The 'way of a man with a maiden' was too wonderful for the writer of Proverbs to understand. Preoccupying so many thoughts and dreams, the subject of countless songs, films and fairytales, the love between a man and a woman has always been a profound and perplexing mystery.
And yet we do not live happily ever after. Four out of ten marriages will end in divorce. Couples now choose to live together rather than marry, and those relationships are even less likely to last. People are having fewer children, later, and with a succession of partners. Ironically, just when so much is expected of love, Western societies are witnessing lower levels of public commitment in sexual relationships than ever before. The scale of this change amounts to a revolution, a major historical paradigm shift.
The statistics mask a depth of pain that every pastor and counsellor knows only too well.
We must face the inevitable questions: if faithfulness is no longer esteemed, why get married at all? What is marriage? What did God intend when he gave us marriage?
Christopher Ash argues that our modern idolization of the sexual relationship contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. To begin to rebuild a biblical confidence in marriage, we need to understand that the primary blessing and purpose of marriage is not sexual intimacy, but rather serving God in partnership. This in turn leads to the blessings of love, friendship, children, and order in society, and will help us to rediscover that faithfulness which is the heart of marriage.