Summary: Marriage is to be a window through which the world can see the nature of Christ’s love for the people of God
First Presbyterian Church
Wichita Falls, Texas
February 19, 2012
MARRIAGE: WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
Of Horses and Carriages – Part 3
Ephesians 5:25-33 (NIV)
When Jan and I had been dating for some time, and it was clear to us that we were getting serious about each other, we began to talk about marriage. In time, we made plans to meet with Jan’s parents to ask their permission to get married. I think we surprised them a little, but, surprised or not, they gave their blessing. But, after I left the house that day, Jan’s mother spoke to her in private. She didn’t want her daughter to get married. So, she offered Jan several bribes. I think she agreed to buy Jan a new car, to pay for her college education, I don’t know what all. But Jan held firm, and, finally, in exasperation, her mother asked her, ‘Why do you even want to marry him?’ Jan answered, ‘Because I love him.’ To which her mother said, ‘Well, there’s no accounting for taste!’
When we think of marriage, we naturally think of love. But when we think of love, I’m not sure we have a very clear idea of what it is. Is it a feeling? Is it passion? Is it an overwhelming and compelling abandonment of our better judgment? The title of my sermon is ‘Marriage: What’s Love Got to Do with It?’ Doug and I were talking about it this week, and he asked if I were going to break out in song. I told him, no, my Tina Turner impression is still in the development stage, but I would be glad to call on him. And, the truth is, he could do it!
But what does love have to do with marriage? Here in Ephesians Paul says, ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her….’ And I think that’s the best beginning point for understanding the kind of love that marriage takes.
The fact is, not every kind of love will sustain a marriage. The love we first have for our mates may not really be love at all. The exhilaration may come more from the fact that someone is actually willing to choose me and make me feel important – and there’s nothing wrong with that. We all want to feel validated. But if the love we share is more about meeting my needs and keeping me feeling good, you can see why that kind of love soon evaporates. Especially in a marriage, because there’s lots about a marriage that doesn’t feel all that good.
Paul talks about how Christ loved the church, and then he says, ‘In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives.’ I want us to consider those words carefully, because what Paul is saying is truly astounding. He is saying that the love a husband has for his wife reveals something about the love Christ has for his people. In other words, marriage is to be a window through which the whole world can look and clearly see the nature of Christ’s love. Your relationship with your spouse bears witness to Christ.
How is this so? I see in this passage at least two ways our marriages point to the love of Christ.
I. We Make Promises to One Another
The first way is this: We make promises to each other. Paul says that ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.’ We’re going to look at this matter of giving ourselves up in a moment, but for now, let’s look at the rest of Paul’s statement. He says that ‘Christ…gave himself up’ for the church with a particular outcome in mind. His sacrifice was not a wild abandonment of reason. He gave himself up for the church ‘to make her holy…and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’
This whole business of making his bride holy is related to what the Bible calls God’s covenant with his people. When God finds us, we are stained and blemished, but God loves us, and he makes promises to us. He binds himself to us. He makes a covenant to redeem us, to wash us ‘with water through the word.’ Christ’s intention ‘to present [us] to himself as a radiant church’ – this is covenant language. Christ redeemed the church by his perfect life and obedient death because, as Paul wrote to Titus, this was something he ‘promised before the beginning of time.’
In other words, Christ made a promise to God for the sake of his people. That promise is what we call a covenant. And when we make a covenant with someone, we bind ourselves to their destiny.