Summary: Part 1 in series "Succeeding Where Success Matters Most," this message attempts to establish a spiritual context for marriage, and looks at the controversial topic of divorce.
Succeeding Where Success Matters Most – Your Spouse
Wildwind Community Church
June 12, 2005
At this moment I am seeing three couples for pre-marital counseling. If you asked them they’d tell you that I’m extremely strict about making sure all couples complete a minimum seven-week (roughly 15 hour) course of counseling before their wedding date. Whether I will even perform a wedding at all depends on whether I believe the relationship is healthy, the commitment level sufficiently high, and my own comfort level with how the couple interacts with one another during our counseling time together. Every couple has to not only take the marriage assessment and then go through a minimum of 6 follow-up sessions, but I also require each couple to purchase and read a book called His Needs, Her Needs and we work through that chapter by chapter. As couples get into their follow-up sessions, they are given weekly “homework” assignments where I ask them to spend time during the week practicing communication skills, conflict resolution skills, budgeting skills, or whatever we happened to discuss in session that week. They return the next week and we examine how they did on their homework and what they learned. We talk about gender role expectations, marriage expectations, personality issues, sexual issues, spiritual issues, financial issues, issues that might arise from the couple’s families of origin, childrearing and discipline issues, and communication and conflict resolution issues. If a couple is living together we take an honest look at issues involving cohabitation. If one or more has a child we talk about the difficulties of creating a blended family.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of everything that gets covered, but enough to make the point I want to make, which is that I take the health and survival of marriages extremely seriously. In my first meeting with every couple I explain why I take it as seriously as I do. Jesus made it clear that God’s goal, God’s desire, God’s ideal for every marriage is that they last a lifetime.
Matthew 5:31-32 (NIV)
31 "It has been said, ’Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’
32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
My friends what I have just read to you are some of the hardest and most controversial words Jesus ever spoke. I will deal later with the very difficult interpretation issues in this passage, but I want to begin with what is easy for all of us to understand. God wants every marriage to last a lifetime. The seriousness of Jesus’ words here are why I take marriage as seriously as I do. See, if I can do my homework up front, invest deeply in every couple, make sure they get off to a solid start, guide them into wisdom and maturity and help them address potential areas of weakness in their relationship, I can dramatically decrease the chances that I’ll have to deal with the difficult ramifications of Jesus’ words on divorce in the lives of those couples. I can’t counsel every marriage to guaranteed lifelong commitment, but studies show that the more serious a pastor takes marriage before the wedding, the more serious the couple will take it afterwards, and that’s what we need. Doubtless some of you who have experienced the terrible pain of divorce wish your pastor had spent extensive time preparing you and your now ex for your life together. Maybe some awful things that happened could have been avoided. Maybe some of you wish your pastor had simply warned you not to get married at all at that time.
We always talk about spiritual reality in this church. What that means is that we live in two worlds. There is the physical world we all live in every moment of every day – but Christians believe in a spiritual world that is even more real, and Christ-followers live in that world, even as they go about their duties in this one. It’s what you might call “dual citizenship.” Christians are citizens of this world, called not to disown it, condemn it to hell and forget about it, but to engage with it, to change it, to improve it, to show God’s love to it. Jesus referred to his followers by names like, “light of the world,” and “salt of the earth.” We have a purpose in this world and we are to be out in the world fulfilling that purpose. But we are also citizens of what Jesus called The Kingdom of God – a spiritual kingdom where God is the ultimate authority and where His will is done.
Philippians 3:20 (NLT)
20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.