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The Permanence of Marriage

Jim Davis

Genesis 2:21-25
So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (NIV)

The religious leaders of Jesus’ time came to him wanting to know about divorce, but Jesus ask them if they understood God’s teaching on marriage.

Matthew 19:1-6
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" "Haven't you read," he replied, "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'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (NIV)

Jesus revealed to the religious teachers what God thinks about marriage. God sees marriage as two people becoming one, committed to one another, in a covenant relationship, which lasts for a lifetime.

Many today want to know what God thinks about divorce, but I would like to ask you, what do you think about marriage? Jesus states the divine intention for marriage from the beginning. Jesus indicates in verse 4 that the man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and two shall become one flesh. Verse 6 indicates that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Verse 6 also says that God has joined them together and no man should separate what God has joined.

Jesus takes us back to God’s original intention in Eden. God made one man and one woman. Adam and Eve had no other choices. God didn’t create an alternative choice. It was just Adam and Eve—one man and one woman. That was God’s original intent. And it is still his desire for marriage. Make no mistake—God’s intent is one man married to one woman until they are parted by death.

The Permanence of Marriage

Evidence is abundant that the majority of marriages today end in divorce. If we have not experienced it personally, we know personally someone who has. It's happening everywhere. It seems when things get rough, people want out. And they are getting out in increasing numbers.

Do you remember your wedding day? As part of your vows, you probably said these words: "To have and to hold from this day forward; for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until we are parted by death." Beautiful words. Words of commitment. But think about them -- for better or for worse. While these words are found in most traditional wedding services, unfortunately far too many say them but do not mean them. What they do mean is "for better not for worse."

Jesus' teaching on marriage was concrete and permanent. When Jesus' disciples saw the permanence of marriage they began to think it would be better not to get married. However, Jesus understood that all men couldn't go through life unmarried.

Matthew 19:9-12
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." (NIV)

God's holy ideas about marriage have not always been easy for humans to accept. When we understand the permanence of marriage we may want to respond like Jesus' disciples. "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." However, most of us are not made in such away as to be able to avoid marriage.

Jesus knew that our psychological and sexual make up are such that it is impossible for the majority of us to go through life without a mate. The two strongest instincts that lie within humans are the desire to survive and a desire to express our sexuality. God gave us marriage as a legitimate means to express our sexual desires. God made us the way we are and there is no shame in marriage.

Hebrews 13:4
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (NIV)

The permanence of marriage is not a curse placed upon us by God. It is actually for our benefit.

The Importance of Commitment

Only commitment will help us discover God’s high ideas for our lives for love is a commitment regardless of feeling. Nothing of real importance will ever happen in our lives without a real commitment. We have grown up in a society that believes the key to a better world is discovered in a change of circumstances. We believe this in our personal lives. Reaching God’s high ideas for our lives involves a life of commitment in spite of circumstances.

The commitment "for better for worse" is something that frightens our world. We think that commitments are only valid if they better our circumstances. I knew a couple that was married young in life. On their honeymoon they had a car wreck. The bride was paralyzed from her neck down for the rest of her life. That man spent his life devoted to that woman. Someone bewailed the burden he had borne for years for that woman. He told them he never considered it a burden.

Just think of those countries where parents arrange marriages as soon as a baby is born. Those children grow up knowing whom they are going to marry. It doesn’t matter if the child is ugly or dumb they don’t try to get out of the agreement. They live up to those commitments. Divorce is almost unheard of in those countries. Can you imagine trying to implement that kind of practice in this country—not that I recommend it. I don’t think I would like it either. But these practices say something about commitment that our world must take note of.

I think God wants us to make a commitment for life so that we might discover his humility toward us. God has spent an eternity in humble submission to meet our needs in pursuit of a relationship with each of us.

Ephesians 5:22-33
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the 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. 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 her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church--for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery-- but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (NIV)

The only way we can understand the marriage commitment is by trying to understand how God is seeking to become one with us. It is like the commitment that God, Christ and the Holy Spirit has made to save our souls. They are so committed to the task of salvation they become one in purpose. Sometimes it is difficult to see where one’s work begins and the other ends. They are in complete agreement concerning the task of salvation. It is like the commitment Christ has made to his church.

To often, we only look for what a relationship has to offer. Heaven is more interested in what heaven has to offer us. We are offered the possibilities of heaven regardless our willingness to seek heaven’s will for our lives. We can’t have what God has to offer without accepting God’s will for our lives, but God offers it whether we ever accept it or not. God’s love is undying even when it is squandered.

This is the kind of loving commitment God desires in our marriages. God can never love you less than he loves you now. Our concept of love is that we can only love when our love is reciprocated. God wants us to reciprocate, but he will continue to love us regardless. This doesn’t mean that he want judge sin. Judgement for sin is an act of love.

Honor is Extended Regardless of Cost

God through his grace determined to bestow honor upon us even though we didn’t deserve it. (Romans 5:8) God thinks we are valuable and he has proven that in the giving of his Son. I think we are valuable to him because we are made in his image. In Luke genealogy of Christ, Luke refers to Adam as the son of God. If Adam is God’s son so are we. However, he also wants us to become his spiritual sons and daughters through Jesus Christ.

Isn’t it amazing how our attitude changes toward something the moment we think its valuable? Let someone handle a piece of china that they think is cheap. Then tell them it is a piece of the most expensive china money can buy. Tell them the a piece is irreplaceable. Watch how they begin to handle it with care as they set it down.

You and I are the ones that determine the value of something. We are the ones who put the price tags on a car or a house by how much we are willing to pay for each. We are the only ones that can attach value to a thing or a person.

Sometime ago people decided to take old pieces of furniture sitting around in attics and garages and call them antiques. Instantly, people lined up to pay exorbitant prices for all this junk.

Our hearts are naturally pointed toward whatever it is that we value. When we choose to prefer one another, to esteem one another the proper feelings follow. Wherever our treasures are, there is where our hearts will be.

Matthew 6:19-21
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV)

God placed a price tag upon us when he sent his Son to die. Likewise, we are the ones who decide to honor others when we consider them valuable. The moment we decided to honor a person even our feelings for that person change. When you look at that person you are going to marry you place a value upon that person. You do this by saying "for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse."

Honor does have its limits. When we decide to honor another it is not granting them absolution from all their faults. It is a commitment to honor them in spite of their faults. There is only so far we can go to honor someone. God honors us but there is nothing in his Word that encourages us to live self-destructive lifestyles. When we choose to honor someone we can’t honor the person to the point of dishonoring God.

Ephesians 6:1-4
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"-- which is the first commandment with a promise--"that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (NIV)

Proper honor has its limits. We do not honor a person by encouraging them to engage in self-destructive behavior. It would not be honoring a mate to encourage him/her to drive the family around while drunk. It is not a point of honor to allow a mate to physically and mentally abuse the family.

God’s love for us has a harsh side and a soft side. His love was so harsh that it demanded that a price be paid for our sins. It was so soft that God himself paid the price. When we honor another person, our love has a harsh side and a soft side.

We must honor others by how we live and how we act toward them.

When we start to dishonor a person, we will automatically develop negative feelings against the person rather than their actions.

God spared no expense in honoring us. God sought our best interest through self-sacrifice. It is no accident that Christ encourages husbands to submit to one another’s needs just as he submitted himself to our needs. Honor is the only thing that will allow us to put our mates wishes above our own.

God knew the only valid way to bring about change in another person was to honor that person. When we decide to honor another it is a decision to love that person regardless of our feelings and regardless of the cost.

A man bought his wife a very expensive gift for their anniversary. He wanted to show her how much he loved her. A few days after receiving the gift, the wife gave him a card, which simply said: "This note that comes with all my love is really meant to be a special way of telling you how much you mean to me, and also it is just a way to lovingly express that simply being with you is my greatest happiness." She didn’t even thank him for the gift, but the man said that was the nicest card he ever got.

Honor Creates A Climate for Building Character

Honoring the other build seeks to build character in the one doing the honoring and the one being honored. Building character through honoring each other is not always clear-cut and simple.

Honoring others is not always easy, but it is always rewarding. We may read certain verses and think honorable submission is a one-way street. It isn’t. It is not always straightforward or clear-cut.

There was a kind of honor that emanated from the Bible characters that is staggering.

Genesis 16:1-6
Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, "The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her." Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me." "Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. (NIV)

Honoring others is not always simple.

Genesis 21:5-13
Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." And she added, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age." The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac." The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, "Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring." (NIV)

There was a mutual honor that permeated the lives of the ancients. It was a God honoring kind of respect for each other regardless of the circumstances.

1 Peter 3:1-7
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (NIV)

Through honoring others as God honors each of us is the only true basis of love. Pure human love has to do with natural personal desires. Humans love to be selfish as it seeks to honor self. It seeks its own rights. Someone compared human love to cotton candy—it tastes sweet at first, but it quickly evaporates only to leave a sticky mess.

True love stays sweet and stands by to clean up when an ugly mess occurs. True love is not just something you feel; it is something you Do, then Become, and finally ARE.

Only those who seek God can discover this kind of God honoring love in their marriages. This kind of love is beyond our natural ability. It is totally dependent upon the enabling power of God.

God honoring relationships creates an atmosphere where families can be nurtured and characters can be built. Honor allows us to build honorable lives regardless of circumstances.

Conclusion:

Jesus loves unconditional. He accepted prostitutes, adulterers, cripples, poor, uneducated, prejudiced, tax collectors, and even the ones who murdered him. No one is too sinful for Christ to accept. None of us have earned God’s love. Most of us aren’t worthy of our fellowman’s love.

We must learn to honor our mates as God honors us. Nothing short of honor for our mates will make our marriages permanent.

Just because we have difficulty living up to God’s high ideas for marriage is no reason to diminish its permanence. It is through striving for God’s goal that families become enriched.

This lesson doesn’t say much about the practical principles involved in honoring our mates. However, a great practical principle is found in the following verse.

Matthew 7:12-14
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (NIV)

If you have been divorced and remarried, God wants you to begin where you are to honor your mate. You can’t go back and correct the mistakes of the past, but you can repent so as not make the same mistakes again.

Sometimes life is like cooking a ham. If you overcook it there is no way to go back and do it over. But you can cook the next one better.

 

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