INTRODUCTION – Not surprisingly, media outlets like the Atlantic Monthly in their June issue – – perhaps hoping to influence the Supreme Court’s any day decision re: marriage – – for sure trying to influence popular culture re: their view of marriage – – these media outlets of late – – have been predicting and proclaiming the inevitable demise or death of traditional marriage as we have known it.
In Liza Mundy’s cover article “The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss” several facts are stated in her introduction to substantiate her claims or conclusions or solutions – such as: 1. Americans are waiting longer to get married or are putting marriage off longer than ever before. The median age of a person’s first marriage is 28 for men and 26 for women, up from 23 and 20, respectively, in 1950. 2. Rates of cohabitation ……. or couples living together without getting married have risen swiftly and sharply, …… and more people than ever are living single. 3. Most Americans still marry at some point, but many of those marriages end in divorce. 4. Having children before you marry – if you marry at all is becoming more common.
As one who has regularly read articles and studies on the family in America for over 33 years now, and as one who has worked with families for all these years – – I would be foolish to say traditional marriage does not have its challenges and blemishes, such as the ones just mentioned. But it is my firm conviction that any and every young person in America can look forward to a happy and harmonious and life long marriage – – to the same person – – of the opposite sex – – if …… they will follow the blue print or guidelines that our good and all wise God has established, and if they will allow the Holy Spirit to develop in them the necessary heart and mind and character that is crucial to be able to follow these guidelines. When a couple follows this blueprint or these guidelines – marriage always thrives – – and divorce rarely happens.
So the million dollar question today is not: Is traditional marriage dying? And is it time therefore to roll over and allow same sex marriage to be on equal footing – both in our values and in our laws. The million dollar question is: How did the Creator and Designer of traditional marriage intend for it to thrive? What blueprint or guidelines did He give – that so many seem to be ignoring or are at least ignorant of – based on their failures and/or their distrust and even disgust of traditional marriage? Well any discussion of traditional marriage must start with some knowledge of the character of its creator, so turn with me if you would to Genesis ch. 1 and while you are turning there – let me give you the first and most foundational principle for a happy and harmonious heterosexual marriage:
1. Happy and Harmonious heterosexual marriages best happen when the husband and wife are happy in their relationship with God. These marriage relationships were never meant to function apart from that daily experience of the satisfying, purifying presence of God in each spouse’s life.
Everyone who is somewhat familiar with the story of Adam and Eve knows that as is stated in ch. 3 – they blew it, and the consequences were grievous both for them and for all their descendants, which includes you and me. But few people realize that it is very possible that Adam and Eve enjoyed their married life together and their relationship with God perhaps for some years before they decided they could handle matters better on their own. Their journey with God begins right after we find the triune living God discussing among Himself – – and by that I mean – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – – have just finished creating everything in this amazing universe except humanity. And now they are ready for the pinnacle of creation – humanity. And they are discussing this, and their discussion is recorded for our benefit.
BTW – let me just throw in at this point that Adam and Eve were a real couple, and disciples of Jesus must not be shifty on that reality. When Luke details Jesus’s genealogy in chapter 3 of his gospel, he states that it started with Adam. Paul mentions Adam four times in 3 different epistles. Jude also speaks of Adam in terms of Enoch’s genealogy.
And finally – its crucial that any student of the Bible or of marriage knows – – that there are different genres of literature in the Bible. Some books like Revelation have lots of allegory in them. Some books are solely historical accounts with no allegory in them at all. Genesis is the latter. So when Moses writes of Adam and Eve’s life, he is speaking of a very real couple, not an allegory for readers to make up their own interpretation of.
So let’s pick up with this intriguing discussion of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with one another in Genesis ch. 1, vs. 26, “Then God said (please note there is no one around yet to hear Him say this but Himself), Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Unlike the Yosemites and Grand Canyons and Sahara Desserts and Amazon Rain Forests and blue whales & cheetas & eagles – – the triune living God decided humans would be made in His image and likeness, and they would be created in two distinct complimentary genders – male and female. Listen to vs. 27 – “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; (this phrase “in His own image”is repeated because it is a radical departure from the rest of creation) male and female He created them.” So this climax of creation has happened, and now in vs. 28 the living God begins a relationship with Adam and Eve, “God blessed them, and SAID to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over ever living thing that moves on the earth.” He speaks to them again re: their dominion over the earth in vs. 29, “Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant…etc.”
What does it mean to be made in the image of God? Well it means more than we have time to discuss, but one huge thing it means is that just like God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have existed together in all eternity in perfect communion and harmony and unity – – just like we see them operate here in the first chapter as they in total harmony and unity create the known universe together, …. so God has created humanity with that same relational capacity. Men and women and boys and girls have been created with the capacity to be in a mutual harmonious relationship with the living God and with one another – – and as we learn to walk that out – – God’s glory is reflected and mirrored in our relationships.
In ch. 2 vs. 15-17 we see God speaking to Adam before Eve was created – instructing him about the trees in the garden. In vs. 19 the Lord God and Adam appear to be working and perhaps discussing together what to name the animals. And in ch. 3, we come upon a most intriguing situation. Adam and Eve at this point, and again this is most likely months or years after God first created them and brought them together – Adam and Eve are hiding from God because they had chosen to go against His instructions about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and as a result they were for the first time ever – walking in shame and condemnation – and the text in vs. 8 says, “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day….” This was a familiar sound to them. Perhaps for years when God entered into this luscious perfect garden that was perhaps the size of the farming valley we drive through on Los Osos Valley Road with rivers flowing through it – – For perhaps months or years, Adam and Eve – – would probably run to Him – – enjoying fellowship with Him – – perhaps relaying to Him how tending this massive garden area was going – – and hearing His heart for the plans He had for them and the coming generations.
This is how God always meant for marriage to be. A man and a woman with God in their midst – – finding their deepest needs met by relationship with Him – – sharing their burdens with Him – – receiving instructions and counsel from Him…together fulfilling His purposes for their lives. You see when God is in the midst of a marriage – – if there is sickness – they look to God as their Healer; if there is financial lack – they look to God as their provider; if there is danger – – they look to God as their protector and defender; if there is some kind of bondage to sin – – they look to God as their deliverer; and as a way of life – they both look to God for the satisfaction and fulfillment and sense of value and purpose that only He can provide. Thus whenever the said husband and wife are together, they are in a posture to give to and serve one another; and not in a posture to take and grab and demand things from one another.
Well Satan and his demons know that this is the glue of a happy and harmonious marriage better than anyone. And that leads me to my second point or the second reason why every young man and woman can look forward to a happy and harmonious life long marriage with a member of the opposite sex – – and that is –
II. Happy and harmonious heterosexual relationships best happen when both husband and wife know how to fight and win spiritual battles with unseen forces.
Just as God created us with the capacity to enjoy united and harmonious relationships with Him and those humans He brings us into relationship with, so He has created us with the capacity to resist evil and to overcome the attacks of the evil one. Satan may be evil, but he is not stupid. He knows that if he can get a spouse or better yet a couple to doubt the goodness and trustworthiness of God – – he can knock the knees out from under their marriage. He knows this is the glue that can and should forever hold a marriage together. So what did he do with Adam and Eve? Well he immediately went after their relationship with God. Now if I was satan, I would have probably whispered into eve or adam’s ear some reasons why they shouldn’t trust their spouse. But Satan went deeper. He questioned whether God Himself could be trusted – knowing that the whole house would crumble if he could get at that foundation. Listen to ch. 3 vs. 1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” Why the restrictions? I thought He had given you dominion over everything?? Can’t you see He is holding back? He just doesn’t want you to enjoy life. Can’t you see He has control issues? You have a brain. You don’t need Him to enjoy and succeed in life…
Listen young men and women, it is no mistake that after the Apostle Paul gives us the longest and most detailed passage about marriage in the New Testament in Ephesians chapter 5, he then gives us the longest and most detailed passage in the Bible about spiritual warfare in ch. 6. We have a vicious cruel enemy who knows the power of a married couple with the living God of the universe in their midst – – and as the foundation of their home. If he can get you to begin to doubt and mistrust God, and thus neglect your relationships with Him, and thus stop getting your source of value and satisfaction and fulfillment from Him, it is just a matter of hours before you start trying to get from your spouse what you were meant to get from God, and the nitpicking and blaming and criticizing and resentment and bitterness and fighting are sure to follow.
Well let me finish with one last point from these first 3 chapters of Genesis. The third principle for building a happy and harmonious heterosexual marriage is this:
III. Happy and harmonious heterosexual marriages best happen when both partners fully accept their own God given gender, and fully appreciate their spouse’s God given gender, and see the wisdom in two very distinct and diverse genders coming together as one.
We’re back to Gen. 1:27, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” The living triune God of the universe is infinite in His wisdom and understanding. And He is utterly good and just and righteous in the ways He has devised the family. And for a whole variety of reasons, He chose to create two very distinct and yet complimentary genders. One obvious reason is for multiplication or for having babies. God’s very first command to Adam and Eve as recorded in Genesis 1:28 was, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth (implied with babies)!” And God gave them the necessary biological equipment to do so. Both externally with complimentary body parts and internally – the males with sperm and the ladies with eggs. Having babies is not the only purpose for marriage, but it is a primary one, and the worldwide tendency we are seeing in couples choosing not to have children is a very foolish and destructive one for the health and future of our societies. I recently wrote about this in my blog, whose address is on the front of your bulletins, if you want to better understand this issue.
Bearing children is important, but it is not the only reason God chose to have two very distinct and diverse genders come together in marriage. Another reason is He chose married couples to carry the burden or to shoulder the weight of managing the earth and the communities and cities that would soon form and fill the earth., and their diverse and complimentary gifts and talents and perspectives would be absolutely necessary to pull that off. This is seen in the rest of His command in ch. 1 vs. 28 and in ch. 2 vs. 15, “….fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth (which includes humans). “ 2:15 says, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” Now this was before Eve was created, but God always intended for them to work together to see this fulfilled. Anything and everything in God’s creation on earth needs managed – especially living things. Instead of giving all the personality traits, gifts and talents and necessary emotions to just one gender and have him or her do it all, God chose to divide them up between men and women – – and only as they come together as one – – can the objective or mission be accomplished. That’s why after God commanded Adam in ch. 2 vs. 15 to cultivate and keep this massive garden valley of sorts, He then said in vs. 18, “….It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
Now in our western society today there are many critics who have read or heard of this verse and who are convinced it is a derogatory, discriminatory, and oppressive perspective or principle towards women. They think the idea in this verse is that women were created to be man’s slave or servant. That their purpose in life is to hand we husbands the remote, get us another beer, do all the cooking and cleaning, keep those kids quiet so we can focus on our t.v. show, and whatever else we think we need.
But that is far from God’s heart and intention. First of all the Hebrew word translated “helper” here is also used of God in a number of passages. Let me read a couple to you: “ Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:20 “….Hasten to me O God, You are my help and my deliverer.” I can promise you when the Psalmist spoke of or to God as their help or helper, they were not thinking of Him as their slave or servant. If anything, what we should conclude from the use of this term is that man is in great need of help that only a God given wife can provide. When it comes to fulfilling God’s purposes for his life, he is anything but a self made man.
Second, if you have a Bible with reference notes in it, you might have noticed that there is a little “1” right before the word “suitable”. If you then find the bold number 18 in your margin, you will note this word literally means “corresponding to”, and thus could and perhaps should read, “I will make him a helper corresponding to him.” In other words – God has intentionally created man and woman with holes or insufficiencies or lacks – – that only a God chosen spouse of the opposite gender can fill. Only when a man and a woman – both in relationship with God – and both picked by God to be joined together with the other – – only when they come together in unity and harmony and mutual cooperation and respect and interdependence – – only then can they walk in wholeness and fullness and completeness and thus be equipped to fulfill their God given destinies.
Here’s my fourth and final reason why every child and young person can look forward to a happy and harmonious life long marriage to a person of the opposite gender:
IV. God created us with a need for sexual satisfaction and fulfillment that the God picked spouse of the opposite gender can best fulfill, and might I add was designed to fulfill.
When God brought every living animal on the face of the earth for Adam to name, I’m sure Adam was in utter amazement at God’s creativity and the beauty of these creatures. But that amazement was nothing like the ecstasy he experienced when God brought Eve to him – as they both stood there in their innocent, sinless (so far) naked and unashamed state. Listen to Adam’s exclamation, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh!” God you have outdone yourself in this one!
Then Adam names her and gives the reason for her name in the rest of the verse – acknowledging their God created interdependence. Then God says through Moses in vs. 24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
No matter how dependent a young man might be on his parents; and no matter how dependent they may be upon their son. God says in no uncertain terms – that when He brings a young woman and young man together in marriage – – they are to make a clear and definitive break in that parental relationship – in terms of dependence – – and in turn this young man and woman are to join their bodies together sexually as an act like none other that can and should and was designed to bring unity and oneness to two very distinct and diverse people – primarily because of their genders.
The Bible has really had a bad rap re: its take on sex. But most of that comes from people who have never read it and especially never understood it. When I take young couples in pre-marital counseling through the scriptures as to what it has to say about sexual satisfaction and fulfillment between a husband and a wife – they are often shocked that it is so explicit and affirming of an enjoyable ongoing sexual relationship. Well because of time, and the age of some of our folk with us today – I’m going to leave this topic for now.
So keeping in mind the reality of the failure and dysfunction of the average marriage that I spoke of in the beginning of this sermon, what can young men and women do to prepare to enter into this relationship, and avoid these pitfalls and snares? Well I usually take at least six one hour plus sessions when I do premarital counseling to explain all of this, but for now, let us suggest a few things.
1. In light of our first principle, aggressively, daily cultivate your relationship with God and let nothing distract or get in the way of it. Believe me, developing that relationship with God will never get easier. Distractions will only increase as you move on in life. One of the reasons the apostle Paul blesses singlehood with such enthusiasm in I Cor. 7 is because it is a time or season of life wherein you can walk with God in an undistracted way. Do not put this off or give it the dregs of your time and attention young men and women. Nothing else you can do will more prepare you for marriage than this.
2. In light of our second principle regarding the reality of spiritual warfare – – ask the Holy Spirit to help you learn to defeat the devil and temptation today! Learn to treasure His word in your hearts so that you can defeat temptation just like Jesus did in His 40 days in the wilderness. Paul says in Eph. 6 that the “sword of the Spirit is the word of God.” It is the primary weapon that the Holy Spirit uses to wage war in and through your hands and mind and tongue. And find someone who is successful in walking in victory over satan and temptation and learn from them.
3. In light of our third principle regarding the bringing together of the male and female genders – – I have several things I want to say. First of all, you need to know that one of the effects of being born with the righteousness and goodness eating cancer of the soul called sin is that we all innately are given to not respecting and honoring and trusting and cherishing the opposite sex. A whole variety of things in our growing up years feed into this. For instance if you grow up as a girl without a dad or with a dad who is cold to you or neglectful or even worse – abusive – – this will undoubtedly color your attitude towards men.
If you grow up as a young boy and you have a domineering controlling nagging mother, this will undoubtedly affect and color your attitude towards women.
If you grow up as a young boy or girl and your older sibling of the opposite sex makes fun of you and takes advantage of you or neglects and ignores you, this will over time undoubtedly affect and color the way you look at the opposite gender.
Unfortunately it is rare to grow up these days and not experience at least one of these factors. The sooner you can get in touch with that and look to God to heal you of those effects including any unforgiveness or bitterness the better. You see our own innate sinful disdain of the opposite sex feeds on these things like ants on a piece of moist candy. One thing I can promise you – these effects do not go away on their own. It is a lie that time heals! Only God heals the deep wounds of the soul caused by people who should have been there for us but often were not.
Second, you need to know that our society is filled with people of influence who are in deep bondage to the sin that despises and in some cases has totally given up on the opposite sex. And the more they can get to join them in this misery the better. Sometimes these people are writers and journalists. Sometimes they are movie producers. Sometimes they are university professors. Sometimes they are politicians such as some of the ones who fill the legislative halls of Sacramento. These people do not understand how the forces of sin within them have affected their outlook. They don’t understand that the reason they have chosen to pursue intimacy and companionship with a person of the same sex is because they have given up on the opposite one almost always because of a series of very hurtful and damaging experiences with the opposite sex and without a strong relationship with God and His people to weather it and see it for what it is. We must have compassion on these people. But we must not in any way entertain their lies.
Third, you need to know that our society in its ignorance of the effects of sin, and in its ignorance of the reality of satan and his demons and their ongoing assault on our minds – – has terribly warped and corrupted what it means to be a man or a woman.
It is shocking and greatly alarming to me how much of our life in America is given to helping and trying to motivate women to have the perfect body – – as America has concluded what a perfect female body should look like. It is utterly impossible to go out into society such as in our retail or grocery stores, or turn on your computer, or your t.v. and not be utterly assaulted with the necessity of doing whatever it takes to acquire and maintain that perfect body, which of course includes ones’ complexion, teeth, hair, fingernails, eyebrows, along with the perfect figure, etc. If you go into a marriage with this weight on your shoulders, you are in for a long discouraging ride.
Men – on the other hand – are to be muscular and well ripped, with a good sense of humor and “SEXY”, and of course wealthy so you can support your need for a fancy car, and sharp clothes, etc. Men also in popular culture are painted as dufus’s and goof offs – – especially when it comes to understanding women or being able to adequately father their children.
Here’s the point – young men and women – – you can’t be who you need to be to your spouse if you have this deception and crud on you. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth; and the truth shall set you free.” You won’t find that truth in popular culture – whether it be in t.v. shows, music lyrics, or to a great extent in the halls of our public schools and universities.
The apostle Paul put it this way, “Be not conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, that you might prove that which is good, acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
May each of you find and experience the joy of allowing our triune God to so mold and transform and prepare you – – that you can side step all of this deception and dysfunction – – and see God’s highest purposes for you in marriage – accomplished – for His glory and praise. Amen.