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The essential ingredient is commitment; and this is often overlooked in all the hoop-lah associated with wedding traditions. It's true that many of the PAGE32traditions arose from efforts (usually by the parents) to make the commitment as public and as difficult to forget as possible. But all of the hoop-lah is dispensable as long as the commitment is there.

One of my daughters was married in India. She had two Christian ministers present at the ceremony. But she did not have the paperwork available to make it legal in Australia. So when she and her husband returned to Australia six months later, they went through the motions of being married all over again at a registry office.

What happened in the registry office was not a marriage; that had already happened six months earlier in India.Another one of my daughters was married in our home in Australia. I officiated, even though I am not a registered marriage celebrant. She had gone to a registry office with her husband and filled out the necessary paperwork prior to our private ceremony. But the real marriage took place in our home, where they celebrated with friends and relatives their decision to give their lives to each other.

A piece of paper does not make a marriage. But neither does a piece of paper nullify a true commitment between two people. There is an over-reaction to the piece of paper by many de facto couples today. If two people are really committed to each other for life, why should either of them object to making their commitment more permanent and more public by registering it?

PAGE33We need to be able to question the traditions, but we also need to be careful about over-reacting and missing out on the good intentions that the traditions may represent.

There is a cluster of traditions that revolve around the romantic myth of equality, where both partners give exactly 50% toward the relationship, and where what applies for one partner applies equally for the other. Unfortunately, such a relationship does not exist. Human nature is such that we will always feel we are giving more than the other party.

Unless we recognise that from the start, marriage will almost certainly be a disappointment. True love gives without expecting anything in return.


The equality myth rejects the idea that one person should lead and the other should follow. It assumes that a married couple can go on living as two entirely free individuals. This is just not possible in the real world.

PAGE34Any time two or more people try to work together, someone must lead. A good leader will be sensitive to the needs and wishes of his/her followers, but ultimately, the leader must make the final decision, and the leader must also bear responsibility for the consequences of the decision.

It really doesn't matter whether it is the husband or the wife who leads. 

In a good marriage there will be areas in which each partner exercises leadership (in keeping with their relative abilities in those areas). But the bottom line is that someone has to lead, and the other party needs to respect the leader's authority in those circumstances.

Traditionally husbands are seen as the overall leaders in our society. The women's liberation movement would like to reverse that. However, it is a bit like changing from driving on the right hand side of the road to driving on the left hand side of the road. Either system might be just as valid, but unless we get everyone to agree, there are going to be problems if everyone chooses for themselves.


The nature of leadership is such that a lead-er can lead more than one follower. But one follower cannot follow two different leaders. This difference is important in understanding the nature of jealousy. Jealousy is generally seen as evil and it is, when the follower is jealous of the leader.

PAGE35ABut the Bible teaches that God is a jealous leader. His jealousy is a virtue, aimed at protecting us from other 'gods' who might harm us. A jealous husband could be expressing his own feelings of inadequacy; but he could also be expressing his understanding of dangers that might threaten an otherwise happy marriage.  Because men are (on the whole) stronger than women, it became their job to protect women from other men. In civilised society this protection may not take the same form that it did for cave men, but it may still be necessary.

A jealous husband may be expressing love. But jealousy in a wife may hinder her husband in his role as leader. If husbands are going to go out into the world to provide for their families, then wives must learn to trust them to do that.

Followers express love through trust; but leaders do not; they express love through care and protection. (This same principle should operate between parents and children as well.)


Finally, there is one other little topic that relates to this whole equality thing. It is polygamy. It has little relevance in our society, where monogamy is the norm; but it illustrates why there is a difference between leaders and followers. In some societies women can have more than one husband. In other societies, men can have more than one wife. But both arrangements never operate at the same time.

A man cannot be married to several women who are, in turn, each married to several men. Chaos would result.

Many of the patriarchs and kings of the Old Testament were polygamists, and they were not condemned for it. In the New Testament, Christ is depicted as a husband who has several wives (Matthew 25:1; Revelation 19:7-9).

He can do this because he is our Leader, and he is able to lead and love each of us individually. But he demands that we have no other loyalties than our loyalty to him. In other words, God can be jealous of us but we cannot be jealous of him. Christ can have many other "wives" but we can be loyal to only One Husband.

While we are on the subject of polygamy, we will explain how monogamy became the norm in Western society. Although there is nothing which totally outlaws polygamy in the New Testament, it has died out largely as a consequence of two of Christ's teachings:

(1) celibacy as an ideal; and

(2) equality amongst all believers.

Paul & Jesus both encouraged celibacy (i.e. no wives at all), but they recognised that most people would not be able to live up to such a high ideal (Matthew 19:10-12; 1 Corinthians 7:1-9).

However Paul did stipulate that church leaders must not have more than one wife (1 Timothy 3:2-12).  We can assume from this that polygamy was tolerated for some non-leaders in the early church. However, all members were encouraged to minimise marital responsibilities, so that they would be freer to serve others in the church (1 Corinthians 7:29-34).

This is a reversal of the Old Testament tradition where it was esteemed leaders who indulged in polygamy the most. While polygamy is tolerated in the New Testament, it is seen as opposing the ideal--celibacy.

Unless a situation arises where there are not enough men to go around (as might have happened in Old Testament times when wars wiped out many of the men), it is a bit unfair (and greedy) for one man to have more than his share of the women while others go without.

Sects which have attempted to revive polygamy (on the grounds that it was never outlawed in the New Testament) have invariably justified it on behalf of the leaders more than on behalf of the followers, which certainly is a contradiction of the New Testament approach.

While polygamy itself may not be sinful, such selfishness on the part of supposedly Christian leaders is; particularly considering that it is usually invoked as justification for a failed first marriage.

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