If we believe in marriage like we say we do, it’s time to start taking responsibility for our relationships.
by Dennis Rainey
Although we technically had six children in our family, occasionally we were visited by a seventh child called “Nobody.” Nobody spilled apple juice, jelly, and peanut butter on the floor and then walks off and leaves it—presumably to let it grow. Nobody left doors wide open during the fiercest heat wave in the summer and when the wintry winds are coldest and strongest.
The interesting thing about Nobody is that he never got credit for beds made and rooms that were picked up. But when games, toys, and dishes were strewn all over the living room floor. Nobody got the blame—full accusations by six kids. “Nobody did it.” Barbara and I would probably discipline Nobody if we could’ve ever caught him.
Our family’s invisible child, Nobody, is a miniature model of the irresponsibility of people in our society these days. In a childish manner similar to that demonstrated by our kids, individuals today are looking to escape the consequences of their actions. They want to clarify their “rights” but when accountability and responsibility come knocking, they flee for the back door.
Nowhere is this more evident than in courtrooms where hundreds of thousands of marriages dissolve each year. “Who’s responsible for all these divorces?” The answer most would say is, “It’s not my fault!” And when two people married to one another both claim it is not their fault, what do you have? “No-fault divorce.”
While the AIDS epidemic has been shouting at us in the headlines, a silent epidemic has swept through all 50 states in the past thirty years with hardly a peep. In the late 1960’s not a single state in America had no-fault divorce. In 1984 when North Dakota finally gave in, it became the 50th state to lawfully sanction “it’s-nobody’s-fault divorce.”
“No-fault divorce” is the practical way for two people to wash their hands of a marriage and end all responsibility to one another. It’s cleaner, faster, and easier. If no one was at fault, if no one can be blamed, if neither was right and neither was wrong and both want out of the relationship, then shouldn’t two people be allowed to dissolve their relationship?
If it is no one’s fault that the marriage failed, are we also saying it was no one’s responsibility to make the marriage work? Most would say no. But actions speak louder than words. A society that allows for no-fault divorce cannot escape the long-term consequences of its no-responsibility marriages. The permanence of my marriage vows to Barbara motivates me to be responsible for the health of our relationship. It’s for life. No excuses.
Do We Believe in Marriage?
Marriage was established by God for our good (defeating our selfishness) and His glory. Marriage occurs because of a covenant between a man, a woman, and God. If (in man’s mind) accountability to God is removed, then marriage vows are reduced to meaningless words. Commitments become conditional, temporal bargains.
The Bible establishes marriage as a permanent bonding of two becoming one. Two metals melting together to form a new alloy, never to be distinctly separated again “till death do us part.” That’s why the act of adultery met such a stiff penalty in the Old Testament: death by stoning. I know it sounds savage to us today, but I can’t help but wonder if adultery would be so rampant if a similar law were on our books today!!!
Our society’s attitude is similar to that of a famous movie star. Soon after Zsa Zsa Gabor married and divorced for the eighth time she said, “I really do believe in marriage.”
Do we really believe in marriage? If we do, then why do we sit idle, tolerating the plight of urban areas where 80% of the children are being raised in single parent homes? Some years ago I saw an inner city housing project that had 17,000 people living in it, of which less than 300 were fathers.
Do we really believe in marriage? Then why do so many Christians counsel other Christians to bail out when it gets tough? Why is the divorce rate within the church approaching that of society in general?
Did you know that in Ireland it’s against the law to obtain a divorce? I’m not saying that we need to copy that nation’s laws, because they do have another big problem—50,000 people who are estranged from their spouses—but their discrimination for the family and marriage is worth noting. I wonder if the young people there take their vows a little more seriously than we do here?
The kids of this culture are getting our message: What is no one’s fault is no one’s responsibility (not just in marriage but in life). Undoubtedly some of them eventually find themselves in a jail cell, puzzled that we still have some laws that do hold us accountable for our actions.
So what’s the action point this month?
I’d suggest a very basic one: When you and your mate have a conflict, quarrel, or disagreement, begin to take responsibility for resolving it. I wonder what would happen if a husband and wife cast no blame except toward self? Take responsibility. Don’t blame Nobody. Admit your mistakes—even if it isn’t all your fault. And take an inventory to see if any of the “no one’s responsible—no one’s fault” philosophy occupies your home.
Second, give some hope to a faltering marriage. Just like the angel told Mary, “With God all things are possible.” Come alongside them. Coach them. Exhort them. Send them to a Weekend to Remember® conference or start a HomeBuilders® Couples Series with them. The cure for our nation’s divorce epidemic is a vaccine of Biblical accountability and responsibility.
Third, if you have kids, teach them to be responsible for the commitments they make. Tell them that marriage is for keeps, and that sliding out of responsibilities is wrong.
Finally, pray that a lay-led grass-roots family revival will spring up and that “no-fault divorce” laws will be repealed in all our states.
I pray “Nobody” will never come near my home or yours again.