Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at email@example.com.
I was just reading your teaching on divorce and remarried (sic) and I find it very fulfilling because we are dealing with those issues in our church and this teaching will help me and the other ministers to provide the right advice, however there is another problem that the church faces which I would also ask your advice and that’s concerning those who married to get their green card. How should the church view those marriage (sic) thanks in advance looking forward for your wise and honest response.
Of course you know that a Green Card is the informal name for an ID card attesting to the long-term approved status of an immigrant in the United States. What you may not know is that they are good for ten years and must be renewed thereafter. Of course, there are many ways to secure permanent status. One is to marry an American citizen. This is, of course, the issue to which you are referring.
You also may not know that “Green Card” was a 1990 romantic comedy that focused on an American woman who entered into a marriage of convenience with a Frenchman so that he could obtain a green card and remain in the United States. The film won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Fitzroy, what you really need to know is that it is totally illegal to get married just to obtain a Green Card! That settles the issue right there. Christians are to obey the law.
However, it is perfectly legal to marry and obtain a Green Card when the marriage is for the right reasons.
Nevertheless, you bring up an interesting question. Is it OK to get married for reasons other than love?
One couple got married so his live-in-girl friend could be put on his army medical insurance. Another got married in order to give their out-of-wedlock baby a name. One got married because he thought that she would be the only person who would ever love him.
Paul even said that relieving sexual tension is a good reason to get married: “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9).
Of course, we Christians know that it is best for people who are in love to get married. You know what I mean, one man and one woman, committed in love and partnership “until death do they part” (Genesis 2:18). We put a lot of emphasis on love before marriage. All we need is love and we can be happy.
However, most of the world doesn’t see it that way. For societies who believe that arranged marriages will flourish and endure forever, love, at least for the time being, can take the back seat.
Arranged marriages are the order of the day in most cultures. People have married without love in arranged marriages all throughout recorded history (all the way back to 4000 B.C. when writing was first invented simultaneously by both the Egyptians and the Chinese).
Arranged marriages were the norm worldwide until the 18th century. In modern times, arranged marriage is common in South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Southeast Asia and parts of East Asia.
Most of us consider arranged marriages to be old and archaic. But, perhaps we should look again. Nothing is wrong with marrying for love. It’s just that arranged marriages are usually more stable and last longer.
I love to ask newly-wed couples how they met and who proposed to whom. Usually the man is the one to propose, but sometimes the woman is in charge! People tell of special dinners, rings hidden in cakes, getting down on one knee, having scavenger hunts and on and on.
Let me tell you one of my favorite proposals. Love doesn’t get any lovelier than this.
“Tell me how you proposed to her,” I asked the forty-six-year-old-ex-con pastor. I knew why he hadn’t married earlier. He spent too many years in prison for a youthful indiscretion. He met Christ in prison, felt called to preach, attended school and subsequently met the woman of his dreams. Here is the story just as he told it to me.
“At 11:00 p.m. after an evening out together,” he replied, “I took her to church. I told her to be obedient and go into the restroom and take off her nylons.”
I was immediately uncomfortable with where this tale was heading. “She was obedient,” he continued. “I turned on the lights and invited her to accompany me to the front. We sat for a moment on the platform steps and then I reached for the basin of water and a towel that I had placed previously under the front pew. As I began to wash her feet, I gazed into her eyes and said, ‘The most humble service Jesus ever did was to wash His disciples’ feet. I want to wash your feet for the rest of your life.’ She was crying as I put down the towel, reached for the ring and asked, ‘Will you marry me?’”
There may be better ways for a man to propose to a woman but I can’t think of any.
However, thinking long range, the real question is whether or not they will still be married 50 years later. Statistics show that they probably will.
Saying that the divorce rate is America is over 50% is misleading. The real number is complex and hard to pin down. For example, age has a lot to say about when people get divorced.
Under 20 years old
20 to 24 years old
25 to 29 years old
30 to 34 years old
35 to 39 years old
Sorry, I was unable to get the exact percentage for people over 40. However, I did find that the percentage of people over 50 who are choosing to divorce is skyrocketing.
What this says to me is that people twenty-four years and younger ought to consider that marrying for love is a dangerous way to go about marriage. Apparently, love alone is not enough to bind two hearts together. In practical terms, young lovers, in the absence of arrangers would do well to get advice and recommendations from several significant others before entering into marriage.
Considering marriage is the time to get the right perspective. For example, the old saying that “two people can live as cheaply as one,” is just not true.
There are significantly fewer divorces or separations between people of arranged marriages. The average divorce rate globally for arranged marriages is 6%.
We Americans could learn a lot here.
From a Biblical perspective marriages which start out with love are few and far between.
The marriage of Isaac and Rebecca was arranged by his father, Abraham. He sent out his trusted servant, Eleazar, to find the right woman and make the proper arrangements. “So, she became his wife, and he loved her …” (Genesis 24).
The love between Isaac and Rebecca was quite unusual. Most biblical marriages were like the arrangement between Abigail and David. Abigail was married to a fool named Nabal who treated David shamefully. Abigail saved her foolish husband from the wrath of David (1 Samuel 25) and when Nabal died suddenly, David took Abigail to be his wife. She agreed and immediately promised to serve David as a wife but neither she nor David said anything about love. After all, David already was collecting multiple others to be his wives. He ended up with thirty seven by the time he was finished. Abigail was just another in a long line.
We would do well to get our marriage expectations in line with reality. Marriage is about partnering up in a relationship which is stable and foundationally strong. Remember in the 1 Corinthians 13 chapter on love, love is never described as an emotion or feeling. Love is there described with verbal adjectives. Love is something we do. Feelings may not even be involved. But, there is nothing wrong when they are.
I remember David Ferguson summing up today’s American marriage philosophy: “As long as you love me, care for me, meet my needs and give me what I want, we can be married. But, if you don’t love me, care for me, meet my needs and give me what I want then I’ll divorce you and find someone else who will love me, care for me, meet my needs and give me what I want and make me happy.”
Arranged marriages both in the Bible and in secular cultures focus more on long-term viability. This does not mean that love will not come. It may come as love at first sight. It may mature over time.
Most arranged marriages are pragmatic marriages. They successfully navigate social and economic issues.
In most cases parents know their children best and have the wisdom and wherewithal to select the best candidate. The marriage will benefit from the support and encouragement of their extended family units and will often result in permanent durability.
There are significantly fewer divorces or separations between people of arranged marriages in contrast to those who can pick their own partners unimpeded.
A young Arab Muslim and I were in Antalya, Turkey discussing the high divorce rate in America. He was gloating that the American divorce rate was over fifty per cent while divorce in his country was virtually unknown. I replied, “Of course, there is a great stigma in your culture against divorce. So, most stay married. But, how many would get out of their marriages if they could?”
He looked surprised for a moment and then reacted to my question with this a long-thought-out-blank stare. His silence spoke volumes.
Marriages have difficulties in all cultures. The lesson here is that love is important but not necessarily primary. Long term commitment, partnership and an intimate best-friend relationship seems to be the best.
Well, Fitzroy, may God give you wisdom as you deal with this issue at church. Let me know how it all works out.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.