We begin our 6 week series on love, sex and marriage this week focusing on love. When we look to the Bible there are vast differences from our own society regarding marriages from a male dominated society with strict societal roles. Non-Christians might reference these and argue that the Bible is outdated, too restrictive and conservative. When Paul wrote letters to the church in Ephesians 5:22-23 he was speaking in a conservative time, in context these people were discovering the amazing freedom they now possessed in Christ so they needed guidance in how to express that freedom and to keep rules in marriage and society. Today in a country like ours, where rules and regulations and traditional values are diminishing, Christianity and what the Bible says about love, sex and marriage seems restrictive and not freeing at all. How do we find balance and is the Bible outdated for our culture?
This is where society and Biblical marriage begin to look different. Modern society looks at marriage as a contract between two people; one has 50% of their share in the marriage and the other their 50%. Happiness is determined on each 50% share and weather they’re feeling cheated out of the deal. Biblical marriage is different the responsibility is seen as a 100% effort from both parties – a covenant. God instituted marriage at the beginning of creation in Genesis 2:24 using the word united (between husband and wife) as the covenant, which can also be translated as; joined, held fast or bound to the husbands wife legally. Our modern world says that relationships are just between the two people involved and their piece of paper (contract) is irrelevant, lives are rated on happiness and personal fulfilment scales which connects to how people use the word love. When the modern person says ‘love’ they’re defining love as intrinsic (me and my feelings). However when the Bible speaks of love, it speaks in a covenantal way and extrinsically, about others (wife / family / community) feelings and needs – wholly what you give to the other person. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44 that you must show actions of love towards your enemy, to change the way you do things so you meet their needs and go out of your way for them. The outcome of good love, sex and married life is happiness, yet if you spend your whole time seeking happiness you won’t get it as you’re chasing only your feelings and you’ll miss half the marriage! Living like this is immature and childlike; Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 13:11. When conflict comes, when the feeling of love ends you’ll run if you remain immature! Marriage can be seen as two broken people coming together and you join together to navigate life. A good marriage will take effort to succeed, not as both being happy, but as both growing maturely and getting healthier as individuals with happiness as a by-product.
Two things we need to develop to stay healthy in our relationships are to grow love and to give grace. When you get married and things change you realise your differences! You used to enjoy doing things for him, but you stopped doing things for him and slowly you start to shift apart and the love dwindles. Then a baby comes along, you have to do everything and serve the child, the more you serve the child you find that through the serving you fall in love with them. Now flip this back to your spouse, why is it not natural for us to continue serving each other? Because society has told us that it’s about 50/50 and your happiness. We need to go back to serving our spouse and showing love to them and the feelings of love will follow. Jesus came not to be served but to serve – if we’re going to grow healthy relationships we need to act like Jesus. The second thing is that we have to give grace to our spouse and to get grace from them. Grace is the word we use for getting a gift that we don’t deserve. When we look at it Biblically God loves us so much that he made a plan to save us from the destruction of our sins, Jesus went to the cross to pay the penalty. We don’t deserve it, we didn’t ask for it, but it is given to us, we thank God for his grace! He is the source for grace which is why marriage can only truly succeed when we put God in the middle. God’s got to be the glue that binds us together if we’re going to succeed in this covenant called marriage. When we have that kind of role model of complete sacrifice and love we’re so far advanced from others when it comes to a healthy marriage. Relationships are hard work and to keep the commitment of marriage in a Biblical way, in our modern culture, keeping the focus on serving and growing our partners is a hard task… but it’s worth it!
Find the full sermon here: Love Sex Marriage: What is Marriage?