Wedding Factories

  There's a mysterious epidemic that renders adult males twice as likely to die from heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and cancer. No, I'm not talking about smoking or eating too much salt. I'm talking about divorce. Studies show that the stress of divorce puts both men and women at a significantly higher risk for a whole host of physical illnesses—not to mention emotional problems. And what are Americans doing about it? Virtually nothing. As pollster George Gallup comments, if there were any other problem afflicting a large percentage of our population, spreading disease and dysfunction through all age groups, we would be searching frantically for solutions. But the scourge of divorce has been virtually ignored. Think: How often have you heard a sermon on divorce? Yet most marriages that end in divorce began at the altar. Obviously too many churches have allowed their role to deteriorate to being little more than what Mike McManus labels "wedding factories." In his book Marriage Savers, McManus explains how too many churches help couples prepare for elaborate wedding ceremonies but not for lasting marriages. How can your church become a force for building strong marriages? McManus argues that a marriage ministry needs to begin with teens and dating couples. After all, when are people's ideas about relationships formed? When are their sexual attitudes shaped? In those crucial years before a couple actually walks down the aisle. The church's first message to the dating couple ought to be strong and clear: If you want a good marriage, don't have premarital sex. The National Survey of Family Growth found that women who were not virgins when they got married had higher rates of divorce.Much higher rates, in fact: The most recent figures show non virgins with a divorce rate 71percent higher than virgins. These are numbers every church ought to be teaching their high school and college groups. It is convincing sociological evidence that those who follow biblical sexual ethics can dramatically increase their odds of lasting marriage. A friend of mine advises her teenage son to "keep his zipper up." That's sound advice, but its emphasis is primarily negative. Today, parents and churches can give young adults a positive reason for chastity. Saying no to premarital sex means saying yes to a stronger marriage. The reason behind the numbers is simple: Dating couples who abstain from sex are more likely to build emotional and intellectual companionship. What's more, they're building the self-restraint so crucial to being a successful husband or wife later on. After all, fidelity in marriage takes self-control, too! A few years ago a survey of 3,000 teens asked what kind of help they wanted from their church. First on the list was "counseling for sexual problems." Young people are looking to their churches for help. Programs are available that make the job easier. One popular abstinence program is called "True Love Waits." It's time for churches to break the silence on divorce. God intended marriages to be for a lifetime. And it's up to God's people to begin teaching couples how to have a marriage that lasts.


Chuck Colson


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