Over the years, I’ve been to a good number of Christian weddings. This first started in high school, when the girls at church who were older than me started getting married in their early 20s. Then I finished college, and my friends in serious relationships tied the knot. Then, in my late 20s, there was a second wind of weddings for former roommates from my Christian college.
It’s possible I have fewer close friends who are not Christian, or my non-Christian friends are less likely to get married, but I haven’t been to as many non-Christian weddings.
When I go to Christian weddings, I pay attention — because these people have what I want. I want a lifelong partner who I’m proud to commit myself to in front of family and friends. As brides and grooms share their stories, I listen to what drew them together and how their relationship grew, taking mental notes for my own life.
But sometimes, especially in recent years, I hear things I don’t like — things that offend me — beliefs that are presented in a positive way, but are inconsistent with a loving God. I’ve cried at Christian weddings, because I no longer want what my friend is getting. Here are a few examples.
1. “Innocent, but not naive”
Just after college, a friend and her now-husband shared the story of how they met at their wedding. In his section, he shared about how she stood out to him early in their relationship and what qualities meant the most to him later in their relationship. He said she was “innocent, but not naive.”
I considered this, sitting in the audience, and wondered if I could say the same about myself, essentially, if I measured up to be the wife of a good Christian guy like him. Truthfully, at the time, I was both innocent and naive. I didn’t watch popular TV shows with storylines about unmarried couples having sex, and I didn’t sing along with “Promiscuous Girl” when it came on the radio.
Now, I wonder if that husband would say the same thing. If he got married at 32 and not 22, would he still expect innocence? I hope not.
Today, I’m neither innocent nor naive. I believe God’s expectation for me as a woman, person, and potential wife was never innocence anyway, and I wouldn’t marry someone with that expectation, either.
2. “I’m glad I practiced being faithful before our marriage”
One of my best friends married a guy who attended a casual church that met at a friend’s home. He was progressive and skeptical of what we might call mainstream Christianity.
I was surprised when, during the wedding ceremony, he made a reference to being faithful to my friend before their marriage, to show he could be faithful to her afterwards. This phrasing reflected a message I heard growing up in church — the idea that if a guy sleeps with you before marriage, there’s nothing stopping him from sleeping with other people after marriage.
This analysis equates all sex outside marriage as the same, and does not qualify sex as a single person as separate from an extramarital affair. With this logic, sex or even kissing before you meet your spouse would be like cheating on your future spouse. It considers the effect of sex acts to be permanent, not situational.
Anyone who’s been through a few breakups should realize this isn’t the case. Anyone who’s been tempted to cheat on a spouse should realize this isn’t the case.
It’s a dangerous and untrue analogy.
3. “Non-Christians are not capable of agape love”
Sometimes Christian weddings are seen as an opportunity to evangelize to friends and family who may not currently attend church. I’ve been to quite a few of these. The pastor leading the wedding ceremony may give a short message, and include an invitation to become a Christian in the closing prayer. This practice is a bit controversial, but perhaps it is one of many things, including location and menu, that is simply left up to the couple to decide.
It is frustrating to hear Christian beliefs presented this way that you don’t agree with. For example, at one wedding, the pastor discussed the different types of love, as defined by Christianity. Agape love, he explained, is from God, so only Christians have access to agape love.
His interpretation was that non-Christians might be capable of “selfish” romantic or erotic love, but only Christians can love each other with unconditional love that comes from God. This is likely taken from 1 John 4, which states that love comes from God and we love because God first loved us.
I won’t get into the weeds, except to say, that elsewhere in the Bible and Christian beliefs it is maintained that God loves everyone — thus, everyone would be capable of also giving unconditional love. I’ve personally seen non-Christians practice unselfish love. If they are capable of love, they must be receiving it, and to expect them to believe a certain thing or say a certain prayer first would be works-based faith.
It’s horribly depressing to believe that non-Christian marriages are based on mutual selfishness. I am relieved I don’t think that way anymore, but it is frustrating to hear those thoughts announced as fact at a wedding celebration.
Now when I go to weddings, I don’t expect the couple to have solved all mysteries of love and faith, just because they were successful in finding each other.