Thursday, February 26, 2009

Marriage Foundations

Sunday's Message:

A business man's wife was depressed. She began to mope around, sad, lifeless--no light in her eyes--no spring in her step. It became so bad that this "man of the world" did what any sophisticated person would do, he made an appointment with the psychiatrist. On the appointed day, they went to the psychiatrist's office, sat down with him and began to talk. It wasn't long before the wise doctor realized what the problem was. So, without saying a word, he simply stood, walked over in front of the woman's chair, signaled her to stand, took her by the hands, looked at her in the eyes for a long time, then gathered her into his arms and gave her a big, warm hug. You could see the change come over the woman. Her face softened, her eyes lit up, she immediately relaxed. Her whole face glowed. Stepping back, the doctor said to the husband, "See, that's all she needs." With that, the man said, "Okay, I'll bring her in Tuesdays and Thursdays each week, but I have to play golf on the other afternoons."

Marriage is like that! There are times that marriages seem like a union of two people who just don’t “get it”. We start with high hopes, full of expectations from a variety of sources, some good, some not so good, some just silly. We hope the other person will fulfill us, make us happy, make life easier. Then, some time between six and eighteen months in, we realize that life is not easier, but harder, as two selves bump into each other, each wanting their own way, each challenged by the others’ attitudes and actions.

Over the next two months I want to examine a variety of scriptures on marriage – as well as family – to help us move away from our often self centered expectations and very mixed cultural influences – allowing God to speak into our marriages and families. Today we’ll look at foundational truths, and over the next eight weeks consider problem-solving, toxic marriages, creative singleness, contemporary gender issues, parenting future adults and family in community. Let’s start!

Foundational Truth #1, God Created Marriage (Genesis 2:18-25)

- God declared all of creation either “good” or “very good”. Here we have the first “not good” – before mankind sinned – man was not designed to be alone. This is a bit startling, all of perfect creation surrounds him, he experiences perfect fellowship with God, yet he was alone. He needed someone of his own kind to come alongside.

- God declared that man needed a “suitable helper”. Two truths arise from this: 1) God custom developed woman and man for each other, before their sin they were a perfect match. Think of a dog sled team, the importance of matching just the right dog in the just the right position. 2) Man needed help, woman provided it. Please remove all the negative connotations here, help comes from equal peers all the time. Just think how excellent our culture would be if selfless help was foundational!

- Animals could not provide the fullness of companionship that humans needed. There is certainly a joy that comes from relationships with animals, but they’re not peers – they cannot communicate to the depth needed – they cannot be total soulmates.

- Note how much man contributed to the process, he, well, slept. God did all the planning, all the work, all the giving (sounds like salvation and much else of life). Married men, look over at your wife as Adam did, realize God prepared her for you. Realize that she is made out of the same stuff you are. Realize you are one flesh. As John Piper states, “God gave away the first bride.”

- Don’t miss what used to be called the “leave and cleave principle”. Leaving one’s family for your spouse is foundational. Family is important, but so is the right mix of independence to get your own fledgling family off the ground. And remember who has become your primary earthly consideration – not your parents, not your brothers and sisters, not your friends – but your spouse. Period.

- “The man and his wife were both naked, and felt no shame.” Nakedness worked because both were trustworthy, there was no shame, guilt or negative commentary. Something to think about there!

- Perhaps the most important point here is that God created marriage. Society did not create marriage, marriage did not evolve, we don’t come up with best ideas about marriage (or getting rid of it) – it’s God’s idea, God’s work – and we need to live accordingly.

Foundational Truth #2, God Calls to Marriage (I Corinthians 7:17)

This passage is about marriage, sexuality, singleness, the mix of believers and unbelievers, separation & divorce – God lays out this foundational truth – stay where you’re called.

The “staying” is important – and we’ll discuss it in depth during a later message - but I’d like you to reflect on the calling piece today. God calls people to marriage. He actively works in people’s lives to bring them together. In a sense, he carries Genesis two forward into the present day. Once again, look at your spouse. Chances are great that God brought you together, He called you to marriage (as He calls to salvation, and ministry, and other important life stages).

We can resist the calling, as in the movie, “Serendipity”. Sara and Jonathan meet in New York City during the Christmas season while shopping for their lovers. Both want the same pair of gloves, Jonathan gallantly allows her to buy them, she takes him out for ice cream. They spend the evening talking, develop an incredible connection, but they’re already dating others. He asks for her number, she writes it on a gum wrapper, it blows away. She tells him that she’ll write it in a book and sell it to a used bookstore. He writes his number on a five dollar bill, she spends it. If they find the items again, it’ll mean they should get together. Years later, both are engaged, Jonathan is on the verge of marriage, even though they have never forgotten each other. Ironically, his fiancĂ© buys and gives him the copy of the used book, while Sara locates the five dollar bill – and, of course, they end up together. A bit schmaltzy, perhaps, but how many strings did God pull to bring the two of you together? Deb was raised in St. Petersburg, FL, I in Madison, WI, what are the chances we would both go to Moody Bible Institute? In God’s economy, 100%, after all, He’s called us together.

But don’t hear me wrongly. God does not call everyone to marriage. Some are called to singleness, as other parts of the passage clearly state. Be very careful about pressuring others to marry – or giving into such pressure.

Foundational Truth #3, God Empowers Marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33)

- This is, perhaps, the key passage on marriage. We’ll be back here again. But I want you to think about the four empowering keys God gives us here: submission, headship, love and respect.

- Submission has become a dirty word in our culture. Don’t let it be such in your marriage or thinking. It’s a foundational to scriptural relationships - we’re commanded to submit to our religious leaders, to our governmental leaders, children are to submit to their parents, everyone in the body of Christ is to submit to each other (verse before) – submission enables Christian relationships to happen. God has elevated submission, obedience, mutual servant attitudes beyond the world’s comprehension. Done well, in an atmosphere of servant headship, love and respect, submission is beautiful, God-honoring, relationship-preserving.

- And husbands are to be the head, lead their homes. But note the kind of headship, note Christ’s example: it’s headship that saves, that loves, that develops and purifies those being led. This is not domination or degradation, as some have taught and many more have lived. This is servant headship. So, guys, get out and lead – lead with a servant’s attitude - nothing is worse than a leader who won’t lead.

- And husbands are to love. They are to have their wives’ best interests in mind. They are at least to love them as well as they love themselves (which is very powerful love indeed). Men, be aware that this does not come easily, our selves, our careers, our outside interests, sometimes it seems like everything gets in the way of loving our wives. It’s work, but it’s work with a purpose, work with a goal, work that makes relationship happen, that makes her happy (no, joyous).

- And wives are to respect. Wives, you’ll look in vain through this and other passages, hoping that you don’t have to respect this man that is so different from you, so error-prone, so “unrespectable”. This is a command, not an earned status. Just as, frankly, you are to be loved, men are not to wait for you to become loveable.

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