Summary: Part one six on marriage and family

…let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches. 1 Corinthians 7: 17b (NRSVA)

Today we are beginning a six-part series on marriage and family life. Family life is not just about husband, wife, 2.3 kids, the dog and a white picket fence. It has always been more complicated than that.

Along the way we will see what God has planned for helping strained and broken relationships. We will talk about singleness, parenting, and about living with your parents without bloodshed! We will have some times for sacred responses as we come to each subject.

• We will have a time of prayer for healing for those whose relationships are broken

• We will pray for families that want to experience a higher level of Christ’s peace for the home.

• We will see the connection between church and home as we receive new members on May 31st.

• For those who are not married we will have a time of commitment and celebration of the Biblical principles of relationships.

• And we will celebrate marriage and the home on the final Sunday of the series (June 21st) with an opportunity for renewal of vows for couples, and remembering sacred vows for those whose spouses have already passed.

We won’t hit every topic there is on home and family in six weeks, but we will see in God’s Word the kind of strength He can give us for living a healthy and productive family life, whether you are single, married or single-again.

Postcard from the edge of reality

Some folks have a concept of marriage that it is a complete “bed of roses” where there are no challenges, hard times or disagreements. Prince Charming shows up, sweeps her off her feet and, off they go into a movie fade-out – living happily ever after; these are not sane people! If you do not believe me I will arrange for you to sit in on a pre-marriage counseling session.

A story is told that George Bernard Shaw was visiting with a reporter, and his wife was there. As they talked back and forth, the reporter noticed that Shaw’s wife was busily knitting. Finally he turned to her and said, “You seem very absorbed in your knitting. Is that a strong interest?” “Not really,” she said. “You see, I’ve heard these stories of Bernard’s for years. And if I didn’t do something with my hands, I’d strangle him.” [1]

It is this reality that confirms to our hearts the necessity of help for the tough times. This morning we will look at the reality of “marital rocks and hard places.” These are the times of challenge that test and stretch our resolve.

In Genesis 2:24 we read about the first marriage that “two become one”. Now that certainly means sexual relationship, but there is a higher goal of intimacy God intended for couples.

Paul understood (because God gave him the wisdom) how volatile and important sexual intimacy is to human beings. And he understood the potential for sin connected with the natural sex drive God placed within us.

We have a culture that is obsessed with sex, to the point where intimacy which includes commitment to sexual faithfulness and lifetime promises have become passé’. The church has had its share of culpability in this as well. Every time a preacher in the limelight was discovered living the lowlife, the door opened a little wider to the kind of permissiveness that is killing wholesome attitudes towards sexuality.

The whole point is that sexual intimacy in this partnership called marriage can be the greatest ally in strengthening and deepening the relationship – or a lack of intimacy can be the wedge that ends it!

So, Christians are anything but wet blankets when it comes to sex. We just have the joy of inside information on God’s partnership instruction. It teaches us how important it is to first keep all our relationship issues – communication, honesty, unselfishness, consideration – keep ‘em all as short accounts, up-to-date and strong. In so-doing we can enter the realm of sexual intimacy unhindered by grudges and hurt feelings. We can do so with the freedom and joy God intended.

Why it should be Permanent

It is no secret that we live in the most separated society this nation has ever known. Families are pulled apart at greater than a 50% divorce rate. Many of my friends and family have suffered through divorce – including some of you.

In counseling I have wept with too many over the brokenness that inevitably describes the process. It is not unlike death, in that the relationship dies. A woman shared with me that, for her, it was worse than death. “At least when someone dies,” she said, “you go to the grave, and it’s over. When he left me for that woman I didn’t get to bury him. The corpse still has visiting rights.”

Divorce has so many dimensions and dynamics; so many different kinds of pain and sorrow. Those of us who have managed to stay with our first spouse have much for which to be thankful; we also have precious little about which to brag. Elizabeth and I have always said it was God’s grace that kept me at times from wandering, and kept her from killing me!

None of us are here to judge those who have experienced first-hand the heartbreak. We are here to help each other though the struggles.

We are also here to remind all of us that God’s Word says, stick it out! Do your best, in prayer, resolving often, reaching out, up and in to find strength to stay with the one you married.

Friends, struggles in your marriage are the very entry portals to intimacy. God said marriage is to be permanent, because you don’t walk through some doors in thirty minutes and six commercials. It’s not TV, its life.

One Man’s Regret {2]

A pastor who now lives in Tucson, Arizona stepped to the pulpit one Sunday morning and said, "I can’t be your pastor anymore. I’m sorry." The tiny congregation stared back in shock. This is Pastor Anthony Laird’s true story; listen – and think about your marriage vows…

In 1985, Tony moved to this promising community to start a church. He’d expected forty people at the inaugural worship service – fourteen showed up. Not until he decided to leave did the church average forty in attendance.

The low figure wasn’t for lack of hard work. He said, “I didn’t know as much as I’d thought I did, and ministry was much harder than I had anticipated. So I quit.”

But “failure”, whether in pastoring or marriage, can teach powerful lessons. Tony’s schooling taught him lessons he wished he’d known before he quit. Here are six of those lessons:


I’d believed the primary reason for anyone to love me was for producing results as a leader. The day I resigned I began to learn how much people loved me for who I WAS, not what I DID.

If you didn’t catch the parallel to marriage and divorce, picture the church and her pastor as a married couple. Many people mistakenly think they’re not loved because of failure to do something or other. Love happens in spite of what we’ve done. If you don’t believe that, re-read the Gospels – we weren’t loveable; Jesus died for us anyway! Before rushing to that decision to end your marriage, it’s important to step back and see that you may be missing how much you’re loved.


After my resignation, the congregation met in our home to decide how it would carry on. That night, I couldn’t believe how much I loved these people. The same folks I’d been frustrated with -- and blamed for my lack of success -- were ones I now grieved over losing. The bonds of affection had been there all along; I detected them only when I tried to break free from them.

Stepping-back also allows us to see what we would miss if a divorce happened. Often in the counseling setting a person will share how the difficulties cause them to think of little else but how wonderful life would be without the struggle of getting along with her…or him. Somewhere in the struggle they lost sight of the love that drew them to vows at the altar. It’s still there; the answer isn’t breaking free, but breaking through!


The week before I quit, I told my dad about my decision. He said, "Pay attention to what happens. I think you’ll notice much more good is going on in your church than you would have imagined." Those were prophetic words. People stepped up to ministry as soon as I got out of their way. Folks came into a relationship with God because of seeds planted during my ministry. People called and wrote letters expressing how much they had benefited from my ministry….I wish I’d seen that my people were beyond where I thought they were.

God is always at work in our lives. Often we cannot see it, but there is always much more good than “bad”. In fact Paul said to the Roman church that all things are working to the good for those who love God.


I shared my decision with three men in my church a week before I quit. What I didn’t do was listen to them. They brought up three alternatives I should have considered:

1. Take a leave of absence. Most churches really do love their pastors, and would much prefer to work out a time of absence for healing, rather than go through the divorce-and-remarriage process.

2. Talk with other pastors. They would have loved to help me. I didn’t ask.

3. Work maintenance into the weekly routine. Failure is inevitable in ministry, and dealing with failure demands not only a spiritual strategy, but a physical one as well.

A leave of absence doesn’t have to be for weeks, months, or even a day. Sometimes a good nap will do it. The one problem Pastor Tony identified was that he didn’t listen to really solid advice. It’s like that when you’re in the heat of swirling issues in marriage.

Stepping back is not enough if you will not listen to sound counsel. There have been more than a few times that couples have entered my study door as the last stop before the lawyer’s office. I have learned that sometimes what they want is to be able to say, “Well, we even went to the Preacher.”

Friend, if you only stop off at the counseling table long enough to get a blessing for the divorce, you’ve waited way too long. Those problems didn’t start the day before yesterday – you’ve been dealing with them for months, years; do you really imagine the preacher has a magic wand, or a super-prayer to pull the rabbit out of the hat against your stubborn will five years of squabbling and resentment?


For years, I thought I couldn’t afford conferences and books. I now know I can’t afford to go without them.

When is the best time to go to a counselor? Before you get married! Then come back for a tune-up. Some of us maintain our automobiles far better than those promises we made before God and man. Marital happiness and success isn’t guaranteed like a washing machine you get at Sears. Keeping sharp means working at your relationship.


Pride prevented me from talking to others, from considering options, or from taking time off. Pride kept me from saying, "I don’t know what to do," as opposed to saying, "I’m going to quit - - end of discussion!"

I no longer ask if my resignation was a mistake. Instead I ask: Have I learned from that experience? When tempted to move, I ask: Am I committed to learn and grow, and not quit if at all possible? These lessons have been used by Christ to create a tighter bond to the ministry I now serve.

If I was given only one word to describe the major cause of marital discord and the divorce problem in our generation it would be “pride”.

I have counseled with many people before, after and in the middle of getting a divorce. I have been that pastor. The parallels are unbelievably straight.

There are answers for the rock and hard place in your marriage. God has ‘em. He is only waiting for you to step up to the plate. In this church, the batter’s box is located at the altar.




2] Preaching Today, Anthony Laird -- pastor of East Tucson (Arizona) Baptist Church.