We have invitations to three weddings posted on our fridge. We would like to be at all of them, but the only one we will for sure attend is the one that takes place tomorrow in our home congregation. This one involves a young man from Mississippi who is marrying a sister of our son-in-law. She is a favourite aunt of our grandchildren and will be missed.
A week later, a 79 year old brother from our congregation, whose first wife died two years ago, will marry a 66 year old sister from Manitoba who has been a widow for 36 years. Near the end of November there will be a wedding in Ontario involving two young people who were just tots when we moved away from there 20 years ago. There is another wedding coming up in Pennsylvania that interests us, involving a young man from another Saskatchewan congregation, a grandson of close friends, and a Pennsylvania girl whose grandparents we knew when they were still living.
While thinking on this, a paragraph in an old catechism came to mind. It was written by Gerhard Roosen (1612-1711), bishop of the Mennonite church at Altona, north of Hamburg, Germany. It goes this way:
Question: Is not every one at liberty to enter into a state of matrimony with whom he pleases?
Answer: The faithful Christian is not at liberty to do so. But the wholesome doctrine of the Gospel, when properly observed by him, will direct him how to act in this matter. But that it is not pleasing to God that men should enter into the matrimonial state according to the dictates of their carnal minds is to be seen from the marriages before the flood. For it is said: “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” (Gen. 6:2). So were also the children of Israel — who were otherwise called the people of God — expressly forbidden to intermarry with the sons and daughters of the land of Canaan, whom the Lord had proscribed. So we are also not permitted to marry those who are too nearly related to us by consanguinity, Lev. 18:6-18. Beyond these exceptions, however, we are at liberty to marry whom we please, only so that, according to the admonition of Paul, it be done “in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:31). That is, those who intend entering into the state of matrimony, should do so in prayer and in the fear of the Lord. Under these conditions, then, they are at liberty to marry as they please: the rich to the poor, the old to the young, widows to the single, if such persons are free in their conscience from others, and are of the same religious faith, and attend the same worship.