Getting Married at the Dawn of a New Millennium
Dr. Jones preached this sermon at the wedding of his daughter, Eowyn to David Stoddard on December 27, 1997
Contemporary cultural chic has gone beyond, “Daddy has a room-mate.” Last week, the state of New Jersey created a moral and legal monstrosity by recognizing for the first time in America – and perhaps in human history, that an unmarried gay couple could adopt a child jointly. The infant boy, Adam, now has not one daddy plus his gay roommate, but two legal homosexual fathers.
On the heterosexual side, a recent book by secular commentator, Wellesley grad and single mother, Maggie Gallagher, The Abolition of Marriage: How We Destroy Lasting Love (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 1996), says:”Not only is marriage in danger of disappearing….Though we do not realize it yet, it already has …By expanding the definition of marriage to the point of meaninglessness, courts are gradually redefining marriage out of existence” (131).
David and Eowyn, you marry today in an ethos of egalitarian androgyny and sexual confusion. You marry in a culture that has “redefined marriage out of existence.” What you are doing today is profoundly counter-cultural, and thus extremely significant.
Ephesians 5:22-33, this bright jewel of Scriptural revelation regarding marriage, calls to us across the centuries. How surprisingly appropriate are the three lessons it teaches us.
- TOTAL COMMITMENT
- TEAM WORK
- TRANSCENDENT MEANING
Yesterday, you could have awakened, wondered what you were about to do and called the whole thing off – as happened to a New York socialite whose beau did not show but took the airplane to the honeymoon venue – alone, the cad! And so the would-be bride and her guests celebrated the sixty thousand dollar reception without him. This morning that option remained for you-(though not the $60,000.00 reception). Tomorrow morning it will no longer be open. Today, before the Lord, the swearer of unbreakable oaths, you totally commit yourselves to each other “till death do you part.”
In days ahead, emotions will sometimes flag and seemingly intractable problems nag. Faithfulness to the Scriptures may become more and more difficult as the culture collapses into paganism in what Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, calls The Divorce Culture (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997). You will watch half the marriages around you break up. This can never be a solution for your problems-not simply because of the solemn vows you take before the Lord and these people, but because the model of marriage is Christ’s covenant love for you.
Our love is weak and we are insecure. In Isaiah 49:15 “God’s people, His bride, says, ‘The Lord has forsaken me.'” God answers: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast?” You may have read about the lady this week who put her baby in a car seat on the roof of her car while she fiddled for her keys, and then drove off. The car seat and the bambino, like humpty dumpty, had a great fall-in the middle of a busy intersection…The Lord continues with all-knowing realism: “Though she may forget, I will not forget you.”
Jesus will never divorce you because, as the perfect lover, he died for you. His commitment is total. I will never leave you or forsake you. No one can ever snatch you from his hand. How can your commitment to each other be any different, since you both know that you are only sinners saved by grace? If Christ can reconcile sinful man to God; if He can reconcile those age-long, mean-spirited enemies, Jews and Pagans, as Ephesians 3 shows, then there are no unreconcilable differences preventing you from total commitment and life-long faithfulness, in spite of what Elizabeth Taylor claims in order to justify her eighth divorce.
There is a notion these days about males and females, that apart from one or two biological functions, we are all interchangeable. The gender revolutionaries of our modern Nanny state, having succeeded in the schools and universities, are now trying this ideological experimentation in the army, where morale and combat readiness are at an all-time low.
The youngest child in our family, Toby (10) has played on soccer teams for whom the appropriate Bible verse would be: “all we like sheep have gone astray,” as the entire team rushes around like a mindless herd of little lambs wherever the ball happens to bounce, or like bees chasing a moving honey pot, unable to heed the coach shouting, “Keep your positions!” Forgetting to play positions is a sure-fire way to lose a soccer match, unless both teams do it. At Toby’s level, they usually do, which creates mayhem.
The egalitarian feminist interpretation of Ephesians 5 makes its rounds in the churches these days. It claims an interchangeability which requires no heads, no gender-specific roles and only mutual submission. But such a theory does not work -on more than one level. At the very least it produces exegetical mayhem.
The model of marriage, as revealed by the Lord, is Christ and the church. If our interchangeability rule is applied to this model, we would deduce that the Church is the head of Christ; that the Church gives herself up in death for Christ in order that she might present him holy, blameless, without stain or wrinkle. To respect the interchangeability model, what must be true on one side of the comparison, Christ and the Church, must be true on the other, husband and wife, if we are to make any sense of this text.
In our radically egalitarian culture and a church that follows in hot pursuit, David and Eowyn, as the coach would say: “Keep your positions.” You are not, according to Ephesians, interchangeable.
David, be a faithful self-sacrificing priest, not a macho male for your wife. See it as your great calling to nourish her and sanctify her with the Word of God so that more and more she will come to resemble her Saviour, Christ.
Eowyn, respect this spiritual role David has. Submit to him as you would to Christ. Be submissive to the Word of God as it teaches you with all gentleness the role of mother and wife. Seek and expect to see Christ in David.
Both of you take this Scriptural teaching seriously because this notion of teamwork and covenant faithfulness, much maligned in our time, is the only life-giving blue-print for marriages that work and are pleasing to the Lord. Because, of course that is the ultimate test:
When you stand before the Lord, He will not ask you: Did you have great success in the eyes of the world? Did you have lots of kids who all went to Harvard and Wellesley? Were you able to give expression to all your fantasies and desires, pursue your individual careers, and make the payments too? He will ask you, “Did you show in your marriage the mystery of Christ’s love tot he church?”
We do not here celebrate animalistic coupling, as if you were rabbits (or the Hollywood equivalent, serial monogamy). As you maintain your different, complementary roles; as you stay committed exclusively to each other for your entire lives (even in the tough times), in obedience to Scripture; as you model both the self-giving love of Christ as a husband and the submissive service of the Church as a wife, you both preach the Gospel
Not the pseudo-gospel that tells people to look inside and discover that they are God. Such is the false gospel of our day, based on the premise that human beings and God are mutually interchangeable, and that we have as much say as any god on how to run our own affairs.
The Bible constantly affirms that God and the creation are not mutually interchangeable. Only God made the heavens and the earth. Only God created Man male and female. Only God can regulate marriage declaring that a man should leave his father and mother and be united with his wife.
If only the non-interchangeable Creator God could do this, it follows that only this non-interchangeable God can redeem us.
Christ is neither a guru nor an exemplary fellow traveler like Buddha, Krishna or Socrates. Rather he is a genuine Savior, precisely because he is not interchangeable with us, but uniquely God in flesh. As the old hymn says,
There was none other good enough to pay the price of sin.
He only could unlock the gates of heaven and let us in.
This is the great and wonderful mystery your marriage is called to incarnate. By living your marriage in the power of redeeming grace, and also by reflecting the distinctions of sex and role as God created them, you bring glory to God, the life-giving Creator and Redeemer, and spread the fragrance of His knowledge all around you.
Here is the mystery of the Gospel. The Creator who is distinct from us condescended to be one among us so that, as distinct redeemed creatures, we can look our divine, personal lover in the eye. Instead of losing our identity in the great impersonal All, as today’s occultic “new spirituality” proposes, we will be united with our Creator at the marriage supper of the Lamb, in an eternal marriage relationship already dimly perceived in a marriage just like yours.
I end my exhortation with a prayer for David and Eowyn, applicable to all who are married here today:
On that day when you, David, present Eowyn radiant to the Lord, without spot or blemish, after you both have been totally committed to each other, having practiced biblical teamwork in the context of marriage’s transcendent meaning, may your faithfulness have as its reward that there would be many at the great heavenly wedding feast of the Lamb-including your own children- who are there because they have seen lived out in your marriage, in some humble but tangible way, the mystery of the transcendent, amazing love story of Christ and his bride.
To God be the glory forever and ever, Amen.