A Tragedy

This is it, this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of the most important cultural icons of my youth.  It was a life-changing discovery for me, one that defined my teens years.

It wasn’t the founding of “intel” or Pierre Trudeau becoming Prime Minister of Canada.  It was the introduction of “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.”

That’s right, the Big Mac has just turned fifty and it hasn’t changed in the five decades since it joined the McDonald’s menu.

But the disturbing news is that in one recent study it was discovered that only one out of five millennials has tried the Big Mac.

Think about it, 80 % of those in our community under the age of 30 have never tasted a Big Mac.

Do you know there are people in our community who have never been inside a church and they have never tasted God’s grace? And that is a tragedy.

If by some bizarre choice you have never experienced McDonald’s fries your loss is temporal although you might get to try them in heaven. But if you’ve never experienced Christ’s forgiveness your loss will be forever. And forever is a long time, especially without a Big Mac and Fries.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible

A Story of Forgiveness

Do you like scary stories?  I have never really been into scary movies, although I went to a couple as a teenager just to prove a point.  And if you have to ask what that point is then you’ve never been a teenaged boy.

And when Carrie’s hand came out of the grave at the end of the original movie, well let me tell you. . . I didn’t sleep for a week.

I used to enjoy horror novels, from authors like John Saul, Graham Masterton and Stephen King, but even they have lost their appeal over the years.  Although I will usually try to plug my way through one Stephen King epic on vacation.   I keep meaning to re-read “The Stand” and maybe this year I will.  Now if I want a good supernatural thrill I tend to drift to Dean Koontz, a good Catholic boy he knows how to keep it clean.

 

But Jesus tells one of the scariest stories that I’ve ever heard, and Ben read it for you earlier.

This is week five of our “Stories told by Jesus” series.  Through the summer we’ve been looking at some of the stories, or parables that Jesus told.   And so far, it seems that most of them have had a bit of an agricultural feel.  There was the man working in the field who found the treasure, the owner of the vineyard who hired the workers.  The story of the seed that was planted and flourished and last week we looked at the parable of the weeds that were sown in the wheat by the farmer’s enemy.

This week we are going in a very different direction.  This is one of those occasions where Jesus was asked a question and he responds by telling a story.   The parable of the Good Samaritan is another example of this.

 

It begins with a question that was asked by Peter, a question that could have been asked by any one of us.     Matthew 18:21  Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

And that is a valid question, as a matter of fact, it’s a question that if you haven’t asked out loud you have asked it in your heart.  “how many times must I be hurt?” “How can I ever let it go?” “How can I ever trust them again?”  “How often should I forgive someone who sins against me?”  And I think Peter was being generous with the offer of forgiving someone multiple times for the same offence.

Most people struggle with this concept.  This isn’t simply forgiving someone who has hurt you multiple times.   This is forgiving someone whom you have already forgiven and forgiven and forgiven.

And they keep doing “it”, whatever “it” is over and over again.

I don’t know if Peter had someone or something specific in mind, if he was asking for a “friend” or if it was just hypothetical.  But he was probably blown away by Jesus reply because I certainly would have been.  Because instead of commending Peter on the grace that he was willing to show, we read in the very next verse:  Matthew 18:22  “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

You can almost hear Peter’s mind at work, “Seventy times seven?  Why that’s almost five hundred times, that’s insane.”

And so Jesus does what Jesus does so well, he tells a story, a really scary story.

Matthew 18:23-25  “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.  In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.  He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

The story begins simply as A Story of Justice To us this seems a little excessive, but the servant was simply getting what he deserved, within the social context of the day.

Today we find it so easy to judge history based on what we know is right today. My Daddy called that “20-20 hindsight”

But the story wasn’t told in Halifax in 2018, it was told in Israel 2000 years ago and if you owed a debt that you couldn’t pay then you and yours belonged to your creditors.  It was just that simple.

And in this story, there was no way the man could pay the debt.  None at all.

Now remember this is a story, Jesus is prone to exaggerate in his stories, that’s fine.  He is trying to make a point.  So, while the NLT says the man owed millions of dollars that doesn’t even begin to do Jesus’ words justice.

The figure that Jesus used when he told the story was 10,000 talents.  A talent was a measure of silver.  And 10,000 talents was 375 tons of silver.

I checked the other day and silver was worth $21.68 Canadian an ounce, and there are 32,000 ounces in a ton, so, knot, knot carry the two, two is five and five is seven. That means that in today’s currency a ton of silver would be worth about $693,760.00.  And the man owed 375 tons of silver.  So, in round numbers, he owed a little over 260 million dollars.

And he could not pay.  And so, his master was going to have him and his family and everything he owned sold to pay the debt.  Which wouldn’t have covered even a tiny fraction of it.

 

Jesus was illustrating the divide between God and man.  This is the reality of Romans 3:23  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

We’ve done this before, let’s use my nifty iPulpit as an illustrative device.

If down here are the really nasty people, the Hitlers and the Stalins and people who spit their gum on the sidewalk and park in handicap spaces without a permit.

And up here at the top are the really good nice godly people.  People like Billy Graham and Mother Theresa and you.  And the rest of us are somewhere in between then God and His holiness are where the sun is.  And there is no way we can bridge that gap.

We all know that, or at least I hope we all know that.  And the consequences of that sin is found in Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, . . .  Paul isn’t talking about a physical death, he’s talking about a spiritual death, the death that happens to our soul when we are separated from God and all that is good for ever.

In our theology, we call that separation Hell.  You might be thinking that you don’t believe in hell, that doesn’t change the reality of hell, it won’t make it one degree cooler or one day shorter.

So much like justice for the servant was to be sold into slavery, justice for us is to be separated from God for eternity.

 

But luckily for the servant and for us, the story doesn’t end there.

And so, the story continues: Matthew 18:26 But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’

So, the master was seeking justice and the servant wanted it to be A Story of Mercy

When the servant realized the consequences of his actions and all of our actions have consequences, he asked for the opportunity to try and repay what he owed.

And we already showed there was no way the servant was ever going to be able to pay even a portion of what he owed.   If he was able to repay his debt at $100,000.00 a year it would take him 2,600 years to pay it off.

What often happens at whatever point we become aware of God and aware of our sinful nature, we try and fix it.  We try to become better, we try to be more religious, we try and pray more, we go to church more, try to read out bibles more and we try to be nicer.

And it doesn’t seem to work.  The Old Testament prophet reminds us in Isaiah 64:6  We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.

In our best of intentions, we want to be better, we want to bridge that gap.  But like the amount the servant owed it is impossible.

And so the story continues, Matthew 18:27  Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

Instead of justice or mercy, the master made it A Story of Grace 

 

We sing about grace and we talk about grace, but do we really understand the concept of Grace?  The Collins English Dictionary defines Grace as : “The free and unmerited favour of God shown towards man.”  Or simply put, Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.

The servant in the story did not deserve to have his debt forgiven, but it was.

We do not deserve to have our sins forgiven, but they are.

And up to this point, this has been a salvation message.  But that wasn’t what it was intended to be.  Because most of us here today have experienced the grace of God.  And if you haven’t you can.

This is where the story takes a very unexpected twist.

Matthew 18:28-30  “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.  “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded.  But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

What seemed fairly straightforward now becomes A Story With a Twist

If this was a horror movie, it’s here the music would change to a minor key.

You see what happens right? The servant has been forgiven, he has experienced grace in his life, but instead of that shaping who he was, it made no difference at all.

When Jesus told the story, he said that the fellow servant owed his colleague 100 Denarius, and a Denarius was a day’s wage.  So, the servant who had been forgiven 260 million dollars was owed the equivalent of four months’ salary.

Not a paltry amount by any stretch of the imagination, until you compared it to what the first servant had been forgiven.  It was over 17,000 times smaller.  It was like I owed you $15,000.00 and Gary owed me a small coffee from Tim’s.

This isn’t one of those stories that leaves us scratching our heads, the meaning is very plain.  We might choose to muddy the water with our opinions and our theology but the story itself is very plain.

The first servant was forgiven an unimaginable debt, a debt that he could never possibly repay on his own.  He was shown grace.

And when he had the chance to show grace to someone else, he blew it.  Not once, not twice but continually.

Immediately after he experiences grace, he goes and finds the servant who owed him money and demanded Justice.  And it gets worse, he then physically accosts the man, we are told that he grabbed the man by the throat.  And when the man begs him for more mercy and more time to pay he has him thrown into debtors’ prison.   He not only refuses to show the man grace, he won’t even show him mercy.

And maybe we could understand if this had of happened before the servant himself had been forgiven.  Four months’ salary was a considerable personal debt, but not after having 260 million dollars wiped off the books.

The servant demanded of others what he was unwilling to give to others.

And what happens?  Let’s keep reading.

Matthew 18:31-34  When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.  Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me.  Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’  Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

Now The Story Gets Scary

You understand that this is not a salvation message, the warning was not about the original debt that the man owed.  That had been forgiven.   This was about his attitude after his debt had been forgiven.

The first part of the message was an invitation to those here today who have never experienced God’s grace.  To know that regardless of the debt you owe to God, his grace is more than enough to cover it.  All you have to do is ask.

The last part of the message, the scary part, is for the rest of us.  This part of the story is for those of us who have been forgiven.

Jesus was very clear in his teaching, those who have experienced grace are expected to show grace.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught, Matthew 5:7  God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.   Who is shown mercy?  The merciful.

Later when Jesus is teaching the apostles to pray we learn what we now call the “Lord’s Prayer”.  And most of us could probably recite it by heart.  But do you ever stop and reflect on the part that says in Matthew 6:12  and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. ?

The story is told that the author Robert Louise Stevenson led his family in their daily devotions each evening.  And a part of the routine was praying the Lord’s Prayer together.

Well, one night in the middle of the prayer he just stopped and left the room.  Stevenson suffered from a variety of illnesses and so his wife went after him and asked if he was feeling all right, to which he responded, “I’m not fit to pray the Lord’s prayer today.”

Are there days when we aren’t fit to pray the words, forgive me my sins, as I have forgiven those who have sinned against me?

In the parable, when the servant refused to forgive the man who indebted to him, and his master found out we are told Matthew 18:34  Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

Now obviously the man couldn’t repay his entire debt, we’ve already established that. And the reality is, that that debt had already been forgiven.  Remember from the story, Matthew 18:27  Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.  The debt had been forgiven, it was gone.

The debt that he now owed was what resulted from his lack of forgiveness.  And it was here that he needed to show forgiveness in order to gain forgiveness.

Our outflow of mercy to others always has to equal God’s inflow of mercy to us.

But the story doesn’t stop here.

Matthew 18:35  Jesus said “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

It’s at this point that The Story Gets Scarier

I had mentioned how much the ending of the movie Carrie scared me, a big part of that was I thought the scary part was done.  Nope.

Jesus could have finished the parable at verse 34, and most people would have got it, but Jesus didn’t want most people to get it, he wanted everybody to get it.

Again, this parable is addressed to the forgiven, the saved, those who had tasted the grace of God.

And Jesus says Matthew 18:35 Jesus said “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” In order to find out what Jesus’ Heavenly Father will do to us if we don’t forgive, we need to go back to the previous verse:  Matthew 18:34 “Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.”

Now, I don’t know where your theology is, but God isn’t going to unforgive you.  He’s not going to say, “Wow, you didn’t forgive that person, so remember all those things I said I forgave you for, I take it back, you are unforgiven.”

We have claimed the promise of Psalm 103:12  He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. And in Micah 7:19  Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!

So, if God doesn’t unforgive us for our past sins what’s the big deal?  The big deal is that you are living in disobedience to God.  Every day that you let go by that you have not forgiven that grievance, whatever that grievance may have been, you are being disobedient to God.

How long can you as a Christian, live in disobedience to God without it affecting your spiritual life?  What is the debt that needs to be repaid?  The debt of unforgiveness.  I had a professor in Bible College who encouraged us to keep short accounts with God.  In other words, don’t continue to live in disobedience.

 

You understand that the prison of unforgiveness is built by those who refuse to forgive and the keys are held by the same person.

 

Catherine Ponder wrote, “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”

 

And you understand that when you say, “I can never forgive them”, you are locking yourself into a cell of resentment and bitterness.  And the bizarre thing is that you hold the key, at any time you can unlock the door and free yourself.  If you choose to.

It was Lewis Smedes  who said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

I had a conversation with a senior citizen once who recalled an incident that happened in elementary school.  I forget what the actual offence was, it was a slight of some kind.  And they said, “I can never forgive them for what they did to me.”  For well over seventy years that slight had been colouring their life and shaping their personality.

You don’t forgive for the benefit of the person who hurt you, and you don’t forgive for God’s benefit, you forgive for your benefit.   You forgive to set yourself free from resentment and bitterness.  You forgive to free up room in your spirit for love and compassion and Jesus.

And you forgive so God will forgive your unforgiveness.

Let me close with these words that Paul wrote to those who followed Jesus in the city of Ephesus because they are also meant for those who follow Jesus in the city of Halifax today.

Ephesians 4:30-32  And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

 

It’s all in how you view it

Well, another survey is out showing that Christianity is losing ground and that church attendance is down.  The world would like us to think that we’re failing in our mission.

But, depending on your perspective, we aren’t losing, we’re winning.  When you stop and think about it, every person who isn’t a Christian hasn’t been lost from Christianity, they just haven’t been won to Christianity yet.

The starting place for humanity isn’t a relationship with Christ, the starting place for humanity is being separated from God, so every person who begins that relationship is a win for our side.  Does that make sense?

By default, the other side doesn’t have to do anything except try to keep us, the church, from doing our job; they only win when we stop doing what we’ve been called to do.

But when you stop and think about it, our job is easy, because all we’ve been called to do is be obedient.  And Jesus said that if we love Him, our natural instinct will be to obey him and that has to involve introducing people to Him.

Regardless of what the survey says, every day in Canada, there are people who cross the line of faith and commit their lives to Christ and that is a win.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible

Mawwiage

Some of you are old enough that you recognize the music as the Frank Sinatra song, “Love and Marriage”.  Others who are a little younger simply recognize it as the theme from “Married with Children”, that’s how I think of it.

 

For those who aren’t familiar, “Married with Children” was a sitcom that aired on Fox from 1987 to 1997.  It was the longest-running live action sitcom on Fox and focused on the lives of Al and Peg Bundy and their children Kelly and Bud.

 

It aired about the same time as “Roseanne” and while many families saw themselves reflected in the Connors from “Roseanne”, they took solace in the fact that they weren’t like the Bundy’s from “Married with Children”.

 

You watched Married with Children and thought “There but for the Grace of God.”

 

Those even younger have never heard the song before today.  The chorus goes:

“Love and marriage, love and marriage
They go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you, brother
You can’t have one without the other”

Over the next seven weeks, we are going to be looking at family relationships, husbands, wives, parents and children.  How we live together and how we love together.

 

Unless you are an orphaned, childless hermit there will be something here for you.

 

So, let’s start with marriage, for thousands of years it was assumed that if a man and woman were in a long-term relationship that they were married.

 

In this day and age, our perceptions of an event are often coloured by what we see in the media and certainly there are all kinds of movies about weddings and marriages, Mamma Mia, My Best Friend’s Wedding, 27 Dresses and Big Fat Greek Wedding are only a few.

 

And it’s not surprising that movies about weddings are usually chick flicks.

 

But guys if you are looking for a movie wedding scene with all the essential elements, heroes, villains, giants, peasants and the underlying threat of physical violence there’s only one.   Here is one of my favourite movie wedding scenes.

 

. . . (Wedding clip from Princess Bride)

 

Well, that’s a wedding scene that guys can get into

 

So, let’s begin with What Defines a Marriage:

 

Let’s start here with some secular definitions:

 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary  mar·riage (mărʹĭj) noun
1.         the state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law

 

Dictionary.com defines marriage this way, Any of the diverse forms of interpersonal union established in various parts of the world to form a familial bond that is recognized legally, religiously, or socially, granting the participating partners mutual conjugal rights and responsibilities

 

 

Collins English Dictionary mar·riage (mărʹĭj) noun used to define marriage this way:
1.         The state of being married: relation between husband and wife.

 

But now it defines Marriage this way: A marriage is the relationship between two people who are married.  Notice, it no longer speaks of a husband and wife.

 

Kind of reminds me of the story told about Abraham Lincoln.  It seems that one day he was in a discussion with a young man and he asked him “How many legs would your calf have if you called his tail a leg?”   To which the boy replied “Five”, “No, four” the President said, “simply calling his tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.

 

Of all the definitions I’ve read I think I enjoyed Sydney Smith’s the best, Smith was an English Clergyman who lived between 1771 and 1845 and he said  “Marriage resembles a pair of shears, so joined that they cannot be separated, often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them.”

But why?  Why marriage.

Because Socially: Marriage Protects the Family

 

Throughout history and in cultures around the world there have been procedures and celebrations set in place that allowed a man and a woman to come together and start a family.

 

In North America that is recognized as our modern Weddings, there is music (Link to music) that when we hear it we immediately think “Wedding”.

 

There are words that are said, “Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedding husband?” that we automatically think “Wedding”.

 

There are clothes that when we see them we automatically think “Wedding.”  There are even automobiles that when we see them we think “Wedding.”

 

And what we think of as normal might seem a little strange in other lands and other cultures and perhaps even in our own land a couple of generations ago.  Weddings have become big business today. Sometimes when I’m talking to a couple who are living together without being married and I query them as to why they haven’t gotten married their response is “We can’t afford to get married.”

 

No, getting married doesn’t any more than living common-law.  The cost of a licence and the preacher pretty much covers it, and if they can’t afford the preacher I’ll do it for nothing.  What they can’t afford is the Wedding and that is completely different than a marriage.

 

And what might seem strange in our culture might be normal in another culture.

 

In the late eighties a gentleman in our church in Truro approached the men’s group at a men’s breakfast with a unique appeal, Jack had been a missionary in Zambia several years before where he became a good friend and mentor to a young man.

 

Now the young man was graduating from Bible College and wanted to get married but his future father-in-law was asking four cows for his daughter.  She was educated as a teacher and so her getting married would hurt the family financially.  Now you probably think that is strange and wrong, but in that culture that was all part of the marriage process.

 

Guys without looking at your wife, keeping your eyes straight ahead, how many cows would you have paid?  The Wesleyan Men’s group in Truro helped raise the money,

 

Alfred and Muumbee have been happily married now for 30 years and he is an ordained minister, has his master’s degree from Asbury Seminary in Kentucky and is the National Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church in Zambia.

 

The reason that cultures throughout history have tended to lean toward a monogamous form of marriage was to strengthen society through stable family units.  Without some type of formal agreement, there was nothing to hold family units and thus society together.

 

We are starting to rediscover that reality, with the rising divorce rates, men who are paying child support to children from one or two failed marriages, while not really being fathers. Mom’s who are left raising children by themselves or ending up in blended relationships where parents can’t really function as parents.

 

Is it any wonder that the concept of “till death do we part” was an integral part of society up until the last forty years?   When I was a kid I knew one kid who was living in what we now call a blended family, back then I just thought it was strange that his last name was different than his parents.

 

Whether it is a full-blown wedding that cost tens of thousands of dollars or simply jumping the broom, marriage is simply a couple affirming their desire to spend the rest of their life with each other and to raise a family.

 

Religiously: Marriage was Ordained by God.  It’s interesting to note that in a society that is as non-church going and pagan as ours is, church weddings are still the way to go for the many Canadians.

 

They are looking for the scripture reading, the prayers and the god talk. I’m not sure if it’s seeking to reclaim a little bit of religious heritage, if it’s just considered the right thing to do or if they are just covering all their bases.  Something borrowed something new something religious something blue.

 

A friend of mine is an ordained minister who is not presently pastoring a church, last year he put an ad in Kijiji about performing weddings as a pastor.  He performed 20 weddings for people who weren’t connected with a local church but wanted a minister and not just a marriage celebrant to bless their marriage.

 

Max Lucado wrote “God created marriage. No government subcommittee envisioned it. No social organization developed it. Marriage was conceived and born in the mind of God.”

 

And indeed, the concept of marriage is the very first human institution.  We read about it earlier in the account of creation.

 

After Eve is created Adam says in   Genesis 2:23-24 “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’ ” Actually what he said was, “I think I’m in love”

 

The scripture continues by saying This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

 

1126 words into the Bible, as soon as we have man and woman the concept of marriage is defined.  You have two and they come together, and you have one.  And that oneness was defined by God.  It happens emotionally, it happens spiritual and in the act of lovemaking, the couple becomes one physically.

 

And that is why within the scripture the act of sex is set apart for husband and wife.  Otherwise, how can you become one with this person and that person and another person without giving up a little bit of yourself each time?

 

And so, within the religious sense when God created man and woman he created marriage.  In verse 25 it says Genesis 2:25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.  It doesn’t say Adam and the woman, or Adam and his girlfriend, it says Adam and his wife.

 

And so, there is a religious component to marriage that is very similar to the social component.  It is for the good of the couple, the good of the individuals and the good of the resulting family.

 

But how long has the church been involved in the actual marriage ceremony?  Probably not as long as you would think.  The act of getting married has always involved something even if it was as simple as the couple stating that they were married, you say that sounds like they were simply living together.

 

No, they had made a commitment to each other and to their family and to their community as being married, it was not a temporary thing it was a commitment.

 

As society progressed the commitment would often be accompanied by a celebration, remember in John 2:1-2 The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration.

 

The scriptures don’t tell us about the wedding ceremony simply the wedding celebrations.  As a matter of fact, if you read through the bible you will see all kinds of references to wedding feasts and wedding celebrations but not to wedding ceremonies.

 

Up until the ninth century the church was not involved in the mechanics of people becoming married at all, then prayers and blessings were added to the celebration, some by the priest and some by the couple.

 

Around the twelfth century, it became customary to ask the parish priest to take part and he would question the couple concerning their intentions, but the church still didn’t take an official part.

 

It really wasn’t until 1563 that the Council of Trent required that Catholic marriages be celebrated in a Catholic church by a priest and before two witnesses.  By the eighteenth-century marriage had become a religious event throughout Europe.

 

Spiritually: Marriage is a Metaphor for God’s Love for Us. In the Old Testament Israel is called God’s bride.

 

Isaiah 62:4-5 Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride. Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.

 

Throughout the New Testament, the relationship between Christ and His church relies on the analogy of a marriage.  In 2 Corinthians 11:2 The Bible says For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.

 

In Ephesians 5:25-26 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.  And several times in the Revelation the church is called the Bride of Christ.

 

When the prophet Isaiah was looking for a way to describe the salvation of God listen to the words he chooses in Isaiah 61:10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.

 

 

As a pastor, I’m often asked what Cornerstone’s stand is on Marriage and I tell them we are in favour of it.

 

But with that being said, what does that mean?  It means we respect the biblical view of marriage.

 

And what is a biblical view of marriage?  Here’s what it is not:

 

The Biblical  View of Marriage Does Not Include Simply Living Together.

 

In Canada living together without being married is called a Common law relationship in Australia it was called a De facto relationship, but regardless of what it was called, it is not seen as marriage.

 

Legally it’s not considered marriage, biblically it’s not considered as marriage and even today socially it’s not considered marriage.

 

People in society know the difference between being married and just living together.  We might not call it living in sin anymore or shacking up, but we don’t call it marriage.

 

Marriage entails a commitment.  Most marriage ceremonies contain a statement that says something similar to “Til Death do we part”

 

Now you and I know that in 2018 that the technical term for that statement is “A Crock”.

 

Even though most wedding vows include a line such as “until death do we part”, or “as long as we both shall live” too many marriages last only until one partner or another becomes annoying.

 

But at least there is an illusion of commitment and permanency. People who are living common law will often say I’m not ready for that type of commitment.

 

Oh, they might vow their undying love for one another and say their love will last forever but a wedding says it publically instead of it just being pillow talk.

 

The Biblical  View of Marriage Does Not Include More Than Two People.  Even after the legislature permitting same-sex marriage the federal law will not allow polygamy or bigamy, yet.

Although, someone once defined multiple divorce and remarriage as serial polygamy.

Marriage is a relationship between two people, one man and one woman. Not three or four or a dozen, but one man and one woman.

You might recall that Mark Twain said: “The bible speaks very clearly about polygamy when Jesus said no man can serve two masters”.

To even up the ground here it was Author Erica Jong who wrote “Bigamy is having one husband too many. Monogamy is the same.”

 

And I know that in the Old Testament Polygamy is allowed or at least not disallowed and I have no deep insightful explanation for that other then in a time when Israel was fighting for her very survival that women would have outnumbered men because of war casualties and it was allowed to compensate for that.

 

And so legally you can’t be married to one person, socially it’s frowned on, for now.  And while there have been cults that have promoted polygamy orthodox Christianity doesn’t, with a caveat.

 

It is interesting that whenever I teach pastors in Ghana I can always count on answering the same question.   And that is what are they supposed to do when a man with more than one wife becomes a Christian?  And, you understand that someday, in Canada, we may face the same question.

 

In Ghana my answer is always the same, he is to remain married to those wives and love and respect them.   Because there is no other option.

 

And regardless of what the federal government or the supreme court may say The Biblical View of Marriage Does Not Include Partners Of The Same Sex.

 

Legally same-sex marriage is a part of Canadian fabric and if you think that will ever change I have a really nice bridge I’d like to sell you.  That Genie isn’t going back in the bottle.

 

The Government may have changed the definition of marriage in the law books, but it is beyond their scope to change it in the bible.

 

Socially, of course, the majority of Canadians now accept same-sex marriage.   But biblically same-sex marriage is not accepted.

 

I’m not being hateful, I’m not being homophobic, I’m simply discussing the biblical view of marriage and It has not changed.

The social view of marriage may have changed, the legal definition of marriage might have changed but the biblical view of marriage remains the same.

 

And it’s not just the Christian Bible, an examination of the historic teachings of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism reveals overwhelming support for the view of marriage as the union of men and women with no official endorsements or recognition of the idea of same-sex marriage.

 

Historically it wasn’t there, 5000 years of recorded religious thought, philosophies and regulations and no favourable mention of same-sex marriage.  You’d think that if it was acceptable that at least one of the five biggies would have recorded something in favour of the idea, but no.

 

So why do some churches say there is nothing wrong with same-sex marriages?  Because they have rejected the authority of scripture.

 

Those churches have already stepped over the line in rejecting the virgin birth, the deity and bodily resurrection of Christ and other major doctrines so why should this surprise you?

 

So where are you at today? As a believer a follower of Jesus Christ, are there things that need to be changed and attitudes that need to be adjusted?