In the West we live in a society still influenced to some extent by vestigial Christianity. It is easy for the lazy mind to assume that Christian institutions, such as marriage, are the norm for all humanity, all cultures, all times. In other words, many naively assume that one man marrying one woman with a long life of mutual fidelity "as long as they both shall live", and raising children within the secure confines of such a bond, is the norm. This is naive nonsense.
When Unbelief gets hold of marriage, the Christian or biblical prescription and definition are mutated. The institution itself becomes mutant marriage. When we speak of the "breakdown" of marriage and family and the kind of rotten fruits that are borne to it and in it, we are implying that there is a standard and norm, enshrined in God's law--and, therefore, ought to be enshrined in civil law. The logic is sound; but, of course, Modern Man threw all this out long ago.
Modern Man thought that he could legislate no-fault divorces, recognise homosexual "marriages", and ignore--if not celebrate--an endless series of sexual encounters in the name of love and freedom. Yet, at the same time, Modern Man professes to believe in true love, loyalty, and fidelity. In our day and times this should be seen for what it is, a Christian hangover, a reflexive yearning for true love and true marriage, which is inscribed in the heart by God Himself, but which can only be sustained societally if society itself is built upon the foundations of Christ and His law.
When the Gospel of King Jesus confronted the Roman Empire, marriage and family became part of the battle ground.
Pagan marriage at that time had become perverse and destructive in almost every way. Its perversions were somewhat different from those of our own day, but perversions they were nonetheless. We mention this to underscore this proposition: that the verities, the power, and the blessings of Christian (biblical) marriage cannot be sustained in a culture without that culture being grounded in, and irrigated by, Christianity. Sarah Ruden paints a picture of marriage in Rome and its territories.
Julius Caesar's wife Pompeia was hosting an all-female night ritual that a notorious playboy allegedly invaded in disguise. Caesar was not interested in whether his wife was actually at fault or tainted, but divorced her by messenger, perhaps the next morning. His famous explanation for why he had acted without any proof was that he thought his wife should not even be under suspicion. [Sarah Ruden, Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time (New York: Pantheon Books, 2010), p. 107.]When Caesar dismissed his wife in such cavalier fashion, no-one turned a hair. So, in our own day, mutatis mutandis, when a woman, aged 27 conceives her fifth pregnancy, with a 60 year old man, whom she recently assaulted, for which she was convicted, it's all, "No worries, mate". That's modern marriage in the garbage pail of Unbelief. [NZ Herald]
Ruden goes on to contrast the Roman perversion of marriage and family with that of the Apostle Paul:
Paul's idea for how a marriage should work was the fulfillment of the Jewish scriptural command that a married couple was to be "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24, echoed by Jesus in Matthew 19: 5-6 and Mark 10: 7-8). The husband should treat the wife's body as his own and serve its most intimate needs, and vice versa. The only higher obligations are to God; the couple should approach even these only in collaboration with each other: that is how important pace and equality in marriage are. Where, if not from a brain fever, did (George Bernard) Shaw pick up the idea of a Pauline wife as a sexual and domestic servant? [Ibid., p. 107f.]Where, indeed. Ruden concludes:
This kind of evenhandedness (between Christian husbands and wives) could result only from a huge wrench away from the past. Paul, in the polytheistic world, was not only putting brand new limits on male desire but licensing female desire, which had been under the regime of zero tolerance.Our society has gone a step further. It has licensed unbridled desire on the part of men and women. We all now have freedom rights to be and do as we desire. If Greco-Roman marriage was a pre-Christian perversion, modern secularist marriage is a post-Christian perversion.
The reason the Greeks and Romans took so little trouble to control men is that, in their eyes, men were naturally sane and civilized. Women, on the other hand . . . were by nature wild, lustful, and depraved. Their families had to keep them under guard and make all of their major choices for them; their husbands had to keep them pregnant; and the whole society had to stifle their individuality and self-expression, because any thought or energy at their own disposal was likely to create lewd adventures, leading to chaos and violence. [Ibid., p. 98f.]
This modern perversion of marriage is far closer to the model of pagan marriage confronting the Church amongst the Gentiles of the first century. Now, as then, the task of the Church is not to assume that the word "marriage" means Christian marriage. Rather, it is our duty to teach, train, and shape our own in Christian marriage, which is decidedly different from what our modern Pagans understand marriage, or "living together" to be.
That is why we register our marriages with the Pagan state for civil convenience only. The real registration of our marriages and families is in Heaven, which is why we take heavenly oaths and vows in church--before Christ and His people. What Pagans do is something quite different.