Your Marriage Matters
· First off, I know that not all here today are married. Some of you are single by choice, and some of you are not. Some of you are not yet of an age to even consider marriage. In all that follows, as I talk about God’s design for marriage, if you are single I don’t want you to feel like second-class citizens, or that your situation is somehow less significant, because you are not married. That is not true. In fact, according, to 1 Cor. 7, God has a very high regard and calling for people who are single. Our wholeness as people is in Christ, not in another person – in fact Jesus pointed in Matt. 22:29-30 that in heaven there will be no marriage at all, for we will be like the angels, enjoying a quality of relationship that even marriage can’t come close to. What that will look like I have no idea, but that is what Jesus said.
· Yet in the midst of our “Family Matters” series, and because of the need for marriages to be strengthened in our culture, I wanted to spend some time focussing on marriage itself. Let’s start by hearing from the wisdom of children on the topic . . . (See sheet).
· Look to our text this morning: First it says: “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure”. Why? Why is marriage worthy of honour, by “all” – implying even by those who are not married. Why should marriage itself be honoured? I offer up 4 reasons:
1) Marriage should be honoured because God thought it up. It was His idea, His invention and therefore it is for His glory! If you are married here have you ever thought of your marriage as glorifying God? It should because it is from Him! We saw this last week in Genesis 2. Before there was the first family, there was the first marriage. Gen. 2:18, 21-25. Marriage should be a picture of God’s faithfulness. He is referred to as God the faithful husband! Marriage is even upheld in the Scriptures as an illustration of how Christ loves us (Eph. 5, Rev. 19, Rev. 21). The Biblical view of marriage is very high. Our cultural view of marriage has become very low. John Piper says it like this: “The chasm between the biblical vision of marriage and the human vision is, and has always been, gargantuan. Some cultures in history respect the importance and the permanence of marriage more than others. Some, like our own, have such low, casual, take-it-or-leave-it attitudes toward marriage as to make the biblical vision seem ludicrous to most people”.
2) Marriage should be honoured because men and women are made in the image of God. Gen. 1:27-28, 31. Both “maleness” and “femaleness” are the image of God. And it was very good! Again Gen. 2:24. Our church’s definition of marriage is as follows: “We resolve that as a matter of belief, doctrine and religious practice, our congregation reserves the term “marriage” for the covenant relationship between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”. Because we were created male and female in the image of God, God’s definition of marriage will not change. A government may change the definition, a province may, but God will not change it because it reflects His image and He Himself is unchanging and does things well! Marriage should be honoured because men and women are made in the image of God.
3) Marriage should be honoured because it is a God-given covenant relationship. Contractual. A binding agreement between two parties. You see something actually happens at a marriage ceremony. It is not simply a formality. It is an act of worship before God, where a covenant is made between two a man and a woman and God. This is why a couple should get married and not simply live together – you may think it is the same thing but it is not. A relationship that did not exist before comes into being as the result of a marriage before God. A covenant relationship is established. So I would argue that from a Christian perspective the marriage itself is the mark of a committed relationship. Jesus in Mark 10:8-9, quotes Genesis 2:24 then adds his own commentary: “The two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” I like John Piper here:
“When a couple speaks their vows and consummates their vows with sexual union, it is not man or woman or pastor or parent who is the main actor. God is. God joins a husband and a wife into a one-flesh union. God does that! The world does not know this. Which is one of the reasons why marriage is treated so casually. And Christians often act like they don’t know it, which is one of the reasons marriage in the church is not seen as the wonder it is. Marriage is God’s doing because it is a one-flesh union that God himself performs”.
4) Marriage should be honoured because God is judge. Text again. God is judge. David wrote in Psalm 51 as he confessed his great sin to God: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge”!! The fact that God is Judge and will judge should alone motivate us to honour Him, to honour marriage, and to keep the marriage bed pure. Free from pollution. Free from sexual immorality whatever form that may take.
· So in case you’ve doubted it before – your marriage matters! It matters to God and it matters to us. Yes, not all are married. Not all are called to marry. Not all will marry. But our text does say, that it should be honoured, lifted up, protected, encouraged and strengthened.
· That’s one thing we as a church want to assist in – strengthening marriages. You know the statistics and thus you know the reason for such a focus. In the US in 1920, there was 1 divorce for every 7 marriages. In 1940, 1 divorce for every 6 marriages. In 1960, 1 divorce for every 4 marriages. In 1972, 1 divorce for every 3 marriages. By 1977 it was one in 2. According to Statistics Canada, in the year 2000 there were 155 399 marriages in Canada. In the same year there were 70 292 divorces. Just under half of Canadian marriages are ending in divorce, or 45.23%. Those are our stats. Just about ½ of marriages in Canada will not make it! 
· Thus the need to strengthen marriages. Holy Spirit strengthens marriage!
How can we do this? A number of ways:
1) Elevate marriage. Honour it. Protect it. Teach and preach God’s design for husband and wife. We need to lift it up high the Scriptures do.
2) Another thing we can do is to prepare couple’s well for marriage. We want to do our best to help couples understand the covenant they are entering into and to prepare for it prior to marriage. The pastor’s do this as best they can.
3) We need marriage mentors. Older couples, older women and men mentor younger ones. Married couples need a couple good model marriages to learn from and emulate. The church is uniquely qualified to provide this. We did a little bit of it this morning with the interview. In the fall I’d like to be intentional about this by offering some marriage mentoring in a home group context. Amanda and I will be hosting a home group where we bring together married couple for a series of weeks for some mentoring – mentoring by the scriptures and by each other.
4) A word to married couples: Be intentional about strengthening their relationship. Don’t wait until it is too late. It’s ok to seek some help. It is worth investing in your relationship. Date nights. Good books. Study together. (Plug retreat here). Some good council. Do not be embarrassed or proud about asking for help. Dispel the myth that good marriages just “happen”. They do not just happen – they are made – it takes work, energy, investment, love! Becoming One illustration (See sheet).
5) Here is some good advise from Les and Leslie Parrott – “Don’t let the speed of life kill your marriage”. They quote James Dobson: “Over commitment and exhaustion are the most insidious and pervasive marriage killers you will ever encounter as a couple”. – Focus on the Family magazine.
6) Stay Christ- centered in your marriage. Remember wholeness is in Christ! When the husband seeks Christ, when the wife seeks Christ – when both seek Christ together - wow – that’s fireworks!
Tan, Paul Lee: Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers. Garland TX : Bible Communications, 1996, c1979