(Rev. Bill Meyer)
Is Marriage Still Relevant? Gen 2:18-24. Mark 10:2-12
Point: that we identify with and engage God’s intent for marriage
Problem: our hardness of heart that separates us from God and one another
Power: God not only sets the ideal for marriage, but helps the hurting and the broken-
As some of you know, Pastor Beinke and I have been dealing with the subject of “marriage” during Sunday Bible class. From time to time, the Scripture lessons for worship have offered us parallel insights – sometimes quite challenging. Today’s Gospel Lesson is no exception. Many folks are asking, “Considering all the changes in our society, is marriage still relevant within the Christian community?”
As difficult as a message about marriage is to preach on in fifteen minutes, it may be even more difficult for you to hear and apply. It may be especially difficult for:
Those here this morning that have experienced a divorce – or who have had a divorce among members of your family. To you, the Gospel lesson must sound like a devastating judgment.
Those of you who are unmarried – whether single, divorced, widowed. You may be asking: “What does this have to do with me?”
Those here contemplating marriage and who ask. “With national statistics being what they are, what chance have we for a stable and happy marriage?”
Marriage is our subject this morning and our goal is to identify with and engage God’s intent for marriage.
To understand God’s intent, let’s do as Jesus suggests and start at the beginning.
The first thing we learn from the Scriptures is that mankind was created in God’s image. Of all of God’s creation, only humankind was created to have this unique relationship toward God. Psalm 8: What is man that you should be mindful of him and the son of man that you should seek him out? You have made him but little lower than the angels; you adorn him with glory and honor. WOW. And that’s not all. Humankind is the only one of God’s creation that has the capacity to love. That is, at the center of every individual man and woman, there is the need to give and to receive – love.
The second thing we learn is that God created humankind male and female – male and female equally human, yet profoundly different from each other – a mysterious tension in which each is challenged to discover the other, and to complement/balance each other. And so, from the beginning, marriage of a man and a woman was intended by God to be an adventure in love and fidelity.
During my years of pastoral ministry, when I would have several counseling sessions with a couple planning to marry, I would explain that love and fidelity are central to the understanding of Christian marriage. I would ask them – “Are you willing to make a commitment of love to each other before God?” Then, “ Do you intend to ask God to help you keep this commitment of love and fidelity every day of your lives?” All this in included when you say, “I do.”
Now I realize that some couples have difficulty with this “commitment thing” and are not willing to make this commitment before God or each other and some end up just living together. What used to be “daring” is now considered commonplace, so much so, that ½ of all newly-weds have lived together before marriage. Not only is this kind of relationship outside the sphere of God’s plan for marriage, but it has serious drawbacks as well. Some studies have concluded that among other things, couples who first live together before marriage have a higher rate of divorce than those who don’t.
There are also couples who tire of their commitment, or forget to recommit themselves to their marriage vows on a regular basis. And this is probably true for all of us married folks at one time or other, including myself. Sometimes we become so busy and we take our spouse for-granted, or because we have permitted our egos to get out of balance and control that all we think about is ourselves.
As a result, I doubt there is a married person here who hasn’t experienced the anguish of marital conflict. We know what it means to be selfish, jealous, domineering – and we know that the consequences includes lot of hurt, anguish and guilt even among the best marriages represented here this morning. It takes hard and prayerful work to keep marriages healthy and meaningful.
When Marie and I got married, one hymn that we chose was, “With the Lord Begin Your Task” LSB 869, and people kidded us about using a hymn that implied marriage as a “task”. Whereas we weren’t thinking of marriage as a “burden”, we knew marriage would be a challenge at times and we were willing, with the help of God, to work at our marriage, and we have.
One more thing - there are couples that experience a brokenness in their relationship that is beyond repair – and the marriage results in divorce. My younger brother was divorced by his wife some years ago, and I witnessed his hurt, frustration, anger, shame and guilt. Some of you or members of your families have experienced the same. Divorce is a painful experience for the couple, their children and their families and friends, as most of you know. Even though divorce doesn’t have the social stigma of years ago, it can be just as painful for everyone involved.
However, our understanding and practice of divorce today is not the kind of divorce to which Jesus is referring in today’s Gospel. He is speaking about 1st century conditions within the Jewish culture in which a man could sign a declaration of divorce for almost any reason – burning dinner, for example – and the wife would be abandoned to the street, while he would be free to marry another woman. When a woman was divorced she lost pretty much everything – status, reputation, economic security. Jesus condemned this practice by saying in effect, “What you men are doing is nothing more than playing “musical beds”. It’s just another form of adultery. Go back to the beginning and to God’s creation and learn again God’s intent for marriage.”
To the couple thinking about living together
To the married couple experiencing all kinds of stress
To those whose marriages have been legally dissolved
Hear Jesus’ appeal – go back to the beginning and identify with God’s original design and intent for marriage. God’s intent has to do with His love for us! Out of love, God created us and fashioned us in his image... Out of love he made us male and female… Out of love, he established the ideal of a God-pleasing marriage.
Because he loves us, God is willing to help any one of us to rediscover a marriage relationship that is wholesome and nurturing… one in which two people commit themselves to each other before God and seek to be loving and faithful to each other.
Because he loves us, God is willing to help us work out our problems, admit our faults and failures to each other…help us to forgive each other as God in Christ has forgiven us… and help us to work toward building a stronger relationship than ever before.
Because he loves us, God is willing to help us make a new beginning – even for those who have been divorced. In my years of ministry, I have witnessed divorced persons forge a new relationship that has proven to be a blessing to themselves and to others. God can always take the brokenness of our lives and make things new.
Out of love God created us to be who we are… and helps us develop meaningful and lasting relationships… Because of God’s commitment to us in Christ Jesus, we can be bold in our commitments to one another.
May God bless every person, every marriage, every family here today – Amen.