Sermon Titled “Marriage Matters” (Ephesians 5:21-24) – Sunday 11th May, 2014
When Pastor Reimer introduced the topic for last weekend’s sermon, I wondered what thoughts might be going through people’s minds. Marriage is such an emotion-provoking topic for many couples, and I’m sure that even those who have managed to make their marriages work will admit that it hasn’t been an easy road. Hearing God’s truths about marriage is something I think all Christian couples (and young singles) need to be reminded of as much as possible.
From the Christian perspective, marriage should be based on biblical standards. Under God’s design, a man and woman are to join together and become one, and each is to fill their gender-specific roles. The man, for example, should sacrificially love and lead his family, and the woman should respect and follow her husband’s leadership, while also being a “helper” to him. If you delve further into the study of the bible (and the Hebrew meaning of the word helper), you’ll see that God’s designation of a woman’s role as her husband’s helper is actually a tremendous honor.
There are many women who resist the biblical notion of being a submissive wife, but what they don’t understand is that marriage can thrive, and be blessed, when God’s rules surrounding marriage are obeyed. If a Christian couple is committed to following God’s will, then the wife will willingly submit to her husband’s leadership because she’ll have faith that her husband is ultimately submitting to God’s leadership.
Gary Thomas, in his video series The Sacred Marriage, presents an interesting idea about marriage that’s worth considering. He asks the question, “What if marriage was designed to make us holy, more than it was to make us happy?” What if God intended for our marriage relationships to help us in our daily quest to be more like Christ?
Christ calls us to be like Him; to be kind, loving, nonjudgmental, fair and patient, slow to anger, joyful and thankful, and to selflessly serve. Anyone can do these things some of the time, and for some people, but not all of the time and not for all people, least of all our spouses when they are not treating us as we would like. But God’s word does not say that we are entitled to pick and choose which occasions or persons are deserving of our love and help; we are to love and help regardless.
The challenge with marriage, says Thomas, is that you have two sinners living together under one roof, and often clashing because both have likely entered the relationship with unrealistic notions and expectations. The notion that marriage, or finding that one true soulmate will bring never-ending joy and happiness, simply isn’t true. Yet according to some polls, this is what a large percentage of the population believes.
Thomas explains that the idea of marriage providing a romantic love affair that will last for years on end, was really only introduced in the 1800s during the Romantic period (and also very briefly during the 11th century and during the years of Shakespeare). Prior to that however, romanticism was unheard of, despite the fact that marriage itself has been around since the start of time.
Furthermore, says Thomas, neurologists have learned from extensive studies of the brain that the feelings of infatuation experienced in the early stages of a relationship can only last for 24 to 36 months. After that, the feelings will fade and while they may return from time to time, they cannot be sustained. A successful marriage therefore requires 100% effort and commitment from both partners, as well as a willingness to accept that marriage exposes sin on both sides.
Unfortunately, many marriages fail because many spouses are too busy pointing the finger, unwilling to acknowledge that they too have flaws of their own. Playing the “blame game,” as well as buying into the notion that marriage is going to meet all of their expectations, inevitably results in enormous disappointment and a belief that they married the wrong spouse. Thomas says however, that we should stop and question our views of marriage, instead of questioning who we married.
Thomas gives us three reasons to reconsider the current and widely-accepted views of marriage; he challenges us to open our minds to the possibility that marriage was designed not to make us happy, but to make us holy, by a) making us more like His son, and b) by glorifying Him:
- God gave us the gift of marriage; He designed us to be married – in 1 Corinthians 10:31, we are told that whatever we do, we should it for the glory of God. If everything in life is to be done with the aim of glorifying God, then marriage is surely one of the primary entities to fall under this standard.
- Joy and fulfillment is to come from our relationship with God, not from our marriages – Matthew 6:33 says that we are to seek first His kingdom, and then all these things (joy and marriage fulfillment, for example), will be added unto us. We tend to do things the other way around, and seek first the things which we believe will bring us happiness, not realizing that these things would otherwise be the outcome of a life centered on God.
- Marriage is designed to shape us into the image of God – Romans 8:28 says that God predestined us to be conformed to the likeness of His son, so if it’s God’s will to make us more like Christ, then it makes sense that marriage (a life-long commitment), was designed as part of the shaping process.
There is hope, for even the most difficult marriages. Christians have the advantage of planting their marriages on a far more solid foundation, one that calls us to put the focus on ourselves (not our spouses), and learn how to be more forgiving, less overbearing, more sensitive or patient, or whatever other qualities could use a little “refining.”
As Gary Thomas wisely summed up, “It’s not a new marriage that people need, it’s a new perception……Seek first HIS kingdom, then all these (other) things will be added….we get there by setting our lives up based on the glory of God…..and a new appreciation of the wonderful relationship that God gave us, which we call marriage.“