Before You Tie the Knot
Getting married is one of the most important decisions a person can make in life. There are several things that should be seriously considered before a Christian ties the knot.

Many things that happen in life are beyond our control, but those who choose to be joyful will make adjustments accordingly. They will react appropriately, striving to make the most of their circumstances each day. However, the wise will not only react to what life throws at them but will also plan ahead to the best of their ability, making intelligent choices that are in harmony with the Lord's will. One area of life in which it is exceedingly important to plan ahead and make wise choices is marriage. The best marriages are those where the man and woman have thoughtfully planned ahead and not just reacted to the situation at hand.

This lesson is a straightforward presentation regarding some matters that I believe are essential for all Christians to consider before they get married or tie the knot, so to speak. There are three major points that I'd like for us to contemplate.

A Christian who plans to marry should marry according to God's plan. Although man has often tried to complicate the New Testament teaching on this subject, the Scriptures are plain enough. God's plan for marriage today is one man and one woman for life, with one exception or reason for divorce--sexual immorality (cf. Matt. 19:3-9). Tragically, our society promotes divorce for almost any reason, but God does not approve. If your wife burns your toast, then you might not be pleased, but it is not a reason for divorce. If your husband is rude to your in-laws, then you have a right to be upset with him, but you have no right to a divorce. If your spouse lies, steals, or drinks, you don't have a right to divorce and remarry. Even if your spouse was guilty of murder, God does not grant you the right to divorce and remarry. The New Testament teaches there is only one reason for divorce and remarriage--sexual immorality. If your spouse is sexually unfaithful to you, then--and only then--do you have the right in God's eyes to terminate the marriage bond and seek a new one.

This is a point that cannot be overemphasized to teenagers. Those who have yet to marry haven't made a mess of their lives in this area. They can plan ahead instead of reacting to an existing marital situation that is poor. They aren't on their second or third marriages wondering what exactly they should do to please God. They don't have children from a previous union to be concerned about. Young people should be taught over and over again about God's plan for marriage, especially since society sends them a conflicting message everyday (namely, that marriage is disposable and can be abandoned at the first serious difficulty). Teenagers need to know that if they get married in the future they will be making a lifelong commitment. They must be taught to embrace God's plan for marriage.

Who should you marry? Simply stated: You should marry a Christian--a strong Christian, if possible. I believe that it is a big mistake for a Christian to marry a non-Christian. Marrying a strong Christian mate will generally save you a lot of heartache later and a host of unnecessary problems. Let me share four reasons as to why I believe this is the best course of action.

First, for the sake of the SCRIPTURES, marry a Christian.
Deuteronomy 7:3,4 states - "Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly." Moses was preparing the Israelites to enter the land of Canaan. They were not to intermarry with the people of the land. Why not? Because these idolatrous people would turn their hearts away from the Lord and cause them to embrace false religion. That is why God told them to only marry Israelites. The same can and does happen to many Christians today when they marry unbelievers or those with a different religious background.

In I Kings 11, Solomon's downfall is explained. Although he was exceedingly wise, he married foreign women who turned his heart away from the only true and living God. Solomon began his reign with God's blessings and was faithful to the Lord, but he changed for the worse. For the sake of the Scriptures, he should have married a fellow Israelite. For the sake of the Scriptures, we today should only marry those of like faith. If Solomon did not remain faithful after making poor marital choices, who are we to think that we can guarantee that we will not be pulled away from the truth into error and false religion?

Besides these Old Testament principles, there are a couple passages that come to mind on this matter in the New Testament. Paul affirmed in I Corinthians 9:5 - "Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?" Notice what Paul said: a believing wife! Paul implied that he had the right to marry a Christian. He had the right to have a believing wife! Can you even imagine the apostle Paul having a non-believing wife? I can't. Can you see Paul assembling with Christians and being asked where Mrs. Paul was? "Oh, she's over at the Baal temple at a big sacrifice and dinner. She'll be back with us next week." Paul affirmed his right to marry a believer, a Christian! Should we not do the same? I think so.

But Stephen, that verse still doesn't say that I have to marry a Christian. Is there such a verse in the New Testament? What about Matthew 6:33? Jesus wants us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. If you are putting God and His church first in your life, then you won't even consider marrying a non-Christian. You're not going to pick someone who is a spiritual handicap to you. You're not going to choose a mate who will hinder your spiritual growth or pull you away from the Lord. Put God first in your dating choices and put him first in whom you choose to marry. This goes along with our next minor point.

Second, for the sake of your SOUL, marry a Christian.
You shouldn't marry a non-Christian because that individual will not help you get to heaven. What is your goal? It should be to get to heaven! You shouldn't marry anyone if you can't honestly say that they won't help you reach that goal. You don't need someone who won't help you get to heaven. It is difficult to remain faithful to the Lord for one's entire life. We need all the encouragement we can get. Young ladies, you need a man who says, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Young men, you need a woman who says, "I know you are tired, but Bible class starts in an hour and we ought to be there." You'll need lots of encouragement, and your spouse will be one of your primary sources of encouragement when you are an adult. If you mate is not a Christian, it will be hard for you to get the encouragement that you need.

There are notable exceptions to the rule, but those who marry well, generally do well. Nearly all strong, faithful Christians are those who have married strong, faithful Christians. You must realize that marriage is not a mission field. Some girls choose a boy that they can take care of and straighten out. Girls, if you want to straighten out sorry boys, that's great, but don't marry them. It is too dangerous to marry him and then try to straighten him out. Find a strong Christian and marry him! Why do I think this way? Well, consider some statistics that were compiled from a twenty year study in Miami, Oklahoma and I believe you'll see why.

79 young people who grew up in Christian homes married outside the Lord's church. 57 fell away and only 22 remained faithful. That is scary! Only 14 of those 22 have converted their mates. Based on this study, the odds of converting your mate and having a Christian home are about 18% (that's about one out of every six). There were 25 divorces of the 79 marriages between believers and non-believers. Now, listen to this: In the same church during the same time period, 64 young people married Christians. 59 of them remained faithful and 5 did not. Thus, the odds in this study of maintaining a Christian home when you marry a Christian is over 92%! Do you see a difference between having a faithful Christian home 18% of the time and 92% of the time? Additionally, there were only 2 divorces of the 64 marriages between Christians. Do you see a difference between a 31% divorce rate and a 3% divorce rate?

Yes, I realize that these numbers don't prove what would happen to you personally if you chose to marry a non-Christian. Perhaps you would be fortunate enough to end up with a strong Christian mate and home. However, the odds are against it. I've read about two other similar studies that were published in "The Truth in Love" periodical in the past.

In one congregation, 70 Christians married outside the church. 49 became unfaithful and only 21 remained faithful. Of these 70 marriages, 19 ended in divorce. 48 other Christians married those of like faith. 45 are still faithful and only 3 forsook the Lord. Of those 48 marriages, only 2 ended in divorce.

In another congregation, 49 Christians marry outside the church. 28 became unfaithful and 21 remained faithful. Only 9 of the 49 converted their mates.

Although the statistics vary slightly in each study (which is to be expected), the overall trend is undeniable. Only a fool would consider these numbers and say: "It's doesn't matter. I can marry whomever I want and it won't affect me spiritually in a negative way. I'll beat the odds." Friends, suppose that while you are visiting at my house you see a big grassy field nearby. You ask, "Are there a lot of snakes in the field? Has anyone ever got bit crossing that field?" I respond, "Oh yes, people get bit regularly out there, but 1 out of every 6 makes it through safely. Only 5 out of every 6 get snake bit!" You wouldn't even get close to that field, would you? Understand that I'm talking about something far more important than a snake bite. I'm talking about your soul. For the sake of your soul, you ought to marry a Christian.

Third, for the sake of your HOME, marry a Christian.
When you consider the divorce rate, from around 30% when marrying a non-Christian to about 3% when marrying a Christian, it just makes sense to marry in the faith. There are no guarantees, but the odds overwhelmingly favor marrying a Christian. Wouldn't you hate to be married to someone who resented the money you gave to the Lord and the time you spent in service to God? Would that be a fun way to live? You may have problems having a devotional in your home, and there may be friction when religious matters are discussed. Wouldn't you love to live like that? In the homes that have a family devotional, regardless of the religion, I'm told that about 90% of them stay together. Don't you want to have a godly home in which you can praise God and study together? The old saying really is true: The family that prays together stays together.

For the sake of your home, you need to put Christ in the center of your marriage. He needs to be the cement that holds you together. A married couple who are both Christians can go to God's word and get problems worked out. But, when one spouse doesn't believe, it is impossible to go to the Scriptures together and fix your problems Biblically. Think about this, would you want to give your life and love to someone who won't make it to heaven (unless they change)? For the sake of your home, marry a Christian.

Fourth, for the sake of your CHILDREN, marry a Christian.
What is the greatest gift that you could ever give your children? It's not a fancy car, a college education, or even a million bucks. The best thing you could ever give your kids is a strong, peaceful Christian home! Unfortunately, children don't have any say in what kind of home they grow up in. But, you can give your kids a spiritual home if you marry a faithful Christian. Sometimes we need to step back and remember that physical beauty is really not what is important in selecting a spouse. Girls, that boy might be very handsome and he might have a great car, but if you marry him, he will be the father of your children. Is that what you want for your kids? Do you want them to have a father who doesn't serve God as you do? Boys, that girl might be the cutest little thing you've ever seen and she might make your hair curl when you're around her, but if you marry her, she's going to be the mother of your children. Do you want a woman who is not a Christian to rear your son or daughter?

"But Stephen, I'm going to convert my spouse." What are the odds of that? Not very good, as we've already seen. To marry a non-Christian is to play with fire! Plus, ask yourself: When do my children need a Christian father or mother? When they're 15 years old? No, they need a godly father and mother from birth! You need to plan a Christian home with your spouse. You need a Christian home for the sake of your children.

After committing yourself to marrying only a Christian and understanding that your marriage will last for life, there are still some other practical matters to be considered.

First, don't get in a hurry to get married.
Nearly anyone can get married. Don't rush into it. Take your time and be patient. It is the second most important decision you can make in your life, second only to whether or not you will become a Christian.

Second, go to the right place to find a potential spouse.
A young woman once wrote to Ann Landers and asked why it was that every boy she met at the bar turned out to be no good. I think she could have saved her postage on that one. If there are not any good fish in the water, it doesn't matter how good a fisherman you are, you won't be successful! You have to look in the right places for a potential spouse. Look for marriage material among fellow Christians.

Third, you have to be the right person
If you want to have a strong marriage and a godly home, you need to prepare yourself spiritually. You need to be a faithful Christian. To have a successful marriage, not only must you pick a good partner, you must also be a good partner!

Deciding whom you will marry is an extremely important decision that most people make in their twenties. The decision you make as to whom you will marry will affect your soul, your children, and even generations to come. Take the decision seriously. Marry within the church. Marry a strong Christian who will help you achieve your spiritual goal of heaven. And if you really want to play it safe and save yourself some problems, don't even date those who are out of Christ. Why? Well, why should you date anyone whom you don't at least consider to be a possible candidate for marriage someday? Remember Matthew 6:33. Put Christ and His church first in this life in all that you do, especially when it comes to dating and marriage. If you live by this rule, you won't regret it!

Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.