“The God Who” Series
March 20-21, 2021
“The God Who Loves Marriage”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Why is God so concerned about marriage? Your marriage. My marriage. He is the one who invented this odd relationship which two different people have. “It is not good for the man to be alone” is what God says shortly after He took some dust from the ground and made Adam. So from the man He made the woman. And then He put them together, “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) I guess I know that He loves marriage because He says in Malachi’s writing, “I, the Lord, hate divorce.” (2:16a)
With a couple days that I had not counted on having, due to last weekend’s blizzard, I got out the book on President Abraham Lincoln, “With Malice Toward None”, and read a few hundred pages. In the early pages it talks about Lincoln feeling quite inadequate around women. But then he met Mary Todd and they fell in love. He’s tall and she is short. But they got engaged and set a date for their wedding. But pretty soon some influential friends and Mary’s folks put an end to that thought. Lincoln’s family was not as important as Mary Todd’s family. Lincoln’s mother died early in his life, his father was probably illiterate. They had no standing and no wealth. Mary Todd’s family had both.
But love for these two didn’t die. Mary didn’t move on from Lincoln and Lincoln didn’t move on from her. On November 4, 1842 they married. With unmovable feet, that morning they told those who opposed their marriage that they were getting married. The author says of that day, “Later, as Lincoln blackened his boots and dressed for the ceremony, a young fellow entered his room and asked where he was going, Lincoln cracked, “To hell, I reckon.” (Pages 62-63)
Why is God so concerned about marriage? It is because He loves us and wants good things for us. When I preach a sermon I like to include everyone who is listening. But I know that well over half of this congregation are not married. We have singles and widows and widowers and those who have been divorced. So, I guess I’m speaking to the minority today. But really not. Everyone, in some way or another is affected by what God thinks about marriage. And I contend that we have a God who loves marriage.
What is marriage? The good catechism answer is, “Marriage is the lifelong union between one woman and one man.” I’m sure that there are some who would take deep offense on such a definition of marriage, but I believe it is a clear definition provided by the Bible. And I will add to this that it incorporates mutual submission, godly leadership, deep and sacrificial love and the very presence of Christ Himself.
God loves marriage because it can provide the greatest good to others. This section begins, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) Submission – humility. Submission – placing another person’s needs in front of my own. Submission – not always having to win whatever had to be won. I remember talking to a young man who was single but he didn’t want to be single. He said that he wanted to find a wife who would make him happy. He wasn’t concerned about what he could do for her but what she could do for him. That is not the way to begin. Paul says that we are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Many people have trouble with St. Paul and his words in Ephesians 5. Maybe you do. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24) Some look at this as demeaning and archaic.
But I believe you have to read everything before and everything after a section like that if you’re going to get the whole picture of why God loves marriage. If only those three verses is how a Biblical marriage was to happen then I think we’d have trouble with that. The husband snaps his fingers, grunts, “Woman – do this and do that” and feels that he has such a right. Baloney. Read on.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present himself to her as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:25-28)
We have read enough of Ephesians to know that it has guided us in a whole different way of living. Countercultural is a good term for what this book is teaching us. We are not content to live in the former ways of the old, sinful man but we are called to live in the new ways of God’s Holy Spirit. God loves marriage because this is the way He has designed for us to live, at our best. The culture in Paul’s day was for a man to marry and have children. And then he would go to the Temple and find a prostitute. And he also had a mistress.
Christianity was countercultural then and it still is now. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” What does such love look it? It means sacrifice and humility and service. In Philippians 2 Paul says of this, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being found in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8) Christian marriage – dictatorial? Tyrannical? No. Husbands – love your wives as much as Jesus loved us.
Marriage, as God designed it, is built on mutual submission, godly leadership, deep and abiding sacrificial love, and as Paul ends this section, “However, each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). This gives us a picture of the beauty of God’s church – His people. God loves marriage because marriage, in its grand design is to show us how Christ loves us and how we are to love Him. Paul, who spoke about the church that Christ is wedded to as “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless”, speaks of the Corinthian congregation as a bride for a husband – Christ. “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, as that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” (II Corinthians 11:2)
My wife, Marilyn, is an encourager. A cheerleader of sorts – though she can’t jump as high as she could 50 years ago. As I left for church this morning (Thursday, March 18) to write and record this sermon, she told me, “Honey, I hope your sermon doesn’t suck.” I should have said back to her, “That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me. Thanks.”
If you are married, or you are not, I want you to know that we have a God who loves marriage. If you are married and you have forgotten the foundation of your love, if you have forgotten the other person, if you need a new beginning, this would be a good day for it. Jesus is in the business of new beginnings. His forgiveness is for all of us who along the way forget that we are supposed to love marriage as much as God does. Confess your heart to your spouse and to God – forgiveness and love are good things to receive from them and to give to them.
On that day when Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd the author says that he was pale and nervous but he took what he was doing in a serious way. The wedding ban that he placed on her finger read, “Love Is Eternal.”
In a Christian marriage there are not two partners but three – and the third is Christ. He loves you. He loves your marriage. He lives there with you. Amen!!