James McDonald on Betrothal:
I see betrothal as a covenant promise between a man and a woman to marry. It is a covenant commitment that should not be broken, except in the case of death or sexual unfaithfulness. To those with a secular postmodern mind, the concept of betrothal may seem foreign, archaic, and constricting. In a culture where marriage is redefined to include perverted homosexual unions, and couples divorce because they “fell out of love,” how in the world can the postmodern mind grasp the beauty and purity of faithfulness before marriage?
Against the postmodern mind stands the authoritative Word of God. As a Christian family, we strive to make sure that the way we live and think is directed by the Words of Scripture. Of course, we often fall woefully short, but God is gracious to help us learn from the mistakes and sins of the past - to live more faithfully today. And, Lord willing, our children will learn to live even closer to the mark than we have. Most of us did not understand courtship and betrothal when we were young. Perhaps, like me, you had never even heard of it. We grew up in the world. And in the world, after a period of dating, sometimes dating more than one person at a time, you may have become “engaged.” Now, from the world’s perspective, engagement and betrothal are interchangeable. Both may be viewed as a semi-commitment where an announcement is made of an intended wedding and “save the date” cards are sent. But it is not binding - there is no real commitment. It can be broken at any time by either party for any reason. Just as you can break a dinner engagement, you can break a marriage engagement. In fact, if the engagement is broken, most people breathe a heavy sigh of relief. The idea is that it is better to break things off before marriage, so you can save the lawyer’s fees in a future divorce.
Courtship and betrothal stand against this. In our home, courtship is a structured period where a young man and young woman learn about one another, within the natural setting of family and fellowship—in the midst of children, normal laughter, conversation, and even conflict (and how it’s resolved). One-on-one relationships are notorious for the “rose colored glasses” syndrome. A family offers background, conversation—and protection.
The young man must decide if he in fact can love this woman as Christ loves the church. Can his heart safely trust her? Is she indeed a virtuous woman whose worth is far above rubies? Will she make a good helper to him and a good mother to his children?
And the young lady must decide if she in fact can respect and submit to this man as unto the Lord. Will he be a faithful provider, protector, lover, and father to her children? Is he a wise or foolish man? What of his character? Are they theologically aligned? Are they likeminded in areas of importance? Are they in agreement on major life issues?
Courtship is not a time of fluttery romance and unrestrained emotion. That time will come soon enough. We encourage each party to remember that the other may in fact be someone else’s (future) husband or wife. Part of learning to love the other is to spur one another on to good works and self-control – faithfulness to the Lord. During this time, the couple prays for the Lord’s will and the emotions are held in reserve as much as possible.
And, should the young man decide that she is “the one” God has for him; he approaches the young lady’s father, asking for her hand in marriage. If Dad feels the match is a good one, he gives his permission to the young man to “win her heart,” the young man is then free to propose to the young lady. If the young lady has also come to believe that she can love and honor the young man as the church should Christ, she gives the young man her heart. And thus the betrothal begins—a time when they learn to love one another. They grow together emotionally and hearts are bound together. A commitment is made that is not to be broken. Yet still, it’s a time of physical restraint as they look ahead to that coming day of matrimony. That first touch of affection—that powerful moment is saved for the glorious day God has ordained for them—the day they begin their life together as husband and wife.
Again – this is the McDonald version of betrothal. It is our attempt to apply the precepts of the Word and be faithful to our calling as a Christian family. We willingly offer our understanding of Scripture and share our lives with you as a testimony of God’s grace in our lives, not as a “rule” or “burden” for you to follow.