Here are the plain facts: According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the first marriage for a white male is now at age 27.5. For white females, the age is slightly lower. This amounts to a delay that often has devastating consequences. With puberty coming at earlier ages than ever before--certainly in the early teens for most Americans--the period of time between sexual maturity and marriage is now stretching out into something like an average of ten to fifteen years. The accompanying statistics related to premarital sexual activity parallel the statistics related to the delay of marriage. Can anyone be surprised?

Other problems are closely associated with this delay of marriage. Speaking to this group of Christian young people--an outstanding group of young Christian disciples and leaders--I pointed to what sociologists now describe as "extended adolescence"--a period of life that now is extended well into the twenties and even early thirties by many young adults, often young men, who have trouble making the transition to adulthood. I urged these young Christians to seize the biblical concept of marriage and all of its glory, to understand that God has set this covenant before them as expectation, and to channel their energies toward getting married, staying married, and showing God's glory in those marriages.

I shared with those who attended the conference my concern that this delay--the deliberate putting off of marriage even among some who intend some day to be married--was "the sin I think besets this generation." Continuing, I also made clear that this is primarily a problem that should be laid at the feet of young men. While some young women may neglect the call of marriage, a far greater problem is the unwillingness of many young men to grow up, take responsibility, lead, and find the woman God would have them to marry. As a rule, young women show far greater commitment to marriage, far greater maturity about marriage, and far greater frustration about the fact that marriage has been delayed. I thought I had made that point clearly--but perhaps not.

[Tomorrow: "Looking Back at "The Mystery of Marriage," Part 2", and a response to the backlash.]

To listen to "The Mystery of Marriage" message from the 2004 New Attitude Conference, go here: http://216.176.228.162:9037/ramgen/Speakers/Mohler/Mystery_of_Marriage.rm

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Albert Mohler is an author, speaker and President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on Crosswalk.com's Weblog page.