The Wedding Message I Gave During My Sister’s and her New Husband Wedding Ceremony October 1, 2005.

Silas and Steffanie, the reason you are here in front of everyone is not only to make your love and commitment to each other public but also to put your marriage into the center of a community of loved ones. Marriage is not only a picture of the way God loves each of us, but in a larger sense the Bible calls the church the bride of Jesus.  [When I speak of church I mean any group of people who are Christians and meet together regularly – the church is not a building nor a service].

In looking at the church as Christ’s bride, we can learn some things about our own marriages. For the church seeks to remain committed to Christ through both the joyous times and especially in the times of loss and tragedy.  The people of God also seek to witness (or make known) the love of Christ to the world from its inner-relationship with him.  Finally  its seeks to become holy, by way of submitting ourselves to Christ’s Lordship and desiring his will for our lives.
These things are also true of marriage.  For it is two people bound up together by a common love – aligning their lives, their will, and their resources to work together in an unconditional commitment to one another. It is two lives becoming one. Marriage should not be treated as a contract, that can be broken or lost.  Instead this commitment to one another is Spiritual, because it will at times require resources of which you do not have. This  unconditional and spiritual connection to each other should be the way we perceive our commitment in marriage.

When we say “for richer or poorer” we recognize that this is not to sound poetic, but it is a statement with real life ramifications.  When we say “in sickness and in health” we trust that each person really means no matter how sick your spouse becomes you will not leave her or his side.  Because we do not know what will happen in life this committing to one another calls you to rely most heavily on the resources of God’s Holy Spirit which you both have inside you.

Then we think about how marriage can be a witness to the world, how it can make known the love of Christ to those around us.  The word witness can have bad connotations, because it can bring up  images hell-bent Christians who hold up signs warning of fire and brimstone, or of tracts that are impersonal and leave life too simplified.  Thankfully this type of witness is foreign to the NT.  This idea of witness is an outside-in approach, because it argues that conditions of ones life must be just right in order for a person to come to know God. i.e outside circumstances determine the inward ones.

In reality it is very much the other way around, witness (in faith and marriage) moves from the inside-out.  What I mean is God meets us where we are at and then transforms us through this experience.  This is the way marriage should also be. We cannot  think that marriage can only be right, when everything else is in place, when we have the right job, the right schooling, the right family, or the right health. Conditions will never be perfect. In fact often times things can go the other way, jobs are lost, struggle comes from outside relationships, hardships joined with the loss of loved ones and uncontrollable tradgedies permeate this world.  And so we find that we must mainted a steady love in these times, knowing that God can speak through every aspect of life.

If you accept this idea, and you live in love and faithfulness to one another no matter what becomes of life, you will be a witness to God’s transformative power.  The world will see your marriage as an example to others.

The church does not do its best when it thinks it has all the right words to the world’s problems.  Rather it is most faithful to God when it embodies God’s love in the times when it is hardest to do so.  This is the lesson for witness in marriage.

Finally marriage is primarily to make us holy, not just happy – and this holiness comes by way of submitting ourselves to each another; both husband and wife.  This is the main starting point for a healthy marriage because when we submit to one another in love, we are most cleary living out Christ’s own example to us.  And so it says in Ephesians “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

The greatest struggle you will face within marriage is a struggle for control, a struggle for one person to dominate the other.  There is nothing more contradictory to the love Christ taught us than to dominate and control another person. When it becomes dominating, and dehumanizing, the purpose of marriage has been destroyed. If Marriage is to be a healing and holy institution, it must first begin with the utter self-sacrifice of both partners.  Marriage is to be healing and humanizing, a witness to the world, when it is not these things it is not founded on the life of Christ.

Therefore all the power of marriage is rooted in sacrifice, sacrifice derives its power from the crucified God.  This sort of sacrificial living subverts our own selfishness. Thus a marriage based on sacrifice is our greatest asset in this life, for it purifies and sanctifies us like no other humanly relationship can, and yet  because it is our greatest asset it also requires the hardest work, the most upkeep and the most compromise.

This is no different than what we see in the Scriptures, the power of the church lays within Jesus’ life, his death and then his being raised to life –  the sacrifice of God.  Jesus could only save us from our sins by first relinquishing control of his ownself and rights.  And so we are like Christ when we as men and women give up control of ourselves for our spouse.  We submit to one another as Christ submitted to humanity.  We are reminded of God’s great act as it says of Jesus in the Scriptures,

“For he, who had always been God by nature, did not greedily cling to his rights as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And having become a man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a criminal.???

In Christ’s sacrifice, God had control; your sacrifice will also allow for God’s Control in bringing life not only to your souls but also to your marriage.

So it is that in your lifetime, Steffanie and Silas, you must seek to: 1) be unconditional in your commitment to one another, 2) make you marriage a witness from the inside-out showing the world the love and devotion you have for each other in Christ and 3) submit to one another in mutuality as in reverence for Christ.  I believe that your marriage will rise and fall with how well you, with the help of the Holy Spirit, seek to work these things.