We have come to know and to believe
the love that God has for us.
1 John 4:16

A Concise Definition of Marriage

On the website of a church, what follows is obviously meant to be a definition in a Christian context. We can acknowledge that outside the Christian community, people are free to use words like marriage in the ways they think are best. Yet we must also claim the right to do the same within our community. People who would like to belong to the Christian community should at minimum be aware of the community’s vocabulary and be able to use it correctly. Those who don’t care to be known as a Christian are not affected by this at all, unless, in connection with marriage, they interact with Christians whose actions are guided by a definition like this. Then we might see the courts deciding whether the first amendment really means what it says about the free exercise of religion.

In my reading I came across a very brief quote from Dr. Martin Luther on this subject, taken from his Lecture on Genesis.  It encapsulates exactly the perspective of our congregation, and I daresay the entire Christian Church insofar as that name means what it says. Here it is:

Yet the true definition is this: marriage is the divine and lawful union of a male and female in hope of children, or at least to avoid the cause of fornication and sin, to God’s glory. Its ultimate end is to obey God; to remedy sin; to call upon God; to seek, love, and educate children to God’s glory; to live with one’s spouse in the fear of the Lord; and to bear the cross.

To the degree that we depart from such a definition, we can expect to experience a bad conscience and much earthly woe, even to the point of losing faith in Christ and the comfort of every Christian. To the degree that we live by such a definition, we can expect to experience divine help in trouble, joy amid sorrows,  even some kind of earthly prosperity along with the cross, and a strengthening of the faith that clings to the gospel and is exercised daily.

This quote was found in Albrecht Peters, The Ten Commandments. Vol. 1 of Commentary on Luther’s Catechisms (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), p. 257. Peters cites further quotes to the same effect from AE vols. 4 and 5.