John Steward of Jesus
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Marriage "Vows"

"marriage is a verbalized commitment"

I'm wondering what must be verbalized to initiate a marriage.

We speak of marriage vows, promises, pledges, etc., which seem to imply a commitment to do something in the future. Then if someone doesn't perform as committed, we speak of them as breaking their vows, etc. The implication is that it was the promise to do something which created the obligation.

Parents of children have responsibilities regarding the children. The
responsibilities do not arise from promises the parents made as to what they would do for their children, to which they can now be held accountable. The responsibilities and obligations arise from the simple fact that they are parents. No evidence of promises is needed.

I'm wondering whether we shouldn't emphasize that husbands and wives have responsibilities, obligations, and commitments which arise from the simple fact that they are husbands and wives, whether they made verbalized promises or not. Omitting some of the traditional promises from a liturgy or inserting weasel clauses or making prenuptial agreements doesn't change the nature of created social reality.

Which obviously brings us to the question of how a man and a woman become married. It seems to me the answer is very simple. By taking each other as husband and wife. That's all it takes.

Now, because of the life-changing significance of this act, wisdom obviously requires that there be many safeguards in place, which may include traditional procedures, rituals, liturgies, et. But the essence of it is simply the taking of a husband and the taking of a wife. If this is demonstrated by participating in a ritual known to confirm the action (removing a sandal or whatever), that is all that is needed.

If anything must be verbalized, it is simply a statement that I take you as husband or wife. This is a confirmation of what I am doing today, not a promise or vow of what I will do in the future.

There is no harm in making any list or well intentioned promises. There is probably value in confirming an understanding of the obligations of husbands and wives. But these promises regarding the future are not what make a marriage.

Does it make any difference? I'm not sure. But there may be value in
realizing again that the essential obligations of husbands and wives are not based on their promises, but on the expectations of their Creator who joined them together.

There is little evidence in Scripture of promises made at the time of
marriage. There is abundant evidence of the significance of marriage, when a man takes a wife or a woman goes along to become someone's wife.

But it seems to me the emphasis is on what is being done at the time of the marriage. It's a big day, as is the birth of a child. When it is clearly understood what is happening, the implications for the future should also be understood.


I don't wish in any way to discourage the open declaration before many witnesses that a man and woman have taken each other as husband and wife. I strongly recommend it.

What I intended to ask was, if we realize that our obligations before God arise from the very nature of being a husband and wife and are not dependent upon being verbalized in our "vows", does it make a difference? And again, by "we" I mean those who live, move, and have their being in Jesus Christ, who seek to bring every thought into conformity to the mind of Christ, who seek to do all to the glory of God, who recognize that there is one Lawgiver, one Judge, and one King.