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Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Col. 3: 12 – 19

When I go to weddings I often ask myself, “why is it that people get married in the first place?” Many people who are getting married don’t have a good answer to that question. They make elaborate plans for their wedding day but they fail to make plans for their marriage. You know what order people are going to stand in but do you know how to listen to each other? Can you continue to love each other when you are tired? When you are sick? How about when you are sick and tired?

Marriage doesn’t strengthen a relationship. People often approach marriage as an arrangement to shore up a shaky relationship and that’s just crazy. If you are not committed to making this relationship work before you get married then you won’t be any more committed after you are married. It is such a delight to work with couples who take their relationship seriously. Couples who are going to last together are willing to make sacrifices in order to love each other well. Marriage is worth your best effort.

Marriage was not invented by the government! The Province of Ontario has stipulations and restrictions on how marriages happen and who can solemnize marriages and who can’t but marriage was not invented by the government, Marriage was invented by God. It has been around for thousands of years. Marriage was part of God’s plan from the beginning. Marriage was created before sin entered the world. It is described in Genesis chapter two! That’s about as close to the beginning as you can get!

Our culture totally doesn’t get marriage. We have TV shows like the Bachelor, the Bachelorette, Nerd Meets Girl, and some other cable shows that reduce marriage to, “who do I like the look of best?” or, “who fits with me best?” The problem with that is that looks fade and people change. We hear about things like prenuptial agreements and marriage contracts. Marriage is not a contract, it is a covenant.

A covenant is a loving promise between two people with no conditions except that there has to be two people. You can’t have covenant of one. No one can pull off being faithful for two people. A covenant is two people mutually thinking of the other first. You no longer have to worry about looking after your own interests, because your spouse is already looking out for them. This frees you up to look to consider them first from now on. In this way you both become servant lovers to each other.

A contract is an exchange of compliance. A contract sounds like, “I will do this for you and in exchange you will do this for me.” It is held together by the compliance of the other. Contract is spelled, “I – F”. If you do this I will do that. If you continue this I will continue that. The greatest power of a contract is held by the obedient party. “I have followed the minimum standards of our agreement and now you are obligated to perform these services for me.”

This is not what a marriage is (but our culture thinks it is!). No wonder marriages fail. No one could keep this up. In a contract somebody is always on the bottom, under somebody’s thumb. This is not what God has intended for marriage. Why do we get married? Because it is a bond of love, and peace, and continuing kindness that is modelled after the grace of Jesus Christ.

Marriage is a covenant of grace. A covenant is a commitment that has no strings attached. A marriage is one person devoting themselves to the other regardless of how the other person behaves. You love each other not because of what they do but because of who they are. You love them unconditionally. You love them by serving them. What this means is that you don’t pick up dirty laundry because you have to, you pick up dirty laundry because you get to. In covenant, you give away the power to the other.

How did we ever get the idea that marriage is like that? Because God is like that! “While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly” Jesus committed to loving us regardless of whether or not we love him. God loves you, not because you complied or because He sees potential in you. God loves you because of the covenant nature of love. He loves you for you; and He wants you to love your spouse like that too.

Col. 3: 18 is a wildly unpopular scripture these days. Our culture hates verse 18 because it doesn’t understand it. “Wives, submit to your husbands…” This is only healthy because of the nature of covenant love. A wife submits to her husband not because she is less valuable than him but because Jesus is more valuable than them both. Verse 17 says “… whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Verse 17 governs verse 18; it governs everything.

Verse 19 says “Husbands love your wives and don’t be harsh with them…” When Paul is speaking of this same thing in Ephesians chapter 5 he says, “Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church…” He was willing to be beaten to death, nailed to a cross, drowning in his own blood. That is covenant love. When a husband loves his wife like that he makes it possible for her to submit to him joyfully.

A preacher would say (in preacher language), “Marriage is a sacrament: A means of displaying grace.” In plain English that reads, “Marriage is boot camp for forgiveness.” You will sin against each other, true story! You just will. When you do you have a very important decision to make:

Will you forgive each other? Or will you punish each other?

Forgiveness is not just letting it go, saying, “that’s O.K. Honey.” like it doesn’t matter, ’cause lots of them do matter. Forgiveness is letting Jesus take the blame so you can heal the hurts you inflict on each other and then you can be free to love each other well.

God became a human being and came in the form of Jesus. He lived a perfect life and Jesus loved humanity so much that He took the blame for all the sin in the world. Jesus doesn’t just erase your sins. Jesus is not a reset button on your sins. Jesus takes the blame for your sins. When you submit to God in faith, Jesus assumes your sin, and you get his good reputation before God.

Every sin must be paid for and you can either try to punish each other or you can let Jesus bear the punishment for them. Forgiving is saying, “Jesus was punished for this sin, so I don’t need to make you pay for it again.” Forgiving is not saying “it didn’t matter”. Forgiving is saying I trust Jesus enough to let this go so that we can continue to have a relationship.

So when he speaks harshly to you are you going to allow Jesus to take the fall for this sin, or are you going to try to make him pay for his sin by isolating him and being unkind?

Or when she is short and snippy with you, are you going to let Jesus pay the price or are you going to punish her with bitterness and cruelty?

God gave us marriage to train us in forgiveness. It is a blessing! When the apostle John is describing what it’s going to be like when Heaven returns to earth, he compares it to a wedding. A wedding is the beginning of something beautiful! Something beautiful is starting here today.

This union is not to be taken lightly. It is a solemn but beautiful vow that you make before God. You each place yourselves under the rule of Jesus Christ and promise to love each other in the name of Jesus, forsaking all others and pledging to learn to forgive each other with whatever time God gives you on this earth. Marriage is a beautiful gift from God and that gift is yours today.

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