The recent rapid changing societal and family trends have sparked a new form of debate between the “religious” and the “secular” – Just what on earth is a “family”?
An article on the New York Times learning blog stated that family is “no longer a mother, a father, and their biological children living together under one roof”. It went on to saying that there is an increased trend of unmarried couples raising children, gays and lesbian couples raising children, single mother without a partner raising children, etc. (Schulten, 2011). The list goes on.
As conservative Christians, we all know the Biblical stand on marriage. It’s got to be a natural male and a natural female. However, when forced to take a stand, it gets harder. Most young Christians are torn between “faith” and “feelings” on the topic of homosexual marriages, saying that “everyone should have the right to marry”, or in some cases, “everyone deserves to be known and loved” (Wales, 2017).
Without a tangible guideline for Christians to follow, the topic of homosexual marriage might tend to sway Christians off their faith, following their “stubborn hearts” and to “follow their own devices” (Psalms 81:12).
So, what exactly does the Bible have to say about Marriages?
The Functionalist Analysis of the Gospel
Functionalist states that society is a system of interconnected parts that will work together in harmony to maintain a state of balance. Within it are interconnected units that are interdependent and contribute to the overall functionality of the society.
Taking the Biblical’s perspective of the functions of family, the Bible teaches us that the key purpose of family is to “be fruitful and increase in number; to fill the whole earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28, NIV). Considering the intent of God during the days of Adam and Eve, it is extremely clear that the purpose of family creation is for reproduction and the continuation of the family.
Another key thing about marriage that a functionalist would pick out is the submissive role of the female; to be the male’s assistant. When God created females, He did it with the intent to create “a helper suitable for him (Adam)” (Genesis 2:18). From this, we can attribute the assistance-providence role of the wife to the husband. New Testament scriptures further supported the idea of wife’s submission to the husband in a number of passages (Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1).
Taking a macro perspective on the topic of marriage, the wife’s submission to the husband (to do all that he requires of her) gives the husband the ease of mind to do whatever else he is required to do. In the book of Proverbs, the husband of a noble woman is “respected at the city gates, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (Proverbs 31:23, NIV). In other words, the Biblical teachings of a functional marriage will enable the family unit to function in its best shape, making the most contribution to the society they live in.
From a modern perspective, this is seen as an attempt to undermine the female ability to achieve what their male-counterpart can achieve. However, if we were to study the Proverbs of the Wife of Noble Character (Proverbs 31:10-31), then we will realise that it is the female who is focused on all familial affairs and economic affairs, not the husband. It appears that the wife of noble character is capable of much more than her husband.
Talk about the famous phrase, “behind every successful man there is a woman”.
The idea that man and woman complements each other is not a new concept. It originated between 1979 and 1984 in a series of addresses by St John Paul II. In essence, the idea of a complementary nature between men and women attempts to address one’s sexual differences as a deeper reality of one’s personhood. Men and women discover their distinctive identities to enter relationships through their masculinity and feminity (Kohlaas, 2016).
Coming back to the description of the noble wife in Proverbs 31, one will quickly notice that it is the wife who is doing all the household chores (Proverbs 31:15,21-22), and whatever economic activities that is required of her (Proverbs 31:13,14,16-20,24,27). She is a capable woman, and she places her skills to good use. She does all of these while her husband focuses on the matters of the elders at the city gates (Proverbs 31:23). All these does not mean she’s abused by her husband or that her husband is idle. Rather, it simply meant that she’s fully utilizing all her skills in respect and submission to her husband so that her husband may focus on something that is of greater importance.
The Modern Dysfunction
Lose the balance, and we will find a society like ours that places too much emphasis on economic success and financial freedom that we have lost the basis of what it truly meant to lead (for men) and to submit (for ladies). The over-emphasis on meritocracy make it hard for many men who start from a disadvantaged position to make the contribution that they ought to make. Likewise, the over-emphasis on meritocracy and economic success made women – who have an added gift on economic dealings – pursue “financial stability” overtly, neglecting their fundamental gift to act as a complementarian in the household of her husband.
Socialisation by the modern society may have a big part to play in the overall distortion of goals, redirecting people from the ultimate purpose in life to something that is temporal and physical. However, with a correct perspective of God and the scripture, we will be led to build a relationship that is centered upon Him.
Interactionist Perspective on Biblical Marriage
Unlike the functionalist who sought to understand the underlying functions of how each individual unit contributes to the functions and stability of the society, the interactionist focuses on how human interactions form social processes. In other words, the interactionist would want to understand the reason behind why people act the way they act within society. For the interactionist, research will seek to answer the fundamental reasons behind the motive instead of a cause-and-effect analysis.
The interactionist rejects fundamental functional reasons that the functionalist provides. Rather, they would want to dive deeper into the context and analyze why people behave the way they behave, and why people make the decisions they made.
Given the flexibility and the inclination for biasness in the interpretation of data in interactionist research, interactionist research would require a thorough understanding of the human motive and reasoning (sometimes requiring the researcher to know more about the subject than the subject) to give a detailed analysis of an individual’s choice.
A good starting point for an interactionist to begin his search for the motive that drives human relationship can be the innate longing of both males and females to be loved. Building on the idea that both male and female might be socialized to have different expectations of love, researchers should dig deeper into the innate desires of the heart that drives their passion for the search of love.
An Interactionist Analysis of the Potential Causes of Homosexual Desires and Infidelity
There is an innate longing in everyone to belong and to be accepted, regardless of gender. This longing to be accepted as a fundamental human need (Zeév, 2014). In fact, another variation of the need to belong is the need to be loved, and this in itself is a significant determinant of our happiness.
Should human happiness be determined by the need to be loved and to belong – which can be achieved through physical actions (ie: love languages) – then the “love” in question will be seen as something that is cheap and easily attainable. Given the unfaithfulness of the human heart, marital infidelity might be seen as a “natural” thing for the sake of reproduction and for the fulfilling of our innate desires (Regan, 2012).
Taking a Biblical perspective however, one will recognize that in Ecclesiastes 3:11, God has placed something in the human heart to desire, something that is of eternal value; something that we can never quite fathom. This eternity in question encompasses something that is of eternal goodness. Knowledge of the Bible will tell us that this eternal goodness is our eternal being with the eternal God in the days to come. With proper understanding that God is love (1 John 4:8), one will hence holdfast to the promises of God along with His great love. With relationships and marriages built upon this eternal love, one will put their eternal hope and assurance in God rather than on any persons (or things).
However, with the lack of knowledge about the “eternity” in question, one might go all out in search for love and belonging that cannot be properly defined. The lack of knowledge in the minds of the natural man then turns into an innate longing to be accepted and loved by another person (or thing), warping the idea of eternal goodness and ultimately, of marriage and family.
More Research is Needed
With proper understanding of the significance of heterosexual marriages and the possible reasons for the formation of “unnatural desires” (Romans 1:26), one should relook into the significance of marriages and the reasons behind it. More research however, is needed to validate this paper. Future research should encompass the search for “eternity” that is placed in the hearts of all humankind, and even the formation of a school that is free from meritocracy to determine if human relationships would develop to be complementary or not.
Ultimately, all future research should be done objectively, serving to validate Biblical teachings through the sciences, and acting as a Beacon of Light for the World that is changing rapidly.
Kohlaas, J. (2016). Did God create men and women to complement each other? Retrieved from http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201610/did-god-create-men-and-women-complement-each-other-30796
Larimore, W. (2008). Husbands and Wives Are Hardwired to Complement Each Other. Retrieved from https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/gods-design-for-marriage/husbands-and-wives-are-hardwired-to-complement-each-other
McKie, R. (2010). Male and female ability differences down to socialization, not genetics. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/aug/15/girls-boys-think-same-way
Regan, P. (2012). Is Infidelity Natural? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/love-science/201207/is-infidelity-natural-4
Schulten, K. (2011). How Do You Define ‘Family’? Retrieved from https://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/24/how-do-you-define-family/
Wales, S. (2017). How do young Christians view same-sex marriages? Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/life/culture/article/2017/08/31/how-do-young-christians-view-same-sex-marriage
Zeév, A. B. (2014). Why We All Need to Belong to Someone. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-the-name-love/201403/why-we-all-need-belong-someone