Christian History Sampler: Martin Luther on Marriage
I HAVE BEEN VERY HAPPY in my marriage, thank God. I have a faithful wife, according to Solomon: “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her” (Prov. 31:11). She spoils nothing for me. Ah, dear Lord God, marriage is not something natural and physical; but it is a gift of God, the sweetest, nay, the most chaste life; it is above all celibacy.
This is a true definition of marriage: Marriage is the God-appointed and legitimate union of man and woman in the hope of having children or at least for the purpose of avoiding fornication and sin and living to the glory of God.
Note that when . . . natural reason (whom the heathen have followed when they wanted to be very wise), looks at married life, she turns up her nose and says: “Ah, should I rock the baby, wash diapers, make the bed, smell foul odors, watch through the night, wait upon the bawling youngster and heal its infected sores, then take care of the wife, support her by working, tend to this, tend to that, do this, do that, suffer this, suffer that, and put up with whatever additional displeasure and trouble married life brings? Should I be so imprisoned?”
I would not want to exchange my Kate for France nor for Venice to boot; to begin with (1) because God has given her to me and me to her; (2) because I often find out that there are more shortcomings in other women than in my Kate; and although she, of course, has some too, these are nonetheless offset by far greater virtues; (3) because she keeps faith and honor in our marriage relation.
Marriage is most suitable between equals. An old man and a young girl do not fit well together. But, of course, in such a case riches can do something. A certain old man who had become engaged boastfully showed all his wealth to his fiancee. An agreeable servant always remarked: “My dear young lady, he has much more of this.” Finally, when a coughing spell plagued the old man, the servant also said: “He has much more of this. . . . ”
Whoever intends to enter married life should do so in faith and in God’s name. He should pray God that it may prosper according to his will and that marriage may not be treated as a matter of fun and folly. It is a hazardous matter and as serious as anything on earth can be. Therefore we should not rush into it as the world does, in keeping with its frivolousness and wantonness and in pursuit of its pleasure; but before taking this step we should consult God, so that we may lead our married life to his glory.
It is no small gift from God to find a wife who is pious and easy to get along with.
It is the highest grace of God when love continues to flourish in married life. The first love is ardent, is an intoxicating love, so that we are blinded and are drawn to marriage. After we have slept off our intoxication, sincere love remains in the married life of the godly; but the godless are sorry they ever married.
Married folk are not to act as they now usually do. The men are almost lions in their homes, hard toward their wives and servants. The women, too, everywhere want to domineer and have their husbands as servants. It is foolish for a man to want to demonstrate his masculine power and heroic strength by ruling over his wife. On the other hand, the ambition of wives to dominate the home is also intolerable.
It is impossible to keep peace between man and woman in family life if they do not condone and overlook each other’s faults but watch everything to the smallest point. For who does not at times offend? Thus many things must be overlooked; very many things must be ignored that a peaceful relation may exist.
The love toward one’s spouse burns like a fire and seeks nothing but the person of the spouse. It says: I do not desire what is yours; I desire neither silver nor gold, neither this nor that; I desire you yourself; I want you entirely or not at all. All other love seeks something else than the person of the loved one.
By Martin Luther
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #26 in 1990]
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