1 out of every 2. According to recent research carried out by the American Psychological Association, 40-50% of marriages now end in divorce. Not surprisingly, with the large number of divorces, couples are living together before marriage more than ever before. A 2013 study reported that 75% of women 30 and younger had lived with a significant other outside of marriage at some point in their lives. People have even started signing “wedleases,” short term, renewable contracts to make marriage more of a test drive than a life-long promise. And on June 26th, the Supreme Court made its infamous ruling to legalize gay marriage across the nation.
In our society, traditional marriage is under attack. Don’t believe me? Check out Time Magazine’s latest headline. Marriages are ending. Marriage is being redefined. Marriage is being skipped altogether. All of these countless examples we run into might lead us to wonder, “Has traditional marriage run its course, no longer relevant or applicable for our modern world?” Gone the way of the flip phone, VHS, or cassette tape…something that used to be relevant, but is no longer useful with the changes and advancements in our society? The question we ask of God’s Word today is, Does Marriage Really Matter?
From a strictly human standpoint, it seems wise for traditional marriage to disappear. If half of the marriages end in divorce, why get married? If your car only ran half the time, you would get rid of it! When your old flip phone, or your VCR, or your cassette player breaks down, you don’t take them in to a repair shop to get fixed, we simply upgrade to the newer, better thing…a smart phone, a Blu-ray player, or an iPod. Society teaches us not to try and fix things, but to replace them, upgrading with something perceived as better.
So if traditional marriage is broken, why not just upgrade to something else? If marriage isn’t working like you want, just get a divorce. If marriage might end in divorce anyways, why not just live together and enjoy the sex and companionship reserved for marriage without having to make a life-long commitment to one person? If one man, one woman doesn’t always work, maybe two men will work, or one man, two women, or three women.
That’s what worldly wisdom says, right? Marriage is obsolete, a burden on your life, really. And if marriage were nothing more than a man-made institution, people could change it or get rid of it altogether. However, in this sermon series, we want to Wise Up, not by using worldly wisdom, but by looking to the perfect wisdom of God, which he lays out for us in his inerrant Word in the Bible! Does marriage matter? God’s Word echoes with a resounding YES! Trying to change or upgrade God’s definition of marriage, is only downgrading. Marriage isn’t broken, it’s a blessing.
As Jesus himself tells us in Matthew’s gospel, marriage isn’t man-made. God started it from the very beginning, when he created Adam and Eve to be loving companions in marriage! “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6) It’s a pretty simple plan to understand, right? One man, one woman. 2 people joined together as one, in a union that is to last as long as they both live. That’s what God intends for marriage, and anything that differs from God’s intentions is sin. Gay marriage. Sex outside of marriage. Polygamy. All sins!
Christians who truly believe the Bible to be God’s inspired, flawless Word for our lives get that. If that’s what Jesus himself tell us, then that’s what God intends marriage to be! God even tells us how we can carry out a godly marriage through which God blesses his children! Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord…husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
But unfortunately, it’s much easier to understand what God wants marriage to be than it is to actually carry it out. Why is it so difficult for people to follow the “game plan” that God lays out for marriage? It’s difficult because the Devil has convinced society that marriage should revolve around us and fulfill all our desires. We want marriage to be our plan, not God’s plan.
People want marriage to be all about “warm fuzzy feelings” kinda love. So when a person realizes that their spouse has flaws, annoys them, and sins against them, those “warm fuzzies” fade away. And sinful human hearts decide that marriage no longer fulfills what it’s supposed to, and needs to be changed or upgraded. People want marriage to be a right, when God says it’s a gift, so people want marriage redefined. People want marriage to be flexible, so they don’t have to commit, even though God says marriage is for life. But let’s face it…we Christians don’t always portray marriage as God says it should be either, do we?
Some Christian marriages still end in divorce for reasons besides unfaithfulness. Christian spouses still lust after others. Christian spouses still argue and fight, screaming, slamming doors, intentionally hurting and ridiculing each other, acting more “torn apart” than “united as one flesh.” These things too go outside of God’s design for marriage. These too are sin! Even Christian marriages aren’t always what they should be. So does that mean, like society thinks, that marriage doesn’t matter?
No! It just means that we’re sinners, who need forgiveness from God and each other! Imagine your football team goes winless for an entire season. That’s easier for me to imagine than you, by the way. If they didn’t win a game all year, would you tell your friend, “Well, football is broken. It doesn’t work anymore.” No! One team playing poorly, even half the teams playing poorly, doesn’t mean the entire sport of football is broken…it just means the players and coaches have flaws. Same thing with marriage! When problems arise in marriage, it’s not marriage’s fault. It means one or both of the partners isn’t living according to God’s design for marriage, because the people involved in marriage are sinful, flawed people.
Satan wants us to hear God’s design as foolishness. Our sinful nature bristles when God tell wives, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” “Submit? No way! God wants me to be some helpless doormat? That’s not the way my marriage is going to be!” Our sinful nature bristles when God tells husbands, “be willing to “give yourself up for” your wife. Sacrifice to put her first? That’s not what marriage is for! It’s so I can BE served!” So Satan loves us to think. And when we do think that way, Satan distracts us from God’s plans for marriage! Marriage should be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and his people!
That means wives submit to their husbands, just as the Church submits to Christ’s authority! Does that mean that wives must be pushovers, and husbands tyrants? Not at all! It’s interesting to note how Proverbs 31 depicts the “Wife of Noble Character,” a chapter which describes the kind of wife a Christian man should seek, and Christian women should seek to be.
She isn’t a weak, silent, completely dependent piece of crystal. She’s a vigorous worker, a savvy business woman, strong, dignified, and wise. A woman in whom her husband fully trusts. She’s a woman characterized by faith. As Proverbs 31 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” So the wife who submits to her husband isn’t weak. She’s a strong woman of faith who trusts that God’s blueprint for marriage is for her good. She submits not because she has to, but as a fruit of her faith! Single guys, this is the wife you want!
And husbands, the reason the wife submits is not because her husband’s broken down her spirit. She willingly submits to him because she trusts him, because she knows her husband loves her as Christ loves the church, in humility, sacrifice, service, and obedience to the will of the Father. As a Christian, the wife’s submission actually brings her freedom, because she knows her husband, commanded by God, will put her needs, wants, and feelings first. Single women, seek a husband who will be like Christ to you!
We have to admit, we’re far from Ephesians 5 or Proverbs 31 spouses, right? That’s why it’s important as a couple to focus daily on the cross. Because on that cross, Jesus won for us forgiveness for the sins we commit inside and outside of our marriages. Because on that cross, Christ exemplifies the self-sacrificing love we need to emulate in all our relationships, “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her…to present her to himself as a radiant church…holy and blameless.”
Because Christ made us his very own bride, we no longer view marriage according to earthly wisdom. But according to God’s wisdom! He promises marriage to be a blessing to his people, not a burden, when we live in our marriages “out of reverence for Christ.”
So, as two sinners united as one, how can we live in our marriages as God intends? By putting work into your marriage! You and your spouse are different, and you’re both sinful, selfish people, and the Devil wants to tear you apart! So marriage will never be easy! How can husbands and wives be one? How can 1+1=1? By daily walking together to the cross, to recall the love Christ showed to us, and seek to love each other the same way. As Christian spouses forgiven by Christ, we’re motivated to live in forgiveness with each other! By studying God’s Word together, to be reminded of the complete forgiveness God gave to his sinful “bride.” Even though we were the spouse who was unfaithful to him, Jesus didn’t drop us for an upgrade…he sacrificed to give us forgiveness. By praying together, asking God for the strength to live according to his will. Your marriage isn’t perfect. Your marriage won’t be easy. But when you live according to God’s plan for marriage, you can be certain your marriage will be blessed!
Does marriage matter? Although society’s idea of “truth” changes day by day with each passing trend, God’s truth never changes. And marriage is part of that truth. We Christians know that truth. A marriage lived according to God’s will, a Christ-centered marriage with a godly spouse always matters. It’s a gift from God, worth far more than rubies.