Sometimes at conferences or even in sermons, it’s the throwaway lines that pack the most punch.
In a discussion on the nature of social justice, particularly how it has been reinterpreted and changed from its original purpose, Michael Novak made an interesting comment.
He said, “When people’s life expectancy was only into their 20’s, ‘Til death do us part’ meant something significantly different than it does now.”
In one sense this is untrue, because at the heart of it, the marriage vow has always been a lifelong commitment. There was always an intended permanence. However, at the next level in the comment, which is where I think Novak intended the audience to go, there is a meaty truth worth chewing on.
Commitment to marriage for life is something different when you only expect to live for another decade than it is if you expect to live for another sixty years. Or, rather, the nature of what is being committed to is different.
Without deconstructing marriage in this discussion, which others are doing apart quickly and violently enough, it is worth considering if some of the unraveling of marriages within the church isn’t due to a slow change in teaching about the significance of marriage.
In other words, it is one thing to commit to live with someone you don’t get along with for a decade. It is another thing to commit to deal with another person’s idiosyncrasies for three times the time you’ve been alive. I'm not sure the teaching of the church on marriage kept up with the reality of life.
The way you think about marriage, enter into marriage, and live as a married person changes based on that expectation. The difference is much like the way you pack for a weekend getaway instead of a two week vacation. There is a lot more preparation for one than the other.
Pulling back from the specific issue of marriage, this brings up the way the Church uses data and adapts the way she teaches to the changing world around her. The doctrines do not change, but the way they are expressed certainly must to keep up with the changing landscape.
This is where, as a smart aleck young evangelical, I am tempted to point out how the Church is always reactionary. But, I am part of that reaction, continually lagging behind the culture hoping to find a way to communicate within it.
When the Church, which includes me, fails to find new ways to apply old truths, we leave people to fill in the gaps on their own. God is good and Scripture accessible, but sometimes the result of such independent development isn’t good.
Instead of reading into the sign of the times, looking for where we are right now, we need to be looking for where we are going. We may be wrong, but only if we lead people to think about a way forward can we hope to have them adequately prepared for today.
Image used by CC license: http://ow.ly/OvOcL Thinking....[Explored] Ricardo Cuppini