The ritual of courtship in America has depreciated to the degree that the path to marriage, once enriched by established cultural patterns, gender role expectations, and a sense of the normalcy of marriage, has become a bewildering maze. A century ago, young people looked forward to marriage and child rearing as both marks of adulthood and economic necessities. Today, the fruits of the sexual revolution, feminism, careerism, a growing youth culture, and a modern economy that values individuals over families have all contributed to the divorce of sexual expression from long-term commitment. Though not all of the social forces of the last century are intrinsically sinful, we must soberly admit that, to many, marriage is no longer an economic, social, or sexual necessity. Instead, it is at best just one more option for individual self-fulfillment and at worst a distraction from education, career, and sexual exploration. Such views have resulted in the increasing acceptance of a rise in the age of marriage, the debasement of women, the normalcy of divorce, and the general immaturity of young adults, particularly men. Against this backdrop, our youth and singles must recover a sense that marriage and childrearing (with their many associated joys and responsibilities) are not only precious milestones that provide direction and stability in life, but are biblical norms that mark the successful transition to adulthood.
In light of the world’s frightening trend toward a disconnection of commitment and intimacy, many western Christians have assumed that if the “good old days” could be resurrected, modern troubles such as promiscuity and detachment might go away. Though well-intentioned and sometimes producing good results, this approach can discourage Christians who lack a biblical family model in their own upbringing, and may therefore feel sentenced to a second-class marriage. Alternatively, it can (ironically) promote the delay of marriage by causing young people or their parents to set unattainable ideals for a spouse. Rather, we need to freshly communicate and impart timeless biblical principles in our rapidly changing world—transforming our culture, rather than being conformed to it. Such principles include a respect for mature biblical masculinity and femininity. Young men need to cultivate a sense of leadership, the assumption of responsibility, personal maturity sufficient to lead a wife and family, and a willingness to expend their God-given strength for the good of others. Young women should develop emotional security in Christ, relational wisdom, a discerning yet nurturing disposition, and modesty. These characteristics are in short supply in our day, given contemporary culture’s promotion of passivity, the prolonging of adolescence, and an emphasis on finding worth through good looks and popularity.
In a romantic context, young adults should embrace the Scriptural norm of marriage and its associated God-assigned responsibilities. Such interactions will display godly restraint, communication, wisdom, joy, and, in the proper time, decisiveness. In seeking to practice such premarital relationships, young people ought to emphasize their own spiritual, emotional, educational, and financial development toward adulthood, as well as cultivate an ability to recognize and affirm mature masculinity and femininity in potential partners. In the process of choosing a spouse, young adults should avoid the extremes of exclusively considering either objective criteria (how long she’s been a Christian, the quality of his family) or subjective criteria (physical attraction, enjoyment of his companionship). Friendships should blossom in community and family settings to the degree possible and progress with caution as interactions and conversations become more substantive. When proper, a man ought to declare his intentions without excessive delay and tenderly lead a particular woman into a committed relationship that is marriage-directed. She ought to honor his masculinity and her own femininity in the process by responding to and affirming his leadership, without either undue caution or prematurely surrendering her heart. Ultimately, With One Voice challenges both men and women to both become and to recognize a godly life partner, glorifying God and honoring others in the process. It is also a resource for parents and pastors seeking to raise a generation who will value the favor of God more than life itself, and who will love their husbands and wives out of the overflow of their love for God.