Glorifying the Liberty of the Sexes in Marriage

There is a remarkable statement in the Form for the Solemnization of Marriage found in the back of the PsalterHymnal (p. 114). It reads: “Thus the liberty of both husband and wife is glorified by mutual loyalty to law.”

In our generation we are used to the glorification of sex but not in marriage. It is glorified in sex education, in sex movies, in sex magazines, on the sex stage, on sex TV, and who knows where else. But that it should be glorified in a Christian wedding, where a man and woman are bound together for life, who would ever think of that as glorifying liberty? I recall assisting at a wedding. The pastor performed the ceremony according to custom. I was asked to make some remarks. I called the attention of the young couple to this particular statement. When I finished the officiating minister remarked: Theyll soon find out that marriage is more of a ball and chain than glorified liberty.

How did we ever come to put such a statement in the Form and also continue to use it through many years? Only recently has it been discarded by many along with other old-fashioned materials. In spite of the ridicule thrown at the statement, in spite of all attempts to find the glory of liberization of the sexes in other things the statement does hold true. Because it is founded on the Word of God.

God made man from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. God then made woman, taking a part out of the booy of the man to form her as his helpmeet. They were one, but now God makes them separate. They have their own personalities and characteristics, their own functions and talents. They have their own life to live, their own sins, their own faith, their own salvation. To each his or her own.

But God provided a very special and unique way for man and woman to become one again. He joins together in holy marriage. Then, as the great Creator, He grants them procreative powers to reproduce in their own image, after His likeness. Then it can readily be seen how deeply sinful it is to join together what is not joined after the ordinance of God. This men have freely done. It is considered natural instinct. Joining themselves freely together men do not even know that they are father—and care less. Of thousands of children it is true today what Hosea said of the illegitimate children of Gomer, his wife; LO-RUHAMAH, that is, she knows no father’s compassion. Later he named the little boy, also born out of wedlock LO-AMMI, not my people. How manifold and tragic the aftermath of this assumed liberty!

A man attains to true freedom when he becomes father in the way God has ordained. When he does it in any other way he becomes enslaved in the vilest passions of sin. However, it should be borne in mind that being a father is not at all simply a matter of bringing children into the world. It is more, much more than that. If this were all there is to it the servicemen who left so many orphans behind in Korea and Vietnam might well boast of what magnificent fathers they were—and how wonderfully free! But how deeply guilty before God!

Scripture makes it plain that there is much more involved. A man becomes a true father only when he becomes father to the child all the way, full of compassion for his child all its days. Being a father as God is Father means ever caring, ever watching, ever supplying full provision in the home for each child, both for body and for soul, for mind and for spirit: The apostle Paul speaks of two important factors in being a father.

First, I Corinthians 4:15, For though you have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I begat you through the gospel. So Paul has full right to call them his children. Paul also speaks very freely of “his son Timothy.” (Phil. 2;22). Note too, the expression in his epistles to Timothy; in the First, “my true child in the faith,” in the Second, “my beloved child.” Though Paul here uses it only in the spiritual sense, he can do this because it is truly and actually involved in the full sense of fatherhood. This may well be the most difficult thing of being father, the most neglected, but at the same time the noblest and most glorious.

Second – I Thessalonians 2:11, As ye know how we dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children, and encouraging you and testifying . . . This would be exactly in accord with the instructions Moses gave to the Israelite fathers about teaching their children diligently all the things in the law of God. It is in these things that a man reaches his real liberty as a father in imitating the heavenly Father, so that they may all be taught of God. In nurturing and nourishing, tirelessly, the whole household in the fear and admonition of the Lord, with the predominance of emphasis on the spiritual because of the natural dominance of sin, herein man exercises his greatest freedom in fatherhood.

Likewise the woman also attains to her full freedom as woman when she becomes mother. Again, it must be well understood that also for woman being mother is not simply a matter of bringing children to birth. It is a matter of being mother twenty-four hours a day, day and night, year after year, cheerfully. She does this in cooperation with the father ever caring for the children God gives to them.

This sounds most ridiculous and impossible in the world of today. Today a woman is free only when she can get away from her children. No such thing as being tied to them and the house twenty-four hours a day. And I realize when I speak as I do I am flying right in the face of what is accepted and proclaimed as gospel truth today. But, as Eve perverted the order of God in Paradise when she took the lead in listening to the devil, so many are again listening to false promises of freedom held before them today.

It is, then, in motherhood that woman attains her highest goal and her true freedom. Mother represents the constant, the personally touching presence of the heavenly Father so that the child knows that it belongs, mother to child and child to mother. The father in the home represents the more distant presence of God as the things outside the home affect the family. He brings in what is needed and keeps out what is undesirable. Then mother utilizes the things brought in for the home, as it touches the life of all within directly. She is mothering the child when one day old, when two days old, when a year, when ten years, when twenty years—in fact all the days of her life. All, of course, according to the state of the child, different at one year than at ten; different before marriage than after marriage. But never wearying of being mother till her dying day; loving each moment of the day because of the children; finding her greatest joy, and service, and freedom in being “tied down” to mothering. Here she exerts her influence. uses her full strength and every talent, yes, really attains to her own. Here the glory of womanhood shows itself in true motherhood (cf. Proverbs 31:10–31).

In this world of imperfections not everything measures up to the standards of God. Sin has caused many a disturbance. There is many a Lo-Ruhamah who knows no father’s, no mother‘s compassion. There is many a Lo-Ammi, cast off by father, by mother as “not my people.” God gives to others to be as fathers or mothers for them. There are instances in which God Himself closes certain channels, and opens others. There are those who cannot be father or mother. There are those who freely prefer not to enter the marriage state. God opens for them careers in which fatherhood or motherhood can still be abundantly exercised and enjoyed. We thank God for adoptive fathers and mothers, for teachers and nurses, for homes that are open to the needy. Yet the way of joining together in marriage is still the basic and unique way provided by God, and brings greatest freedom and joy. This, however, is exclusively God’s right and domain and should not be attempted by man, artificially or temporarily.

So we center our thoughts on the way specifically ordained of God. That is the way of Christian marriage. Here the home becomes a foretaste of the heavenly home. Father as the counterpart of God brings in all supplies into the home. Mother as the counterpart of the heavenly Father prepares all things for all the family personally. In this respect father and mother decide together how many children they can truly father and mother. Also ever remembering what, for example, Peter writes (I Peter 3:7) Ye husbands in like manner dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being joint-heirs of the grace of life; to the end that your prayers be not hindered. So together pleading with the Lord to give them children as His heritage; together receiving children from the Lord, daily repeating the prayer of Scripture : Behold, Lord, I and the children Thou hast given. How free such parents are, how trained in proper freedom such children!

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the true freedom of each in such a tightly-bound home-life is found in Ephesians 5. Here Paul compares Christ as the Bridegroom to the father and the Church as the Bride to the mother. Christ became the Head of His Church because He laid down His life for her. A man in his home does not need to lay down his life for his home as Christ laid His down in atonement for the Church. But the man is surely expected to live out his life completely for the sake of the home if he truly wants to be head, not as lording it, but as serving all. And this must be done in love, as Christ did.

On the other hand the Church is free only to the extent that she is subject to her Head, who is Christ. Reversing this order so that the Church dictates to Christ, undoes the whole structure, and leads to hopeless bondage and confusion. Similarly the woman is free precisely in being subject to the man who lives out his life in service for her and the family. Here there is no talk of a domineering man nor of a henpecked husband. Happy the home where the ordinances of God are freely observed with the eye ever fixed on Christ. Then Christ is at the heart of the home, turning hearts of parents to children, and of children to parents, according to God‘s promise (Mal. 4:6).

Anthony A. Koning is a retired CRC minister living in Jenison, Michigan.