We love royal weddings, don’t we? Remember Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding, and before them, William’s parents? For that matter, as a society we seem to be in love with weddings, rivalling the royal wedding with expenditures and extravagances to make that day “special”–as if wanting to commit your lives to each other wasn’t special enough.
Weddings were big deals in Biblical times as well. The whole village came out for the event which lasted days. It was a great party. Weddings were featured in a number of Jesus’ parables, indicating their significance.
Our psalm for this week was written for a royal wedding. The king is highly praised, he is “the fairest of the sons of men.” (2) He is the icon of virtue, “you love righteousness and hate wickedness,” (7), and defends truth, “In your majesty ride forth victoriously for the cause of truth.” (4) Because of this God has anointed him and decked him with beautiful robes, an ivory palace, and surrounded him with the daughters of kings. (7-9)
The psalm then shifts to the bride. The daughter of a king, she is instructed to leave her father’s house behind her, “forget your people and your father’s house.” (10) She who had been the daughter of a king will now be the wife of a king and mother to princes, “Instead of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth.” (10)
There is no mention of love. This is strictly a political arrangement, the aligning of two countries.
Marriage has undergone a number of changes over the centuries. During Old Testament times, polygamy was common, with men taking multiple wives. King Solomon was reputed as having a harem of 300 wives and concubines, more political alliances as he sought to extend his power. Marriage was more of a business transaction, arranged by family members.
Marriage as a sacrament was established much later. Over time couples began to recognize that there was something more involved than a contract and started going to churches to have their marriages blessed. Still marriage for love didn’t become common till the nineteenth century.
Despite all the changes throughout history, one thing remains the same, marriages form the most basic unit of society, the core of the family unit. Healthy families are the bedrock upon which a healthy society is built. Healthy families start with healthy marriages. The characteristics that build a healthy relationship: communication skills, forgiveness, unselfishness, love and respect, are all crucial for communities if they are to thrive.
Amidst the splendor of the royal wedding, the princess bride is told to leave behind her father’s house in order to form a new alliance with her husband, forming a new family in a new kingdom. She is reminded of the need to prepare for the marriage as she celebrates the wedding.
It isn’t just about the wedding, it’s about what follows, the marriage. In our individualistic society where romance reigns supreme, we can get caught up with idea that it is just about you and me and if we grow apart, time to separate. Perhaps it is time we recognize that marriage isn’t just about two people, or even two families, but society. Healthy marriages aren’t just good for the couple, they are good for society. In the wake of unhealthy families lie poverty, crime, drug addiction and other problems.
It’s more than just you and me.