Tag Archives: marriage

Sorry Single Folks, No Holiness for You

I came across the following in my twitter feed

no holiness

And I chuckled, thinking of the Seinfield show and “No Soup for You”

But in all seriousness, there are real issues that come about from the above tweets.

Marriage is designed to make us Holy, not happy? If we roll back to Genesis, I think its pretty clear that wasn’t the game plan. Granted, we have the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:25-28 and again in 1 Cor 7:9,14… but to take those verses out of the entirety of 1 Cor 7 which advocates remaining single seems quite a dis-service to scriptures.

Beyond this, the dangers of rushing to marriage in #marryorburn theology, or dishonoring marriage by encouraging an errant witness to the world really misses the mark. Granted, in some cases, marriage can be a holy witness, and it can also work to bring sanctification, but this is not a guaranteed thing. I think all of us have seen far too many Christian marriages turn into a toxic mess which does anything but the above… toss in the holiness bit above, and folks stay in toxic marriages in some cases up until abuse gets so bad, they end up hospitalized or dead.

There is the issue of idolizing marriage… I think of the many articles written by married young women that try to promote the “advantages” of being single. Ie, I’m married now, but when I was single, I was able to do abcdefg and focus on the Lord’s work. I don’t know, but those sort of writings come across weird. Ie, being totally dedicated to doing God’s work, advocating singleness as this great thing you seem to highly value, followed by how great being married is sort of rings sideways. it almost makes singleness as a path to marriage, rather than the unique destination in and of itself that it truly is.

That being said, I do want to dig into the marriage and sanctification bit, but first I want to ponder about my experiences in the boy scouts. I’d done a lot of fishing and hiking on my own over the years. I could navigate through the woods without any fear of getting lost, I could tie a few knots, I knew how to use a compass, how to cut firewood, build a fire etc… but these were all situations where in I chose the environment. Ie, I’d go around a swamp on its periphery, rather than going straight across it, knowing that even if the distance was shorter, the amount of energy and time to go straight across would be much greater. As my experiences in the woods grew, I exercised more and more discretion as to the level of environmental conditions I was comfortable with.

On boy scout excursions, those choices are made for you, and they can and do change… like the time a buddy broke a tree crossing a creek, which meant the rest of us had to figure out another way to get over it. Thus what scouting did for me, was brought me into situations that on my own I would have avoided. It taught me how valuable being able to tie 20 different knots were, how to navigate through woods, when your compass was useless due to hematite deposits, how to pitch a tent with missing parts that your buddy forgot to pack etc.

Marriage has parallels to this. Its all too easy to think you have your ducks in a row, when said ducks have never been under significant fire… and in marriage, you will find out very quickly how lacking one truly is when it comes to the fruits of the spirit. Life is easy when it can be compartmentalized, ie in the workplace, at church, hanging out with buddies, as its situational and time limited. Marriage otoh is like a search light that runs 24/7/365, and when you add in the massively increased workload of marriage as contrasted with the single life, ones fruits are tested / exercised by fire. Granted, some marriages do bring about a lower workload than one might have being single… but this cannot be predicted, and irrespective of workload, the search light is still there.

Related to this, is marriage will bring you to places and times which as a single, one would simply avoid. We have a saying in aviation, which says use a superior pilot uses superior judgment to avoid situations which require the use of superior skill. The saying has kept many a pilot and aircraft safe over the years. Being single is a lot like that, but the temptation is to take this too far and never get out of ones comfort zone also occurs. Marriage otoh, often dispenses with this and while it is a much riskier situation, it also brings about much more growth than would have ever been possible going it alone.

And while one can develop a willingness to go beyond ones comfort zone as a single, and thus reap the potential of growth… there doesn’t seem to be any practical way to engage in the fruits of the spirit exercise / testing thing. This there are aspects of marriage which can lead to holiness which a single person doesn’t have access to. But then again, the ability to be totally focused on the work of God is something married folks no longer have access too.

There are just too many variables to make a blanket call one way or another on much of this… and its far from universal. That being said, there is much wisdom in the entirely of 1 Cor 7. Marriage is best honored when the entirely of the scriptures are considered, not just a few.

The Bizarre Nature of Marriage in Ephesians 5:25-33

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to honor marriage with respect to the Hebrews text @MrBryanLCarter brought up last week. As such, I’ve been poking at some scriptures here and there all week. Then, a day or two ago I saw in my twitter feed something from John Piper.

johnpiper

Really, is that what marriage is for?

I’ve known folks who ascribe to such a teaching, and for some it does work out ok, albeit with incredible pressures along the way. For others, the covenental focus turns their marriage from something that should have reflected well on Christianity, into a relationship so toxic, that who in their right mind would ever want to get married?

Its a good thing to want to honor the covenental aspects of marriage, but when ones witness of honoring the covenant also destroys the couple involved… it really doesn’t pass the smell test. Rather it sets up stumbling blocks, and does anything but honor marriage.

So, I go back to the scriptures from early in the week, and I come across Ephesians 5:25-33.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

I think there are 3 main ways to look at this text.

1. Live out your marriage in such a way as to demonstrate Christ’s love for the church which is the approach of @DesiringGod teachings. It fails some of the time for the reasons discussed above. It also puts a lot of pressure on a marriage to witness to something which truly doesn’t need witnessing. I mean really, is there any doubt that Jesus doesn’t love the body of Christ? Is that something that needs reinforcement somehow? I just don’t see the need for this.

2. Look to Christ’s love of the church for a model as to how your marriage should be. The power dynamics of that make it impossible, to say nothing of the problems of the church. Its way beyond a white knight with a heart of gold marrying the crazy party girl who keeps going off the path. If anything, this seems like a disaster in the making.

3. Only look to the aspects of marriage that are explicitly directed to husband and wife or only applicable to Christ and the church. Do not try to co-mingle them as a whole, as they are like apples and oranges, Rather,in making parallels, only look to things they explicitly could share, like love, respect, and oneness and anything beyond those, leave as a mystery.

As far as the other elephant in the room, the submission problem, there are a ton of issues, with the biggest thing being caving to the fallen nature of humanity. Genesis 2:18 sets up Eve to be a helper to the man, one of explicit equality. Paul in a similar vein says there is no male or female in Christ. Its only man’s fallen nature that the one sided submission thing comes into being…

Folks much smarter than I have dug deep on this, a few resources.

The first is Fr John Ricardo talking on Ephesians 5… and some might wonder, why I’d reference a Catholic priest on this. The reason, they hear confessions, the deepest, darkest depths of a person’s struggles. And in a lot of ways, a Catholic priest likely knows a whole lot more about a given marriage than the folks actually in the marriage. Beyond that, there is a great deal of depth in his podcast, things like pagan cultural aspects, language / translation issues, and equality. https://avemariaradio.net/audio-archive/christ-is-the-answer-may-21-2019/

To go even deeper than the podcast, here is a link to his dissertation. Warning, its 133 pages! https://www.olgcparish.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/themutualsubordinationofhusbandandwife.pdf

Rachel Held Evans also takes a look at this. She states. “I, (and many biblical scholars and fellow Christians), would argue the point of these passages is not that patriarchy is the best foundation for marriage, but rather that the humility and service of Jesus Christ is the best example for marriage…and any relationship.”

https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/absurd-legalism-gender-roles-submission-piper

Bottom line, if one sided submission works for your marriage, good for you, but keep watch for issues over time. Beyond that, one sided submission is unlikely to be fruitful for a lot of couples, and its by far not the only way to ascribe to the scriptures as well as to honor marriage.

Pondering Cohabitation

Pastor Bryan Carter preaches on cohabitation yesterday, and then has his church step up to the plate in a huge way. To say my mind was blown would have been a severe understatement.

Yesterday I preached on cohabitation and we invited cohabiting couples to accept the challenge of stepping into marriage. We paid one month’s rent for those who want to move out and will marry those who desire to get married with a free wedding - dress, tuxedo, rings. #church

It’s a really intense Gospel message both in word and in deed and its non-judgmental too.

its out of my scope of experience, being my late wife and I didn’t cohabitate before marriage, and we didn’t get around to living with each other until we’d been married for over a year… which isn’t such a good thing either, but it was what it was.

And I totally get that economic issues throw a wrench into the works, the same with the best laid plans. Back in the day, not living with your newly married spouse was pretty uncommon, in today’s world it seems most folks know at least a few couples who do. Back then, cohabitation before marriage was pretty common, I’d say maybe 50% of couples, vs in today’s world, its seems more like 95%. I remember some friends freaking out having to “hide” so as to not loose their church jobs… those sort of policies make me wonder if the cart is being put before the horse a bit.

Granted, I see a lot of young folks who are dating one month, and 2-3 months later are moving in together. And maybe it works for some, but for others, it seems a huge gamble to put a new relationship to such a test, where in if something goes sideways, it easily becomes a toxic trap without an exit strategy for one or both partners.  I think its super awesome that his church is stepping up to the plate and providing for an exit strategy in those situations.

Another issue which seems more and more common today, is that young and old have written off marriage, as a tradition of old, that no longer makes much sense. When I look out at the huge numbers of Christian’s getting divorced, or staying in toxic marriages / suffering abuses, to the point of poisoning their kids… it makes me wonder about this as well.

And yet, the scripture used in yesterday’s message was Hebrews 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

That’s a pretty high bar, and yet in my 21 years of marriage, I think of sanctification that came about as errant bits of our lives were worn away over time as the two of us became more and more one. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that as a widowed guy, but that’s far outside the scope of this post! Lol

I do wonder how marriage can be honored by all?

Sure,the obvious stuff like marriage partners not doing adultery, or cheating, or engage with prostitutes makes sense, but I think its equally as important to consider the non-obvious, not only for the marriage partners themselves, but for everyone of all life stages.

There are some church practices that dishonor marriage, such as shot gun weddings, as horrors, we can’t have scandal, so this couple has to get married now, even if they really aren’t in a position to fully consent to a life long commitment. Another dishonoring practice that some churches endorse is early marriage for young folks to avoid sexual sin… which then turns right back around years later with divorce and upended family dynamics which not only injures the partners, but also their kids. Lastly, I tend to think the body of Christ does a pretty poor job of teaching about the permanence of marriage vows, short of the obvious exclusions. Granted, when folks are in the midst of romantic love, they are exactly hearing things clearly…. but still there seems to be a sense of the temporary rather than permanence. I’ve sent a few young folks over to my caregiving is tougher than tough post… and they come back with, well that will never happen to us. Any my response is, you can’t predict it, hopefully it won’t, but your vows need to be strong enough to honor it should it happen.

A young friend of mine will celebrate his first year of ordination as a Catholic priest in a couple months. Prior to being ordained, he spent nearly a decade of intense study and discernment, as it is such a huge and life long commitment to enter the priesthood. And yet, when it comes to marriage, young folks spend 10x or more hours on wedding planning, than they do on premarital counseling… and unlike the priesthood where their are processes to step aside, the marriage vows, short of a few exclusions are for life.

And this is where things get strange. I’ve known a lot of cohabiting couples over the years, and many of them do get married. I think of my old friend Tom, who we’d bug on this periodically… he’d been living with his girlfriend for 10 years, they were together 5 years prior and had a couple kids. So every once in a while, Hey Tom, when you going to get married, and he about dropped us on the floor when he said, a “couple weekends ago”. The thing is, he and his wife totally got the lifetime aspects of the marriage vows, and they went in eyes fully opened. In a lot of ways, I think his marriage was a lot more holy than those who did everything right on the surface, but rushed through it without thinking a whole lot. Granted, it is hard to know the heart… which brings me back to the above church.

In the message notes, a number of myths and truths are presented. As some seem very foreign to my own experiences over the years, my guess is they are unique to the culture in that church and perhaps surrounding area. Ultimately though, we have the same scriptures to guide us.

Lastly, it seems the church sees premarital counseling as an integral part of the marriage process and as such require 12 weeks of it. My best guess is that couples are free to step out at anytime should they run into any insurmountable barriers and the church will be there to walk with them through it, or to provide an escape path away from it.

What an incredible witness to the Gospel!

Fireproof the Movie

A few weeks back, an old friend said hey, you need to check out this movie I just worked on. So I went cool, and proceeded to do some digging.

It opens this weekend, but being Sony thinks it may have a somewhat limited audience, they are not doing a lot of promotion, nor is it going to be in a lot of theatres. Otoh, if the first weekends boxoffice proceeds are high enough, it is quite likely Sony will fire up the promotion engine. Thus, if there is any interest at all, it would be well worth checking out this weekend, rather than waiting.

Its theme centers on a fireman and his wife in the midst of breaking up… and although one might think this is a typical Christian cliche type film, or even a chick flick, butbased upon what I’ve seen, its far from it. In addition, their are a multitude of follow up ministries which are possible… its really up to the local church to take the resources and run with them both from a marriage support pov, as well as a growing in Christ pov. Its a golden oppurtunity imho.

Now, some might say whoa…. this is a preaching film, forget it… but although thats present, I think the film and story line can make it stand alone. I could be wrong… I’d really like to hear the perceptions of a non-Christian on this aspect.

Theologically, its arminian in focus, but it doesnt really seem to dwell on it. In fact, despite a couple theological issues, it has the support of many Catholic churches too.

Over the next couple days, a fair amount of promotion is going to occur on daytime TV. Everything from Dr Phil to Mike and Juliet.

Here in Southeast MN, it starts Friday the 26th showing at:

Rochester, MN Chateau 14 971 East Circle Drive NE
Rochester, MN 55906
fandango
Rochester, MN Rochester Galaxy 14 4340 Maine Ave SE
Rochester, MN 55904

For other locations, check the theatre finder.

Now as far as the ministry follow up part goes… I highly recommend you dont read about the following ministry resources until after you have watched the movie. Its a bit of a spoiler in some ways, but not really. I just think the movie would be more enjoyable if one walks in without preconceptions. On the other hand… one could also get more out of it too. Its your folks call.

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