God’s Guidance to our families
Sunday, October 3, 2021
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Marriage is a Gift
What kind of gift is it? I don’t know if you have given this some thought, but when you think about it, there are basically two kinds of gifts. First, there’s the group of gifts you simply get. Then there is the group of gifts you have to prepare for and then work at keeping. In catechism class, when I’m speaking about the sacraments, I bring up this thought. A banana is a gift you can simple get. You can give a banana to pretty much anyone. And they either eat it or not. But nothing bad is going to happen to them either way. But would you give a three-year-old the keys to your motorcycle? They would not be ready. They need to learn and grow so much before they are ready. Baptism is like a banana. It is provided to all nations and all people at Jesus’ command and invitation. The Lord’s Supper is like a motorcycle. Training, teaching, and understanding is needed ahead of time before the gift is appreciated. So, with that pattern in your brains, this morning I want you to ask yourselves where marriage fits into that pattern? It is simply a gift we get? Or is there more to the picture? God’s word answers that question in these words here from Genesis 2: “18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.” 19 The Lord God formed out of the ground every wild animal and every bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man no helper was found corresponding to him.” (Gen. 2:18–20 CSB17)
In these words we are at the beginning of the world, before the fall into sin. And yet, even though the details of creation were complete and perfect, there was somehow a detail that was not complete. There was no helper corresponding to Adam. There was no one who was like him and who would be with him and understand him. And from these words we see that the Lord has plan. Marriage is not just a gift that you get. Marriage is a gift in which there is far more to ponder. Marriage is prepared. In the words that follow the Lord prepares marriage for Adam. And he prepares Adam for marriage: “21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. 22 Then the Lord God made the rib he had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 And the man said: This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called “woman,” for she was taken from man.” (Gen. 2:21–23 CSB17)
In these words there are a number of details to look at. First, look at the care the Lord takes in creating the woman. Eve is different than all the animals. For the Lord creates her in a special way like he creates Adam. But she is just like Adam and equal to him in that she has a body and soul just like him. So the Lord prepares marriage: marriage for Adam and Adam for marriage. For that is the sort of immense gift that it is.
And my friends, the same is true today. We spend years preparing for marriage—whether a person ever gets married or not. We continually learn from the bible what marriage is and not from our own desires or from popular culture. For the bible is all true, not just some of it. And we prepare for marriage with the understanding that it will take work and commitment. But when we are prepared, this gift is an amazing blessing. So marriage is a gift that we prepare for. But there is more to marriage. In the next verse, we read: “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24 CSB17)
God’s word here tells us that because God planned, prepared, and finally provided marriage, what he says marriage is is still the pattern today. Marriage is one man and one woman for life. In this context marriage is a gift and a blessing. But, my friends, what we are reading here is Genesis 2. We turn the page to Genesis 3 and so very much falls apart. And so today, our Lord works hard not just to prepare us for marriage, but to also protect it. And he invites us to protect it too. For marriage is under attack. And it’s been shocking to see from decade to decade how it has been attacked. Years ago the motivation for marriage was attacked. Instead of seeing marriage as a gift, it was seen as a part of life driven by guilt. That changed. And when I was younger I saw the change where the motivation out of guilt was changed to no motivation to get married at all. You can chart the course from the late 90’s in television for about 15 years. People had no desire to get married at all. And finally we have reached the stage where even the word, “marriage” doesn’t have any meaning or substance anymore. A few years ago, the Supreme Court changed the definition of marriage. Marriage is no longer, in the view of our nation, based on biology (one man and one woman.) Instead, marriage is based solely on desire. That which I am strongly attached to, I have the right to marry.
So there is a great need for us to protect marriage. But, my dear friends, that protecting of this gift will take two shapes. For those who despise marriage and defend a dysfunctional view, we boldy tell them that they are wrong. But, my friends, there are many who do not fit into the ‘kick the dog’ category. They are people who listened to the world around them and absorbed what the world taught because it sounded good and right. And now they deeply regret what they have done. And that brings us to our final verse this morning: “Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.” (Gen. 2:25 CSB17)
Shame. There are other sins we, as humans, can commit. But they don’t hit us as hard. They don’t embarrass us as much. But sins against the 6th commandment hit us hard. They have the ability to make us feel the shock and embarrassment at what we have done. And when this happens, people either push away the shame, trying to prove to themselves that what they did was ok. Or, they are devoured by their consciences. They conclude that there is no help or hope for them. And in some people there’s a little of both attitudes at the same time.
What this teaches us is that in these scenarios our protecting of marriage will take a different shape than those who defy and deny the Lord’s pattern for marriage. It requires patient disentanglement. Picture our relation to marriage today like a tangled thread or fishing string. You can’t just pull on both ends. You need to patiently de-knot each tangled up area. And as you do, it reveals more knots.
What are these knots? Our peers around us preach powerful sermons. But there are times that those sermons are not wise and good. Today there is the popular preaching that we prepare for marriage by pretending to be married. It takes time to disentangle that knot, letting them know that God’s pattern is good and right and will actually work out. But maybe even more persuasive is that fact that our own bodies preach sermons too. We have desires. But not all desires are good. And even the desires that might be good might not be good yet. And so that means that it will take time and patience to help a person recognize first of all that listening to and following the bible is better. You can trust these words. But you cannot always trust your peers. And you cannot always trust your own body.
So the first part of disentanglement is helping the person sort out the lies from the truth. But we dare not forget the second part. The second part is saying, showing, and repeating that there is forgiveness for us when it comes to the breaking of this commandment too. Every time I read through John 4, I am amazed. Yet again, in bible study class a few weeks ago, we walked through those words. Jesus meets a woman and asks her for water. Eventually Jesus exposes the fact that she didn’t have a husband. She had had a number of men. But none of them was “her man.”1 What is Jesus doing here? He is helping her disentangle the knots. He is kind to her. He is patient with her. He listens to her and then gives her the opportunity to compare her view with God’s word. And then he both says and shows her that he is forgiven. And far from defending her life, she confesses it. But the only way and context in which she is able to is not out of shame. Instead, it’s out of forgiveness.
So my dear friends in Christ, see what kind of gift marriage is. It is not the sort of gift we simply get. It’s the sort of gift we prepare for. It’s the sort of gift we protect. And our good and gracious Lord will be with us as to help disentangle the knots. Amen.
1 “ⲟⲩⲕⲉⲥⲧⲓⲛⲥⲟⲩⲁⲛⲏⲣ” (John 4:18 GNT-ALEX)