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I've heard it. You’ve heard it. We’ve all been to a wedding where the officiant read these words from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:
“Love is patient. Love is kind…”
Mark Woods at Christianity Today admits that the passage is a lovely addition to any lovely wedding. It makes everyone feel nice. The problem, he suggests, is that “the Bible doesn’t really do ‘nice.’” He goes on:
I worry that Paul's sublime, God-breathed words in 1 Corinthians have been co-opted and corrupted by a wedding industry that celebrates romantic love, which is all about hormones, at the expense of Christian love, which is all about commitment.
Paul's "Love is..." list isn't a statement of the dewy-eyed emotional state in which couples stand in front of the altar. It's a commitment to a rigorous practice of spiritual discipline in relation to other people in general – and not just to the object of amorous desire.
Yes, it's lovely. But I'm not sure that attaching it to the wedding service does it justice
So what do you read, if you don’t read the “love chapter”? Woods offers a few alternatives.
1. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
He recommends this passages because of its focus on companionship, support, and mutuality. This passage speaks of friendship as the thing that protects us from life’s hardships, encourages us when we’re down, and even helps us survive in times of bitter hardship. What a true picture of marriage!
2. Ruth 1:16-17: "But Ruth said, 'Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.'"
Though our officiant didn’t read the passage, my own wedding vows were modeled after this speech in Ruth. “Your people will be my people,” I vowed, placing my husband’s new ring on his finger. “Your joys will be my joys.” (I even added, “Your debts will be my debts.” – Oh, student loans!). For me, this passage is such a wonderful representation of family. Ruth, though legally already part into Naomi’s family, here makes a commitment to stand by her mother-in-law’s side no matter what. She makes the choice from her own heart and free will, and pledges to always temper her own desires against the good of their family.
Wood also suggests Matthew 19:4-6, Ephesians 3:14-19, and Romans 12: 9-21 as excellent options. Read his full article here!
During their engagements, Christian couples are often counseled to focus on preparing for their marriage, not just for the wedding itself. And rightly so! A wedding lasts but one day, whereas a marriage commitment is for life. But how much consideration should go into the wedding day?
There are plenty of things to consider.
What should be the focus of a wedding ceremony? According to A Christ-Centered Wedding: Rejoicing in the Gospel on Your Big Day by Catherine Strode (as reported by Erin Roach)
"Ask your [officiant] to bring it back to the gospel…And know this is not just for those unsaved family members and friends in the audience. This gospel proclamation is for you. We need to reflect on the power of God's gospel work and His grace every day of our lives - particularly as we are making the most serious human commitment possible."
What about vows? Some pastors, like Russell Moore, won’t perform weddings with personalized vows.
A couple starting out a wedding frankly don’t know the vows that they need to make without the rest of the body of Christ, with those who’ve gone before them. A twenty-five-year-old couple, they are not thinking about Alzheimer’s disease. They are not thinking about what happens when we find out that our small child is dying with cancer. They don’t think about what happens if one of us commits adultery and we have to work through the aftermath of that. The rest of the body of Christ is speaking of the fact that the vows you are making to one another aren’t simply when things are in conditions as they are right now, and it’s not simply when things are in conditions that you can imagine right now, but it’s in sickness and in health; for richer, for poorer; till death do us part. Those are the sorts of vows that ought to be made.
Others suggest that, whatever their vows, couples should take time to reflect on them long after the wedding has ended. In Reflect On Your Wedding Vows, the authors of Intimacy Ignited write,
Marriage is a sacred covenant in which you made a vow to your mate and to God. Fulfill it. Reflect upon it. Revisit your words so that you do not forget what you promised.
Whatever the details of your wedding might be, Julie Barrier exhorts couples to remember:
Leave hurts, expectations and unmet needs from the past. Cleave to your mate. Let them learn to identify your “soft spots” and scars.
Become one flesh by allowing God to unite your hearts and build your family.
Look down that aisle. Forge a future God’s way. It’s a match made in heaven!
Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor at Crosswalk.com
Publication date: July 15, 2015