Christians believe that the binding partnership of marriage is a powerful symbol of the relationship between Christ and the Church.
Getting married is a public demonstration of love and lifelong commitment between two people. For Christians, there is an extra dimension – marriage is part of a pattern of life established by God when he created humanity. He recognised that it was better for the first man, Adam, if he had a partner, Eve. Christians believe marriage is a partnership of love made deeper through sex. Jesus acknowledged this in the Bible book, Matthew, when he said, ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. They are no longer two but one...’. Many Christians believe sex is so significant that people should wait until they marry before sleeping together. Like many people, Christians also believe a marriage is the best place to bring up children.
Christians believe that the binding partnership of marriage is a powerful symbol of the relationship between Christ and the Church. In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the Church is described as being dressed for Christ like a bride for her bridegroom. This means that – when at its best – marriage can show us a glimpse of the faithful, enduring love which God has towards his people. Of course sometimes marriages fall far short of this ideal.
The Christian marriage ceremony is rich in symbolism. The bride and bridegroom make promises to God and to each other. They exchange rings as a sign of those promises. They commit to stay together in good times and bad. It is a commitment for life. Prayers are said for the newlyweds recognising the joys and difficulties ahead and asking for God’s support.
Almost everyone is entitled to get married in an Anglican church, whether they go to church or not. Couples need to show one of seven connections to the church in which they want to marry. A bride and bridegroom can also marry in a non-conformist church such as a Baptist, Methodist or United Reformed Church.
But marriage is not for everyone. Singleness, with its freedom and flexibility, is described in the Bible as a ‘gift’. It is not a second-best option: Jesus himself did not get married.
Singleness, with its freedom and flexibility, is described in the Bible as a ‘gift’.
All marriages endure difficult moments but Christians believe that marriages are for life. Of course some relationships sadly break down and the couple separate. Some Christians believe that because the marriage vows are unbreakable, the couple remain married in God’s eyes. This is the belief in the Roman Catholic Church although a marriage can be declared null (as if it never happened) in some circumstances – for example, if the couple never had sex. But many Christians have accepted divorce and remarriage in some circumstances such as unfaithfulness, desertion or where one partner is subjecting the other to violence. Christians think it is right to respond to such traumas with compassion and understanding.
The issue of gay marriage is a controversial one in the Christian church. There is no one clear view. Christians with a more liberal understanding of God believe people of the same sex can marry. Some churches will carry out same-sex weddings. Others will offer a blessing for a homosexual couple but will not marry them. Christians with a more conservative, traditional understanding of God believe that celibacy is the best path for those with same-sex attraction and that marriage can only be for a man and woman.