Marry the One you Love or Love the One you Marry

demotivation-us_you-love-and-youre-loved-too-bad-that-they-are-two-different-men_130115040647Love and marriage. A friend from Malaysia made a comment to me yesterday. He said, “In the west people marry who they love. But in the east people love who they marry.” With his latter statement he meant arranged marriages. Last week, my relative from Singapore said to me, “You should not marry the one you love, but marry the one who loves you.” He said this because his dear sister is being very badly hurt by a man she loves after she rejected a prior suitor who dearly loved her. Aren’t such statements interesting?

Marriage and the Trinity. I’ve previously written a few articles on marriage. If Not For UBF I Would Not Be Married (2013). Marriage by faith (Should no dating be a church policy?) (2012). Marriage is covenant keeping (2011). Marriage is ever mysterious, majestic, mystical, magical and marvelous. For of all human relationships marriage most mirrors the Trinity, especially regarding love, intimacy, friendship, trust and vulnerability. That is why the fulfillment of a happy marriage knows no limit, while the agony of a bad marriage can be totally devastating and heart breaking.

Keep your head. Today it seems to be almost a given that the majority of people will only marry those they love. Surely there’s nothing wrong with this. But a wise U.S. President said to his daughter regarding marriage, “With matters of the heart you must always keep your head.” This is surely sound advice, for when objectivity is clouded, hazy or lost Prince Charming morphs into some hideous alien creature after marriage.

Is there no one I can marry? Once I advised a group of single young Christian women about the kind of man they should NEVER marry: The lazy, the drunks, the addicts, the irresponsible, those who cuss and spend hours playing video games, those who flirt and watch porn, and especially those who can’t control their temper during courtship. Then I realized that I’ve virtually excluded ALL potential husbands! But I think that my list is still valid.

For the single young Christian man I perhaps have only one thing to say: Do not marry entirely based on “something in the way she moves!” As much as I love the song, it’s probably horrible advice for marriage.

My favorite quote for fathers. “The best way for a father to love his children is to love their mother.” As all parents should know, children do not listen to their parents’ advice but they follow their example.

Love must be forever. God’s love is forever (Jer 31:3). It never changes (Heb 13:8). Lee Kwan Yew (1923-2015), the great statesman who build Singapore from a third world country to a first world country died recently. A less known fact about him is that he continued to love and care for his wife after she had a stroke and became an invalid until her death at age 89. An account of his unfailing love for his wife is here. The great Princeton theologian Benjamin Warfield (1851-1921) similarly loved his invalid wife and revolved his entire life and marriage on taking care of her….for 39 years.

Going back to what my friend said, I responded that a happy marriage primarily depends on loving the one you marry. He agreed. Is it that simple?


  1. Two comments from Facebook:

    “I do not understand arranged marriages or dating services because the emotional aspect of a relationship cannot be found by a list or by parents. I have been on blind dates before when I would crack a joke and the girl would just stare at me with a blank look. Or I would crack a joke that wasn’t funny and she would laugh hysterically. How the person makes you feel to be around can only be discovered with dating. Dating though is not fool proof since everybody puts their best foot forward when dating. The other important quality is how they treat other people such as your friends and family. If your family does not approve, it is important to listen. Sometimes they see things that you don’t want to.”

    “When people marry who they love very often their philosophy is “if there is no more love, why stay together?”. A man’s life can not always be successful, it is always ups and downs, and when the relationship of the “marriage by love” experiences a crisis(which is unavoidable for any marriage), the people chose to divorce, since they don’t feel good together anymore and since there is no more “love”. But, in my opinion to love someone is rather a decision, than a feeling.”

  2. forestsfailyou

    In the west the view of marriage and romance can be traced back to Petrarch and Shakespeare. “To be able to say how much you love is to love but little.” “Love’s not love when it is mingled with regards that stand aloof from the entire point. Will you have her? She herself is a dowry.” Etc. However in the East romantic love is seen as a threat to society, since it can lead to inharmonious relationships that damage families.

    You can see these two contrasted in Romeo and Juliet and The Ballad of Ying Ying (秀英的歌谣). They are essentially the same story: two young people fall in love and form a relationship that cannot exist due to social issues (In Romeo and Juliet its too warring families, in Ying Ying the man is a student and cannot marry until his studies finish). But what is interesting is that Shakespeare is saying that this love is worth it, so much so that death is preferred to separation. In Ying Ying the man is praised at the end of the story for not being swayed by the woman and the audience is warned that women can lead men astray from their duties. In the conclusion Ying Ying is arranged married by a matchmaker and is miserable because she truly loves Zhang, who also gets married. Zhang tells her she should focus on her husband and he has mostly forgotten about her.

    The bible stays silent on this topic. The bible says that marriage is good (proverbs 18:22), it is permanent (Mat 19:4-6), it must be exclusive (Heb 13:4-7), it is not as good as singleness but not to be avoided (1 Corinthians 7), and that the two sanctify each other (1 Corinthians 7). The church has clarified that since marriage is a covenant it must be made in good faith to be true, so a forced marriage is not a marriage. This is somewhere in the catechism.

    So either way, if you marry for love or you marry someone you barely know and learn to love them. As long as you are acting in accordance with the various passages for Christian living (Ephesians 6, 1 Corinthians 13) you have a good idea of what to do.

    • Some more Scripture teachings on marriage:

      1. Marriage is only permanent on earth. There will be no marriage in heaven.

      2. Marriage is suggested as a concession, not as the requirement for everyone.

      3. Marriage is seen as secondary to celibacy.

      4. Marriage is a contract that has been modified many times. In Scripture we see polygamy, land contracts, etc.

    • > 3. Marriage is seen as secondary to celibacy.

      At least this for those who want to fully engage in “world mission”. Paul is the clear example and role model. While UBF claims to follow Paul’s concept as “tentmaker” missionaries, they totally ignore most of what Paul exemplified in his missionary life: Celibacy in order to concentrate on mission, establishing independent, mature churches that would not need him anymore after at most 2-3 years, not trying to build a personal cult, not claiming to be the one who raised disciples, but giving the glory to God alone, not trying to make people “owe” him anything. Instead, UBF does the opposite in all of these regards.

  3. This is a difficult article for me to comment on, Ben. The two reasons are that I have gone through the ubf arranged marriage process in 3 weeks time, and I now fully support samesex marriage.

    My wife and I are just now waking up from a dream. For the first 18 years of our 20 year marriage, we lived as “co-workers” in a sort of friends-with-benefits type arrangement. Because of the ubf marriage arrangement process (marriage by faith) marriage to me is purely a social contract and has nothing to do with God. The ubf marriage contract is solely about propagating the ubf “kingdom of priests and holy nation” shepherding ideology so that the Korean 2nd gens might “be empowered to receive their inheritance”.

    So on one hand this creates massive difficulty in our lives. For example, my wife and I went on our first date 18 years AFTER marriage. We are learning how to be parents, how to be married, etc. This is messy and therapy has helped but still difficult.

    On the other hand, the ubf model of marriage freed me from the typical Christian baggage of making marriage into an idol. Because ubf views marriage as purely as social contract for the advancement of the ubf cause, I had no barriers or qualms about samesex marriage.

    In fact, it is the samesex marriages of my friends and the amazing bible teaching of gay Christians that that have helped improve my marriage :)

  4. bekamartin

    BriandK, I love your response! I wish I had learned this before my divorce.