Columnists > Soul Food

Strange bedfellows

Carville, Matalin, and the meaning of marriage

Issue: "JOhn Q. Citizen," Feb. 8, 1997

As valentine's day approaches, the mysteries of love, marriage, and politics once again undergo scrutiny. Look, for example, at James Carville and Mary Matalin, Democrat and Republican, husband and wife. He's sure that Kenneth Starr is a partisan politician; she's certain that he's a principled prosecutor. Name a significant public issue, and they are almost certainly on different sides. How do these people get into bed with each other and make a baby?

Several possible explanations occur. Maybe both are cynics who enjoy a good argument but don't really believe anything. Perhaps principle is prevalent as they read the papers at breakfast, but passion prevails in the bedroom. Or, it could be that they have the ability to divorce deeply held convictions from the rest of life, including marriage and its intimacies.

James and Mary puzzle me, but not as much as some Christians do. How do Christians make marriage with non-Christians?

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The Bible's message on mate material is not obscure. In the Old Testament God gives clear commands to Israel regarding Canaanite peoples: &quotDo not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons." The issue is not race but religion, &quotfor they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods ..." (Deuteronomy 7:3,4).

In the New Testament Paul expresses the principle, &quotDo not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:4), and applies it concretely to marriage when he says a widow &quotis free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:39).

The church has historically confessed and required what the Bible teaches. The Westminster Confession, for example, teaches: &quotIt is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord." How are you committed to Christ if you contradict his commands?

How do Christians make love with non-Christians? It may seem indelicate for me to ask that question. But Paul argues against Christians going to prostitutes in this way: The Christian's body is united to Christ and will be raised with him so that &quotyour bodies are members of Christ himself." The point then is pressed, &quotShall I then take the members of Christ (Christians who are now &quotparts" of Christ's body) and unite them with a prostitute? Never!" (1 Corinthians 6:15).

Now think with me: Since the fall there have been in this world only two groups of people, the children of light united to Christ by faith, and the children of darkness united to the devil by nature. How then can those united to Christ join themselves bodily to, and become one flesh with, those united to the devil?

How do Christians make children with non-Christians? Childbearing is one of the original purposes of marriage (Genesis 1:28); children are one of God's blessings (Psalm 127:3-5), and he confirms a covenant commitment to our children (Genesis 17:7). But with these privileges comes the responsibility to &quotbring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).

How do you expect the children to walk in the ways of the Lord when one parent, passively or aggressively, resists the Lord's claim on his or her life? &quotDad, why do you tell us that we are sinners who need to trust Jesus as our Savior? Mom doesn't believe that and she's nice. Will God reject her?" &quotMom, why do you tell us Sunday is God's day when we go to church? It's Dad's golf day. Is he wrong?"

It's hard enough to rear godly children when your home is surrounded by a world that ignores God's existence and is indifferent to his claims. It's virtually impossible when that same world is in your house and sleeps in your bed.

I'd like to ask James and Mary, &quotHow do you do it, if you believe what you say you believe and those beliefs make any difference to you?" But God asks every Christian contemplating marriage to a non-Christian, &quotWhat does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?" (2 Corinthians 6:15).

It's time for parents with conviction and pastors with courage to become God's audible voice.

William H. Smith
William H. Smith


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