Honoring Marriage

                After the elections The Babylon Bee ran a great satire piece titled “Disappointed Christian Republicans Briefly Consider Placing Trust in God Again”.

Today the Senate passed the “Respect for Marriage Act” which would require the Federal Government and states to honor all marriages made by any state, including same sex marriages. It goes to congress for approval.

                The Scriptures teach marriage as a covenant before God between a man and a woman. When California had the bill up for vote to allow for same sex marriage many Christians claimed that this undermined marriage. But before whom do we make our covenants before? Is it man? Or is it God?

                Christians own marriages undermine marriage. According to a study at Baylor University in 2014 Evangelical Christians have a higher than average divorce rate.

                Instead of showing any sort of outrage or contempt at any government stance on marriage we as Christians should look inward – we judge the Christians not the non-believer. Situations can be messy and I am far from judging individuals who get divorced. I am judging a lack of careful thought and wisdom on the part of the church. Decades of teachings on ‘choose the right person’ and ‘pick character’ have lead us to results we are seeing now.

                We know we are Christians by our love for one another and not by our political involvement and positions. Perhaps we should start putting our faith in a changed world in following the commands of God to love one another and to start that love in our relationships.

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Tik-Tok, Tuesday, and Love

         

I want a good marriage. But what does that mean?

               We are inundated with movies, tv shows, and tabloids that emphasize a hot steamy romance. It is fairly common knowledge that the chemicals underlying the passionate love dissipate between the 6 month and 2 year mark. Most towards the shorter end of that range.

               Country artist Jake Scott released a song, “Love is the Tuesdays” in 2018. The song runs counter to the image of blissful highs and lows and emphasizes daily moments. “It’s not just highs and lows, and champagne toast, I’ve come to know that love’s not only the best days, or the worst days, love is the Tuesdays” Jakes song calls attention to the steady enjoyment of life with another person.

               Everyone says this is what we want. The unexciting, healthy, committed, caring relationship. But do we really? I don’t think so.

               Tik-Tok is both a huge time waster but also an app that shares stories of the mundane. Unlike Instagram that trended towards the perfect photo, the road trip adventures, and highlights, Tik-Tok emphasizes the mundane. Is your hair a mess? Doesn’t matter. Room a mess? Who cares. Lighting terrible? Not a problem. What do people watch? Literally anything. It is just a bunch of boring people doing boring things.

Every part of life is to be enjoyed. Work to play, exploring the outdoors, and significant events. All things were given to us by God. All blessings are from him. Learning to enjoy those things is an important skill for relationships.

               Married couples on Tik-Tok are not shy showing off impressive spousal displays of affection. They are also not shy in putting arguments, frustrations, and partners foibles on camera. The husband rants about the wife leaving clothes all over and ends with giving her chicken nuggets. The wife complains that house work isn’t done or that she just doesn’t understand what he is thinking.

Are these cruel jabs? No. They are simple people expression genuine irritation underscored by a much deeper sense of love and belonging. Though much time may be wasted, at least Tik-Tok is counter cultural to our obsession with emotional bliss and Disney moments. Tik-Tok brings us back to Tuesday.

Good marriage and calling on marriage

              A good marriage is one that consistently puts the other first and chooses the couple unit. How well do you put the others needs first in communication, survival, emotional well being, etc.? This is a metric for all relationships. “and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

              The second portion I assert is choosing the couple unit. This is the wisdom part. Sometimes putting the other person ‘first’, I use human comparisons, may put the couple unit at risk. At times we will have to ask the other person to bend or put in more effort for the sake of the couple and the couples calling.

The constant call upon the married persons life is to choose and return to the other as a couple. This also helps decide on where time is spent in wisdom. We are called to love everyone. But time and resources are limited. After creating a marriage covenant we choose to love them first before others. They are the deciding factor (not their feelings but them as a person) in how our time is spent. All of this together is then subject to the purpose of the marriage before God.

The call on the couple is living out the Kingdom mandate. The terminology of ‘Kingdom mandate’ or ‘kingdom call’ is undermined by our separation of secular and sacred. The ministry to win souls and be in church is the sacred and eternal – everything else is temporary and secular. When this divorce within the Christian life takes hold of our psyche the only way a couple can be doing good for the Kingdom is in church ministry. Difficult to do when you already work a full time job. I argue the Kingdom call is supporting the other in whatever good work is before them in Christ. This may include activities together or encouragement for when they are apart. This is a broad simplification and is intentional. Live life well. The Christian walk is as simple as giving a cold cup of water to someone who is thirsty. So do good and enjoy what the Lord has given you.

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Marriage is undefined, singles are lost, and pastors are the problem

In my last post I critiqued a lack of creativity and definition of a good marriage. My concern in defining marriage well is for the purposes of dating. Dating for the Christian is a process aimed at marriage. Marriage needs a clear definition for the single person to pursue.

Marriage and relationships are common issues for pastors to cover. So why is there still confusion? Pastors are the problem, but it is not really their fault. Most pastors writing books on dating went straight into the pastorate after college. They are in a bubble when it comes marriage, choosing a spouse, and the Kingdom of God.

I agree with the pastors, authors, and psychologists that claim a marriage needs a goal bigger than themselves. Gary Thomas in his book “Sacred Search” and “Sacred Marriage” (one of the few dating books I recommend) rightly claims that a kingdom minded view is the best view for the call upon our marriages. For those going into fulltime ministry the ‘Kingdom Call’ is easy to see in their marriages and provides an easy filter during the dating process. Those not going into full time ministry do not have such an easy structure.

Concerning the dating process, Church ministry itself the filter – there are general expectations on a minister and their spouse. The girl or boy that has the same mission will already be in church. It is a neat little ecosystem that is simple and strait forward.

Outside of church this becomes complicated. I want to run my own business. This means long 90-hour work weeks. I may be in Law school and starting at a new firm. Long work ours. My work may require traveling. I can’t volunteer at church. How will I find a spouse there? What is the common calling of spouses that are a lawyer and an engineer? An artist and a city worker?

Concerning marriages, the ministers’ job is clearly involved in advancing God’s Kingdom and doing his work. They can work 40 hours, feel accomplished and then relax in their own time. How does the career person serve God with minimal free time? When I worked for a Fortune 50 company, I had two free hours a day. A portion of that time involved meal prep, cleaning, and daily chores. How does my future spouse and I work on the Kingdom calling together when we have separate vocations?

Good Marriage

Secrets to a good marriage. Take a good marriage to great. Have a healthy marriage.

These phrases ooze out of book titles, sermons, and conversational pleasantries. They are as pleasant as losing your keys. What is a ‘good marriage’ vs a ‘bad one’. Can I get a tester at the hardware store? Is there a list of ten key items so that I can grade my relationship? This would be useful and absurd.

Yet, that is what we are looking for. A test to objectively critique a relationship. What measuring rod do you use for two human hearts? The modern desire for measurable knowledge turns a rod intended to measure into one used as abuse. Yet sparing the rod spoils the relationship.

Without any clear guidepost we won’t ever find what we are looking for. If we don’t know what a good marriage is we won’t ever be satisfied in one. We may find it. But we won’t know we have found it. “This is cool. … Better keep looking” the search never ends.

 “It is always in the last place I looked” Is true bey comical definition. I never found something and thought to myself, well, better keep looking under tables and around corners (except in the hunt for a spouse). Once you find it the quest is completed and there is satisfaction. But if you don’t know what that ‘it’ is, then the looking can never stop.

Not all who wander are lost. But some who wander are most definitely lost. If the destination is the goal, but you do not know the destination you are most assuredly lost when wandering. If you are enjoying the journey as the goal then you can wander to your hearts content and be satisfied. If you want a destination as the goal then the destination must be known.

Woman Amen – a lesson in humility

I am a hopeless romantic. When I listen to Dierks Bentley’s “Woman, Amen” for the first time my heart jumps a bit. I dream of the day when I meet the woman who gives “this drifters heart a home”.

Friends always at some point always seem to drift away. As careers, school, and spouses begin to take up time it becomes more difficult to keep up on consistent daily or weekly schedule. I myself have difficulty deciding what to do with my time: guitar, piano, voice, mountain biking, sailing, kiteboarding, writing, hiking, dancing, cooking, martial arts, lifting, and reading are just a few of my hobbies and interests. I want that day when I will have someone to stick with and who becomes the first one to say, “yes to” and the reason to say, ‘no’ to everything else.

Words matter and I cannot listen to songs without careful analyses. The song is not a cute romantic song about a mans love for a woman, but a ballad representing my sinful obsession with marriage.

The Christians call is to seek first the Kingdom of God and love the Lord your God with all your heart. As C.S Lewis teaches, we are to become little Christs. Our relationships and marriages are intended to make us more like Christ and help us seek His Kingdom. They are not an end in themselves. Kingdom first, then your spouse. If you miss this order you become as Solomon who was led astray by the women he married.

“She gives me faith, she gives me grace, she gives me hope… … strength … … love … love without end” “Thanks for the moon and the stars up above, Forgiveness’ a sin and your undying love, every twist every turn for the way you made sure, all my roads led to her” each verse focuses on the woman, with a nod to Christ.

I live the same priorities. In grade school I wanted to be good at everything  in preparation to seek the Kingdom in all things. After two heartbreaks and difficulty dealing with a revolving door of friends and friend groups, I started obsessing over the stability of a spouse to always be there.

Everything I chose revolved around a future spouse, even to the detriment of my own soul. I have given up new cars, motorcycles, trips, vacations, and my own hobbies (including writing) in an obsession with being able to provide my wife with whatever she wanted.

Did I have conflict with my family? It was practice bearing with someone difficult. Nothing involving doing good for the Kingdom of God in the present or the future, or about being more like Christ. (We will skip over the terrible marriage picture I had that bearing up under ‘relational suffering’ was a primary virtue of a good marriage relationship).

“This world has a way of shaking your faith / I’ve been broken again and again / But I need all the cracks in my shattered heart / ‘Cause that’s where her love gets in” The cracks in my life is where Christ’ love gets in. It is also through the brokenness that God worked to show me how I had replaced a desire to be a man after God’s own heart with a desire to be a husband after some fictitious future spouse. Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven, and all these things will be added unto you.

Epilogue:

I wrote the above piece in April of 2018. I am humbled that I learned nothing from what I wrote with my own hands. More than a year later and I found a girl that was everything I wanted on paper. From physical appearance to personality quirks and her relationship with God. Ironically what attracted me to her most was her very clear knowledge of her calling in all things to help those who need just a little bit of extra help in life. Something I had completely lost. Regardless of the lack of a ‘spark’ I became obsessed. Here was the kind, hospitable, spunky, slightly wild girl that I could go through life with.

Graciously God ended that relationship. It is the most painful breakup I have been through. I was breaking up with not just her but all my hopes for a spouse and family. God was cutting away the obsession that crowded out all desire for the kingdom of heaven. Cutting out part of ourselves even when good for us is painful. It is part of me learning to say ‘yes’ to the call of God to serve his Kingdom and ‘no’ to everything else.

Christian’s Response to Homosexuality

                A few weeks ago Minnesota became the 13th state to legalize gay marriage. Today the Supreme Court gave marriage rights to already married homosexual couples and declared prop 8 in California unconstitutional. A rally against the legalization of gay marriage by Christians will most likely begin with new fervor. Unfortunately, that outcry will fly under the claim that homosexual marriage undermines heterosexual God ordained marriage.

                We as Christians must be careful how we talk about the issue of homosexual marriage and the Christian biblical view of marriage. If we say that allowing two men or two women to marry undermines our biblical perspective of a man and a woman marrying, we are the ones responsible for undermining our marriages, not homosexuals.

                As Christians, we believe that God has ordained marriage as a covenant between a man and woman. It is specifically an irrevocable covenant in which we have the opportunity to be like God in how we keep our promises and be like Christ in his relationship with the church. It is set up by God, and therefore no human action can undermine what God has ordained. If God has made something good, it is good regardless of actions that are counter to God’s character surrounding it.

                 Homosexual marriage has no relation to marriage in the church. Even secular heterosexual marriages are not completely like ones in the church. They may represent God’s character in their commitment to the covenant, but they do not carry with them the implications of Christ and the church. Christian marriage before God is irrevocable and permanent. Contrary to culture, divorce is not an option.

                In Matthew, Christ says that, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (NIV). At first glance it may appear not to make sense. How can a woman commit adultery if she is divorced? But that is precisely the point. The only way it would be adultery would be if she is still married. In God’s eyes, she is still married to her husband even if the paperwork says, “divorce”.

                Man’s actions of divorce do not change God’s view of the marriage. They are still in a covenant. There are two implications of this. First, that the biggest thing that undermines Christian marriage is Christian divorce. When we divorce we are not like God in keeping our covenants in that action. We have not been like Christ and his church.

                Second, is that God ignores man’s view the marital status. Regardless of man’s divorce certificate Christ still sees the marriage the way he made it. In the same way we as Christians should not be concerned with what the world calls marriage. Instead, we should be concerned with our relationships and how they reflect on Christ.

                So as you dialogue and talk about marriage with those for and against homosexual marriage as it relates to the church, remember that our first concern as Christians is the state of our own marriages and how we honor God through them.

Recommended Book: Welcoming but Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality