She was beautiful.
He wasn’t really sure what she was, but whatever she was, she was beautiful.
Then, God explained: “I knew that you were lonely. Even though I had made this beautiful garden for you and filled with fish, birds, and animals, with gorgeous flowers and breathtaking sunrises…I knew it was only good. Not “very good.” I knew you needed someone to share this garden with. Someone like you. Someone of you.”
“So when you were sleeping, I took a part of you. I molded. I formed. I created another just like you. Another to complement you. Another to make you complete.
I call her “from man.” You call her “woman.”
Adam had a tear of joy in his eyes. As the robins chirped in perfect harmony with the blue jays and the hummingbirds hummed an accompaniment, while butterflies floated over their heads. Adam grabbed this “woman” by the hands. He took advantage of this romantic moment. He squeezed her tightly. He spoke quietly and beautifully – the first ever love poem: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because shew was taken out of man.”
Fast forward with me.
Now the garden was gone. Now the sound of the robins was replaced by the angry cawing of the buzzards. The green canopy had been replayed with a dead tree. Weeds, thistles, and thorns covered the scenery as the two sat down for a few measly turnips – all that had grown in this season. Adam was tired and covered in sweat. Eve was tired and covered in sweat. Their kids, Cain and Abel, were fighting in the background over who had to feed their pet pig.
The scene had changed. Gone was the perfect paradise, replaced by a shell of the garden – in their new real sinful world.
I’m sure they were tempted. Tempted to blame each other.
Everytime Eve slaved over a hot stove to make the exact same onion stew she always made, I imagine she longed for the ease of picking ready made strawberries, tangerines, and other citrus in the 70 degree temps of Eden. Then she thought of Adam – how he hadn’t been a good leader. How this was all his fault.
Meanwhile Adam washed up for dinner and picked at the thorns in his forefingers in order being careful not to touch the tender boils on his skin. I imagine he longed for Eden – when he lay on a palm branch hammock and asked the monkey to deliver him the best banana cocktail he could find. Then, he thought of Eve—how she had been tricked. How this was all her fault.
This scene was less romantic.
Maybe you hope for a marriage like Adam and Eve in the garden. If you are engaged, perhaps you think that’s exactly how it will be. If you’ve been married for a while perhaps you realize that married can look a lot more like the second scene. Maybe you don’t get married because you are sure your marriage will be like the second scene.
Today we’re taking a look at marriage. Marriage in a post Eden world. How do you make it work – in the future or right now? When should you call it quits? When is it just too hard?
I. The World’s Definition
Did you know that according to recent marriage trends it is likely that 44% of the couples that got married in 2014 will end in divorce? This isn't surprising news. Our world treats divorce as if it is no big deal.
Case and point: Kim Kardashian. Specifically her second marriage to the NBA star Kris Humphries. They built up the planning for this wedding for months on her reality TV show. Then, by the time the wedding aired, she was almost divorced. Their marriage lasted for 72 days.
When you watch the TV show, she brings up the same theme for divorce again and again, "I'm just not feeling in love anymore."
The world's definition of marriage is based on love, the feeling.
This perspective on marriage really affects the divorce question.
ABC’s popular reality show The Bachelor encompasses this. The man searching for his true wife slowly narrows it down to his true love as he sorts it out through romantic boat rides in remote lagoons, balloon rides over the setting sun, and private dances in a Cinderella like castle with special guest Bruno Mars performing live just for them. Finally the Bachelor decides that he feels in love. He feels like she will be the perfect wife. He gets dows on his knee and asks one of the women to marry him.
Trivia fact – Less than 10% of all bachelor relationships are still together.
And our world says, “That’s ok. If you don’t feel love anymore, how can you be expected to remain married?”
II. The Divorce Question
Based on our world's definition of marriage, you can understand the Pharisee’ question. Take a look at Matthew 19:1. They asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” What’s interesting is the implication. They seem to have some kind of moral compass. They seem to think that there are some good reasons and some not so good reasons.
Judging by the fact that they are humans – I imagine they judge good reasons – as their own; and bad reasons – as the reasons of others. “It’s ok. We’re getting divorced because she doesn’t make a casserole like my mom does.” “Tabitha and I have decided to part because things aren’t as romantic as they used to be.” “I’m getting my divorce papers tomorrow – because there’s another woman at the marketplace that I have taken a fancy too. Sorry. The heart wants what the heart wants!”
No wonder those who put their faith in human definitions of marriage often result in divorce.
Do you think similarly? Do you look for someone to marry based on how they make you feel? Do you remain married because you feel like you are in a Disney palace? Is real marriage really defined by the way that you felt?
But listen to what Jesus has to say: 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
And the Pharisees get indignant. 7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. – In other words, you were so angry, sinful, and bitter that civically speaking, the government had to give you a divorce – or you’d be doing income taxes for the three wives you left and remarried within the past year. But it was not this way from the beginning. It is not this way in God’s neck of the wood. It isn’t this way in God’s definition. Jesus continues. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."
In other words – If you get legally divorced, unless the other person ends the marriage first by having intimate relations with someone else OR abandoning the marriage, then you are sinning.
Why? Why is God so harsh? Could it be that’s God’s definition of marriage is about way more than simply – feelings?
Here are three things that prove it:
1) God made them males and female. The implication? God made men and women with the desire that they get married. He desired for them to connect with one another. He desired that they complement one another.
But what if I would rather marry a guy? What if I have romantic feelings for someone of the same sex?
Look very carefully at Jesus’ words. They are pretty clear. God made them “male and female…with the purpose of the man leaving his father and mother and being united to his wife…”
But this is more than just a proof passage for the traditional formula of marriage. It is proof that marriage is about more than what you feel. It is proof that love is about more than what you feel.
Otherwise Jesus would have said, “Haven’t you read…that they were made male and female – but I don’t care. Do what you want.”
He didn’t say that, because he did care. In Jesus’ definition, marriage is about more than feelings.
2) “Two become one flesh.”
In fact, look at how he continues: “For this reason a man will be united to his wife…and the two will become one flesh.”
What a beautiful illustration this is too. Remember Adam and Eve. Eve literally came form Adam. There was one body and then there were two.
But, when they were married, though they weren’t joined together as literal Siamese twins, these two, who were one, became one again. This connects the two that are married in an intense soul bond. It’s beyond emotions. It’s a commitment bond. A choice. A loving decision to stay connected for each other...for kids.
3) “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”
When two become one, then suddenly you can’t just throw up your hands, give up, and move to Kentucky because “I don’t feel in love with him anymore.” You can’t do that, because you’ll be tearing apart a special bond. You’ll be causing pain, sadness, and intense emotional bleeding.
Jesus doesn’t stand for that, because when you do that – you’re causing all kinds of pain and sadness to one of his own children!
But most importantly, you’ll be breaking apart God’s own work.
One thing I’ve learned about spending time in Precious Lambs is to keep your hands off of anything that looks remotely like it might be “In Progress.” A few days ago I went in during a break and saw some blocks on the floor. I thought, “I'll help. I’ll pick them up.” Just then, the little boy who had placed those blocks there came in with his eyes bawling in tears: “That’s my castle. You’re destroying my castle. How could you!?! You broke what I put together."
If you decide to give up on your marriage because it’s too hard…if you consistently look at porn in your marriage because you don’t feel it from her…if you love tempting a married man…if you enjoy flirting with married women…if you cheat on your spouse…if you tell your friend “Hey, I think you should give up, you tried hard.” Understand this: You are doing way more than simply divorcing…
…You are destroying God’s work.
III. God’s Definition
What is God’s definition of marriage then? If it isn’t about love feelings – what is it about?
Head with me to 1 Corinthians 13. These are some beautiful words that are commonly spoken at a wedding. Listen to how the Bible defines love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
Notice what it does not say, “Love is that little spark you have when you look at someone.” Note that it doesn’t say, “Love is the twist in your gut that you get when your crush looks at you.” Nowhere is there mention of “the fireworks that go off metaphorically as ABC production’s fireworks go off literally."
Everyone of those words involves an action. Love acts patient– when its recipient is repeatedly late for the time you are leaving. Love acts kind…doing the dishes when it feels like lounging on the couch. Love does not envy…it celebrates the accomplishments of those around it. Love does not act proud…It admits its faults, even when it hurts. Love does not dishonor others…even if it might make it feel pretty good to do so. Love is not self seeking – which will naturally lead one’s self to feel bad. Love is not easily angered – even when it feels wronged and hurt, it chooses to respond with kindness. Love keeps not record of wrongs – even though the record might be rather long, love actively chooses not to take it into consideration. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects actively keeping it’s love safe even when it doesn’t want to. It always trusts thoroughly believing that the two of you will make it, even when both of you feel like you are not going to. Love always hopes. It always perseveres. It NEVER fails.
There is no greater example of this than Jesus Christ himself. Check out the Scripture from 1 John. It says, “This is how we know what love is: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Jesus took action. He took action and actively bore your sins. He actively walked to the cross. He went through the agony of a crucifixion for you.
Jesus did this while we were sinners! He did do this because there was some kind of romantic spark between you and Him. He did it even when you were in the worst of your sins. He did it when there was nothing loveable about you at all. He did it even though you have repeatedly time and time gone against him. Which means that if you have broken your marriage vows, if you have been actively harming your spouse, if you have been involved in ruining someone else’s marriage, if you have been divorced and are seeking God again – then God’s message for you today is this: You are forgiven! You are forgiven and Jesus loves you.
That’s the message of Hosea. Do you know about Hosea? Hosea was a prophet whom God told to go and marry a prostitute. Sound like a good idea? It wasn’t. Hosea’s wife repeatedly cheated on him. Hosea would head downtown and literally pull her out of the bedroom from another drug induced coma with another man and bring her home, nurse her to health, and call her “sweetie” in the morning.
How could Hosea do that? Easy. It’s what God had done to him.
It’s also what God has done to us. We have repeatedly, over and over again been unfaithful to Him –and He has repeatedly – shown us love. He will not give up on you.
Because that’s God’s definition of marriage. His definition is not based on feeling love. His definition is based on action love. Underserved, gracious, passionate, all the time, action love.
God says you are his bride,. You are the object of his affection.
Since you know God’s love, won’t you show that same kind of love in your marriage too?
Head back with me to the Adam and Eve scene. Is it really so loveless? The two of them had legitimate gripes against the other one. They had caused sin to come into the world. They had forfeited perfection and now lived together in all of their day to day imperfection…
..but they stayed together. They forgave. They loved. They hugged. Their love didn’t fail because they had seen God’s love which never fails.
Brothers & sisters, may you find such a love and may you grow in such love. May you be filled with God’s action love. Amen.