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Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Jeffrey O. Cerar, October 4, 2015

God's Meaning for Marriage

Text: Genesis 2:18-24

As you have probably guessed from the scripture readings and the bulletin cover, I am going to talk about marriage today. I am aiming principally at you young people who are forming your ideas about the meaning of life, and about the important step of marriage that you will one day face. But this is a message for everyone, whether you are married, single, widowed or divorced or in search of a spouse. For the message God has sent me is to lay out for you the beauty of God’s plan for marriage and family, and the blessing it is on the world. As Jesus said, “The Father did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:17) God did not establish His order of things to stifle the world, but to bless the world and make it flourish and grow in His grace and goodness.

It was recently brought to my attention that the Bible begins and ends with a wedding. The wedding in the beginning is the one we read this morning from the Book of Genesis. It tells us a man leaves his parents and becomes one flesh with his wife. (Genesis 2:24) The wedding in the last two chapters of the Bible is the great wedding feast in heaven, where God’s Church, the Bride of Christ, has been prepared and presented to Jesus without spot or blemish. (Revelation 21 and 22) The Bible begins with a wedding, and it ends with a wedding. And what my friend said about that was, “Do you think there is a message in that?” [The Rev. Tory Baucum, Rector of Truro Anglican Church, Fairfax, Virginia]

Well, I think there is a message in that—several messages. And one of those is that marriage has a much deeper meaning than we will ever discern through biology, sociology, law, philosophy or political theory.

• God established marriage Himself, and He did so as a beautiful sign of His faithful love for us.

• And it is God’s established foundation for society.

Genesis 2 tells us that God took a rib out of the first man, Adam, and from it God fashioned the first woman. The scripture tells us why God did that. “It is not good for the man to be alone” God said. “I will make a helper suitable for him.” [Genesis 2:18]

Now those who reject the Bible will ridicule this and call it a fable. But look at the deep meaning God is revealing to us about who He is and who we are, and what His plan for us is. He made us not to be solitary people, but to live in community. Right off the bat, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” And when He gave Adam a wife, it was not just someone to share the burdens with him. It was someone with whom the man would be so intimate that they would become “one flesh.”

The glory of this shines out when we consider some other Biblical truths. First of all, the Bible tells us that God created humankind in His image. (Genesis 1:26-27) So if husband and wife are created in God’s image, the one flesh that they become is in God’s image. Their intimacy is in God’s image. God exists in eternity as a Trinity of being—God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And yet the three are one. The intimacy God shares within the Trinity is part of His character, which He passes along to us. There is nothing more intimate than the bond of husband and wife in Christian marriage.

The Bible tells us that God is love. (I John 4:8-10) In several places, the Gospels tell us that the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father. And the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love. (Galatians 5:22) That Trinity of love existed before the creation of the world.

God is love, and He loves His people. He loved the world so much that He sent His only Son into the world so that all who believe in Him may not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) In fact, in several places in the Bible, God speaks of Himself as the husband and His people as His wife. In that wedding at the very end of the Bible, the Church is the Bride of Christ.

So the Biblical message is that marriage between a man and a woman is God’s way of manifesting us His love. Now please don’t take this to mean that you have to be married to live out your Christian life. Being single is just as honorable a status as being married. The key is to wait on God for His guidance about whether to marry, whom to marry, and when to marry.

Nor is every marriage an expression of God’s love – not the way marriage is viewed outside the context of the Bible. Biblical marriage is not marriage which is said to be a civil right. It is not a legal recognition of a sexual friendship. It is the coming together of a man and a woman before God in the covenant of lifelong fidelity and commitment, so that God unites them as one flesh. Listen to how our wedding ceremony begins:

Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of
God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and
this woman in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of
marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord
Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and
first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us
the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and
Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is
intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort
given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is
God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture
in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is
not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently,
deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it
was instituted by God. [1979 Book of Common Prayer, p. 423]

Since marriage is in God’s image, it reflects God’s character. It is creative, it is faithful, and it is monogamous. God is creative, and He told us to be fruitful and increase in number. (Genesis 1:28) He designed the union of husband and wife to result in the procreation of children. This openness to having children born of the intimacy of husband and wife is one of the reasons that same-sex unions cannot be Christian marriage. In the very nature of God’s creation, His Word says, “God created them male and female.” (Genesis 1:27) And then it says, the man is united to his wife and they shall become one flesh.

You noticed in the words of the wedding ceremony that marriage is referred to as “Holy Matrimony.” The word matrimony is derived from a word that means motherhood. God’s intent is that the parents will raise those children as faithful believers who will praise and honor God as the Lord of their lives.

When I was in college, I sang in the choir of a Catholic cathedral. A man in the choir invited me to his home for breakfast one Sunday after worship, and it became a regular thing. I loved sitting around the table with him and his wife and their five children. A few years later, I was a private in the army in Ft. Riley Kansas, and I sang in the chapel choir. The organist, a Methodist, often took me home to her family with four children. How blessed I was by those two families whose Christian love was so abundant that it had to overflow on others. I sometimes think about those nine beautiful children—those products of Christian marriage—and what they grew up to be as blessings to the world. God is creative, and so is Christian marriage.

God is faithful. That is another of His attributes which He expresses in the marriage relationship—faithfulness.

• God is always who He says He is.

• He always tells the truth.

• He always keeps His promises.

• He takes care of those He loves.

• He is their shield from harm and their advocate in conflict.

• He is their provider.

That is what husband and wife are supposed to be for each other, because marriage is in God’s image.

God is a jealous God. He commands us to worship only Him. He forbids us from going after false gods. Since marriage is in God’s image, marriage is exclusive. It is a lifelong monogamous commitment. Forsaking all others, we take one another as husband and wife for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live. Adultery is strictly forbidden. It is so important, it is one of the Ten Commandments. For the nature of love that is such that it flourishes in fidelity. And it dies from infidelity.

That is God’s order of things. The love and devotion embodied in Godly marriage is so precious that God has set it apart. That is why God forbids premarital sex. Seeking out the intimacy of marriage without the commitment of marriage is a pale imitation of God’s gift of one flesh. And that pale imitation has significant consequences. For one thing, it establishes soul ties. Once you have had that physical intimacy with someone, there is an attachment between the two of you that will persist for your whole life unless you seek out prayer to break the ties. Premarital sex also leads to unwanted pregnancies between couples who have not committed their lives to each other. What then?

• Many couples choose abortion, which has its own devastating consequences.

• Sometimes the man or boy will run away and leave the woman or girl to deal with the hundreds of life changing issues all by herself.

• Young women have had to shelve their plans to get an education.

• Grandparents have had to step in and raise babies for their daughters.

• Teenaged mothers, too young to raise a baby, often make a mess of it.

Today the majority of couples choose to live together before getting married. They think it is wise to try this out to make sure they are making the right decision. But the striking truth is that these folks have a higher divorce rate than those who do not live together before marriage. God has established a good order, and when we put the cart before the horse, or the intimacy before the wedding, that order is thrown off.

And what about divorce? We all know how absolutely disruptive divorce is. It is emotionally hard on children. It is a financial disaster. The soul ties are difficult to cut. We just heard Jesus speak against divorce this morning in Mark’s Gospel.

In a world where divorce and premarital sex and unwed motherhood are almost taken for granted, it is a huge challenge to live according to God’s proper order. And it makes it even harder when we think of God’s rules as restricting what we want to do. God is not a spoilsport. God has created things to be a certain way. And His way is the best way. God’s plan and order are not only for the benefit of the person who follows them, but for the whole world. When we follow God’s way, He pours out blessings, not only on the married couple, but on the world at large.

Here in this congregation, we have quite a few couples who have been married 40 or 50 or years or even longer. All of them will tell you that it hasn’t been easy. Marriage is not a simple way to make your life easier. In fact, having a partner complicates things. One person can’t just do whatever he pleases. They have had to deal with decisions on:

• whether they could afford to buy a house,

• how to discipline the children

• where to live.

• Spouses have had to work while their mate gets an education.

• Spouses have had to care for their mates in sickness, sometimes for many years.

But if you keep Christ at the center of your marriage, He gives you what you need. He always gives us everything we need to be who He calls us to be. He makes it possible to love with the kind of love God has for us:

• A love that is sacrificial—like the love the Father had in sending His only Son, and the love the Son had in dying on the cross for the sins of the world.

• A love that is self-giving, like Jesus described to us in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

• A love that is forgiving—as God forgives us our sins.

• A love that is humble and is not proud—like the love of Jesus who did not consider equality with God as something to be clung to, but He emptied Himself and stepped down from His throne and took on our human flesh.

• A love that is trustworthy—like the love of God who says, “Fear not, for I will be with you always, to the end of the ages.”

I hope this helps you see the true meaning of marriage, and to love the God who gave it to us. You will be sorely tempted to ignore God’s order of things. I hope you will see that is worth the sacrifices you have to make to remain chaste. I hope you will have the courage and the will to go against the tide of your peers and dedicate yourself to God’s way of doing things. Your own life will be blessed as a result. And if you marry, your marriage will shine like the brightness of the sun as a blessing to everyone who knows you.

And there is one other idea I want to plant. As you plan your wedding, think about the true meaning of marriage. And ask yourself if that meaning is properly expressed in a big show of a wedding.

• Ask yourself if it makes sense to ask your parents to spend $75–80,000, which they probably don’t have, on a wedding.

• Ask yourself if it makes sense to have a “destination wedding” that will exclude some of your dearest friends who can’t afford to travel.

• Ask yourself if three days of bachelor parties and drinking is a good way to prepare for a life of self-giving and self-control.

• Ask yourself if it would be best to have your wedding in a church, where people go to worship and praise God.

A Godly Christian marriage is a witness of God’s faithful love for the world, and a beauty to behold. Your witness begins right there at the wedding, and continues through your whole life.

© 2015 The Rev. Jeffrey O. Cerar

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