Monday, October 08, 2012

Sermon on Mark 10:2-16, for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, "Marriage and Family in God's Plan"

Sermon Outline:
·         Simple question: What is the state of marriage today? How would we answer? Divorce rates are very high (inside or outside the church), domestic abuse hotline at Women Helping Women fields an average of 60 calls a month on Maui alone. Same sex unions are already legal in Hawaii and several other states, with the promise of more to come, and the redefinition of marriage is aggressively underway. Same-sex advocates are vigorously promoting a change in public opinion and want the abandonment of the natural and Biblical definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Of course, if you think that marriage is between a man and a woman, you’re now portrayed by the TV and media as a hateful bigot. Apparently one cannot have thinking, reasonable objections to redefining marriage to include same-sex unions, without being hateful and discriminatory. Or so we’re told. Increasingly, people just reject marriage altogether, freely choosing relationships without responsibility or commitment. Add to the mix marriages that are intact but rocky, and what do we do? Is it time to throw in the towel on marriage? Surrender to thinking that marriage isn’t salvageable? That it’s a thing of the past?
·         But heavier than our individual opinions are questions like: What is the definition of marriage? Is it up for grabs? Are only religious people concerned? Is it a public or private concern? Does society have an interest in the social goods that result from marriage? And more importantly, don’t children have an interest in stable and enduring marriages; and who protects their rights? All people, even single folks, properly have an interest in preserving and upholding marriage and the goods that it brings to society.
·         Jesus lived in a society with marriage troubles of its own—certainly divorce, infidelity, and prostitution—in Jewish society, but also all the wider problems we face today in Gentile society. So how did Jesus respond? Did He adopt a view of marriage that everyone could live with, or that matched the current state of affairs of the day? Did He work from the ground up and define marriage based on accepted practice?
·         Jesus did not. If anyone (including us) hoped that Jesus would adopt some “grass roots” definition—we will find ourselves greatly disappointed. Looking at it from our human perspective—all the broken and sin-disordered relationships in our lives are like broken glass. Painful and sensitive subject. More than enough sharp edges to prick ourselves and bleed on. Every sin-disordered relationship, whether our own, in our families, among our friends or in our work place—has ripple effects. A praiseworthy, noble, and upright definition of marriage won’t be created by picking up the broken glass. God’s gift is bigger than our individual sins and failures and endures despite them.
·         So Jesus raised the conversation, the definition of marriage, to show it from God’s perspective. God’s perfect command, His intention, purpose behind marriage. Jesus rewinds to the beginning—Genesis 1-2, before the Fall into sin, before our relationships were disordered with sin. Back to the perfect giving of Adam and Eve as the first marriage union of a man and a woman. From here, from God’s vantage point, Jesus says that all the disorder, separation, and brokenness of married relationships was not so. That was not God’s plan or design. What was God’s design? It is crystal clear and simple—one man, one woman, faithful for life. That’s God’s plan for marriage. Take it from Him, that His plan is best.
·         “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.” According to Jesus, gender really does matter in marriage, and God designed our biology that way. To oppose that view, one must war against nature itself, and the very design and function of our bodies. Instead, we should rejoice in the uniqueness and difference of male and female, for only through their complementary design, is God’s plan for marriage realized. Nature only allows this union to result in children, despite the attempts of technology to get around biology.
·         Jesus quotes again from Genesis: “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Marriage is no arbitrary or accidental choice of God, but the way God designed for love to be expressed and practiced between man and woman. Marriage involves a significant parting from our parents—a growing up, a separation, the beginning of a new family unit. A profound union of body and soul takes place in the intimate expression of love. The two become one flesh. God’s design directs this union to be kept holy, without betrayal, without outside interference, and to build the security and stability of the family unit. It directs our love to be self-sacrificing, rather than self-interested. To turn our love outward to the good of our spouse and child, not inward to the satisfying of our own desires. For man and woman to hold fast to each other. God’s good design for marriage is the unbroken picture for us to see His will.
·         And as we look at this “unshattered” picture of God’s will, and see how Jesus prohibited divorce, we’re painfully reminded how far from the standard our human examples of marriage fall. We wince and cringe under the heavy law that shows God’s one, simple plan for sexuality—a lifelong, exclusive union between a man and a woman, or purity outside of marriage. We see the reality of unloving or rocky marriages, divorces, remarriages, affairs, live-in relationships, same-sex relationships, abusive relationships, and on and on all around us. And so we look for a loophole, an escape—someway that we can justify ourselves, escape judgment, or comfort our consciences in the light of the heavy law. But Jesus was not a “savior-by-loophole” who found enough places for us to hide from the law. Nor did He intend for us to stop obeying His law. Rather He closed every loophole. We cannot, must not escape the law’s force, because the big judgment of the law puts us to death, so that Christ can make us alive again. Baptism is truly a death to our sin, a crucifying of our old sinful desires with Christ on the cross. If we look at the Law apart from Christ, it is unbearable. There is no refuge to be found in the law. But the law drives us to take refuge in Jesus Christ and His promise of forgiveness. He is the only hope for humankind, with its untold relationships disordered and broken by sin. He is also the one who joins together and blesses intact marriages—and we should celebrate His grace and forgiveness that sustains these as well. When we’ve admitted our sins and wrongs, and turn to God, His gracious forgiveness for Jesus’ sake is ours.
·         We may know families, or maybe even our own, that are struggling in marriages, through divorces, and whose hands are cut by the broken pieces of life. We need to speak to them of God’s forgiveness, and that there’s a way through repentance and forgiveness, back to the life God wants for us. Those with wounded hands and hearts come to Jesus, who with His hands and heart wounded on the cross, brings healing and life to us.
·         The law is so heavy that Peter described it as a “yoke…that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear. But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:10-11). That heavy law we could not bear ‘kills us’ through repentance—driving us to confess our sins before God—and in our baptism, our sinful self is crucified with Christ. But there is the turn—to our new life in baptism. In the waters of baptism God has declared you His forgiven child, and your sins are not with you—they are on His cross. God pours out His grace and a new life lived in forgiveness and under grace is now yours in Christ Jesus. Crucified with Christ, we also are raised with Him. Jesus bore the heavy yoke. When we start to feel the crushing burden of the law, and that there is no escape from its demands—that even our “best life now” is far short of the pure goodness, unbounded love, and steadfast devotion to God and His demands—then we are reminded that Jesus bore this burden for us. He took it all on Himself at the cross. With no loophole of escape, He died for our guilt, our selfishness, our disobedience. He let the judgment we deserved fall on Himself.
·         But He died and rose to grant us forgiveness. What does that mean for us? That our guilty slate is wiped clean, and that His innocence is credited to us. More, that His obedience is counted to our sake, so that God sees His righteousness as our possession by faith. That His perfect life of love and self-sacrifice for the church, is His faithful “wedding vow” to His people. With a new life in our baptism, and the daily dying of the old sinful nature, we live to “be His own and live under Him in His kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

  1. What is the present state of marriage in the society and in the church? What is at work to redefine marriage? What threatens the stability of marriages? Why do not only Christians have an interest in protecting natural marriage between man and woman?
  2. How was Jesus’ approach to marriage not “from the ground up?” Where did He begin? Mark 10:5-9; Genesis 1:27; 2:18-25. Stated simply, what is God’s good design and plan for marriage?
  3. How are same-sex unions contrary to both nature and God’s Word? Romans 1:26-27; 1Corinthians 6:9-11. How are all forms of sexual immorality contrary to God’s command? 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
  4. How does marriage create a one flesh union between husband and wife? How does it involve a significant parting from parents? How does the faithfulness and exclusivity of this union foster the stability of family? How does this in turn provide countless social goods? How does marriage turn our love from ourselves outward to another? How is Jesus’ love the perfect model for us? Ephesians 5:22-33. What self-sacrifices do spouses make for each other?
  5. How do we measure up against God’s perfect design? Why is our natural tendency to find loopholes or some escape from the law’s judgment? If Jesus was not a “savior by loopholes”—how does He save us from the judgment of God’s law against our sin? Acts 15:10-11; Romans 8:1-8
  6. How is baptism both our death to sin, and our resurrection to new life? Romans 6. How does Christ bless and sustain marriages? Who is it that joins man and wife in the marriage union? Mark 10:9
  7. How are Jesus’ wounded hands comfort to us who need grace to leave our sins behind and to cover them? What does it mean for us that by faith Jesus’ innocence and perfect life are now ours? 

No comments: