The marriage institution seems to be under siege globally. There are several pervasive thoughts and activities challenging the sanctity of marriage and most are backed up with legislation. For many, marriage has been redefined and marriage, people now pledge for “better for best.”
Life time partnership or cohabitation is now common place and are considered far better and more convenient than getting married. The life partners will only need to sign a Life Partnership/contract agreement prepared by a brilliant lawyer to protect and define the relationship and how assets and children custody (if any) will be shared in the event of separation. With this structure in place, marriage is no longer a necessity. After all, it was Henry Mencken who said “Marriage is a wonderful institution. But who would want to live in an institution?”
We may all be familiar with the global trends in civil union which is SAME SEX MARRIAGE. While some countries have legalized it, others are considering adopting it and few have taken strong stands against it. Our National Assembly as an instance voiced out its unwillingness to allow such practices through its support for a Bill seeking to prohibit same sex marriage in Nigeria.
As at date, Lagos State has de-criminalized bigamy. The old Criminal Code of Lagos State that prescribed 7 years imprisonment for offence of bigamy has been expunged, thus it is no longer a crime for one to enter into a second marriage during the existence of legal marriage in Lagos State. There have been several arguments for and against de-criminalizing bigamy in Lagos. In the heat of the debate, a critical point that could not be disputed is that even when bigamy was a criminal offence, that provision of the law did not record any conviction. It was just one of the provisions occupying space in the legislation having been dormant for about 40 years of its existence. The major justification from the government perspective is that the old law could not address the challenges posed by present realities. Clearly, our cultural and social backgrounds have not helped the family system which explains the wisdom behind expunging bigamy from the Criminal Code of Lagos State.
These unfolding events portray that the human institutional frameworks are limited in terms of protecting and preserving marriages. They also show the decay in morals and core family values. The result is the creation of malfunctioning family system which explains the various challenges now prevalent in our society. A malfunction family system will of necessity produce a malfunctioning society.
What then is the way forward for Christians? First is the need to understand that marriage is not a creation of the state but of God. The reference point is Genesis 2:18 and 22 on the creation of marriage. The recognition of the author of marriage is the starting point and indeed makes the marriage experience and challenges easier.
Secondly God alone regulates marriages. The marriage institution cannot be subjected to societal whims and caprices. Everything we need to know about relationship, courtship, marriage and its sustainability, divorce, etc are found in God’s words. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 for me cuts across every form of relationships.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails
Thirdly, the challenges in marriage are not strange to God. He already said the temptations in your lives are no different from what others are experiencing but that His faithfulness will not allow the temptation to be more than we can stand. 1 Corinthians 10:13.
Lastly, Marriage is built, preserved and sustained by God and not by man’s law. Except the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Psalm 127:1.
In conclusion, 1 Corinthians 7 summarizes the fact that both marriage and singleness are God’s gifts and equally valuable to Him. The admonition is to serve God in whatever situation He has assigned to us. When we learn to live God’s ways, He directs our parts to the extent that even where the human institutional framework crumbles; God will remain our stronghold.
Bolaji Ogungbemi Esq.
(First published on LinkedIn)