It is important to note that marriage, from a biblical standpoint, is not a contract but is a covenant. It is a distinction with a huge difference.
A contract has terms both sides agree to. However, if one side breaks the terms of the contract then the contract is null and void. It is over.
That is how many view the marriage commitment – like a contract that can be broken and then it is over. Thus everything rest on the shoulders of the parties. It is all up to them and their strength of character and will power.
A covenant is different. A covenant is a promise made before God and witnesses. It assumes that either or both parties will at some point have difficulty upholding their side of the covenant. Whatever happens – richer or poorer, sickness or health, adversity or prosperity – the covenant is still in place. Why: because it is a promise not just between the two parties, but also before witnesses and before God.
A contract is a declaration of the conditions of a relationship. Any love in a contract is conditional. A covenant, however, is the declaring of the intention to be there for one another no matter what. Any love within a covenant is unconditional. There are no conditions when violated which automatically mean the end of the covenant. Happiness is not guaranteed, and a lack of happiness is not a justifiable reason for breaking the covenant.
Thus, the marriage covenant is the most risky relationship you will ever enter into. Entering into the marriage covenant means you are making an appointment for yourself and your future that you will always be there for the one you marry. And you are making this promise in front of witnesses and God. Thus, the witnesses and God are there to help you keep your covenant promises. It is not all on your shoulders.
The popular urban myth is that fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. This has never been true. At most, 35% of marriages have ended in divorce. At the last census married people were asked if they were still with their first spouse. Over seventy-five percent were still with their first and only spouse! If you add to the consideration religious commitment as measured by church attendance, the divorce rates drops to around fifteen percent.
Marriage as a covenant works. Overwhelmingly it holds through the years. Marriage as a contract fails. Biblically speaking, marriage is a covenant promise between and man, a woman, witnesses and God.