Friday, May 23, 2008

Is Marriage a Contract or a Covenant?

Is marriage a contract or a covenant?

So many times we hear marriage referred to as a contract. Sometimes it’s even called “just a piece of paper”.

One dictionary definition of a contract is, “A binding agreement between two or more persons that is enforceable by law.” A contract, by definition, is a give/get relationship between two or more parties. You agree to do something and in return you get something for your efforts.

A builder signs a contract stating that he or she will build you a house and in return you agree to pay them a pre-determined amount of money. If the house is not built or the money isn’t paid, then it’s off to court.

Many great things have been accomplished through the use of contracts. A contract essentially attempts to keep honest people honest and dishonest people to a minimum.

A contract can be an extensive five-hundred page document, researched and compiled by top-paid lawyers over a grueling amount of time, listing multiple “what-if..” scenarios and agreed upon outcomes, or it can be a simple verbal agreement bound by a single handshake.

However, in most cases, when two people marry, the signed marriage registration document merely states that the two people mentioned in the document were joined in matrimony. It does not mention anything about things agreed upon – who will give what, and what they will get in return from the other person.

Even the vows don’t contain any “What I will get in return” statements. They only contain what each party will give and not what they will get. This is because love is a very powerful “life force”. It is not just an emotion. When someone truly loves another they don’t count the cost. Parents will risk their own lives without a thought to save the life of even one of their children.

Marriage is a contract in that it binds both people together, but it is much more than that. Marriage is a more like a covenant which is much deeper than a contract. In a marriage covenant, each party agrees to give themselves totally and unconditionally to their partner. It’s an “I’ll be there for you no matter what” attitude. That’s the commitment level required to make a marriage work.

Is this a hard commitment to live out in practice? Ask any marriage that has survived many years and you’ll hear the answer to be a resounding “Yes!” Marriage, like anything good, has to be worked at if it is to succeed and each party enjoy years of fulfilling life with their spouse. Ask those same couples if it was all worth it and you will also hear a resounding “Yes!”

Marriages break down when one or both of the parties consistently fails to live out their commitment to the other and the load is too much to bear for the other partner.

It’s only when both parties live out their married lives to each other as a covenant, and not just a contract, that a marriage can be strong and survive in today’s world.

Living out a full covenant of married love can bring a joy, a strength, a closeness, and a life filled with love that truly lasts until “death do us part”.

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