A gracEmail subscriber asks whether it is advisable for a Christian to marry someone of a different race, tradition, upbringing, culture or religion, and whether such factors make a difference in the success or failure of a marriage.
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I have no special expertise in marriage counseling by either training or experience and can only speak from observation over 61 years and personal experience after nearly 39 years of marriage. The joining of a man and a woman in marriage does not dissolve the distinctive identity of either spouse. It does involve the creation of a new partnership that, if successful, will require both husband and wife to defer to the other, to humbly accede and concede, to yield, to sacrifice, to forbear, to tolerate, to exercise patience, to forgive and to endure. The more two individuals share in common, the greater is their base and foundation on which to build a solid marriage relationship. There is truth in the old saying that “opposites attract” but, as Gary Smalley has pointed out, those differences that originally appeared attractive often soon become areas of contention once the excitement of the new marriage has passed.
Most important in my opinion is that married partners share a common faith in Jesus Christ. Although marriage is not in the context of Paul’s warning against being bound together with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14), his logic in that verse and those that follow seems fully applicable to the marriage relationship. Some respond that they found marriage to be a mission field and eventually led their partner to faith in Christ. In fact, many of those situations involved only the move from one denomination to another rather than actual conversion. I have no actual statistics but I strongly suspect that for every spouse that is led to Christ after marriage there are dozens if not hundreds of other such marriages in which the clash between faith and unbelief constitutes an ongoing barrier to communication, a tension in raising children and an obstacle to a happy relationship between husband and wife.
As the traditional wedding service notes, “marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly.” Differences involving race, tradition, upbringing and culture can also present challenges to a successful marriage. I recently heard a news report that approximately one marriage in fourteen in America today is interracial. The effect of that difference on a marriage likely depends upon the attitudes of the spouses’ families as well as their own thinking, the particular races involved and the part of the country in which the couple resides. I can imagine that non-racial differences in origins, upbringing and cultures are equally as significant — whether mixing rural and urban, poor and prosperous, northern and southern, politically liberal and conservative, and so forth. The question of advisability finally rests on each couple approaching the marriage altar and the answer finally depends upon their own maturity and commitment to succeed.