A Case for Early Marriage: Why It's a Good Idea to Get Married Young

People don't get married anymore. If they do, then it is much later in life. In fact the age of marriage is continually going up in our culture to where it is pushing thirty. Not only has this been the trend in the culture, but I have seen this trend begin to take place in the church as well. It is my personal belief and conviction that this can be harmful to human flourishing and a great hinderance for godly families within the church. Early marriage has become taboo in our culture. Getting married at a young age of 20 or 21 will get you some strange comments from others, including other Christians (Trust me, I've experienced them). However, I think we need a revival of early marriage among Christians. I think there are several reasons younger Christians need to begin adopting this counter cultural practice by marrying early.


1. Marriage is a Great Gift

The way many people talk about marriage, it seems like they were talking about a death sentence. As I was engaged to my beautiful wife Kaitlyn at twenty years old, here was some of the comments I received.

  • Enjoy life now because everything will be different (said in a depressive tone)
  • Already? But you're so young, you have so much life to live!
  • Get ready for that bail and chain

It is astonishing that Christians treat marriage as if it's the worst possible thing that could ever happen to you. Getting married is right underneath getting terminally diagnosed with cancer for some people. Young people are told to go "sow their wild oats" and live hedonistically before they settle down and get married. We must recapture the biblical definition of marriage as an incredible gift. Marriage is not a curse, but a wonderful privilege given by God. Marriage is not something to avoid, but something to be sought after by young people. Unfortunately the negative comments about marriage deter young people away from this precious gift. However these negative comments reveal nothing but the troubles of their own marriages.

2. Marriage Encourages People to Grow Up

It is not a strange sighting today to see 25 or 26-year-old men living at home with mom and dad, drinking red bull, and playing X-Box all day. The recently created teenager/adolescent culture seems to be a growing age group. Adolescence is no longer just during the teen years but continues into the 20s and early 30s. My own generation is a generation characterized by a lack of initiative failing to take responsibility for their own lives.

Marriage is God's gracious gift of forcing a man and a woman to grow up, particularly men. When a man gets married he becomes responsible for providing for his family, making sure the bills are paid, and protecting his wife. He must not only take responsibility for himself but for his wife and future children. Marriage pushes young men out of the nest to spread their wings and fly under the windy pressures of life. This is a good thing, but unfortunately rather than pushing these guys towards manhood we allow them to continue in a lengthy boyhood. This is a shame and Christian men need to grow up into their divine calling of marriage and family.

3. Marriage Protects From Sexual Immorality

We live in an overly sexualized culture. From nude scenes in Hollywood movies, risqué television shows, and erotic novels, young people are being bombarded with one message: Sex. There is an incredible amount of pressure on Christian young people to bend their knee to our cultures unbiblical view of loveless, carnal sex without consequences.

However, if Christians place the expectation on young believers to wait till their late twenties and early thirties for marriage, we are placing on them a weight that will cripple them. Young Christians seeking to be obedient to abstain from sexual relations outside of marriage will collapse under the weight of their optimal sex drive and the influence of an obseessivly sexualized culture.

It is unreasonable, foolish, and harmful to place this weight on young people. Sex is a good gift given to us by God, meant for our enjoyment in the way God has designed. Rather than encouraging young people to delay marriage and a sexual relationship with their spouse, we should encourage them to marry. This way they can enjoy God's gift of sex in a way that protects them from sexual immorality and glorifies and honors God.

Don't Make Early Marriage Taboo

Christian parents, grandparents, and teachers should encourage younger Christians to consider marrying early. Marriage is an incredible gift given by God to our sanctification and our enjoyment. Yes, early marriage is not necessarily an easy road. You may be poor, have to work twice as hard to make it through college, and be thought of as weird by a anti-marriage culture. However, if two Christians love each other, and most importantly love the Lord Jesus Christ, early marriage should not be a thing that is tabooed, but encouraged and celebrated.

Should Christian Teenagers Date?

The Bible doesn't talk a lot specifically about dating.  There is a reason for that.  Dating is a very new practice in the history of humanity.  The idea of choosing someone to go out and spend one on one time with outside of a marriage commitment is still very new.  In biblical times, there was no "dating".  As a result, there is no passage that instructs specifically how Christians should handle the issue of dating.  However, the Bible does share many truths and theological principles that help us think Biblically when it comes to modern cultural issues like dating.  My fear is that many single Christians think about dating, relationships, and marriage just like the world.  There is a great failure of building our thinking about dating on the Word of God.
As a youth pastor, I get a front row seat to the morally murky waters of teenage dating.  Last night at my youth group I taught from 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  This passage describes a distinction between the people of God and the unbeliever.  Paul gives us the command to not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever and concludes this section in 7:1 where he tells us to cleanse our self from worldly defilement and pursue holiness through fear of the Lord.  As I taught this passage I made applications to teenage dating and relationships.  However before I started teaching this passage I shared my own personal opinions about teenage dating for Christians.  Although it is not necessarily a sin to date in middle school or high school, I argued that dating in middle school and high school is very unwise and a risk that should be avoided until you are ready to be married.  I know how radically counter cultural that sounded to my teenagers who seem to be in a new dating relationship every other week. However, here are my reasons.

1. Your primary focus should be on your relationship with God.  Dating can distract you.

Dating can be so distracting for Christian teenagers.  I watch them as they gossip about who is dating who.  Who broke up with this person.  There is a massive amount of emotional and intellectual engagement about the dating life of their peers.  It seems that teens are either working on getting a date, currently dating someone, or recovering from a breakup. Singleness seems to be taboo in teenage culture.
For the Christian teenager this whole business of dating can be very distracting.  As Christians, our primary focus, especially in our single years, should be on our relationship with God.  Rather than spending their energy pursuing the Lord, they are distracted by the dating culture.  Rather than spending their evening in prayer with the Lord, the spend it texting their girl friend. (FYI, Teens don't talk on the phone anymore, they just text)  Teenage dating is unwise because it can distract you from pursuing the Lord.

2. You place yourself into unnecessary temptation and sin.  Dating can defile you.

Our bodies naturally long for physical and sexual intimacy.  Teenage dating unnecessarily puts the Christian in temptation and possible sin.  It is like playing with fire.  This is why kissing always lead to more intense kissing.  Teenagers who are sexually charged with hormones as it is, put themselves at risk when they pair off and isolate each other.  Building intimacy without commitment is dangerous.  I can't tell you the number of Christian teenagers I've seen fall into sexual sin due the pseudo marriage the've made out of their marriage relationship.  Don't play with fire unnecessarily, don't start dating until your able to commit in marriage and then you will be able to joyfully and freely act out on your God given, but sin corrupted, sexual desires.   Teenage dating is unwise because the temptation to sexual sin is great, and sin defiles you.


3. You don't have the spiritual maturity and refuse to guard your heart. Dating can damage you.

Many teenagers just don't have the emotional or spiritual maturity to handle dating.  I see this especially in teenage girls.  In a culture of absent Dad, these girls long for the affection and care of a boy.  As a result many teenagers go from boy to boy looking for something that only Christ can give.  In the process these sweet young girls get their heart abused and taken advantage of time and time again.  Before you every start thinking about dating you must make sure your identity is sealed in your union with Christ, not in a boyfriend or girlfriend.   Teenage dating is unwise because it can damage you when you refuse to guard your heart and find your identity in Christ.

4. You affections for your date is greater than your affections for God. Dating can deceive you.

We live in a culture that idolizes romance.  At the time of this writing it is Valentines day, the holy day of our false-god cupid. So many Christian teenagers get caught up in the idolatry of the culture and begin worshiping the idol of romance.  As a result, we can be deceived to idol worship if we are not careful.  As I watch the dating life of Christian teenagers, so often their affections for their boyfriend or girlfriend exceed their affections for Christ.  When this happens, idolatry has occurred in our hearts.  Teenage dating is unwise because it can deceive you to bending knee to cupid instead of the Lord Jesus Christ.

5. Dating handle wrongly can hinder your witness as a missionary.  Dating can hinder you.

Christian Teenagers are missionaries.  They have been sent by God into their local schools to be ambassadors for the Gospel.  Yet, the dating life of teenagers often hinders the evangelistic mission God has given them.  Many Christian teenagers are known more for who they date than for their love for Jesus.  Lunch table conversations revolve around dating drama about them then their radical unselfish love for Jesus and other people.  Dating for teenagers often damages their witness to the unbelievers in their school.  This is a shame.  Rather than distinctness from the world, Christian teenagers imitate the culture of their school.  Their dating lives often hinders the mission God has called them to do.  Teenage dating is unwise because it hinders the mission of sharing the Gospel.
It is no sin to date other people as a teenager, but these five reasons I think are enough to put dating on hold until you reach the place in your life when you can begin to seriously think about and prepare for marriage.

Dating and Marriage Part 4: Some Practical Wisdom in Dating

Dating can be messy.  As Christians, we have learned that there are two viable states for a Christian, singleness or marriage.  What about those who exist in that awkward tension of singleness while looking for a spouse? To be honest, the Bible doesn't speak directly on how Christians should think about dating, but the Bible does indirectly speak to issues like dating.  The Bible is full of wisdom and it provides us with a worldview of how to examine and make decisions as a Christian.  As Christians, we are to be holy and set apart from the world as Jesus is.  This means that we need to think and date with a different focus than the rest of the world.  So the following is practical counsel from me to you as we think about dating relationships.  When it comes to dating, the tension isn't always between a right and wrong decision, but a wise and a foolish decision.  The following are things I advise to my students as a Youth Pastor that I've learned as I've studied the Bible and learned through experience, most of my experiences being my own failures and sins.

Maximize Your Singleness for God

We have talked extensively in a previous post about how singleness is an incredible gift.  Use your freedom to maximize your relationship with Christ.  Take the extra hours you have to study the Bible, spend nights in prayer, go on mission trips, and serving in the local church.  Don't sit around and cry over your loneliness, but use that extra time God has given you to make much of Jesus.  Besides, the best way to meet a nice Christian person to date is through the local church as you serve and work along side other single Christian people who are looking for a spouse, just like you!

Do Not Date a Non Christian

This one isn't just wise counsel, but commanded by the Scriptures.  Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians 6:14, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"  As a Christian you have been born of the Spirit.  By God's grace He has saved you and made you pure because of what Jesus has done for you on the cross.  As a result, your beliefs, convictions, purpose, hopes, and dreams are going to be drastically different than someone who does not know Christ.  If the purpose of dating is to result in marriage, then why would you date someone who is going to hinder, rather than spur on your relationship with Christ? Do not fall for the lie of missionary dating, which is trying to date a non-Christian in hopes to convert them.  Most of the time it doesn't work and leads both parties into sin and heartbreak.  Hang out with lost people. Be friends with lost people, but do not open yourself to a person so that you are unequally yoked.

Do not Seriously Start Dating Someone until You are Ready for Marriage

This might be one many would disagree with me on, but I share it with you as some practical wisdom.  I suggest that you do not begin seriously dating someone until you are in that place in your life when you are ready to marry.  I say this because so many teenagers just end up in sexual sin in middle school and high school.  None of them are even thinking of marriage, they just want a pseudo marriage where they can treat some person like a fake spouse.  They get way too intimate, way too quickly, and way before they are ready for marriage.  They begin to connect on an emotional, physical, and a tragically sexual manner that when the inevitable break up happens it leaves both parties in utter chaos.

However is it realistic to begin dating young when we live in a couture that enters into marriage in their thirties? As Christians, I think we need to not be afraid to marry early.  If the bible teaches abstinence from sex before marriage and we are going to expect this from our young teenage and college followers of Jesus, is it realistic to abstain from sex until the age of 30?  So often we make our young Christians feel like it is a shameful thing to get married at the age of 20, 21, or 22.  In fact many older married people even discourage younger Christians from getting married young (It happened to me and my wife), most often because they themselves have terrible marriages and enviously long for their single life back.  We forget Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.  But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry.  For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."  Many of our young christians are burning with sexual passion and rather than discouraging a young christian couple from marrying we should encourage it.  Instead of holding to the social faux pas we need to celebrate it.  For it is better for young Christians to enter into marriage than to burn in sexual passion and sin.

Don't find your identity in the person you are dating

As many people date, they create an idol out of the person they are dating.  In fact, many people begin finding their identity in that individual.  An unhealthy dependent relationship begins to develop.  Many people begin to want the intimacy of marriage in their relationship without the commitment.  However, as Christians we must be constantly on guard in case we begin finding our identity, hope, and satisfaction in anyone or anything other than Jesus.   Even in marriage, we must be careful of finding our hope in our spouse instead of Christ.  So many sinfully look for a romantic relationship to satisfy what is lacking in them.  However, in Christ we lack nothing, but have been given everything we need! No boy or girl will ever satisfy you, only Christ!  Guard your heart from idolatry as you date, and pay careful attention to your thoughts and emotions.  Keep the focus on Christ and in all things you do, whether you are single, dating, engaged, or married; do all for the glory of God and for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus!

Dating and Marriage Part 3: The Importance of Marriage

In the last post, we discussed how the Bible allows for people to live either as single and celibate or married.  We looked at the gift of singleness primarily from 1 Corinthians 7.  Now let's take a look at God's design for male/female relationships, marriage.

The Creation of Marriage

In the creation account in Genesis, we are told that God created both male and female in the image of God.  In Genesis 2:23, we get to see the first marriage ceremony as God creates the woman from the rib of the man.  In the creation of the woman, man was given a partner and helper in the task that God had given him which is to fill the earth and subdue it.  In Genesis we are told that marriage exists because God first created the institution.  We are given the commentary on this event in Genesis 2:24-25:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Notice that marriage was created before sin was brought into this world through Adam and Eve's disobedience.  Marriage was never an evil necessity in response to sinful humanity, but given by God as a good and perfect gift.  Marriage and sexuality are God's idea, therefore the definition of marriage or the practice of our sexuality is never dictated by the culture perspective of the day, but by the Word of God.  This is an important point to remember as we discuss dating and relationships.  God's definition of the covenant of marriage is very specific and defined by the Bible.

God's Design

God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman for one lifetime.  That's the ideal. That is the way God created marriage to be.  However, although this is God's plan, because of sin's rampant destruction in our world divorce happens (permissible or not, we can debate that in another blog post).  In fact, many look around our society and question, "Why would you even want to get married. Clearly with the sky high divorce rate and the failure and heartbreak that comes with so many marriages, we should just give up on the institution."  However the problem isn't with the institution of marriage itself, but rather with the depraved hearts of those who enter them.  The reason there are so many defunct marriages is simple, sin.  However although sin plays a part in destroying so many marriages, the institution should not be given up or abandoned, but practiced as God intends it to be.

 God's Plan

Marriage is God's plan for male/female relationships.  As we think about the purpose or end game of dating, we must think of it through this lens.  When it comes to dating, the purpose must not be to simply have a good time or eat a good dinner, but to move towards the goal of marriage.  Therefore, as you think about dating, you must never forget the purpose for which you are dating, to find a spouse.  I say this because so many people forget that this is the goal.  Do not just keep on dating a person knowing that you have no future with them.  Therefore be purposeful as you date, knowing that the end goal is marriage.

 The Importance of Marriage

Marriage is incredibly significant.  There is a reason that God uses the illustration of marriage to describe His relationship between Christ and His church.  Marriage is God's only plan for male/female relationships.  If we are going to live our lives in a way that is holy and pure, then we must understand that the sexual union and the lifelong covenant that comes with the one flesh relationship of marriage needs to be taken seriously.  There are two options for a Christian, singleness or marriage.  The decision to enter into marriage does not need to be taken lightly and finding the right person to marry can be a challenge.  In the next post we will look at some practical counsel on Christian dating and choosing the right spouse.

Dating and Marriage Part 2: The Gift of Singleness

There are only two states in which a Christian can be, either single and celibate or married.  Those are the only two in which a Christian is allowed to live and be without sin.  The idea of cohabitation and casual sex is increasingly becoming a popular option in our culture and unfortunately even among Christians.  The Bible makes it clear that there are only two options, to be single or to be married.  Trying to have the benefits of married life with the lack of commitment that comes with singleness is a sinful immoral idea and not permissible for the one purchased and saved by the blood of Jesus.  So lets briefly explore in detail the first of these two lifestyles that the Bible permits, singleness.

The Gift of Singleness

So when we approach the idea of dating, the motivation for many people is to simply not be single.  In fact, in our world being single seems makes you feel as if something is wrong with you.  There is so much pressure from Hollywood and culture to be in a relationship with someone that the end goal of dating is to just not be alone.  As a result, many Christians begin to think of singleness as a reflection of their own defunctness.  Many think, "Is there something wrong with me? Why is God cursing me with singleness?".  Yes, many think of singleness as a curse, but according to the Bible singleness is a great gift.

In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul actually recommends the single life to the church.  Paul, a single guys himself, saw the incredible benefits of being single.  Paul says in verse 6, "Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.  I wish that all were as I myself am.  But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another."  Paul recommends and even encourages the single life style to Christians but never commands it.  Indeed for the great majority of us, marriage is the option God has allotted for us.  Many of us as Paul puts it in verse 8, "cannot exercise self-control" in our sexuality and he tells us that it is better "to marry than to burn with passion".  For those who have been given the incredible gift of abstaining from sexuality, God has given them the gift of singleness.

Singleness does have its advantages to married life.  Paul says that those who are married "will have worldly troubles" (v 28) while the single person is able to able to be "anxious about the things of the Lord" (v 32).  The great thing about being single is that you are free to live every moment for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  As a husband I have responsibilities at home to which I need to be concerned.  I have to make sure I provide for my wife, take care of her, and disciple her.  I can't just pack my bags and leave for Africa tomorrow morning to preach the Gospel, I have a family that I am responsible for.  In some ways I am slightly restricted in my married life.  Now I love being married and clearly this is the route God had in store for me, but don't disregard the gift of your own singleness.  Those who are single are not restrained and are able to "secure your undivided devotion to the Lord" (v 35)

For a few, you will be given the gift and privilege of living life as a single celibate person for the glory of God for your entire life just like the apostle Paul. For the majority of us we will enter into the gift of marriage.  No one is better than the other, just the lot God has gifted us with (6b).  For those of you who are single, please do not despise your singleness.  It is a precious gift of the Lord.  Even you teenagers and 20 somethings who plan on getting married one day, don't waste your single years mopping around waiting for God to bring you your spouse, but use your singleness to be able to have undivided devotion to your God and King!  Singleness, even temporary singleness, is a precious gift, use if for the glory of God and for your good to make much of Jesus!

Sinful Singleness

Now as I've discussed this issue with a variety of Christians, I've seen some who have no desire for marriage because of sinful motivation.  Their reasoning goes like this, "I don't want to get married because I want to do what I want to do.  If I get married I can't stay up late and play Xbox all night" or whatever other boyish thing they'd like to do.  Even girls tend to think this way as I've noticed that many girls don't want marriage simply because they distrust and do not like men, often times for good reason because of abuse or horrible divorces.  The irony is that many of these individuals are out there casually dating regularly, but have no interest in marriage.  I suggest to you that this is a sinful motivation for singleness and a misunderstanding on what the Bible teaches about singleness.

As you read 1 Corinthians 7 you see that the reason Paul recommends singleness is not for selfish purposes but for the advancement of the Gospel.  The reason God gifts people in singleness isn't so that you can avoid responsibility and live like a child for the rest of your life, but rather so that you can make much of Jesus.  If you decide to live your life unmarried and single, check your heart and make sure you are doing this for the glory of God and not for your own selfish ego.  In the free time you have as a single person, use that time to provide undivided attention to the Lord, not for your personal recreation and entertainment.  As always, check your motivation in every decision you make.

Singleness is an incredible gift of the Lord.  We need to redeem singleness from being thought of as weird, bizarre, or uncanny in the life of our Churches.  We need to think of those gifted with singleness as praise worthy, not the subject of gossip. However for the majority of us, singleness is a temporary span in our life and the majority of Christ followers will one day enter into marriage.  In the next post, we will look at and observe God's gift of marriage.