Pain in Marriage: For Your Joy

20130518-171720.jpg

Have you ever read Paul’s Letter to the Romans, particularly chapter one?

Because of our fallen nature and natural bent, we have not only rooted our worship wrongly so that now we worship things that are going to lead us into external sin and discontentment, but we often contrarily believe (despite the reality of our lives) that we know what’s going to bring us the most amount of joy, the most amount of pleasure, and the deepest amount of life. We tend to feel like we know what’s best, that we know better than anyone else, and so we make decision, after decision, after decision for our own pleasure and our own joy. Even when we seek advice, we take what feels best to us.

We don’t find contentment for any length or period of time, but we perpetually think that we know how to get there. We only seek help when the illusion of control comes crashing down on the rocks of reality, but even then we aren’t willing to completely give up this sense of control. Instead, we will grab some variation of a self-help book or talk to somebody we think has it a little more together than we do, and we’ll simply try to “do better” or clean ourselves up some, and “try harder” to live our life in such a way that will bring us more happiness and pleasure. But we continue to seek this better life through what we think is best, only taking advice if it fits within our already existing worldview, and only accept something if we think we can still control it.

We don’t really control anything other than how we react to what is beyond our control. And just about everything is beyond our control. God is certainly beyond our control, and no amount of good behavior will control His affection for you, and no amount of distance can separate you from Him. I will contend that every command of God in the Scriptures are not about robbing from you happiness, but rather it’s all about leading you into the fullness of it. Into depth, meaning, and joy that our naturally shallow minds couldn’t imagine without His help. I’m not saying I don’t struggle with living this out myself, or pretending this isn’t written primarily to myself… because it is a truth that I’m constantly reminded of when things don’t go as I want them to.

Charles H. Spurgeon once said, “There is nothing in the law of God that will rob you of happiness; it only denies you that which would cost you sorrow. “

I’ll give you an example out of my own life, a very personal example out of my own life. I grew up in a dysfunctional home, sometimes even a little abusive. It could be a difficult home to grow up in at times, but nothing unheard of as common in this day and age. And praise Christ that He has worked mightily in our family and we’re still one family. However, growing up in a hostile environment like I did, it helped to create and then further develop some baggage. I have some issues. Anyone close to me is aware of many of these issues, my sweet wife more than anyone.

So I’m coming from this, and my beautiful wife is coming from what I would just kind of label a “good girl home.” And what I mean by that is not that everything’s okay there, but at least it all appears that way. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not making any accusations or have any quarrels with her family; I’m just telling my perspective. Anyway, we got married somewhat young by today’s standards, I mean I know plenty who were younger, but the majority seem to be older. So, what happens when you take a young guy who’s not very self-aware, still maturing on a basic level, has a lot of issues and vices he isn’t even aware of, and you put him in a house with a woman who’s not okay, but who wants to pretend that everything is? Well, you get some very difficult years of marriage. At the very least, that’s what you get.

And I want to be real honest with you, with my wife’s permission. There were nights that I would lay in bed… and talking to myself, start to list out all was wrong with her, what all needs to change, what all I do that deserves to be reciprocated more… but really, the issue was me. I had a selfish, self-centered, lazy heart… and am definitely still working on it. And Kat had some issues too, but she couldn’t even begin to see them because mine were so big. I was asking her to satisfy something that she just couldn’t possibly fulfill. She just couldn’t possibly do it. And so my love was very, very, very conditional, which means I would do what was right as long as I got the reaction I wanted. But when I did something nice, and the reaction wasn’t what I wanted, then I would start to lose the motivation to keep doing what’s right.

Anybody else have that experience? Maybe? Or am I really all by myself in this? I doubt it… at least I cannot imagine I’m the only one. Because there were times when I was lying in bed after a few years of frustration, and I’m like twenty-five years old going, “I can’t do 50 years of this. This is marriage?” And you can’t help but go, “I guarantee you this would be easier with somebody else.” I mean those are just thoughts you have, thoughts I had, the whole time being painfully aware of God’s command on me in Ephesians 5: “You love your wife like I loved the church in that I gave My life for her, initiated it, did not expect the correct response to it. I loved freely, openly, unconditionally. That’s how you love your wife.”

I hated that text. That text haunted me. It still does. Because I wanted to be mean. I wanted to jab. I wanted to retaliate when I felt wronged. I wanted to wound when I felt wounded. I wanted to tell her what she was doing wrong. I wanted to receive grace and understanding, but still expected her always do what I felt was right, never get tired, never make mistakes, and live up to an impossible standard. And that went on for months. Years. We’ve be married six years as of this summer. And while I know some of you may be reading this and thinking, whatever rookie, come back to us when you’ve at least passed that 10-year mark… any amount of this pain is frustrating.

And here’s what has happened in our marriage. Over these past couple years, God has been doing what we would call theologically “progressive sanctification.” Which means that, on the throne of my heart, I sat and ruled ruthlessly. Sometimes with honor, but mainlydisgracefully ruthless. And God had to put “king Samuel” to death. And continually crushing my rebellions. Do you know why? Because He loves me. When “little king Samuel” rules, it goes bad. It goes really bad. I will quickly wreck it all. So ignorant king Samuel has to die for their to be true worship, joy, life, meaning, love, and depth. So I had to die. I have to die to myself, my short-sighted wants, my stupid lusts, my ignorant desires, and my foolish cravings.

But how are you going to show an ignorant, arrogant king the error of his ways? Well, God has already done me a major favor, He gave me a wife. The Scriptures even say, “he who finds a wife finds what is good.” And here’s what I mean. Up until that point of marriage, I could make almost anything work. At least I felt that way and perceived life that way. Up until that point, I believed I could fix it. Up until that point, I could motivate. I could move. I could accomplish. I had nobody to answer to on an intimate level, and was free to succeed. I mean, until this moment, I FELT like most things I touched would work well… except now… I was such a failure… and at home…

It took marriage for God to slap the realization into my mind that to the degree I forget how fully I have been loved by God, I will always forget how to love others in my life. So when I am focused on myself and how to control my behavior with the expectation of getting certain results, I am forgetting how to really love my wife. When I am looking for ways to serve my wife to the purpose of getting things I want in return, or having things go the way I want them to, I’m not really serving or loving her. When I’m self-absorbed and focused solely upon my wants and “needs,” I begin to lose sight of the covenant I made with God; that I didn’t just make a promise to Kat on our wedding day. I made a covenant with our God to love and serve Kathryn until one of us dies, regardless of my feelings or her actions.

Now, nowhere in any of this am I saying marriage doesn’t require a lot of work, and all these issues just went away over night because I read a Bible verse or a marriage book. We sought counseling, older couples to spend time with, and began to work on our own hearts instead of trying to fix one another. I realized the problem was me. And she had the same realization for herself. But don’t assume that I’m saying that every struggle is behind us, and it’s all gonna be easy and painless from here on out. I’m not pretending that every heart issue I have is gone, never to be dealt with again. But I am saying, it’s been a huge relief to let go of some things. It has been extremely liberating to confess my darkest secrets, and to admit where I’m weak and need help. It’s still been pretty painful and scary to be that vulnerable, but in all its difficulties, having a wife is a lot of fun. Marriage really is a lot of fun.

The past year has really been unbelievable in comparison to the years before. I love going home and hate leaving. I love going home. I love walking into my house. When I get home, my sweet bride and cute little man are there waiting for me. I’m get to kiss her and say hello. And be tackled by my son. I love them, and I love going home. The best shot I’ll ever have at deep, sustaining love is not to leave, give up, antagonize her until she changes to what I selfishly want, to start over, look for the non-existent easier/better woman, but instead to stay and fight for my wife, not against her. To understand men should be tired at the end of the day, that the extra effort to do things even when you don’t want to doesn’t make you a super husband, that’s merely living the basic call on your role.
This is what the Scriptures say. That God is leading me into joy, even through pain, sorrow, frustration, and the realization that I’m an idiot, God is leading me, blessing me, correcting and disciplining me for His great glory, and my eventual joy. Because when God wounds, He wounds like a surgeon. He doesn’t wound like a criminal. He doesn’t bash your whole world with a bat; that is not what He does. But God will lovingly take the scalpel to you. We all, like a cancer patient, have a serious infliction of sin in our hearts, and often times that requires some rough chiseling and intense reshaping of our hearts. Marriage is a beautiful scalpel in the hand of our great God.

Advertisements

How to Help Improve Your Marriage in Just a Few Minutes Each Day

  

As husbands and fathers living in 2015, our lives are busy and sometimes even downright hectic. We have careers, family commitments, community and church activities, and a host of other things pulling from our time every day. Finding time can be difficult, perhaps even feeling impossible far too often.

In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. If you you sleep 6-8 hours each day (I wish, right?), that means you are awake roughly 1,000 minutes each day. How many of those minutes are you spending with your wife? How many of those minutes spent are used purposefully to engage, pursue, and woo her? What if I told you that you can drastically improve your marriage in just 15 minutes each day. Yes, spending a mere 1.5% of your waking hours each day can help you have a better marriage. Here’s a few things to consider:

1. Make time for it.

As mentioned, we all have about 1,000 minutes per day while we are awake. The first thing you should do is put 15 minutes into your schedule as designated, purposeful time. Discuss this with your wife, pull out your calendars, and block some time off for the two of you.

2. Guard your time like your life depends on it.

We’ve all seen enough spy movies to know that nothing is safe. But there’s always somebody else trying to make something impenetrable. Treat this 15 minutes the same. Guard it from any and everything that can stop it or steal it. (But know that emergencies happen, and adjustments will need to be made at time… just strive to make this the exception, not the rule.)

3. Start talking.

Initially, don’t have a set agenda. Just talk and listen. Set the phones to silent and put them down. Be sure to give your wife as much, if not more, time to share and talk as she needs. Be attentive to everything she says. Ask more questions than making statements early on. Use this opportunity to truly learn more about your spouse.

4. Fight, if necessary.

It can be easy to avoid or cancel your 15 minutes if there is some conflict brewing. But if you have to fight (disagree), then disagree. Conflict isn’t always bad. In fact, it can be a healthy building block for your marriage. So use that 15 minutes to “fight” if needed.

5. Play and have fun.

Your 15+ minutes each day doesn’t have to just be talking or fighting. Play some games and enjoy one another. When is the last time you’ve played cards, a board game, or even video game with your wife? Use your allotted time to do that sometimes.

Simply pending at least 15 minutes per day focused on one another can change your marriage forever. Make the time, spend the time, enjoy the time, and watch your marriage get better. So when will your 15 minutes per day take place? Get to thinking about it and make it happen. Stop with the excuses, and just do it.*

*I’d also recommend going beyond this, and establishing a regular weekly/bi-weekly date night.

The Galloway Wedding

Recently I had the great privilege of serving as the “best man” in Greg (Aaron) & Autumn Galloway’s wedding. After receiving some requests for a copy of the speech I gave during their reception, I decided to share it publicly and make it available for anyone interested. What follows are the feeble words I offered to the newly wedded couple; they still drastically fall short of conveying my love for them, and infinitely more so the worth of our God.

The script:

Good afternoon, I’d like to thank all of you for being a part of this celebration with us. I have the great honor, the immense privilege of serving as Greg’s best man today. So at this time, I’d like to share some things with everyone. I’ve known Greg (not Aaron, it’ll never be Aaron) since middle school. He actually attempted to trick me into believing he was a set of twins, and since I met Greg first, he will forever be Greg to me. And this twinless guy is truly like a brother to me.

My wife Kat and I still remember the evening Greg first told us about Autumn… [ad lib.] And we’ve gotten to watch their relationship grow into something deep. I remember vividly some long conversations with Greg as he wondered if he would ever see this day, and now it is here. He has found what is good, he has found a wife.

And while this is a very beautiful day in the life of Greg and Autumn, there is a deeper grander to behold. We believe that this day, this ceremony and reception, is not ultimately about celebrating the marriage of Greg and Autumn, but rather us celebrating the love that Christ has displayed for His bride. In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he writes in chapter five about the truth that marriage is not ultimately about sex or social stability or personal fulfillment; rather marriage was created to be a human reflection of the ultimate love relationship with the Lord. It points to the true marriage that our souls need and the true family our hearts want. For me personally, I never even really caught a good glimpse of the fuller meaning of this truth (of what it means for us, the church, being referred to as the bride of Christ) before mine and Kat’s wedding day. When those doors opened, and she walked into the wedding chapel room, looking beyond incredibly amazing, yeah, I’m not ashamed to admit it… I teared up as it all began to hit me.

We, the church, are not called Christ’s wife, but His bride… Think about that for a moment… The groom does not look upon his bride on their wedding day and think about her imperfections, but is rather intensely focused on her precious qualities and beautiful attributes. On the wedding day, the groom is overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude, and devotion. Because this bride, standing adorned before her groom: she is his. He sees only her, and no one can deter his gaze. She alone catches his eye and she alone can hold his attention.

So, in this wedding, in this marriage between Greg and Autumn, we catch a beautiful reflective glimpse of Christ. When marriage seems unfair, we are to be reminded that Jesus never sought out equality, fairness, and happiness. Instead, He humbled Himself, taking the form of a servant, and endured grossly unfair treatment for the joy set before Him, in redeeming the church as His bride. That is our model and our means for authentic marriage.

So Greg, don’t ever forget how beautiful Autumn looks today, and how she is completely dressed up in splendor, having been presented to you as a beautiful, radiant, spotless bride. That is how Christ sees us, His chosen loved ones whom He died for, and He calls us His bride. His pursuit of us is fierce and unwavering, His affection for us is strong and deep, His love for us is abiding and unending. Our hope is that this glorious Gospel is preached through Greg and Autumn’s marriage, as God has chosen the story of their lives to be a shadow of His much greater narrative.

Because when we arrive at eternity’s shore, where death is just a memory and tears are no more, we’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring, Christ’s bride will come together and we’ll sing, You’re beautiful!!! Thank you all for being a part of this wedding, to celebrate not just Greg and Autumn’s marital union, but our great God and King: Jesus.

Saint Valentine’s Day

20140214-185830.jpg

Today is Valentine’s Day… and after taking a quick look through some social media, it appears that the majority of posts today which reference the holiday are actually negative. Maybe this is actually the most polarizing holiday of our year? For some it can be a very fun and exciting day of expressing your love, for skeptics it is just way too commercialized and insincere (darn you Hallmark, you and your $5+ pieces of folded paper with hearts and cheesy poems), and for some singles it is a lonely reminder of something they feel is missing in their lives…

As for my wife and me, we have chosen not to let the commercialization of this holiday affect our view on the day. (By the way, are there even any holidays left in America that haven’t been tainted to some degree by consumerism?) The viewpoint that it’s just some day where Hallmark, florists, and chocolate makers manipulate the masses to churn some revenue is pessimistic and ignorant at best. To make the case that displays of love, gifts, cards, flowers, affection, etc. should be spontaneous and truly heartfelt, not dictated to be shown on a specific day seems nice until you think about it more. Should we just embrace full spontaneity and toss out birthday celebrations, anniversaries, Christmas, etc?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still spontaneous in showing love to my wife, that should always play a part. And I have never been big on “celebrating” Valentine’s Day or seen it as a mandated holiday to be observed. However, I believe there are some beautiful redeeming qualities in this holiday, and most holidays for that matter. Instead of solely focusing or dwelling on the negative aspects that accompany certain days of the year, Kat and I like to reflect on what elements of the holiday point us to our truest, greatest love: Jesus Christ.

There is plenty to enjoy and savor on Valentine’s Day; and it is a great thing for husbands to bring out the bouquet of roses, the box of chocolates, make a home cooked feast, book a romantic dinner reservation, or whatever romantic gestures that remind your spouse you love them! But alas – maybe the skeptics (and Valentine’s Day haters) will appreciate this part – what about tomorrow?

Life is really lived out in the little moments. Day by day, all the little things are what makes up the overwhelming majority of your life. Today, if celebrated, should be an overflow of deep love present in your relationship and the big moments should be a compacted reflection of the little moments. We should remember why we love, and then love to our fullest. Any time we have an opportunity to go big and show it in a special way (even if it includes using a godforsaken Hallmark card), why not?

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” – 1st John 4:7-21 (ESV)

Some “Bible-thumping Bigot” Shared His Backwoods Opinion Again…

20131219-224554.jpg

By now most people have heard about the recent debacle with Phil Robertson, who was made famous as the patriarch on the A&E show Duck Dynasty. This kind of media attention is nothing new or earth-shattering, just earlier this year Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A, came under a lot of scrutiny after some comments made during an interview in regards to gay marriage.

As legislature continues to be passed on the legalization of same-sex marriage and the definition of marriage “evolves/progresses” and all of that, if you’re listening to the rhetoric, here is the accusation against Christians in the broad-stroke: they are bigots. We are intolerant. We are the American Taliban. We are right up there with the KKK and the Civil Rights Movement trying to deprive people of rights that are God-given or self-evident. Those are the accusations against us.**

Please don’t close the browser and tune me out just yet. All those accusations leveled against Christians, they had better be false accusations. I don’t pretend that our view will ever be understood by those outside the kingdom of God, but we are a people commanded by God to be marked by love, compassion, patience, mercy, and… even hospitality. Please understand this: You don’t catch sin from sinners. Do you get that?

I know some of us, in the attempt to protect our family and to make sure we all stay purer than we actually are, build walls. You don’t want your kids around those kinds of kids. You don’t want to be around those kinds of people. But you are those kinds of people! It’s God’s grace that rescues from that (Ephesians 2:1-10). We’ve all got to stop that nonsense. We shouldn’t be consumed with building walls. We should open doors. Our home is open, and my neighbors and co-workers can make accusations against me, but they better be false. I want them just to be confused to some degree. I just want my neighbors and co-workers to be so ridiculously confused. “This guy is a bigot, but he keeps inviting me over for dinner. He’s so closed-minded, but he speaks respectfully and kind to me. That guy makes me sick, but he keeps bringing me presents on my birthday and Christmas. That dude is such a jerk, but man he tips really well. That guy is like the American Taliban, but he sure is friendly.” I just want that type of confusion. (I’ll admit I don’t always conduct myself in such a way that would reflect the love of Christ, but it is my hope to do so.)

There has to be wisdom. I’m not telling you to operate in a way that lacks wisdom, but brothers and sisters, God has put us here for the purpose of being the light of the world, and you don’t hide it under a bush. Oh no! You don’t do that… No, we engage. We are to encourage. We are called to open up our home. There is some risk involved in that. Yes, there is always risk. Be wise, but trust God in those things.

I have some friends who would fit the prototype of someone who would probably be infuriated with Christianity and Christians, and sure enough, as we have had conversations, story after story of being judged harshly, of being ostracized, of being made to feel worthless, feeling like their lifestyle or beliefs are belittled… there has been some unfortunate legitimacy to some of the negative experiences they’ve had with those proclaiming to be Christians, but some of the perceived harshness was on them. Sometimes people feel hypocritically condemned even when there is no actual condemnation present. It’s not always on God’s people, it’s not always 100%. Because sometimes unregenerate, unbelieving people don’t know what to do with conviction. They don’t feel it as sweet discipline from God; they see it as harsh judgment.

In fact, some of you reading this today feel judged, and no one has actually judged you. You may be judging yourself right now. We’re not judging you. We should be striving to live in glad submission to Jesus Christ where we laugh a lot, where we enjoy good music, appreciate good movies, where we enjoy good food, where we enjoy good wine, but don’t do it in a way that is outside of the bounds of the Word of God, and then let others see the life that is made available to those who would put their trust in Jesus Christ, and see our imperfections. Because tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.

God loves imperfect people. That’s why dressing up like you’re pretty when you’re not isn’t helpful. The bigot, closed-minded, and intolerant labels will inevitably be put on us at this point. It’s over. This is how we will be labeled. It will get worse. If you can’t handle this label and don’t want to be viewed like this, then you’re going to have to go underground with your faith, which means I don’t think you even have any. In the end though, let us hope that the accusations and the labels are false.

Because, as Christians we believe that God has reconciled us to Himself, not by demanding that we first and foremost adhere to a moral code, but rather by sending the Son of God, by sending Jesus Christ, unlike us, to live a completely perfect life. Jesus Christ was completely obedient to every command God gave Him. He was other than, although He was fully man. Jesus is fully man, but His obedience was perfect. His record was spotless. No accusation could rightly be made against Him.

So even when we are being criticized for quoting Scripture and stating our beliefs, the God of the Bible essentially says in Matthew 5, “Hey, they’re going to falsely label you. Cool, okay, stop worrying so much about that. They did that to Isaiah. You guys have something in common now. Oh, they’re going to falsely misrepresent you. Hey, you and Jeremiah would be good friends. You guys could sit around and talk about what it’s like to be ostracized and be pushed to the margins.” Jesus will also say, “Oh, I’m well acquainted with all that.” Was Jesus not repeatedly misrepresented, repeatedly accused of things that were absurd? There will be nothing you can do about the accusation. Just let it be false accusation, and strive to love your neighbor regardless of their actions or your own feelings.

——————–•——————–

Related articles:

This is Not Worth Quacking About

It’s Not Us Against Them

The Robertson Family Official Statement

The Controversial Issue of Homosexuality & Gay Marriage

Why Marriage (Really) Isn’t For You

20131105-004952.jpg

There is an article currently going around entitled “Marriage Isn’t For You” that rightly explains that marriage should not be a self-centered commitment in which oneself is concerned only with their own happiness. C.S. Lewis actually addressed this in his work Mere Christianity when he stated, “The natural life in each of us is something self-centred, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe. . . . [The natural life] knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that.”

As I was reading the article though, I kept getting this nagging feeling that something big was missing… while the article makes some very good points, it is overall a bit short-sighted. It claims that marriage is not about yourself, but rather about your spouse, that it’s about family. That it is about making them happy and helping them to realize and actualize “their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams.” I would agree that falling in love in a Christian way is to say to your potential spouse, ‘I am excited about your future and I want to be a part of getting you there. I’m signing up for the journey with you. Would you sign up for the journey to my true self with me? It’s going to be hard, but I want to get there, and get there with you.’ However, there is more beyond that.

While I think this article truly has good intentions and contains some great truths, I don’t believe that it takes its thesis anywhere near far enough. What if marriage is not about who you marry, but why? What if being ‘in love’ isn’t a good enough reason to get married? What if dating isn’t about finding ‘the one,’ but about serving the One who loves you most? What if marriage isn’t about your happiness, but rather your holiness? Yes, marriage is not for you, but ultimately it is not just about or for your spouse either… it’s for God (Ephesians 5:22-33). It’s a shadow of something much greater than us.

The wedding ceremony and marriage between two people is not ultimately about celebrating the two of them, but rather it is celebrating the love that Christ has displayed for His Bride. Ephesians 5 tells us that marriage is not ultimately about sex or social stability or personal fulfillment; rather marriage was created to be a human reflection of the ultimate love relationship with the Lord. It points to the true marriage that our souls need and the true family our hearts want. For my wife and me, it is our hope to preach the Gospel through our marriage as God has chosen the story of our lives to be a shadow of His much greater narrative.

So, like the author claims, marriage is definitely not about making yourself “happy,” but it’s not always about making your spouse happy either. The marriage relationship between two people will never be unblemished and someday it will end in the death of one, and eventually both people. The only love that won’t disappoint you is one that can’t change, that can’t be lost, that is not based on the ups and downs of life or of how well you live. It is something that not even death can take away from you. God’s love is the only thing like that; God’s triune love is actually the most selfless love there is. True love is focused on God, and that sometimes means making people unhappy in order to draw them closer to God. Marriage is not simply about making your spouse smile or laugh every day. Marriage is not always about being nice, it’s about loving your spouse as God loves them. As C.S. Lewis eloquently explains in his work The Problem of Pain, “Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.” Marriage isn’t merely about happiness, it’s about holiness.

Truthfully, this means that sometimes you will make your spouse sad, sometimes you will make your spouse angry, and sometimes you will even unfortunately make your spouse cry. However, the beauty of marriage is still displayed in these moments, where you challenge your spouse to better love God even when it makes them unhappy. Jesus even said, “I want you to follow me so fully, so intensely, so enduringly that all other attachments in your life look weak by comparison.” (Matthew 10:34-39; Luke 14:25-35; John 12:25-26)

So, the author did have it right: marriage isn’t for you, but it’s not for your spouse either; it’s also not just about the both of you… Marriage is meant to symbolize the beauty of the human soul espoused to Christ. As Martin Luther stated in The Freedom of a Christian, “Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace? Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all His goodness. Her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by Him. And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, ‘Though I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all His is mine and all mine is His.'” And our earthly marriage gets to be a reflection of that beautiful union. Marriage is ultimately for God.

—————•—————

Related article: Pain in Marriage: For Your Joy

The Controversial Issue of Homosexuality & Gay Marriage

20130626-151734.jpg

It is not really news that there has been much discussion over the topic of gay marriage and homosexuality among people today on social media. The topic of discussion is nothing new, but the ability to discuss it in front of a broader audience this way is still a relatively young form of communication. And like much of technology, this has its strengths and weaknesses; there are great benefits to it, as well as potentially dark downsides. One downside is unfortunately demonstrated when idiotic statements abound, and cause some valid opinions, points of view, and beliefs to come off as nothing more than back-wooded bigotry or ignorant intolerance because we allow a few morons to paint the entire landscape of the discussion.

I’m not even sure the foolish “Westboro Baptist” type point of view could account for an entire 1% of the viewpoints held on this topic, but they certainly get a lot of air-play and media coverage, do they not? It almost makes it feel at times like there really is a large population of Bible-thumping bigots who just want to suppress human freedom and equality by any means available. Whenever there is a discussion panel on CNN, MSNBC, or Fox (whichever poison you prefer), they almost always seem to pick some of the most foolish people to engage in conversation. It’s like they hunt for those who hold extreme polar opinions and then feed off the ridiculous comments that are often spouted out; much of which stems more from emotion than careful consideration.

“If there is equality it is in His love, not in us.” – C.S. Lewis

One thing we all need to do, is stop pretending that the sanctity of marriage has been wonderfully displayed by the church over the past few decades and now all of a sudden it’s under serious attack with the Supreme Court declaring that DOMA and Prop 8 are unconstitutional. It’s nonsense and makes us sound like we’re in ignorant denial of the state of our culture inside and outside the church. As Christians, we should repent of our pathetic marriage cultures within the church. For too long, we’ve refused to discipline a divorce culture that has ravaged our culture as a whole. For too long, we’ve quieted our voices on the biblical witness of the distinctive missions of fathers and mothers in favor of generic messages on “parenting.”

For too long, we have acted as though the leaders of a church were basically just ‘Justices of the Peace,’ marrying people who have no accountability to the church, and in many cases were forbidden by Scripture to marry. Just because we don’t have two brides or two grooms in front of us, that doesn’t mean we’ve been holding to biblical marriage.

So many of us have this vague idea that some fifty years ago Christians comprised the mainstream in America and were fully accepted as a cultural majority. And because of that, everything in America was great, grand, and wonderful. However, history shows us that while there were many solid men and women caring for others, too many preaching “Get right and get in church,” during that time did not stand up for those who were weak and marginalized. The “good old days” so often longed for were also times of racial oppression, gender discrimination, and theological confusion. So, pining for those “moral” days of yore is like chasing a mirage. The past simply wasn’t that great for many when “Christians” had more influence.

After all, we can’t hate a people and reach a people at the same time. We are to cling to the cross, stand on the rock, and remain steadfast in the hope found only in Christ. For we alone have that hope. And it is that hope which we are commanded to share with the world, whether Christianity is the cultural norm or not.

The Christian faith believes in the authority of Scripture; so if the Scriptures are not fitting with the time, culture, societal norm, or your desires; it means there is something wrong with the times and your heart, not the Scriptures. (Unfortunately, many try to solve this problem by proof-texting and manipulating the text to appear to approve or support their twisted view.) Marriage in particular, which has always been “unequal” in a sense, the yoking together two very different kinds of bodies (different minds, different histories, different strengths, different struggles, etc.), must now be “equal,” measured only by the sincerity of one’s love and commitment. To insist on the importance of bodies in our culture is to challenge the ‘sovereign self,’ to suggest that our ethical options are limited by something we did not choose. The philosophical rejection of the Bible is often used to justify moral resistance. People don’t want to be told what to do. However, as Christians, we should agree that truth is not to be simply used as a big stick, it is a mirror. Truth is not a club, or a weapon to be wielded to beat others down, rather it is a mirror to show people their lives through a better light. Everyone wants judgement when it’s not their own foolishness being revealed. Praise Christ for grace in foolish moments and mercy for consistent failures.

The cross isn’t a recovery program, the place to simply rid yourself of undesirable behaviors and improve on what good is already there. It is a place to die. It is not a question of giving up certain sins, but of giving up one’s illusion to rights! Living a holy life comes from having an authentic, passionate relationship with God, not out of strict rules and regulations. We cannot legislate morality or see hearts changed through the law. We must strive to be aware of how we communicate the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us, but it keeps us in denial about our flaws. However, truth without love is harshness; it gives us information, but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.

Apart from the power of the gospel to transform human hearts, renew minds, and redirect human lives to live for God’s glory, man would never comprehend or realize the purpose for which he was created: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Because in Jesus Christ, God put on flesh, and became man. In Jesus, the world saw a man who was ferociously humble. A man who was love incarnate. A man who suffered and was tempted, yet did not sin. A man who was steadfastly obedient until death, even death on a cross. A man who while being the very essence, being of the very nature and substance God, did not consider Himself equal to the Father, but submitted to the will of God and gave up His life for people undeserving of His love. In Christ’s death, He paid our debt at infinite cost to Himself. God paid our debt with His own flesh. Jesus paid our ransom to uphold the justice and righteousness of our Father; so that He could justifiably look upon us and lovingly call us son and daughter. This good news is the substance and meaning of the gospel in which we celebrate: that God became man, to save us from ourselves, and give us life. He came just like He promised, and His love will not be silent.

All humans are created in the image of God, and should be loved and respected as His image bearers. All Christians are as new creations in Jesus Christ (2nd Corinthians 5:17-21; 1st John 5:1-3), and we should remind each other that our true identity is not based on sexuality or self-expression, but on our union with Christ. The church universal, and of course the local church should strive to be a community that welcomes all those who hate their sin and struggle against it, even when that struggle involves failures and setbacks.

God’s grace came into your hands free of charge to you. We are to redistribute it the same way. The church needs to remember that we don’t need more family values in the Gospel, we need more Gospel values in our families. Jesus says in the gospel that everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change.

Real transformative heart change won’t happen through simply ‘trying harder’ and following the rules better, but only through encountering the radical grace of God. We cannot legislate morality or expect the government to force everyone to act strictly in accordance with the Christian worldview. Religion stresses holiness over grace. Irreligion stresses freedom over holiness. Christianity is freedom through grace that leads to holiness. The greatest threat to the church isn’t atheism, materialism, abortion, or gay marriage, but the moralism that celebrates a righteousness which doesn’t come from Christ. We are all far worse than we ever dared to imagine, yet in Christ, we are far more loved than we ever dreamed we could be.

————•————

Some recommended articles:

“How to Survive a Cultural Crisis” by: Mark Dever

“How Should Same-Sex Marriage Change the Church’s Witness?” by: Russell Moore

“The Church and Homosexuality: Ten Commitments” by Kevin DeYoung

“Old Testament Law and the Charge of Inconsistency” by Tim Keller

“Debunking Marriage Myths | The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” by: Steve Watters

“Sex Without Bodies” by: Andy Crouch

“Prop 8, DOMA, and the Christian Response” by: Ed Stetzer

“Marriage in God’s Story” by: John Smidt

“Jesus and Homosexuality” by: Geoff Ashley

“The New Purpose of Marriage” by: Collin Hansen

“Homosexuality is Not Me” by: Matt Moore

“Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality” by: Dennis Prager

“Why Gay Marriage is Good (and Bad) for the Church” by: Trevin Wax

“Why is Homosexuality Wrong?” by: John Piper

“How Might Christians Respond To The Question of Homosexual Marriage?” by: Doug Hankins

“DOMA and the Rock” by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

“What the Bible Really Still Says About Homosexuality” by: Kevin DeYoung

“What Does God Expect From Gay People?” by: Matt Moore

“Orienting on Homosexual Orientation” by Nick Roen

“Honesty, Truth and Homosexuality” by Geoff Ashley

“God and the Gay Christian” by Samuel Allberry

“Why No Denomination Will Survive the Homosexuality Crisis” by: Kevin DeYoung

“The Gay Community and That One Time Jesus Called Me the ‘N-word'” by Sammy Adebiyi

“What You Should Know About ‘LGBTQ'” by: Joe Carter

“From Radical Lesbian to Redeemed Christian” by: Tony Reinke

“Discerning the Will of God Concerning Homosexuality and Marriage” by: John Piper

“How Can Homosexuality Be Wrong if It Doesn’t Harm Anyone?” by: Matt Smethurst

“9 Things You Should Know About the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Cases” by: Joe Carter

“A Level Playing Field” by: Paul David Tripp

“Can a Gay Person Be a Christian? It Depends On What You Mean.” by: Matt Moore

“On Winning the Marriage Debate” by: Eric Teetsel

“Christian Responsibility and Mosaic Law” by: Geoff Ashley

“Fornicating on the Battlefield” by: Tony Anderson

“An Open Letter From a Gay Sister in Christ” by: Hunter Baker

“Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University” by: Brandon Ambrosino

“Rick Warren on Gay Marriage: ‘Tolerance Does Not Mean Approval'” by: Stoyan Zaimov

“I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-sex Marriage” by: Doug Mainwaring

“Sinister New Case Shows Marriage McCarthyism Is Up and Running” by: Mike Judge

“Love and the Inhumanity of Same-Sex Marriage” by: Jonathan Leeman

“Love Warns, Love Rebukes” by: Paul David Tripp

“Grace-Driven Effort and Sanctification” by Sam Schabel

————•————

Some recommended sermons:

“Homosexuality” by Matt Chandler

“The Other Dark Exchange: Homosexuality (Part 1)” by: John Piper

“The Other Dark Exchange: Homosexuality (Part 2)” by: John Piper