Monday, July 20, 2009

love faithfulness

No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century. ~Mark Twain

This weekend’s message really should have been a “two-parter”. It’s impossible to talk about the seventh commandment on adultery without talking about marriage and then, of course, sexuality, divorce and subsequent remarriage issues. It’s a big topic. So many moral quandaries, so little time.

One of the more fascinating books that’s come out in the last few years on the subject of divorce is The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. It follows a twenty-five year study on the effects of divorce on children. Judith Wallerstein tracked the lives of one hundred kids whose parents divorced in the 1970’s. The stats are one thing, but her interviews and stories are a total sucker-punch.

Predictably, Unexpected Legacy triggered powerful responses from readers. The family-centered-evangelical folks slam people with it. Parents who have suffered through divorced feel guilty. Adult children of divorced families naturally get defensive. And, of course, stats don’t tell individual stories, just averages. But the reality is, God knew what He was doing with He invented the family system. In the long shadow of the Fall, though, all bets are off the table in terms of tenure.

If anything, it should give us pause in how quickly we rush into matrimonial nirvana.

My own experience after presiding over fifty weddings (it’s been over one hundred now…and I quit performing them years ago!) way back in the ‘90’s was depressing: in one year, I ran into so many couples I had married who were divorced that I was stunned. I went back and checked my records and discovered the success rate of those who had gone through premarital classes was off-the-chart; conversely, those who skipped the classes had an abysmal rate. I became less sympathetic to excuses regarding situations and schedules and made a personal commitment to no longer marry anyone who refused to go through our premarriage program. If you’re in too big of a rush to get counseling, you’re in too big of a rush. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Let’s be honest: none of us went to the altar with divorce on our minds. We were all brain-dead and starry-eyed, clueless that anything could change. When we said “til’ death do us part”, divorce was a remote problem for other people who were not in love like us.

God designed marriage to be the most intimate friendship imaginable. When Jesus speaks of a man cleaving (or uniting) to his wife, it’s based on the same Greek word used for glue. It is the bringing together of two substances to make a new one. Jesus is saying that we need to enter this covenant with a measure of awe, a reverent fear and responsibility to God. The reason why we get married with clergy represented is because we are testifying before God and asking Him to join us together. The heavyweight words that He speaks are, “If I join you together, then don’t you dare let any mere mortal tear you asunder!” That word asunder (or separate) in the Greek means to place space or room between two people. Marriage is a picture of two people being in the same emotional space. I learned early on that security for my wife Anita meant being included in my emotional world and me in hers. She wasn’t necessarily looking for someone to fix her problems; she wanted someone who would emotionally befriend her.

It’s not easy. But not impossible. Frankly, I don’t know how people who are not God-lovers make it work. And even when they do, in my opinion they’re missing the real thing: the highest reason for marriage is to bring God glory by giving an expression of His love and faithfulness to us.

As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. (Ephesians 5:31–32 NLT)


  1. As a child of divorced parents and divorced myself, I think divorce sucks. Been to so much counseling to unravel that whole mess it seems like so long a journey.

    Now I do not have any desire to get into a relationship the way women are now a days. Everyone is so cold and heartless, including me, makes you wonder we are living in the last days.

  2. I can understand how you would feel hurt. Don't give up. The Holy Spirit has a remarkable way of changing the way we see a "cold and heartless" world and somehow giving us eyes to see it the way Jesus does. As "Pollyannish" and simplistic that might sound, it really does happen; I would consider my core self to be pessimistic and "glass-half-empty", but Jesus has done a remarkable job at tempering my tendencies and even creating new, hopeful ways of seeing life. I think I've come more alive thru surrendering to Him.

  3. Thanks so much for this message Sunday. The idea that a marriage should reflect our relationship with God really opened my eyes.

    I've been separated from my wife for a year and divorced 3 months. After this sermon and 2 hours of journaling I'm beginning to see that my failure to trust God because of fear of condemnation kept me from fully being honest with my wife because of fear of condemnation from her.

    I can't undo the divorce, but I'm finally beginning to see what I did wrong. I can begin to address the problem at the root - my failure to understand God's unconditional love and faithfulness.

  4. I really feel like I NEED to thank you for your Sermon. I'm fairly new to the Vineyard (my first service was on Easter)and this was my first time back in 3-4 weeks. I had really felt compelled to make it last Sunday and now I know that God must have wanted me there to hear what you had to say. I have an amazing husband and we've seemed to be butting heads lately to the point where time together is difficult rather than fulfilling. I've been dealing with a lot of questions within myself about our relationship and there were so many things you said that put everything into perspective. I truly believe God used you to send a message to me and I'm so incredibly thankful to you. The words you spoke gave me encouragement to continue working through things and I truly felt afterwards that We ARE meant to be together and we can help to be better people, better images of God's Love. Thank you, Thank You, Thank You!

  5. I don't know about divorce. Never experienced it except through my daughters and their husbands. Today and yesterday many rush into a relationship of marriage not really knowing each others inner persons or personality.

    The wife and I have been married for 45 years as of today ( don't know how she put up with me for that long. We dated for three years before marriage. I am grateful for what we shared over the years. Seems like yesterday when we were married.

    A lot also has to do with the way God is being pushed out of our society by Socialist and Humanist ideaologies with out moral and ethical values.

    It is OK to be a player ( multiple sex partners in and out of marriage), it is OK to do what ever you think is ok with out guilt,it is OK to consider the 10 commandments hogwash (not fit for the new world order) , It is OK to do whatever you darned well please.

    And you wonder why we have such high divorce rates, murders, sexual assualts on women and children, fraud by CEOs and politicians, robberies, and high drug usage by people today. This country is turning into a modern day Sodom and Gomora under the current political climate.

    I am waiting any day for 2 prophets to come to earth to start prophesizing turn away from wickedness before it is too late.

  6. I checked on the website and don't see it I missing something?

  7. Read this for the first time looking back over the archive of your blog a few weeks ago. Thank you for the reference to Judith Wallerstien's book - as a child of a divorce many years ago I couldn't read it fast enough - it put things into words I have never been able to recognize or express so clearly. On the path to healing....