Mr. or Mrs. Special
How do you go about finding that special person? How do you choose a mate? In 1 Corinthians 7:39 we have a Bible text with a principle applying to marriage in general although Paul uses it in connection with a widow. “A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” The text gives two important criteria for marriage. One is more obvious than the other. Marry “only in the Lord.” We say this means marry only a Christian. There is another meaning which we will explore momentarily.
Here is an illustration taken from Dr. Jay Adams. Imagine a square in which there are three dots. There are also several dots outside the square. These dots represent potential marriage partners. Those outside the square are unbelievers. Those inside the square are Christians. The biblical criterion eliminates all those outside the square. There is no problem so far. What about those inside the square? There are three possibilities within the square. What do you do now?
You turn to the second biblical criterion. Paul tells you as a widow or single person, you are free to marry whomever you will. The stipulation added is that marriage must be “in the Lord.” In 1 Corinthians 7:39, Paul refers to a person’s wish, want or desire. In other words, the Bible takes into account your individual personal preferences. Paul assumes your will is in subjection to Christ. He presumes you are not “self-willed” as in Titus 1:7, “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain.” Your will must be bent toward God and the Word of God. The point is that God takes your own desires into account when you marry.
Following this lead, one of the possible candidates for marriage within the box may be eliminated immediately. You may say, “Mary Jane is a foot taller than me. I just cannot see us together.” This is quite simple. It is also perfectly biblical.
The two other candidates are attractive and plausible. Either of them capture your heart to an extent. Now you bring the second side of the first criterion into play. “Only in the Lord” also means you should use Godly wisdom in making your decision. For example, one of the candidates for marriage which remains is of another race. There is no direct biblical prohibition for interracial marriage. However, it may be profoundly unwise in particular circumstances. Interracial marriage may confront great resistance in small mid-western or western towns. The children of interracial marriages may have enormous difficulties in the community schools. This would not be the case in more cosmopolitan areas or within the military where such marriages are quite common. In addition, interracial marriage may be highly offensive within certain families. You must be mindful of the Fifth Commandment. Godly wisdom may therefore prohibit interracial marriages in certain family and social contexts.
In addition, persons should apply Godly wisdom more broadly. Get to know the potential marriage partner. Talk about your educational, social, political, and economic backgrounds. Talk about home life and church life. Pray together. Read the Bible together. Talk about interests and hobbies. Marriage is much more than occasionally sharing a house and a bed. Married folks must be friends first of all. Common interests, common callings, and common enjoyments are important. The process of finding the special person God has in mind for you involves all these things. When you answer the big questions, you must also use a lot of sanctified common sense.