I'm not sure anyone has noticed, because I still get ribbed about my matchmaking hobby, but I actually did reluctantly cool it on that whole gig some time ago. It was too often misunderstood and miscontrued, and therefore counterproductive to my purpose.
Purpose? Yes, there was a point to it. My comments on matchmaking have always been one part affectionate teasing and another part serious counsel, though not in the sense that some may have assumed. I've never actually presumed to matchmake anyone else's children; nor would I attempt to do so. Even in the case of my own children, I have neither dictated nor manipulated their relationships. I have involved myself in their friendships and romance, and I have endeavored to be both available for and welcoming of their conversation in such areas. Along with that, when I have spoken of matchmaking, partly in good humor and partly with serious intent, I have wanted to convey something about the nature of relationships; not only for my own children, but also for the young people entrusted to my pastoral care.
Regrettably, my matchmaking efforts, so to speak, have been regarded as too silly on the one hand, but have been taken too seriously on the other hand. That is why I have cooled it, even if no one has noticed. The point and purpose were being lost, and I feared that I was causing more harm than the good I intended. So now I'll spell it out forthrightly.
I have spoken of matchmaking in the past, because by such gentle teasing I have hoped to convey my affection for the young people in my life. I love my own children dearly, and I love the children and young people of my congregation, too. I care about them and about their lives. My teasing, of whatever sort, is always an expression of that affectionate care for them. It is never intended to shame or embarrass them.
With respect to matchmaking or romance, I have teased in part because I believe it can be helpful to a certain extent. Leastwise, that is how it was for me when I was an adolescent boy. My Grandpa used to tease me about the girls at school, and there was a part of me that really wished he wouldn't; but there was another sense in which I benefited from his teasing. I learned from him that it was normal and expected for boys to begin noticing girls and liking them. I also perceived that such attractions were not dirty or despicable, but something to be delighted in. There was an innocence and sense of fun about it, cradled in the safety of my Grandpa's love for me. Grandfathers, fathers and pastors can gently tease in a way that rejoices in the genuine goodness of romance, without the risqué innuendo of the world's perverse humor.
I have also spoken of matchmaking in order to convey several significant points concerning romantic relationships: First of all, I have wanted to emphasize that parents, fathers in particular, ought to be paying attention and being proactive in their children's relationships and plans for the future. Fathers are fundamental to the way that sons and daughters grow up and learn how to be men and women, how they relate to the opposite sex, and how they know what to do with their lives in this world. Fundamentalist approaches to "courtship" are prone to legalism and contrivance, but they have rightly perceived that a father ought to be actively involved in preparing his daughters (and sons) for holy marriage. Fathers are likewise key to discerning the relatively rare gift of celibacy; which may strike readers as quite the opposite of matchmaking, but is actually quite in harmony with the point of parental authority.
By speaking of matchmaking, I have also wanted to urge the goodness and rightness of marriage. The world in general disparages marriage, and even many Christians have bought into the mindset of delaying marriage on some kind of principle. My point has not been that everyone should or must get married, whether sooner or later, but only that marriage should not be feared, avoided or put off, but rather anticipated and approached with deliberate and conscientious intent. Marriage is a good gift of God; those who deny it are teaching the doctrine of demons, according to St. Paul. Marriage preaches the Gospel of Christ and His Bride, the Church. It is to be received with thanksgiving, and sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. In addition, by the grace and mercies of God, marriage is a powerful protection against the powerful temptations of sexual desire. Matchmaking suggests that parents and their teenagers should be thinking positively about the prospect of marriage, rather than striving to stave it off, leaving it to happenstance, or supposing that the lusts of the flesh are of little concern or consequence.
When I have teased the young people of my congregation about matchmaking, I have never meant to pressure them into anything, to compell or constrain them in any particular direction. I would not want any of them to rush into marriage apart from the carefully considered wisdom, counsel and advice of their own fathers and mothers. They ought to be seeking the counsel and advice of their pastors, too, and not proceeding without that guidance and direction of the Word of God. By the same token, young people should not be pressured or constrained to flee from the goodness of marriage, but catechized in its theological significance, its purpose and benefits. If I'm not able to make these points clearly or well with comments on matchmaking, I shall be looking for other ways to teach and convey the goodness and rightness of marriage, and the role of parents in preparing their children for that blessed estate.
Sermo Dei: Populus Zion
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