Sunday, February 13, 2011

Matthew 5:31-32 The Sanctity of Marriage

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  1. Matthew 5:31-32 The Sanctity of Marriage
    God’s intention and ideal from the beginning was for man and woman to be indissolubly united in marriage as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24, Matthew 19:4-6). But Moses permitted divorce as a concession in view of a lost ideal (Deut. 24:1, Mark 10:2-9). This is the backdrop for Jesus’ words this morning:
    "And it was said, `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of dismissal'; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of fornication, makes her commit adultery (the 7th Commandment, Exodus 20:14)."

    In the context of today’s culture, what can we say about the sanctity of marriage and the pain of divorce?

    1. Marriage is God’s Idea
     God created human sexuality. God also created the institution of marriage in which sexuality is to find its expression.
     God also created the “bonding process” [courtship] as part of our emotional and psychological process that leads to life-long intimacy in marriages. This gives us insight into why God has scripturally mandated that sexual expression be limited to the institution of marriage, not before it or outside of it.
     But courtship and marriage in our culture are at a severe disadvantage because:
    o Biblical norms and boundaries are discounted and even dismissed.
    o Our culture of individualism accepts and even encourages pre-marital sex in the name of freedom and fulfillment.
    o Sexual taboos are no longer in place. The reasons they have existed over the span of human history has been largely lost.
    o We have been culturally conditioned to seek immediate gratification rather than a relationship that will stand the test of time.
    o Many people getting married today lack healthy role models for marriage. Many have seen only conflict and disillusionment in marriages around them.

    2. Why traditional marriage matters:
     God obviously created marriage to protect the wonderful gift of sexuality that He has given us. God also established boundaries and taboos around human sexuality for our own good.
     The purpose of marriage is stated in the marriage liturgy: The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. (BCP-423)
     Families, by God’s design, are the building blocks of society- Healthy families build healthy societies. Historical correlations have been made between the strength of the family and the strength of the culture. Dr. Carl Zimmerman, Harvard sociologist, tabulated characteristics of societies that are unhealthy and in decline. Those characteristics are:
    o The ascendancy of causeless, casual, no-fault divorce.
    o Loss of the meaning of the marriage ceremony and covenant.
    o The rise of companionate marriage [marriages without life-long expectations].
    o The break-down of inhibitions concerning sexuality.

    3. Christian marriages are to be different.
     The Institution of marriage, even Christian marriage, is in crisis as evidenced by the high divorce rate among Christians and the high percentage of marriages considered “unhappy.” But the current crisis calls for us to even more diligently uphold the sanctity of marriage, drawing a sharp distinction between secular and sacred marriages… between civil marriages and sacramental marriages covenanted according to God Law.

    4. Conclusion.
     God always works with a remnant, which is the Church. However: our culture’s failure, and even our own failure, to live up to God’s ideal for marriage does not lessen God’s call to His Church to teach the divine ideals for marriage and the holy basics of achieving life-long intimacy.