Monday, November 21, 2022

Anonymous Asks (224)

“Is it wrong to marry someone who is much older/younger?”

The Bible teaches Christians to marry heterosexually and in Christ. These are the issues with which every believer seeking a life partner should be most concerned. Further, sprinkled throughout scripture are clear indications of character qualities that make for happy marriages. A believer is wise to look for such attributes in a prospective spouse.

Beyond that? There are few moral limitations I can think of with respect to a partner, but that doesn’t mean there are no practical considerations.

Neither Jew Nor Greek

Ethnicity is one such consideration. “There is neither Jew nor Greek … for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This is entirely true. But what if your prospective partner is obsessed with identity issues, or devoted to the culture of his/her home country, or fixated on maintaining certain family traditions foreign to you? What if he/she insists on bringing the extended family into every disagreement you have? There is no moral problem with marrying such a person, but you may find your life together endlessly complicated in ways you had never imagined when you were dating, and you may find both your testimony and your service for Christ hindered in ways you never anticipated.

Another consideration is social status or caste. In Christ there is neither slave nor free, but a wife from an affluent family may come packaged with lifestyle expectations you are not prepared to cater to, and that will hinder your desire to be sold out for Christ. Equally, a husband from an affluent family may have more attachment to the benefits of riches than you are currently aware. Finances are one of the most frequent sources of marital conflict. Christian marriages are not immune. Again, there is no moral issue with marrying someone from a wildly different financial background, but there may be practical problems.

Biblical Examples

Again, with age differences, we have no specific teaching from scripture about the inherent dangers of age differences, provided the person in question is not so much younger as to cause a scandal in the unsaved community and damage your testimony for Christ.

As for examples, Abraham and Sarah had a ten-year age difference. It didn’t seem to matter much, especially when they had their first child together as what we now call senior citizens. Boaz and Ruth may have had a significant age difference. We can’t say with certainty, but he did call her “daughter” and remark that she had done him a kindness by not going after the younger men. That relationship also seems to have turned out reasonably well. David and Abishag the Shunammite? Well, they didn’t have sex, so that doesn’t count.

Practical Problems With Aging Differently

However, as with other differences that exist between men and women, age has a practical import. If you are both sufficiently spiritual and marrying for the right reasons, it probably will not matter that he/she has no idea who was in the Beatles or who shot JFK. What may matter is whether or not both of you have dealt with the question of what life will be like as you get older together. A thirty-year old woman with a forty-year old husband may be entirely happy with the arrangement. But men age faster than women and die younger. A spry eighty-year old wife may tire quickly of caring for her nonagenarian partner, especially if dementia or Alzheimers are factors. Or flip the situation around. The forty-year old wife may look terrific now to her thirty-year old husband, but she is just about to hit the cliff. Will he remain Christian in his responses to her, especially sexually, as she ages out of his comfort range? These things need to be thought through before they become issues.

Finally, certain things happen to us as we age. We start looking around us and comparing the world in which we live to the world in which we grew up. Most of the time these days, such ruminations are cause for sorrow. When your better half doesn’t “get” the things that really matter to you, that’s a sad state of affairs.

Due Diligence

On the other hand, that can happen between people the same age, with the same ethnic background, from the same social strata and with all the same life experiences. Hey, if he/she loves the Lord, you have shared goals and desires, and you can work with this person companionably, I say go for it.

But please, do your due diligence first. Marriage always brings its share of surprises. You don’t want the sort that make you wish you hadn’t.

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