Wedding bells are ringing. June brides beam while grooms find shade in the shadow of their radiance.

We have taken marriage for granted. Marriage is such a given in our society that it has gone unquestioned. Until lately.

Half of all marriages fail; brokenness and sadness within matrimony is commonplace; young people delay marriage, run from it, fear it; some singles feel incomplete without it; and now many gay couples want in on it. With all that, neither church nor state has figured how to define marriage or regulate it to everyone’s satisfaction. Strange times.

Surely appeal to the Bible would clear this up, right?

From the first garden wedding in Eden, the institution has struggled for stability. The patriarchs practiced polygamy. Israel’s kings had many wives and many more concubines. Priests were expected to marry. Marriages were arranged affairs. If a man died, his brother had to marry his widow. Jesus was single (contra “The Da Vinci Code”). St. Peter, whom Catholics claim as the first pope, was married. St. Paul counseled Christians not to marry if they could help it. Some early church fathers made themselves (castration – ouch!) eunuchs for the kingdom. Since medieval times, Catholic priests have sworn to celibacy. Most Protestant churches will not call a never married, divorced, or even a divorced and remarried man to be their pastor.

That clears things up.

Since for most Christians, Jesus is the final authority, what did he say? Among other things, this head-scratcher: For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are like angels in heaven.

Utopian-minded Christians have taken curious tacks on Jesus’ words. Shakers took him to mean that Christians should remain celibate. The Oneida community believed Jesus meant we should not be confined to marriage but should enjoy sexual relations freely within the community of faith. (Yes, they are the same folk known for “stainless”!) Mormons believed that since there will be no chance to marry in heaven and marriage extends into eternity, polygamy in this life enables more people to enjoy marital bliss (?) in the next.

So, how shall I end this article? Is there a final word? People of biblical faith have been trying to answer that since the beginning of time.

At least remember this from St. Paul: Above all, clothe yourselves in love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

“I now pronounce you…”