Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Theology of Marriage

Everything is theological. We can't do anything without it communicating something about how we understand God. Theology isn't restricted just to textbooks and PhD's. Theology influences every single thing we do.
Can you think of an example of something you do that does not tell someone else how you view God? Why do you eat what you eat? Why do you eat shrimp? Why do you drink alcohol or not drink alcohol? Why do you watch or not watch the movies you watch...or don't watch? Why are you reading this? Why did you not want to read this initially? Why do you work? Why do you stay at home?
Theology, like God himself, is inescapable. Everything that exists does so within a theological framework. Whether you believe mountains exist as the result of a cosmic explosion and erosion over millions of year or whether you believe mountains exist as the result of God speaking them into existence and thousands of years of erosion (accompanied by at least 1 catastrophic event), you are coming to that belief without divorcing that belief from some concept of God. 

Notice I am using a capital 'g.' That's because everything people do is either in accordance with or in rebellion to God. No one doesn't know He exists. Everyone knows He exists and that they've sinned against Him. You've never met an atheist (Romans 1). None of us need to prove God exists or that YHWH is The God. People, all people, were created in His image and inherently understand this to be absolutely true. That's why the world does what it does; it's in a perpetual state of rebellion.

Marriage is another avenue where we can travel down the road of rebellion and mar the name of God. Theologically, what is marriage? I think if we can figure this out, we'll all be better off. 
Not sure who created this but it's solid

God intended to communicate something to man when He instituted marriage. 
(Genesis 2:18-25)

  • It's not good for man to be alone 
    • God declared that man shouldn't live in isolation
    • God declared that only woman was suitable for man
      • Beasts of the field and birds of the earth weren't a good helpmate 
    • God declared that a man leaves his father and mother to join with his wife 
      • In their original state there was no shame of nakedness
We learn that God wanted marriage as a means of help. There's too much for just me to do. I needed a helpmate. Not just to do chores around the house but to live as a human being. Life is too complicated and draining to go at it alone. It's not good if I try to live as a hermit. Have you ever read the book "Into the Wild" or seen the movie? The protagonist understood this concept. He realized life wasn't meant to be lived in solitude. We also learn about the dominion or prominence of human beings over and above all other creatures. Was marriage given to any creature but man?  

I bet a 2016 version has esteem as the base
God specially made woman. Let's not take that lightly. Woman was created in a different manner than man and all the other creatures. She was formed from man. Man was formed from dust. We also learn that God's design for marriage is that we cling to the spouse and, in a sense, release the parents. The marriage then becomes the preeminent relationship in a person's life. The hierarchy changes. It's now God>Spouse>Family. That cannot be overstated. 

"Haha! You're stuck with me!"
No shame?? They just ran around naked??
Yes! They had yet to know good and evil and thus knew nothing of what they could be embarrassed about or be ashamed of. Hard to imagine? Of course. I'm not sure I really get it. But that'show deeply sin has infected human nature. We can't imagine people running around in the nude and not caring...unless you have little ones. They just parade around without clothes or in non-matching clothes or clothes that don't fit. They don't care. Why? Because they're innocent. 

Most of this is refresher, right? What's really going on with marriage? What's the real deal? Why's this so deeply theological apart from just rebelling against God's design for the institution, Tim? Why is a bad marriage or even divorce such a reproach? 

There is really just 1 passage I really want to focus on. 
Ephesians 5:22-33(NASB)Marriage Like Christ and the Church22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
What happens when we betray God's design for marriage isn't just that we rebel against His instructions - what happens is that we defile a beautiful picture of the Gospel.  We see here clearly that marriage wasn't just for human flourishing but it was created to give us a tangible image of Christ's redemptive work on behalf of His bride (the church). 

Don't make this man your standard
So when a wife betrays her husband, defames him or refuses to submit to him she's not merely disobeying God's instructions. She's tainting an image of the Gospel. Imagine the church speaking ill of Christ or the church pursuing an idol! Yikes! 

And then when a husband doesn't fulfill his obligations...This is really bad. REALLY BAD. When a husband fails to do what he is obligated and sworn to do he is tarnishing the Gospel as the one representing Christ. If he fails to love his wife? Imagine Christ failing to love the church. If He fails to teach her and lead her? Imagine Christ letting us figure stuff out on our own. If He failed to protect us? We'd have no chance! Literally, we'd be done. If Christ left us for another? If He left us for someone who wasn't even the very ones He died for??? WHAT??? Can you even imagine?

Think about every failure of a husband in those terms. What if Christ failed in that way? I'm not trying to beat husbands up about failing to be good spouses, I am trying to devastate them. Isn't this heavy? It's too great a burden to bear, right? Yes. Yes it is. Thankfully we have help. We have the Holy Spirit living in us, we have Christ as the ultimate example and we have the grace of God when we fail. Every time we fail. Amen? 

How do we even do it? How do any of us stay married? I drive Melanie crazy! I'm insensitive. I'm super sensitive. I'm lazy. I'm not home enough. All these things are at times 100% true. I don't know how she lives with me! But I also do. 

What motivates her is what motivates me. We both committed to being and staying married to one another. I chose her and she chose me. We choose to love one another just as we choose to obey God. There's nothing mystical or serendipitous about our love. It's just old fashioned grit and determination. What unites us, as they say, is strong than what could ever divide us. We are united and motivated by our affection for Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives and in our resolve to glorify Him with our lives we subsequently become better spouses. Also, when we fail one another we are motivated by grace and love because had God not given either of us grace to believe or loved us first, then neither of us could believe or love Him. So this grace that saves us is now the grace that saves our marriage. How arrogant would I be to deny my wife forgiveness or not be gracious towards her after God has clearly forgiven me more and given me more grace? 

All my actions in regards to Melanie should be Gospel oriented. I'm not saying they are, I'm just saying they should be! That needs to be my motivation for being a husband. I need to love my wife just as Christ loved the church. This institution we call marriage didn't happen to coincide with Christ's love for the church. 
"Oh look how marriage between man and woman is like Christ's love for the church. What a useful illustration!" 
No no no.
God intentionally created marriage with redemption in mind. Let that soak in. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Does God Care Who Wins the Big Game?

Tebow-mania was at its peak only a few years ago. The outspoken Christian QB had led the Denver Broncos to a series of improbable victories; victories that make the rabid football fan fall off his chair or jump off his couch. These were games where he'd be like 3-16 passing for 12 yards and then on the final drive he'd throw dart after dart, make an incredible run and end up with the 'W.' Tebow's love/hate relationship with society in general is another story, but it's simply undeniable that his success on the field left most everyone dumbfounded.

The Broncos backed into the playoffs and had to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wildcard round. Denver won their division so they got to host Pittsburgh despite having won fewer games. A variety of things happened that put Denver and Tebow in position to win that game. The Steelers had a few injuries and one of their key players was unable to play in the thin air of Mile High Stadium. Events unfolded in dramatic fashion and the game went into OT! And then Tebow happened:

Did God empower Tebow to victory? Does He care who wins games? What's your answer? Let's look at both sides before we decide.


1 Peter 1:17
17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth...
God is impartial, right? Of course! He's impartial in how He judges works. So does this prove God doesn't care who wins? Not really.

Acts 10:34-35

Gentiles Hear Good News  
34 Opening his mouth, Peter said:“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.
Some stats from the game
Ha! God doesn't show partiality! See! But the context here is that whosoever believes in the name of the Lord and repents of his sins is welcomed into the kingdom. So it's not really talking at all about whether God equips someone for a task in a special way. This is about whether salvation was for Jews only or for the whole world (i.e. Jews AND Gentiles).

Tim, what about James 2? That's all about not showing favoritism!
Yes, I agree. It's about not showing personal favoritism between our fellow human beings - specifically, fellow believers. So nor does this passage negate the possibility that God can favor one team to win over the other.


What are some of the silliest things you've ever prayed about? Clothes to wear? Color car to buy? Maybe that McDonald's would still be serving breakfast when you got there (that prayer has now been comprehensively answered)? Did you care about those things if just in that moment? If you cared about them, you're a child of God, then do you think He cared about them, too?

Does that mean He answered those prayers in the affirmative or by saying "buy the blue car" in a booming voice from heaven as an Apostle performed miracles? Probably not. Perhaps He answered those prayers by helping you remember how eternally insignificant those things were. But you still cared and He, because He loves you and cares for you, also cared, but probably not for the same reasons or in the same way.

Imagine if your husband was a degenerate gambler and he bet your whole life savings on the game. Would you care about the outcome of the game then? Let's say you then pray to God to help Denver win the game. Would that be wrong? Your whole life savings and well being of your family depends on it (at least from your perspective)! That's a legitimate prayer request. 

What if you are a player on the team and your best friend on the team is going to retire after the season and he's never won a Super Bowl and you really want him to get that ring? Is it okay to pray for a win then? I sure think so!

It should go without saying that we ask these things of God knowing that His answer may be "no" and that we are ready for such a reply. We don't assume He'll grant us a victory. But we ask for His assistance, either providentially or supernaturally, just like we would on a test in school.

I recall discussing Tebow a few years ago and my one friend said "no, God doesn't play favorites" and I agreed with that at the time but my wife also said, "why couldn't He?" Since I never came up with an answer I had to reevaluate why God is forbidden from intervening in a football game, if indeed He is. 

And that's the real question, isn't it? Did God intervene? And that's a question I can't possibly answer! What I do know is that Tebow worked really hard, kept his nose clean and boldly spoke of his Savior and God used him in a great way. Tebow reaped what he sowed. God wasn't obligated to help Tebow win in a supernatural way but He was also free to do so if He wanted. God, by virtue of being God, does as He pleases apart from our objections or notions of neutrality. Maybe God providentially acted to have a light flicker and distract a Pittsburgh defender for just long enough for Tebow to hit Demaryius Thomas for a TD, or maybe not. I don't know how that works! 

God truly cares for His children. He cares about everything we care about and He cares about us so much that He often needs to remind us that the things of this world aren't eternal, will pass away and shouldn't be what we center our lives around. And yet He's not indifferent as to who wins and who loses. It's all part of His plan. God could have used a Denver win or a Denver loss to accomplish His plans but He chose Denver to win.