Summary: Marriage works because God designed it and Christ inspires it.
Have you ever seen products like these for sale? A watering can with a spout that curves in on itself? A chair that feels like it wants to push you off of it? A cereal bowl with a hole in the bottom? And a drinking glass that is sure to cause a mess down one’s shirt front? No, you’ve never seen items like these for sale because they are poorly designed and no one would buy them!
If that’s true, then why do couples keep buying into marriage? When a 2011 news article reports that 4 out of every 10 first marriages in Canada end in divorce (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/4-in-10-1st-marriages-end-in-divorce-report-1.953894), shouldn’t we conclude that marriage was poorly designed? That’s what many would have us believe as they insist that marriage can be re-designed as a union between two men or two women, or as a union that’s worth staying in only for as long as it’s fun, and not “’til death do us part.” Today the Apostle Paul reminds us Christians that marriage works. It works because God designed it, and it works even between two sinful people because Christ inspires it. Yes, marriage works, but only for those who are willing to work on their marriage.
What I’m going to share with you this morning about marriage is not what you’re going to hear from the media or popular opinion. Some of the things that I will say may seem downright offensive. But don’t tune me out. Don’t be like the crowd in our Gospel Lesson who turned away from Jesus because what he said seemed too hard to believe and follow. What I will say about marriage is God’s Word on the matter, and therefore worth listening to and putting into action. If you don’t want to do that, then don’t call yourself a Christian. Do I sound like a strict teacher laying down the rules on the first day of class? Think of me instead as a rollercoaster attendant who is serious about delivering his safety speech so that his customers will enjoy the ride. Buckle up. Here we go.
Although the Apostle Paul is the author of our sermon text about marriage, he is not the author of marriage itself. Paul reminded his readers that it was God, at the very beginning of time, who designed marriage to be a life-long union between one man and one woman. Adam and Eve weren’t just friends - they were husband and wife, and God was their matchmaker.
Maybe that’s the problem today. Perhaps there is so much divorce because people keep marrying the wrong partner! If God would only have continued to be the matchmaker, marriages would last longer, wouldn’t they? But God still does the matchmaking. Listen to what Jesus said regarding marriage. “…what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:6b). Huh. That means that your marriage is a match made in heaven! God allowed your choice of spouse, and he intends that choice to be a blessing to you, and you to be a blessing to your spouse.
“But how can that be, Pastor? You don’t know how much we bicker. Some days I don’t know what I ever saw in my spouse!” When we feel that way, we need to remember that it’s not our spouse that is the problem. The problem is our focus. Husbands, listen where Paul says your focus should be. I’ll read to you from the Message translation. “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting” (Ephesians 5:25). Guys, your wife is not a home appliance or a power tool meant to make your life easier. She is one of God’s treasures that he has entrusted to you. The focus in your marriage, therefore, should not be on what you can get out of it, and on how your wife can make your life easier and more fun. Marriage is all about what you can do for your wife!
Now wives, listen to where Paul says your focus should be in the marriage. “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24). Your focus it to be on your husband. You are to honor and respect him. You are to submit to him in all things, not because he is worth it, but because this is God’s design for marriage, and his design works.
Now when God tells you to submit, he’s not saying this because he has declared the male species to be superior to the female. A woman’s worth has nothing to do with this. It’s for the sake of good order that there can only be one leader. And God has declared the husband to fill that role in marriage. This could gall you, but it doesn’t have to – not when you consider how you willingly submit to others outside of marriage. Although this is an extreme example, consider it for a moment. If you were climbing a mountain and fell into a crevice, would you say to a rescuer who urges you to give you his hand, “I’m not taking orders from you! I’m not submitting to your authority!”? No, you would be happy to let him lead. That doesn’t mean of course that you won’t offer input. If the safety harness he wraps around you is too tight, you’ll point this out. And hopefully the rescuer won’t retort: “That’s not my problem.” Your husband hasn’t been sent to “rescue” you, but he has been sent by God to serve and protect you. Help him do his best at this by supporting and encouraging him, as is God’s design for you.