October 7, 2018 [Pentecost 20]  Genesis 2:18-24  J.D.Roekle

 

18The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21So 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. 22Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23The 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.”

24For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

 

Marriage as God Intended It!

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

New York Times columnist David Brooks believes that there are three different lenses through which to think about marriage decisions—the psychological, the romantic, and the moral lens.  Most of the popular advice books adopt a psychological lens. These books start with the premise that getting married is a daunting prospect. So psychologists urge us to pay attention to traits like "agreeableness," social harmony, empathy, and niceness. 

The second lens is the romantic lens. This is the dominant lens in movie and song. More than people in many other countries, Americans want to marry the person they are passionately in love with. But in the book "The Good Marriage," the authors concluded that only 15 percent of couples maintain these kinds of lifelong romantic marriages.

The third lens is the moral lens. In this lens a marriage exists to serve some higher purpose. Brooks points to Tim Keller's book "The Meaning of Marriage," where Keller argues that marriage introduces you to yourself; you realize you're not as noble and easy to live with as you thought when alone. Brooks writes:

In a good marriage you identify your own selfishness and see it as the fundamental problem. You treat it more seriously than your spouse's selfishness. The everyday tasks of marriage are opportunities to cultivate a more selfless love. Everyday there's a chance to inspire and encourage your partner to become his or her best self. In this lens, marriage isn't about two individuals trying to satisfy their own needs; it's a partnership of mutual self-giving for the purpose of moral growth and to make their corner of the world a little better.”

          The author then concludes that the quality of the average marriage is in decline, because the moral lens is much less common that the psychological lens and romantic lens. 

          He’s on to something.  The way we look at marriage matters.  We want to look at it through what he terms the moral lens, because it is through this lens that we also connect it with God.  And we should listen to God when we talk and think about marriage, since God designed it.  Today, we take a look at marriage as God intended it to be. 

          It might seem obvious to us that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman.  It isn’t obvious to the world around us though.  About a year ago, it was in the news that an Italian woman decided to get married…to herself.  She actually had a ceremony with bridesmaids, 70 guests and a 3-layer wedding cake. "I firmly believe that each of us must first of all love ourselves," the Italian woman said. "You can have a fairytale even without the prince."  There’s actually a term that has been coined which describes this self-marriage.  It is being called “sologamy.” 

          This isn’t really marriage according to God’s definition, is it?  For it to even be called ‘marriage’ is missing the point of marriage.  Marriage is about companionship.  God made that point very clear to Adam after he created him.  How God went about this is fascinating.  He gave Adam a responsibility.  He was to name the animals.  What a cool task for Adam.  But it wasn’t just for the sake of Adam knowing what to call each creature; this exercise served an even greater purpose. 

          Sit with Adam and think about what must have been going through his mind and all these various wonders of God’s creation walked in front of him.  None of these creatures really look like me.  None of them can communicate like me.  None of them have my ability to reason.  And not only that, while each of these creatures are different from each other, there are more than one of the same creature.  But there’s no one like me! 

          Through this process, God prepared Adam not only to welcome another human being into the world, but also that God would call his “suitable helper.”  Companionship is a great blessing of marriage.  To be able to share the ups and downs with someone is a great blessing.  In order to make this companionship to work, it takes a lot of effort on the part of both spouses.  And when a relationship goes through a rocky period, it is easy to point your finger at your spouse as being the fault, but it is also wise to see where the other three fingers are pointing…at yourself.  I need to constantly examine myself.  Am I living up to my God-given role in this marriage?  That’s question married couples should be asking themselves regularly. 

          And let’s keep in mind the kind of relationship we have committed to as we seek to faithfully carry out the roles of husbands and wives.  This is to be a loving relationship.  But let’s not misunderstand what we mean when we are talking about love

          While we certainly have romantic feelings toward our spouse, especially when we are first married, the kind of love God’s wants us to express in marriage goes way beyond emotions.  We are not to be governed simply by what we feel.  The kind of love that God wants to rule our marriage is the kind of love that Jesus modeled for you and me as he went to the cross.  Think about that love.  Christ Jesus sacrificed so much for you!  He left behind his divine power.  He left behind the majesty of heaven.  And he gave up his very life for you!  What commitment on the part of Jesus!

          We are to model that kind of loving commitment in marriage.  But what is it that often breaks that loving commitment?  Isn’t it that spouses have unrealistic expectations of each other?  A philosopher one said that people are deluded by the Romantic view of marriage – “that a perfect being exists who can meet all our needs and satisfy every yearning.”  When the perfect being doesn’t meet all our needs we think we’ve married the wrong person, and that “we end up lonely and convinced that our [marriage], with its imperfections, is not ‘normal.’”  This philosopher instead says that we should look at marriage this way... “[with the] awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden, and disappoint us—and we will (without any malice) do the same to them … The failure of [our spouse] to save us from our grief and melancholy is not an argument against that person and no sign that a union deserves to fail or be upgraded.” 

          The man sounds like a Christian, doesn’t he?  He’s actually an atheist, but he’s right!  Marriage is really about two imperfect human beings coming together as one.  Couples are to commit to one another with realistic expectations.  A husband is married to a sinner, and so is his wife.  That leads us to realize a very important aspect in marriage: forgiveness.  When your spouse does something wrong or something that angers you, how easy is it to hang on to that, and to let it fester.  Forgive and leave it behind.  Oh yes, when you are in an argument, how easy it is to dredge up the past.  But resist it!  It doesn’t serve any useful purpose.  In fact, it will only harm your relationship. 

          This is very important as you consider how long the Lord wants this relationship to last.  The marriage vows state it: “…as long as we both shall live.” The permanency of marriage is hinted at in the Lord’s definition of marriage in the last very of our text: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” 

          The marriage relationship isn’t supposed to be a temporary move from mom and dad’s house.  The fact that each spouse is leaving their former family speaks to the permanency of marriage.  In fact, when Jesus talked about this verse in today’s Gospel lesson, he added: “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 

          No one is to separate it!  That includes the husband and wife.  Spouses are to go into marriage with the full expectation that they are in this arrangement for life.  When we listen to the world’s perspective on marriage, we are often encouraged by ‘experts’ to get out of the marriage.  And maybe sometimes the problem is that one or both spouses never really ‘leave’ mom and dad’s house.  They are more comfortable with talking with others than working things out with their spouse.  That’s part of the hard work needed in couples to forge a new home and life together. 

          There’s something that each of us can do concerning this subject of marriage.  If you are married, get to work!  You made a commitment, work on it!   Whether married or not, all of us can pray.  Pray for your own marriage.  Pray for the marriages of others.  We can also encourage others in their marriage.  Encourage each other to seek God’s will for their marriage.  And when you see trouble in marriage that is beyond the couple’s ability to solve, encourage them to get help.  After all, marriage is not only the cornerstone for our society, but also for the church.  Keep your focus on marriage as God intended it to be!  Amen.