In a covenant, two parties reciprocally bind themselves together in the most intimate, enduring and sacred of all pacts. Every culture on earth has some form of covenanting. Through the symbolic actions of the ceremony, two lives are joined as one. Covenanting forms a relationship that is closer than even blood relatives. Those who covenant enjoy an added sense of security, for they are not alone as they face life’s challenges.
A marital covenant is a set of agreed upon terms a man and a woman swear to keep in order to establish and maintain a permanent relationship. Whereas a contract protects rights and limits responsibilities, a covenant surrenders rights and assumes responsibilities. Covenants always involve sacrifice. They are effectual only in an atmosphere of selflessness and trust.
Most nations view life-long marriages as a positive contribution to their national strength. Every divorce affects the solidarity of the nation as a whole. Divorce has reached epidemic proportions in our nation because marriage is too often viewed as a short-term commitment. Most couples who divorce do so within the first few years of marriage. The math is simple: the longer a couple stays married, the greater the probability they will stay married for life. Children from broken families are the ones who suffer most, for they grow up to view the marital covenant as unnecessary. Pride is the primary reason couples avoid seeking marital counseling.
The Bible never views marriage as temporary. When a couple says, “till death do us part”, they confirm the value and strength of the relationship. God demands we do not become unequally yoked with unbelievers because the unsaved spouse does not understand covenant from God’s perspective (II Cor.6:14). The covenant of marriage means giving the other person the right to co-administrate everything. Marriage means your spouse is the most important human being in your life. It is the mingling of two personalities, each fully surrendering their lives to the other. Both parties are now made one forever, for their former individual lives have ended. A new life, one now shared by two persons, has begun.
God is usually invoked to witness marital covenant vows. Oaths are taken to help ensure each will remain true to the other and to ask Him to protect the compact. Covenanting is universally practiced because the foundational concept is divinely inbred into us. Every relationship God has with a human being is based on a covenant relationship. The Son of God covenants with Believers through His sacrifice on the cross (Mk.14:24).
Those who make wedding vows before God actually covenant with Him. The Lord blesses those who honor their covenants. The Biblical concepts of sacrifice and covenant are absolutely inseparable – and remain in effect until the husband or wife dies (I Cor.7:39). The foundational hope behind a marital covenant is a lifetime of dedicated service to each other and to the Lord. As Believers, we strengthen the solidarity of the Church by committing our marriages to Jesus Christ.
Published in Indian Life, July/Aug. 2008