Song of Songs 8:6-7
A wedding can seem like a real oddity any more. Most statistics say that marriage rates have plummeted, many couples opting to just live together. Why bother with an expensive sentimental ceremony if the chances are good that it will end in divorce? For many this is just an admission of reality. People break things. People mess up. They make mistakes. They fail. They hurt one another.
But everyone really does long for real love — a love that is as strong as death, the kind of love that many waters cannot quench, as Solomon puts it. But for many modern people that’s like a fairy tale, unlikely, maybe a lucky break for some, like winning the lottery or something.
So a Christian wedding seems like an even greater oddity. I mean, it’s one thing to have a nice ceremony and hope for the best, but Christians gather and swear oaths before God, covenant oaths, basically asking God and all their family and friends to curse them if they don’t keep their vows. And then, there’s the vows themselves: a man promising to love his wife like Christ loved the Church, to lay his life down sacrificially for one woman, for the rest of his life? I mean, come on, nobody’s perfect, men especially. And a woman promising to respect this man and obey him and follow Him for the rest of her life? Is that even legal, anymore? And how can you know what it’s going to be like in five years? How can you know what it’s going to be like once you’ve been living together for a while? What if it gets old? What if it isn’t what you were expecting? What if someone else comes along who seems more attractive, more understanding, more your style?
The idea of marriage, if taken seriously, can seem like a really crazy idea. And we haven’t even started talking about having kids yet.
But Christians, of all people, really do have to look at these realities right in the eye. Christians are not blind optimists or hopeless romantics, and we don’t really believe in luck. We actually have a name for what’s wrong with the world, a name for how things tend to fall apart, for how people mess up, fail, and can cause serious pain. The name for it is sin. Sin isn’t just breaking some rules on a list somewhere, like not stepping on cracks or forgetting to knock on wood. Sin is what the Bible calls those things that destroy life and steal joy. They are displeasing to God precisely because they destroy God’s good creation, and sin causes great harm and pain.
Think about how fathers sometimes treat their kids. Think about how mothers sometimes criticize their children. Think about how deep bitterness and resentment can develop between a husband and wife, a cold war of animosity. Think about how friends can betray us. Think about the lies that can be spread. Or just look at our nation, how hateful and divided we have become. How can you possibly fix any of that? And if you don’t fix it, all you have is trying to ignore that aching feeling in your gut, the voices in your head, the thoughts that won’t stop racing through your mind at night, the guilt, the shame, the regret, the rage. That’s what stands between you and peace.
This is why Jesus came to stand in our place in that place, where all the hurt is piled up, where all the pain gathers, where all the slanders and lies and anger lives. Jesus stood there for us when He was crucified. He did not come for the righteous but for the unrighteous, and to give His life as a ransom for many. The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death. All sin demands suffering and death; the only question is whether it will be your suffering and death and the suffering and death of those around you or whether you will let Jesus take your sin away. This is the love of Christ, the only love that is strong as death.
So this is what it means to be a Christian. It means believing that He came to this earth to bear your sins on the cross. It means believing that He suffered in your place so that you might go free. It means believing that all of your sins really have been paid for, that He has carried all of your pain and grief, and now you are clean in the sight of God because Jesus suffered, bled, and died for you. When that burden is removed it’s like the sun coming out after a month of rain. It’s like finally getting a full night’s sleep after many days of insomnia. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you don’t sin or hurt anymore. But being a Christian means that as soon as you do sin, you know exactly what to do with it. You confess it to God, and you ask for forgiveness, you prepare to forgive the one who sinned against you, because it was already paid for in the blood of Jesus.
And this bring us full circle to why Christians are not crazy to get married. Well, it is crazy, and it isn’t crazy all at the same time. And the point is that Christians can take wedding vows not because they have become perfect or sinless, but because they know exactly what causes all the problems in marriage and now we know what to do about it.
So Nate, this is my charge to you. You are about to take vows that are way beyond what you can do. This is why you need to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. He is perfect, and He stood in your place so that you could be the kind of husband you aren’t. Maybe that sounds sort of esoteric and cryptic. But think of it this way. Apart from Christ, your sins and failures (past, present, and future) really will haunt you. And if you manage to shove them down, out of your mind, they still hang on you, and weigh you down, and you’ll never be able to love your wife well like that. Many men are angry, depressed, and have an empty aching feeling in their gut, and they don’t know why, but this is why. They need Christ to take their sin away. And practically, this means you need to be a man who confesses his sins. Confess your sins to God, and confess your sins to your wife. This is one of the greatest ways you can lead and love your wife. Because the greatest threat to you, your wife, or your marriage is sin, so confess it as quickly as it arises.
Megan, my charge to you is similar. The calling of a wife is beyond what you can do, and apart from Christ, your sins and failures will haunt you, and not only that, your husband’s sins can tempt you to bitterness. As Nate confesses his sins and asks you to forgive him, learn to forgive him, just as you have been forgiven. And remember that forgiveness is a promise not a feeling. Forgiveness means promising to reckon his sin as paid for in the cross of Jesus. Was your sin paid for? Then so was his. Don’t allow any bitterness to develop. Of course, as Nate leads you and loves you by confessing his sins, imitate that love and confess your sins to him. And Nate, you also must forgive Megan when she sins against you.
Perhaps this all seems a bit dreary, all this talk about sin and forgiveness, but for a Christian, this is one our greatest sources of joy and fellowship. This is simply the blessing of God. And may that blessing rest upon your household and all your kids, to a thousand generations.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.