Read Matthew 19:1-12.
Happy belated Valentine’s Day! If you are married, I hope you had a chance to express your love to your spouse. And if you are single, I hope you were not too lonely thinking about your singlehood. God loves you. Whether married or single, we all come back to the same conclusion–God loves me.
Our family had an interesting Valentine’s Day. Jeremiah broke his arm at his school playground and so our family spent Valentine’s at various hospitals. But God taught me something about the nature of love. Today, I want to speak about love as being united with Christ. Union with Christ–it’s a doctrine not talked about often enough, but it really is the core of what it means to be a Christian.
Matthew 19:1-12 begins with a very common but sad topic in our day and age–divorce. Depending on which poll you look at, statistics show that about 30-50% of all marriages end in divorce. Why do so many marriage relationships end up ripping the lives of husbands and wives and their kids to shreds? It’s because there is a thorough misunderstanding of what love is.
What does Hollywood teach us about love? What do 80’s love songs teach us about love? Movies, music and media teach us that love is sappy, syrupy, romantic emotion. Love is a ditch. You fall into it. Love is like a virus. You catch it. You’re infected. You can’t help yourself. You have the love bug. Love is like a tidal wave. It wooshes over you. It sweeps you off your feet. Or love is like a knight in shining armor that rescues you, the damsel in distress, trapped atop a tall tower?
I did a google search for the most sappy love song of all time. I found several.
“You’re the inspiration” by Chicago. Here’s an awesomely sappy line from that song:
No one needs you more than I need you, you’re the meaning in my life. You’re the inspiration…
Or, “Everything I do, I do it for you” by Bryan Adams. Here’s an awesomely sappy line from the chorus:
Don’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for, You can’t tell me it’s not worth dyin’ for, You know it’s true, Everything I do, I do it for you.
And in my opinion, one of THE sappiest love songs of all time has got to be Debbie Gibson’s “Lost In Your Eyes.” This one is such a masterpiece of poetry and song that I must read you the entire song.
VERSE 1: I get lost in your eyes, And I feel my spirits rise, And soar like the wind.. Is it love that I am in?
I get weak in a glance, Isn’t that what’s called romance? …And now I know ‘Cause when I’m lost I can’t let go.
CHORUS: I don’t mind not knowing what I’m headed for, You can take me to the skies… It’s like being lost in heaven, When I’m lost in your eyes.
VERSE 2: I just fell, don’t know why, Something’s there we can’t deny… And when I first knew, Was when I first looked at you.
And if I can’t find my way, If salvation seems worlds away, Oh, I’ll be found, When I am lost in your eyes.
It just doesn’t get any better than this. This is the pinnacle of literary and musical genius. Go home and listen to it while staring out of your window on a moonlit night by yourself.
What happens when your concept of love is informed by songs such as this? What happens when your concept of love is, it’s a ditch? Or it’s a virus? Or it’s a tidal wave? Or a knight in shining armor ready to sweep you off of your feet? What happens when you define marriage as sappy, syrupy, romantic emotion? When you define love as emotion, what happens is, you set yourself up for failure. Why? Because it is impossible to sustain that high level of emotion for the lifetime of your marriage.
This tidal wave of emotion will take you through dating and courtship and set you down at the altar. It will get you to your wedding day. If the tidal wave is strong enough and high enough, the emotional wave may carry you through the honeymoon period as newlyweds and last for maybe 1-2 years into the marriage. But eventually, the tidal wave comes crashing down. The feelings subside. Reality hits. Suddenly, the adorable quirks of your spouse turn into annoying flaws. And you begin to realize, the person you thought was so perfect is full of imperfections.
At that point, marriages can go in one of two directions. Either, the marriage unravels into World War III and nuclear missiles are fired and you have it out. Or, it devolves into the Cold War where neither side speaks and a frigid estrangement ensues. Fire missiles or drift apart. It’s one of the two. And when the strain on the marriage is too great, either from fighting or from apathy, the marriage ends. Because the glue of the relationship was pure romance, pure emotion so when it’s gone, there is nothing to hold the two together.
Jesus explains the reason for divorce in terms of hardness of our hearts.
7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Back in Moses’ day, women were not treated as equal partners with men. They were not valued as highly as men. Women were below men. To this very day, in places like China, it’s hard to believe, but women are not considered as valuable as men. So if you have a child and it’s a girl, then abort her. No big deal. Try again. Women are still treated this poorly in the 21st century. Likewise, in Moses’ day, a certificate of divorce was issued for things as ridiculous as burning the food. Basically, this shows that any excuse was acceptable as legal grounds for a divorce.
Taking this principle, if hardness of heart was a cause for divorce back in Moses’ day, what kind of hardness of heart do we see today? I want a divorce because I am no longer in love. I have fallen out of love. Again, this is love as an emotion, a feeling. I want a divorce because this person is not meeting my needs. Or my spouse is not meeting my expectations. I want a divorce because she nags too much. Or he’s too into his work. He neglects me. I met someone younger. It’s destiny this time around. She’s the one. I made a mistake earlier.
Whether in the time of Moses centuries ago or in the year 2013, the reasons for divorce then and the reasons for divorce now are the same–our hearts are hard. Furthermore, from this text, I think we can see another reason why divorces are so prevalent. Our view of marriage is way too low.
Let me read from the Baptist Faith and Message, which is the statement of faith issued by our denomination. This version was last updated in the year 2000 so it is fairly up-to-date.
“Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race. The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.” ~Baptist Faith and Message (Article 18)
We won’t get into all the specifics of marriage like gender roles. I just want to focus on one line from our Baptist Faith and Message. “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church…”
Jesus speaks of marriage as one flesh union. Two will become one flesh, which can be translated into one new person. Two become one. Like a chemical experiment. You take two unique substances that come together and it’s not like oil and vinegar. The two substances don’t sit on top of each other. But they mix together and a third substance, a compound is formed, something which is absolutely unique. Two become one new person.
Jesus traces the origins of marriage to Creation. To the Garden of Eden, where God created not two same gender, best friends. Not mother and child, but a man and a woman. God created man, humanity, male and female he created them. Male and female are not identical. Male and female are not interchangeable parts. It’s almost as if God created men and placed 50% of his qualities in males and he created women and placed 50% of his qualities in females.
Therefore, when a man and a woman come together in marriage, there is a completion that happens. Together, man and woman become one, and in their union, the image of God is reflected through their lives in a way that is much fuller and more complete than two guys or two girls coming together in friendship.
I’m not saying you cannot be fulfilled in this life as a single person. Apostle Paul was single and enjoyed a very fulfilling life. In fact, Paul says in 1 Cor 7 that time is short and he wishes that everyone could be single like him and single-minded in their devotion to the Lord and to the work of the ministry. So singleness is a calling and marriage is a calling. And Paul would add, actually, if it were up to him, he wished that God called more people to be single. This is the same guy who wrote about God’s high view of marriage in Eph 5.
Jesus in the gospel of Matthew also seems to give a dual portrait of marriage. In this chapter, Matthew 19, marriage is elevated. But a few chapters, Matthew 22:23-33, Jesus mentions the shocking revelation that there is no marriage in heaven. A woman’s husband died and so she married her brother. Then, he died. And this happened 5 more times. 7 brothers in total married to the same wife. If I were the parents of these 7 sons, I’m sorry, but I might wonder, what’s wrong with my daughter-in-law? Talk about a string of bad luck. But the point is, she won’t be married to all 7 guys in heaven because there is no marriage in heaven.