I agree with the tailor who waited on the young couple who were picking out the wedding tuxedos. They had widely different ideas about color, style and prices. Naturally, they were in the store a long time. Finally the young lady said apologetically, that she was sorry they were taking such a long time. The tailor smiled and said, "Not at all, my dear; I believe that every bride has the right to be well groomed."
That may be more or less like Sunday School, when the 3rd grade teacher asked her class what Jesus had to say about marriage in the Bible. One little fella offered, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
"To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part." The words are simple. But sometime after the wedding ceremony ends, and the music from the reception dies down, there comes a time (and times) in every marriage when the words are no longer simple.
Any relationship will be tested at some point. Salmon return to their spawning grounds, and must swim upstream. Birds fly high, but run into gusting winds that threaten. Governments have their inaugurations, but someday the bills come due. And human relationships, marriage in particular, have their own brand of testing.
And it is no secret that many marriages today do not stand the testing. Even though many marriages end in divorce, perhaps even more stay together as only "enduring" life under the same roof. They’re called "married singles". They live in tension, hostility and strife. He goes his way, she does her thing. When decisions must be made there is civil survival at best, and sometimes just survival, in the shouting and anger. Not a pretty picture!
It is not much wonder that current generations have tried to "do-away" with the pain of marriage by living together. But most couples that try that find it totally unsatisfying, and seldom leading to a more permanent arrangement.
What kind of marriage works? IS there a marriage that works? For the answer we turn to the Bible. We find that marriage was instituted by God in Genesis. The Lord made the woman from man, brought her to him, and told Adam, "This is the answer to your problems, boy! You were incomplete alone. Now you have someone to correspond to your own soul." And the scriptures say that they were naked and unashamed. There’s more to that than meets the "eye". They were more than just unclothed; they were totally unguarded in their RELATIONSHIP! There was nothing hidden from each other. Complete openness.
Keith Miller in "The Taste of New Wine", calls it the "soul of a marriage". It is that place of understood silent glances and subtle angry looks that exist between husband and wife. It is the sharing of lives that Genesis calls "leave" and "cleave". Miller says, "The soul of a marriage can be a trysting place where two people can come together quietly from the struggles of the world and feel safe, accepted and loved...or it can be a battle ground where two egos are locked in a lifelong struggle for supremacy..."
If you are looking for a principle to build a marriage on, I want to submit to you this morning a BIBLICAL PRINCIPLE, and then from a passage in Ephesians the application of that principle for the husband. (Next week we will consider Mom).
The Biblical principle is based on Romans 12:1a, 2a "I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God...Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." The principle is as follows:
NEXT TO MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD,
MY MARRIAGE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING,
AND I WILL ACT ACCORDINGLY.
Now, if you do not believe that principle, you might as well go to a secular counselor, or a palm reader for advice, because you do not believe the Bible.
Consider the evidence. God made Adam and the world with all of its wonderful things. It was very good. Yet, with all the earth for Adam to enjoy he was unhappy. Then God gave him his wife, Eve. This relationship made all the rest meaningful, and the most perfect couple walked in daily fellowship with a perfect God. I submit that if Eve had been taken away, the rest of the creation would’ve lost its sparkle for Adam; just as so many have learned when they’ve gone after the greener grass on the other side of the fence, losing what was really important to begin with.
The comedian Bill Cosby, told in an interview how he almost made that mistake. He said he nearly traded the things he treasured most - his wife and children - for a tempting experience:
He said - "When you are younger you want to be sure that by the time you’re 80 years old you can sit on the bench and look back and say, ’Man, I did it all. I didn’t miss a thing...’ But then you see the look on the face of the person you didn’t mean to hurt, and then you realize that what you stand to lose is worth so much more." Since that day Bill Cosby wears a silver bracelet that he bought for himself. It is inscribed, "Camille’s husband."
Applying the Principle:
The apostle Paul made the application in a letter to the church at Ephesus (5:25-32). He said that husbands ought to love their wives sacrificially, as Jesus loved the church. I believe in a literal interpretation of Scripture. That means you ought to be quite ready to die for her. If you stay in that condition, gentlemen, the little irritations can never conquer. Many men will "wax patriotic" and declare their readiness to die for their country. We ought also to be ready to stand fully prepared to love in such a sacrificial manner, that all else must go. My children have heard me say occasionally that while I love them, and would give my left arm for them, their mother was my wife long before they came along. Next to the Lord there is no one greater in my eyes, or on my caring list than Elizabeth. So: let’s apply the principle....How shall I be a biblical husband?
Be Valuable (5:26,27)
The valuable husband is one who cares for his bride. The Lord Jesus is coming back for a bride that He will make spotless. He cares who we are. The christian husband cares for his wife, that she is comforted. Sometimes we in America fail to see the radical nature of Paul’s statement. In eastern cultures even today you can see the man riding his horse or donkey, while his wife walks..AND carries the bundles. Chivalry may be dead in many ways, but it should be thriving in christian homes.
A husband is valuable when he values his wife. There’s all kind of value. During the Depression the governor of Texas was approached by a poor woman who had come to plead for the release of her jailed husband. He asked her what his sentence was for, and she replied, "He done stole a ham". "Well, that isn’t a hanging offense. Is he a good husband?" She replied, "He wants me to cook, clean, and stay out of his way." "Oh," said the governor, "Is he a good father?" "No, he jus notices ’em when he’s been drinkin’ an’ wants somthin’ t’ kick." "Does he work?" "Nosir, he ain’t never helt a job longer’n a week." Exasperated the governor finally exclaimed, "Lady, why in the world would you want a man like that out of jail?" She replied earnestly, "Well, Governor, we is jus’ about outa ham."
Be Consistent (5:28,29)
In Genesis 2:24 God said that the woman and man were to "cleave" to each other, because they were no longer individuals, but part of one another. There is still individuality (my wife’s voice is still a soprano, and I’m nearly a base), but there is a dynamic of union unlike anything else in the universe. The scripture indicates that what you do, inconsiderate of the effect on your wife, is actually harmful to your own body.
I have seen friends allow outside influences come between them. The testing is always available. In-laws are such a cliche’ when it comes to the "interfering Mother-in-law", primarily because some do interfere. One Thanksgiving the wife said to the big family gathering, "Who wants to carve the turkey?" Said Mother to her daughter, "You carve him, YOU married him!"
Consistency means that we are consistent to the principle, Next to my relationship with God, my marriage is most important, and I will ACT accordingly. That means outside influences are to be guarded against. Even good things! Listen, it doesn’t take an extra-marital affair to ruin a marriage. Some wonderful things can get in the way of the best things. I love to play golf. I would play golf in a snowstorm, hail or lightning. I would play if it is 127o in the shade! But I only play a few times a year; Because I know if I played as often as I wanted to, I would be neglecting the relationship that means so much more to me than golf. Being consistent means knowing the priorities.
Be a Christ-Filled Leader (5:30)
If there is one thing a biblical, Christian home cannot do without, it is a husband who is filled with the Spirit of Christ. In Eph 5:23 we are told that the husband is the head of the wife, just like Jesus is the head of the church. There is trouble in that statement. "Women’s rights" is not the issue. I believe a woman has every right to be paid commeansurately with what a man earns in an equal setting. I believe women ought to vote and hold office. I do not want to tear the 19th ammendment from the Constitution. But the Bible says that in a marriage relationship the husband is the leader, and the wife should submit to that leadership, as unto the Lord. But, gentlemen, that leadership is never to take the form of "lording" it over your wife. That is an abuse of husbanding.
A loving Christ-filled leader never dominates. Rather, he radiates the love of Christ; and Christ’s humility. Ogden Nash expressed a rule of thumb about good common sense, and this Biblical principle:
"To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong admit it.
Whenever you’re right shut up."
A Christ-filled leader in the home is one who is saved. You cannot be a spiritual leader until the Spirit fills you! If you follow the principle (Next to my relationship with God, my marriage is most important, and I will act that way), you will first make certain of your salvation. Then you are in a position to claim all of God’s promises for a Christian home, Christian leadership in that home in a loving, supportive, valuable way.