We all have our weaknesses, so don’t be too quick to judge: my wife and I are hooked on the reality show Married at First Sight. Let me defend myself for a moment. First, we seldom watch regular TV. We have cable, but it’s not even hooked up. It’s just to reduce my Internet connection cost (believe it or not, it’s cheaper to have cable TV plus Internet than just Internet alone). We do have an Internet streaming device (I won’t say which one to avoid turning this into a tech post). Second, while we have been outdoors enjoying the summer, the recent onslaught of oppressively hot and humid weather has compelled us to crash in the basement. “What’s on TV?” Well, let’s scroll through, shall we?
Okay, maybe these aren’t good reasons to sit through reality shows. We actually started with Teenage Newlyweds. Well, that show is so-so. But we really got hooked on Married at First Sight (MaFS) for whatever reason. The funny thing is that we really did get drawn in. We wondered which marriage would really make it. In fact, we could see which couples appeared to be really trying and which were just playing. I won’t go so far as to recommend anyone watch this, nor do I want to go into great details about the show. That’s not the point here.
What is the point? It occurred to me after watching a number of episodes that most people realized that the higher goal of their marriage was to become a better person. To be sure, some really weren’t interested in that. It seems like a number of their applicants to this show didn’t really think it through!
Admittedly, the premise of the show that puts a 6-week window on the “experiment” and then they decide to stay together or get a divorce is a fatal flaw. I utterly disagree with divorce and find it tragic (yes, there are arguably some biblical reasons for divorce — it’s still tragic). Yet I see a glimmer of the gospel in this. What? How so, Mr. Jared??
God’s grace comes to us from above. The Lord gives all of us a taste of it — something called common grace. I never realized until this show that such a grace could be an instrument of God’s call to Christ and the good news in what appears to be entirely a secular marriage. Christian marriage is sometimes referred to as sacramental. “A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. God gives us the sign as a means whereby we receive that grace, and as a tangible assurance that we do in fact receive it (1662 Catechism).” In Anglican settings, it’s referred to more often as a “sacramental rite”.
…most people realized that the higher goal of their marriage was to become a better person.
What I see is key is that there is a gracious, redemptive movement inherent in marriage. As silly as MaFS really is, there is something redemptive in it; it’s a dimly lit grace to be sure. For all its overt secularism, I’ve noted a few things to ponder:
- Each couple has trusted others (the so-called “experts”) to select their marriage partner. It harkens to old world traditions where parents or other family elders helped couples forge together their lives. It is a novel twist on an ancient practice, but it shows late-modern generations realize they need help to build a healthy marriage.
- Despite the sexual revolution and all its baggage, there remains a general understanding that marriage between one man and one woman is inherently complementary. I know our culture is currently arguing that isn’t true, but shouting louder than history and common sense doesn’t make a thing true.
- It was stunning how often the word “trust” comes up in this show. The couples really struggle with trusting perfect strangers, which is no surprise. Yet they trusted the experts — to a point, anyway. In ancient cultures an arranged marriage would not have had a 6-week experimental window and then ask if they should remain married or get a divorce. If they really trusted the experts, they should have said a year — minimum! In other words, trust develops over time when coupled with an intractable commitment. It’s an outcome of total loyalty, despite the range of emotions bombarding them on any given day. That’s the stuff of enduring marriages, and for all the talk of trust they always have this back door escape plan.
…shouting louder than history and common sense doesn’t make a thing true.
Marriage is intended to do far more than make one happy. It is God’s uniquely gracious instrument of transformation. It is a blessed sign of an inward grace, which I believe goes far beyond the wedding ceremony. It’s a sacramental rite every time a spouse does a loving and selfless act. Come on, gents: take out the trash! It’s a grace-infused, love-enhancing thing to do. As for our culture, this popular show reveals that marriage is still a fundamental component of society. We cry for good reasons at a wedding: it’s a powerfully sacramental moment, even if we don’t realize it.