man named Pliny the Younger, is known to have written tender love letters to his wife, Calpurnia. There is a good example for us husbands today!
The Bible, Marriage, and History
Now that we have a bit of knowledge about ancient Roman, Greek, and Jewish marriages and how they were usually not founded on love, let’s look at what God instructed in those ancient marriages and in all marriages today.
In Titus 2:4, Paul tells Titus to instruct the older women of the congregation to “admonish the young women to love their husbands.” This command seems a bit odd today because a young bride already loves her husband, even before she enters the marriage, but that wasn’t the case in the 1st Century; ergo, we see the command for young brides to make sure they are loving their husband. Likewise, a young man entering into a 1st Century marriage had not had opportunity to fall in love with the girl of his choice, but his parents had made the choice for him. Therefore, he too needs to be admonished to love his bride. Colossians 3:19 says “Husbands love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.”
“I Don’t Love You Anymore”
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Paul instructs that: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
I’m always impressed when I place the bible and history beside each other and compare them. When I parallel what I know about 1st Century marriages to scriptures like 1 Corinthians 13, it really pricks the heart into realizing that even though ancient marriages were not based on love, it is still commanded. Thus, even though there may be a loss of love in many marriages today, love is still commanded. This scripture shows that love is not a warm gooey feeling, but it is a deliberate choice. A choice to treat the other with unconquerable goodwill.
We have it a bit easier today, we get to choose our own spouses. We get to meet someone and fall in love with them before marriage. Due to that initial love, we automatically want to be kind to our spouse, and not seek our own, or be rude to them, or think evil of them. We want to endure all things with them. We have a huge head start on the ancient marriages that were not based on love. So how much more shameful is it to start out on the right track and then fail years later by obtaining habits of rudeness, unkindness, and selfishness? Those things that were not a problem when the love was fresh and the marriage was young.
“I Married the Wrong Person”
I’m sure a lot of people in the 1st Century thought or said “I married the wrong person,” because, let’s face it, many of them didn’t get to marry the person they wanted to. But does that relieve them of their duties in the marriage? Does that give them the allowance to go and find someone else? I do not believe that anyone could ever marry the wrong person! Why, you might ask? Because we can choose to fulfill every single command of love in the scriptures with any person of the opposite gender in the world, and that marriage will be successful if they do the same. As long as we follow the scriptures, our marriages will never fail, because scriptural “love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
The problem today is not marrying the wrong person; the problem is that one or both spouses have not chosen to follow the commandments of God.