Tomorrow is Valentine?s Day and I thought that I would begin this morning with a couple of statements by Doug Fields, a veteran of youth ministry and I believe the head of youth ministry at Saddleback Community Church in California which is pastored by Rick Warren.
The thoughts came from the February 7, 2005 e-mail column from Mikey?s Funnies.com.
It is entitled ?25 Things Every Couple Should Know.? Here are some excerpts:
1. to not yell at one another unless the house is on fire
2. the correct answer to "Do you love me?" is not, "I married you, didn’t I?"
3. to kiss when stuck in traffic
4. they need a weekend retreat at least twice a year
5. major house projects may need to be followed by minor marital counseling
6. sex begins in the morning by the way you talk to and treat one another
7. voice tone says it all
8. to find humor in negative situations
9. genuine love is valuing a spouse as God does
We have spent the opening weeks of 2005 hearing suggested resolutions designed to help us experience spiritual breakthroughs in our lives, our walk with the Lord, and with our children. Here is a quick review of those suggested resolutions:
I resolve with the help of God to?
follow Christ no matter how or where it leads me.
honestly confess sin and deal with the root cause(s) of it in my life.
daily choose to follow Jesus
adjust my life as needed to daily follow Jesus.
to join with my fellow believers in this church to accomplish our mission.
respect every member of my family?period
deal with the shame that binds my heart and soul
accept the God ordained truth that parents are the primary caregivers of their children
We conclude this morning by considering some important resolutions related to marriage. Here they are: (overhead 4)
to be absolutely committed to my spouse?period
to not let my emotions negatively influence my commitment to my spouse
Before we take a look at our main text from this morning, I want to address the issues of loyalty and commitment that are very, very important in having a strong and healthy marriage.
I use the terms strong and healthy because I know of marriages that have lasted for 50 years or more but are (unfortunately) neither strong nor healthy. I have observed marriages of fewer than 25 years in length that are strong and healthy because they have made, over and over again, these two resolutions.
These resolutions are at the heart of the commitment that Jesus indicates is close to God?s heart in Matthew 19. The chapter opens with another discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees about the issue of divorce.
The Pharisees try, of course, to trap Jesus into saying something that they could use against Him. So they bring up the subject of divorce with a question that is asked a lot these days, (verse 3):
Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for any reason?
Notice that the husband holds the power to divorce, not the wife. In those days, in that culture, and still in the more strict and conservative societies and movements of today?s Middle East, that is still the case ? women had no rights.
The other thing to notice is the broadness of the question in the phrase ?for any reason.?
The questioners are trying to see how far Jesus would permit divorce. Do we not do the same today?
Jesus? response is very important because we hear God?s bottom-line view on marriage. (verse 6) ?Since they are no longer two but one, let no one separate them, for God has joined them together.?
This is followed by another provocative question, ?Why then did Moses say a man could merely write an official letter of divorce and send her away??
Jesus? response is again instructive and important, very, very important. ?Moses permitted divorce as a concession to your hard-hearted wickedness, but it was not what God had originally intended. And I tell you this, a man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery-unless his wife has been unfaithful.?
The disciples? response is also instructive ?Then it is better not to marry!? And Jesus points out that not everybody can live in a celibate state, which by the way, was the answer to the question of marriage in the early days of the Christian faith. People were encouraged to stay single rather than marry because, as Paul points out in I Corinthians 7, it allows a person to better concentrate on serving the Lord. Yet Paul also points out that not everyone can live this way.
In His response that is recorded in verse 8, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 24:1 which says this, Suppose a man marries a woman but later discovers something about her that is shameful. So he writes a letter of divorce and sends her away.?
Again notice that the wife is on trial and not the husband and this verse is referenced to other Old Testament verses in which the assumed transgressor is the wife and not the husband. But in a couple of passages the husband cannot divorce his wife they must remain married.
But Jesus says to all of this, ?because of your heart-hearted wickedness you have been permitted to divorce but that is not what God had originally intended.? Why? Because He wanted to see this be the norm in marriage ? commitment and faithfulness through thick and thin.
It is still possible! It is still possible! By the grace and mercy of God it is still possible! Our main text for this morning tells us how.
(By the way, have you ever considered how Jesus perhaps felt about these questions, given the fact that Joseph, who assumed the role of His earthly father, almost gave the Virgin Mary a letter of divorce when he heard that she was pregnant before they were married?)
Our main text for this morning is a summary statement at the end of a passage that always has the potential for creating a strong emotional response in people. ?So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.?
Prior to this verse Paul spends 12 verses on the subject of how two Christians express their faith through their marriage relationship. We understand this from verses 31 and 32, ?As the scriptures say, ?A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.? This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.?
So much time has been spent on interpreting and arguing over verses 21 through 24 that we have forgotten to look at the rest of the chapter that really is the main point of what Paul is trying to say. Why? This segment of chapter 5 follows two segments in which Paul tells the Ephesians Christians how to live out verses 1 and 2, ?Follow God?s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love for others,? following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins.?
Paul goes on to further explain just what he means by addressing the issues of:
1. A pure and holy life through sexual purity, clean and honorable speech, and a refusal to participate in such a life-style.
2. Living a spirit filled life that enables one to live with the freedom, joy, and peace that such a life brings.
3. Having a marriage that clearly demonstrates Christ?s love and example of sacrifice.
The point is not, ?Who is in charge here?? The point is, ?Does your marriage give clear evidence of a faithful commitment to Christ??
?If it does? Paul goes onto say, ?then wives you should be doing these things.? ?Husbands, you should be doing these things.? A faithful commitment to Christ and hence to one?s marriage should then reflect these two things (refer to overhead)
Bruce Wilkinson I think would call this first resolution absolute loyalty and he tells a story that got his attention on this important issue in his own life. He started nearly 30 years ago a ministry called ?Walk Thru the Bible? that was dedicated to help people get the ?big picture? of the Bible through some memorable memory devices and informative seminars. (If you ever have a chance to go to one, go they are great!)
Well, the ministry grew and grew and grew. In fact it grew so much it was becoming in Bruce?s wife, Darlene, eyes ?a mistress.?
He tells of coming home from work nearly 20 years earlier and being confronted with an angry and wounded wife who, with tears in her eyes said to him, ?You love Walk Through the Bible more than me.?
Wilkinson was stunned at the accusation. ?You really feel this way?? ?Yes!? ?But I love you so much more than Walk Thru!? ?No, you don?t! You love your work more than you love me. She?s your mistress. And since Walk Thru is what you do for God, I can?t compete, can I??
He goes on to recount the internal wrestling that when on inside of him the rest of the evening and all through the night until the Holy Spirit began to show him the truth of her statements.
The rest of the story? After going over his schedule and commitments he realized he needed to make a change. For one year, he told his wife, he would cancel all speaking engagements and be home from work at 5 pm every night. They also sold their house in the suburbs of Atlanta and moved to the country where there would be less distractions and busyness and more time for family and marriage. Absolute loyalty.
That is what Paul (and more importantly the Lord) is telling the husbands to do in verses 23, 25, and 28. This is what Paul (and more importantly the Lord) is telling the wives to do in verses 22 and 24. We don?t read the word loyalty in these verses but it is there in the word love. We are loyal to what and whom we love.
?Uh? Jim, we love you, we really do, but marriage, is um, you know, hard at times in fact so hard that?um?my feelings toward my spouse are not very nice ones. Know what I mean??
If our marriage commitments were based on nothing but emotions, they would not last long?And some of us here know that reality, quite painfully.
Jim Dobson tells the story about a couple whose husband placed an ad in the Rocky Mountain News just prior to a Super Bowl a few years ago. (Overhead 5)
Will trade my
with attitude problem
For one Super Bowl ticket
Call so-and-so at xxx-xxxx
Dobson goes onto say, that the husband ?claimed he was not kidding, although he was known to play practical jokes. He said the idea came to occurred to him the day after the AFC championship game, when it snowed heavily in Denver.?
?She refused to go shopping,? [the husband] said. ?She said the roads were too slick, so she made me do it. I get tired of that stuff after a while. If I could a Super Bowl ticket, it would be a one-way trip.?
Dobson goes onto share that ?the last time we checked, the couple had resolved their little misunderstanding and were still happily married. But this little anecdote contains a message for newly married couples: Don?t count on having a placid relationship. There will be times of emotional conflict and disagreement. There will be periods of emotional blandness when you can generate nothing but a yawn for one another. That?s life, as they say.?
That is why we need to be reminded, as Paul often reminded his audiences, that our example for commitment in life is Jesus Christ not another human being. Think about all that Jesus had to put up with during His earthly ministry, the Pharisees and other religious leaders who were always complaining to Him about Him and His followers; the Disciples who sometimes ?got it? but more often ?didn?t get it;? the people who alternated between wholehearted belief and devotion and the utter lack of both.
But, ?because of His great love for us,? Paul wrote. ?Christ died for us!? His commitment to a cruel and harsh death on the cross proves that His love for us was, and still is, not based on a emotional high but a deep and abiding love and desire to have us back from the power and destructiveness of sin. That?s love! That?s loyalty! That?s an important part of having a spiritual breakthrough in our marriages!
As we conclude this morning I again acknowledge that for some of us marriage is a hard thing to talk about because of the past. But, as I have said before, ?God wastes nothing in our lives because for those who are committed to following the Lord, He can and does bring good out of bad.? Do not give up hope!
I am also aware of something that many churches, and pastors, either are afraid to admit to or do not have a full understanding of ? domestic violence. Domestic violence is a sin and (and this is my opinion) it is a breaking of the marriage vows to ?love and to cherish.? To those who have unfortunately experienced this sin, ?Be safe. Find help.? And to those who perpetrate this sin on others I say, ?Stop it. Get help. What you are doing is wrong.?
Scripture is clear that love and sacrifice are important aspects of a successful and great marriage. It is also clear that by the power and grace of God through the Holy Spirit can marriage truly succeed.
Let our two resolutions challenge us this day to experience all the Lord has for us in this important area of life.
Overheads are available by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org Please request 021305svgs