Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that You instituted marriage and through it the formation of families. We know that this is Your will for how the human race should live. We know that You value it so highly, You even use the marriage/family relationship as an example of how You relate to Your believers—You are the Bridegroom and we are Your holy Bride. So, today we ask that You instruct us more fully in all these issues and thereby make us happier and more fulfilled people. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SETTER OF PRIORITIES
TEXT: Matthew 19: 6: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.”
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote this in Proverbs 18: 22: “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” Obviously, although addressed to men, the same applies to women. For God made both sexes, saved both sexes, and seeks to heap blessings upon both sexes. And marriage is one such blessing.
Then, we also have that insightful section from Ephesians 5 where St. Paul writes: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The word “submit” here does not mean coercion. It means loving submission. It means that out of love for the other, both husbands and wives willingly give their hearts, their lives, their all for each other.—Just as Christ has done so to save us on the cross.
In an age where traditional marriage is viewed as outmoded, where divorce and remarriage often causes conflicted emotions, and where families now consist of: yours, mine, and ours, we need to talk about both marriage and families. And if we all take the words of Christ, uttered in our text seriously, we’ll learn anew:
HOW TO HAVE A STRONG FAMILY
Countless problems and stresses confront families today. Each of you knows this because each of you lives this fact. First, there is the “me” generation thing. That is, we all place more emphasis upon “me” and upon our wants and needs than we do upon those close to us. Remember that genuine self-sacrifice is foreign to natural man and comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. Because of this (me-ism) we superimpose our inner will upon our spouses and children, often failing to compromise and failing to set priorities in our relationships which honor and uplift all. In a Christian marriage, we all need to adopt the dictum: “what’s good for my spouse is good for the whole family.” If both spouses operate that way, not only will their relationship be strong, but any children in that house will feel very safe and very secure.
Second, there is the crass materialism of our modern culture. This leads to a host of family stress and guilt because we view ourselves in competition with others. Hence, we often try to buy the love of our families with “things” instead of providing them with the example of Christian virtue. We often spoil our children out of guilt, and/or because we think that self-discipline is too hard for them to learn. However, kids soon figure out that they can now call the shots and set the tone of family life because you are no longer leading the way. Compound to all that the stresses of the modern job situation where both spouses work—limiting time, energy and patience with their children–and naturally, you have families in trouble.
When Pastors get together at conferences and talk among themselves, marriage and family issues among members always comes up. We hear of parents under the guise of “love” allowing their kids to play mom off against dad. We hear of extended families trying to divide loyalties among spouses. We hear of blended families where two sets of rules apply to the two sets of kids, thus further straining the marriage and all the children’s emotional well-being. What should be done? What’s the answer to such stress and strain?
Today, let’s begin to unravel this conundrum by pondering our text. “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Every one of you who has been married at a Christian Church knows those words. They were read at your wedding. And, I might add, in your marriage vows you pledged yourself to those words. Do other human beings “separate” husbands and wives? Of course they do. Well-meaning in-laws sometimes meddle and criticize their child’s spouse. They play to their child’s love for them and sometimes force them to choose: “Whom do you love more? Your spouse or the one who gave you birth and raised you?” Such behavior is a sin. It seeks to tear marriage relationships apart instead of building them up. And in the end, such emotional blackmail usually backfires.
Friends can often separate spouses, too. Why did you get married in the first place? Wasn’t it because you loved the other and valued their friendship and wanted an even closer relationship with them? So, it follows that your spouse should be your very best friend on this earth. Letting others interfere with that is letting sin take root in your heart. And bad fruit results.
Work and the relationships spawned by it are another source of contention. When your self-worth as a human and as a father, mother, husband or wife is defined by the amount of your paycheck and what you bring financially to family life, when that equation changes people are pulled apart by guilt, shame, and frustration. You may owe your job your time, but you don’t owe them your heart. As a Christian God must always come first, family second, and job third.
And now we come to the 3rd rail of any family relationship—kids. To be sure, Christian parents dearly love their children. They rightly view them as blessings from God. And every loving parent will gladly sacrifice almost anything for the sake of their kids. That being said, do children sometimes come between mom and dad? And do you parents allow that to occur? Do you sometimes allow the love you have for your kids to get in the way of the love you have for your spouse? And if you do, are you then guilty of breaking Christ’s words of our text and also your marriage vow when you promised that nothing and no other human being would ever come between you and your spouse? Well, only you can answer that question.
What makes a strong family? We all want and desire such a family. But how is it achieved? First, it should be built on Jesus Christ and allegiance to Him and His Word of truth. For in loving submission to His Father’s will, Jesus gave up His life to save each of us, and through Christian marriage He organizes our priorities so that everything follows His perfection instead of our imperfection. And never forget, when we make mistakes in this regard, His forgiveness covers all our sins! And to benefit from that forgiveness we must be honest about our failings through repentance.
Second, strong families are not defined by children. I say that as a married man who has no human children of my own. (I have a whole congregation of spiritual ones, instead!) Some have said that: “children make you a family.” That’s wrong. Married folks without kids are a family, too. Marriage makes a family. Children are an added blessing to that family. Likewise, any 101 psychology class, common sense, and most of all God’s Word tells us that children simply are not emotionally capable of keeping the family together because it’s not their job! Think of all those passages that speak of children being trained, growing up, and learning. Passages such as: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Passages like: “When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I acted like a child; but when I got older I put childish ways behind me.” In other words, parents who allow their relationship with their children to become the focal point of their marriage are putting undo stress and pressure upon those kids. Parents are responsible for their children. Children should not be forced to be responsible for their parents and their parent’s emotional well-being. If you put them into that position the whole family will suffer. The best way to equip your kids to handle the stresses of family life for their future well-being, is to always have a unified front with your spouse, to honor your spouse with words and actions, thereby teaching them by example what the Bible means when it says: “The two will become one flesh.” This applies to traditional and blended families alike. Yes, “What God has joined together, let man not separate.” Those words apply to in-laws, kids, spouses, friends, to everyone.
St. Paul’s words in Ephesians 4: 15: “Speak the truth in love” are especially apropos in this regard. First, practice Christ’s forgiveness by forgiving one another. Second, be honest with loved ones, but do so with love controlling all your words. Third, don’t allow others to ever denigrate your spouse. Remind them that to do so also denigrates you because through marriage you are now “one flesh.” And finally, continue to work at keeping your marriage vows when you promised that very special someone that you would honor, love, cherish and esteem them more than anyone else on this earth. Amen