In both the Old and New Testaments strong warnings are given regarding mixed marriages. In the earliest history of the world, one of the chief ways in which the covenant of God was corrupted was that “the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose” (). This led to amalgamation of the seed of the covenant and the seed of the ungodly, the world. In , God commanded Israel through Moses concerning the nations of the land of Canaan, whose inhabitants they were to destroy utterly, that they were to make no covenant with them. “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter shalt thou not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.” In Ezra’s day, complaint was brought against the returned exiles because they had not separated themselves from the people of the heathen land. “For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands” ( ). Later, Malachi admonished the Jews with these very serious words: “Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god” ( ).
In the New Testament the inspired apostle Paul warned the members of the church of Corinth not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers.” The church has rightly applied the warnings of this passage to the sin of mixed marriage. InPaul positively exhorts all who marry that they must marry only in the Lord.
In Bible times many marriages were arranged by the parents of covenant children. We do not advocate that we return to those ancient traditions. The times we are living in are different, though there were some distinct advantages when parents who were wiser and more careful than their young sons and daughters made the choice of whom their children should marry.
Whom our covenant children marry should be of great concern for parents. The prevailing opinion of the age in which we live is that young people should be given total freedom to choose their own marriage partners. Some even maintain that parents are wrong when they interfere in this matter, which is considered some sort of inalienable right of young people themselves. Young people become angry when any advice is given.
God’s sovereign, gracious purpose is to continue His covenant with His people in the line of their generations. How important faithful, strong, godly marriages are in the realization of this purpose. Our concern is not only the future of strong Christian families, homes blessed of the Lord, but also for the kind of church members that come from such homes.
The church has lost many of her young people to the world because of foolish marriages. Marriages that were unwise from their beginning went terribly wrong and ended in the misery of divorce. I will not claim to have made scientific study of the matter, but this is certainly something I have seen with great sorrow of heart, having been a pastor for almost forty years. This, sadly, has taken place sometimes also in our Protestant Reformed churches.
There are exceptions. Sometimes spouses who were brought out of the world are today outstanding members of the church. We are thankful for the wonderful grace of God revealed in these exceptional cases and attribute them with praise only to God’s sovereign grace to His people. This is not, however, to say that we can be careless about the whole serious matter being discussed in this article. The exceptions are not the rule. Let none of our covenant young people simply assume that the Lord will be merciful in his or her case to bring a foolishly chosen marriage partner into His covenant and church. In too many cases the result is a life of misery and strife in marriages so begun, even when they do not end in the tragedy of divorce. Relationships were rushed into, and hearts were given to those to whom they should never have been given.
What can we do for our beloved children before it is too late? We certainly must not despair or neglect our covenantal calling in this area. Few things will more seriously affect the future for them than their choice of a marriage partner.
Our concern must begin in the early years of our covenant children with faithful, godly instruction on what marriage is and God’s purpose for it. We must teach them of the great blessing of marriages in which both husband and wife fear the Lord. This blessing will be great also for the children of these marriages.
Our concern must not only be that our children not marry those who are obviously ungodly. Not all who are members of the church will make suitable marriage partners either. There are those in the church who are weak and worldly in their life. Careful spiritual discernment is needful in the choice of a marriage partner.
Our covenant children must also be taught that not all churches are faithful to the Lord. There are great and serious differences between denominations of churches, differences that have developed over the years and have usually grown worse and worse. This is true even of those who fly the banner of being Reformed. We must teach our children that unity in the faith and in the truth of God is of utmost importance for strong Christian marriages. Disunity will affect many, really all, of the great issues of life that a married couple will face down the road.
It must be clearly established in the minds and hearts of our children as they grow up in our covenant homes that parents have a covenant responsibility in this area in the lives of their children. Our young people should want parental approval for every special friendship they have in their lives, and especially friendship with a member of the opposite sex. Our young people must not become angry when judgments are made by their parents. Young people must not insist that they are sufficiently mature and wise in themselves to make all of their own decisions. They should not rush into serious relationships without a great deal of parental guidance. Young people who refuse to listen to their parents are in danger of reaping serious consequences for themselves in their lives. Listening to the wise counsel of their parents could spare them much sorrow and grief.
There are things we can and must do by the grace of God as our covenant children are growing up in our homes and in the church of which we are part. There must be on-going instruction in our home on the biblical teaching of marriage. And the instruction we give must be supported by our own godly example in how we conduct ourselves in our own marriages. We as their parents must not ourselves have as our closest friends those who are of the world. Our conversation and behavior must be truly antithetical, demonstrating that we are not drawn to such friendships and we do not really enjoy such friendship. The interest we have in life and the conversations we have together must be different from the world. We must show that we love the fellowship of God’s people and that we take a lively and active part in the communion of saints in our churches. Most good marriages arise in the sphere of the covenant, where there is close, intimate, godly friendship. It will be good for us to cultivate such friendship continually ourselves as adults. This will include close friendship among the families of the church we belong to and meaningful fellowship together, especially among those who are strong in the truth they confess and whose homes are patterned after the standards of Scripture.
Our own covenant home must be characterized by godly friendship among the members of the family. The covenant home must have the godly atmosphere of love for God and for one another and joy that comes from fearing Him and living by His commandments. The members of the covenant home have the calling to encourage and support one another. It sometimes happens that when covenant young people do not experience the reality of this in their own homes they will seek friendship and appreciation and approval on their lives in the world. When these young people carelessly forsake God’s covenant blessing, they will also afterwards sometimes reap the bitter fruit of it in later life.
There are other sins that lead our children to seek worldly partners, sins in their own lives. We do not want to leave the impression that when our children make foolish and sinful choices this is all to be ascribed to poor parenting. Such uncharitable judgments will only add to the grief godly parents have when their children do not continue in the truth they have been taught in their homes.
Our hope for our covenant home and family is only in the Lord. We must seek Him prayerfully as we raise our children in the fear of the Lord. How great is our need for wisdom and grace from the Lord. As our children grow up in our covenant homes, they present challenges, sometimes sorrows, as well as joys and blessings. Teenage and young adulthood is one of the most difficult stages and most challenging to covenant parents.
We want to continue our discussion on this topic in the next Standard Bearer article.