Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Dear fellow redeemed, and especially Rachel and Shane, God’s grace be multiplied unto you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God has given us many gifts, many reasons to praise and thank his Holy Name. Not only did he create us, and give us our bodies, our souls, our eyes, our ears, our reason and all our senses, but he also continues to preserve and take care of them. On top of all that, He gives us clothing, shoes, food and drink, house and home, and everything we need to support this body and life. He gives it all to us by grace, not because we deserved it, but because He loves us.
Every good and perfect gift is from God our Creator, and marriage is no exception. Marriage is one of those many gifts and blessings that God has given to his creatures for our benefit. It is part of our “daily bread” for which we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. Through God’s gift of marriage, He continues to “set the solitary in families.”
In marriage, God takes individuals and unites them as one flesh. When Adam saw the wife that God had made for him in Eve, he declared with no small amount of joy, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” God made for Adam another person who was like him but different. She was his perfect compliment, and he hers.
Together, as male and female, they would exercise dominion over the whole creation. According to his will, God would bless their union with the gift of children, fulfilling his command to “be fruitful and multiply.” And together, side by side, they would stand before God in faith and before each other in love. Through marriage, God would be glorified.
Marriage has this added benefit. In marriage, we see a picture and a reflection of the heavenly marriage between Christ and the Church. Thus it is unique and special among all of God’s gifts. Marriage between a man and a woman, as God designed it, tells us something about God’s gift of redemption in Jesus Christ.
The blessed Apostle, St. Paul, speaks of this in his letter to the Christians in Ephesus. “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.”
In the marital relationship, both husbands and wives become living sermons proclaiming Christ’s sacrificial love for His Bride, the Church and the Church’s self-surrendering love for her Bridegroom, Christ. This is one reason why the stakes are so high in marriage. If the union of husband and wife reflects the relationship between Christ and the Church, then the dissolution of marriage destroys and distorts this image.
Were it not for sin, all marriages would perfectly reflect this relationship of Christ and the Church. Husbands would love their wives sacrificially, living not for themselves but for their wives. And wives would submit in loving trust and respect to their husbands. But sin has made a mess of marriage, just as it has made a mess of everything else.
On account of sin, men often mistreat and abuse their wives. They speak harshly to them, manipulate them, and act as though God had made woman from Adam’s foot rather than his side. Rather than live for their wives, men often live for themselves, acting out of self-interest. If husbands want to reflect the love of Christ for his church, they will not act like this.
Just like our Savior Christ, a loving husband is willing to give up everything, even his own life, for the sake of his wife. Like Christ, a loving and good husband empties himself for the sake of his wife. He marries not in order to be served, but to serve.
On account of sin, wives often act disrespectfully toward their husbands. More and more today, we see examples of wives being unfaithful to husbands. All this talk today of “following your heart” has certainly not helped matters much. It is nothing but an excuse to do whatever one desires, rather than their God-given duty.
Sin often has the effect of tearing husbands and wives and families apart. The devil capitalizes on our inherent weakness and works daily to destroy what God has made. He has been doing it since the beginning. Adam and Eve would have gone on living, having children, and having dominion over the world. But the Devil, full of pride and self-involvement, put into the hearts of Adam and Eve that little voice of doubt. “Did God really say?”
Suddenly they began to wonder if God was holding out on them. Maybe there was something more, something better for us. That is how marriage fails. When either husband or wife begins to wonder if, perhaps, God has something or someone better out there for me, a better life, they have given the devil a foothold.
I speak of this not to cast a shadow upon your wedding day, or to bring up bitter memories, but to remind you that no matter how much man might abuse God’s good gifts, the gifts themselves are still good. Many people look at how much pain and heartache can be caused in marital relationships and they say, “To heck with that.” And they think that the answer is to avoid marriage.
You had as much reason as any to say, “Forget that. I’m done with marriage.” You know better than most how sin can ruin a good and precious gift of God. But that is where you have an advantage too. Because you also know how good God is. You both could have said, “I’m done with marriage forever. Too much pain and heartache.” But God had other plans for you.
In His grace and mercy, He brought you together, and is allowing you to make a new start, a new life, and a new family. Today is a witness to God’s love and mercy in Jesus Christ. Everyone here today, including myself, is full of joy for you Rachel, and for you Shane. Everyone here today is rejoicing with you and celebrating with you the healing power of God’s love.
Today, Genesis 2 is being replayed in God’s Church. It is not good for a man to be alone. If this was true before Adam and Eve fell into sin, how much more true is it now! Shane needed a companion, a helper, and someone to help raise his sons. He needed someone to live for besides himself and his children, someone to love and to cherish, someone to share his love with and to share with him in the love of God. And God has given that person he needed in Rachel.
Rachel needed a companion, a head and leader, someone to love and cherish her, someone to help her raise her daughters. She too needed someone to love and respect, and someone to share with her a life of faith in God. And God has graciously provided that for her in Shane. Together, with Christ as your foundation and strength, you are stronger than you were before. Together you will face whatever may come, and you will do so always with Christ as your Hope and Salvation.
You will also have His Word as a “lamp to your feet and a light to your path.” Both Shane and Rachel wanted to begin their married lives together with the solid foundation of God’s holy Word. For they know that without this, it is easy to lose one’s way. And so we have heard God’s Word today. His Word teaches us not only what marriage is, and what it is for, but it teaches us what Christian love looks like.
“Love is patient and kind,” writes the holy apostle. “Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
So often today love is reduced to a romantic feeling. Which means, of course, that if I don’t feel like I love someone, then I must not. But these words of St. Paul tell us that love is much, much more than a mere feeling. Love is an action. It is a commitment. This is not to deny the feelings of affection and emotional attachments that we have to other people, but we dare not confuse this with true, biblical love.
God demonstrated his love for us in his patience and kindness toward us in Christ. Christ did not envy or boast; He was not arrogant or rude. He did not insist on His own way, but even allowed himself to be bound, tortured and crucified for us. And Scripture teaches us that we love “because He first loved us.” The source of our love for each other is God’s love for us in Jesus.
Finally, God’s Word teaches us where to put our trust and hope in marriage. Shane and Rachel, you have so much going for you as a couple. But this is the most important thing: you both know to whom you are indebted for your lives and for each other. And you both know, by faith, the One who has redeemed you from your sins and promised you life everlasting. For help and strength in carrying out your duties and responsibilities towards each other, you will turn to him and to His Word, and together commend yourselves, your children, and all things into his hands.
We couldn’t be happier for you, and for your sons and daughters. This is a good and pleasing work in God’s sight. Jesus said, “Ask, and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened unto you.” So today this promise is realized as your prayers for a faithful and loving spouse have been answered. May the Lord grant you his constant presence and guidance today and always. Amen.