Ethan and Caroline, Anymore, a wedding is a highly charged political statement. On the one hand, you have the complete abandonment of marriage for a many. For these people, a wedding is more like a special Valentine’s Day present, a neat little ceremony that expresses some vague notion of love. But you can just as easily live together, have children together, and have a family without it. On the other hand, and in what seems like a completely irrational stance, you have the homosexuals clambering for the right to marry also. We shouldn’t be surprised when soon all sorts of other couples want the same rights to marry several wives, near relatives, or somebody’s pet turtle or a favorite sock. In either case, these marriages are not Christian marriages. Those ceremonies, whatever they may be, are not Christian weddings. They aren’t talking about Christian love.
But rather than getting depressed and all gloomy about the state of Western Civilization, I think we should look at this state of affairs with thankfulness and hope. God is telling this story, and we should assume that there is a good reason why He put us in this chapter. And if He has piles of pagans and non-Christians clambering to talk about love and marriage and weddings and what it means to be a family, we should assume that this is precisely because God wants us to talk about it more not less.
There are many ways to come at this, but I’d like to suggest that we use a musical analogy. Christians should begin pointing out more and more that true love in Christian marriage is polyphonic not monophonic.
Polyphony is music with two or more lines of different notes that harmonize that compliment one another. We enjoy this in hymns when you hear sopranos, altos, tenors, or basses singing parts. Monophony or monophonic music has only one line of music sung in unison by all. True love, romantic love, the kind of love that a family is built on and nurtured in, is polyphonic not monophonic. True love has different musical parts that blend and compliment and harmonize with one another.
When a guy shacks up with a girl, no matter how committed he says he is, he is treating her like a man. He is not protecting her, guarding her, or looking out for her. If there are children, she will bear them, and she will likely continue to care for them if the relationship goes sour. But without a marriage, where there are legal recourses for a woman with children, a woman is left to take care of herself, left to pick up the pieces on her own. She has to take care of herself. He is treating her like a man, and he is saying that true love can be monophonic. Both parties sing the same notes. I pull my weight; you pull yours. We collaborate and compromise and meet each other in the middle. I’ll take care of myself, you take care of yourself. We’ll sing the same notes together.
But this is to ignore the God-given differences between men and women and even more importantly the God-given responsibilities in marriage. Jesus says that the glory of men is their strength, and the glory of women is their beauty. Man was made first so that He would suffer first, bleed first, die first. And woman was taken out of the side of Adam. She is his glory. When a man dies for a woman, she is made beautiful, she becomes his glory and his crown. This is why Jesus requires that a husband love his wife like Jesus loved the church and laid his life down for her. This is why Jesus requires that a husband honor his wife as a weaker vessel. This is why Jesus requires that a wife respect her husband and submit to Him in the Lord. In other words, God wrote two musical lines when He created man and woman, and He intended for marriage to be a lovely duet.
When Christians began apologizing and explaining away the differences between men and women, and the different glories and different responsibilities of a husband and a wife, when we disobeyed God’s Word at these points, we were already asking for gay marriage. We were already saying that it would be ok. We were saying that we thought true love could be found between two people who had the same roles, the same kind of glory, the same kind of responsibility, two people singing the same notes in unison. We were saying that love can be monophonic. But if that’s true, it doesn’t really matter if you’re shacked up, in a polygamous marriage, or a homosexual marriage.
In fact, if there’s only one line of music to be sung, you don’t even need to bother with another person. One person is sufficient to sing one line of music. And there’s not really much difference between two or three or four people if everyone’s singing the same notes. Monophonic love, love that insists that everyone be treated exactly the same, that everyone share their own equal load, that everyone has the same responsibilities, is already designed to function alone, or with three or six. It doesn’t really matter. On the surface people can put on a pretty good show of claiming that they’re in love. That they have true unity, true fellowship, real friendship. But this is like insisting that hot dogs really are the same as filet mignon.
Monophonic music is not as beautiful, not as complex, not as satisfying as polyphonic music. Multiple lines of music intertwining, harmonizing, blending, different yet highlighting one another – that’s lovely, that’s beautiful. And God made us for that kind of love. God made us for that kind of beauty, that kind of pleasure.
So what is the beauty of polyphonic love? Why is it beautiful?
It’s beautiful fundamentally because it sounds like God’s love. It sounds like the song of salvation, the song of grace. It sounds like Jesus: His love, His life, His goodness, His grace, His forgiveness, His promises. You see: To know Jesus is to already know the beauty and goodness of polyphonic love because we have heard His song, and it’s like nothing we’ve ever heard before. His song is a completely different tune, completely different notes. His song is love unknown: Love to the loveless shown, that we might lovely be. His song is grace. His song is mercy. His song is unstoppable goodness. And we can’t do what He does. We can’t be who He is. We can’t heal our own brokenness. We can’t fix our own problems. We can’t take away our own sins. And when we die, we can’t do anything about it. But Jesus can. And Jesus does. Jesus is God come for us. Jesus is God come to heal us, to fix us, to take away our sins, to bear the dreadful curse, to give us His life, and to raise us up from the dead.
To know Jesus is to already love His song. To know Jesus is to already begin to sing polyphonic love. Our part is to trust, our part is to follow, our part is to obey, our part is to honor, and what’s crazy and insane is that the plan is to turn our brokenness, our failures, our weakness into His glory. His plan is to make us His crown, to weave our faltering voices into His melody.
And part of the way Jesus is shaping us into that glory is by giving us families to practice His song, to practice those harmonies. How could we not sing His song in marriage? How could we not love those differences, that gospel glory?
So Ethan, Jesus is calling you today to sing a line that only Jesus has sung perfectly. He’s calling you to be a husband to Caroline, to love her like He has loved you and given Himself for you. You are called to lead her, to guard her, to protect her, to honor her, to suffer for her gladly, die for her daily, to give up yourself, to give up your comfort, your pleasure for her good. This means you are being given responsibility for the state of your home, to listen to God’s Word, obey it, and own all the risks. You will need to be strong to do this. You will need to have courage to do this. You will need to die to yourself to do this. But the good news is that you are a man. And you were made for this. You were made to bleed. You were made to work hard. You were made to be strong. You were made to die for Caroline. And as you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, you will sing His song well.
Caroline, you are also being called to sing a part in the song of grace. You are being called to be a wife to Ethan. You also know Jesus and so you know His glory. But you have a different part to sing than Ethan. It’s based on the same song, but you are called to the glory of imitating the Church, the bride of Christ. You are called to submit to your husband, to respect him, to follow him, to obey him, to advise him, to adorn him, and you will need strength and courage to do this as well. But the good news is that you were made for this. You were made to be lovely. You were made to picture the glory of the Christian Church. You were made to be Ethan’s glory, to be his crown. And as you fix your eyes on Jesus, you will sing your part well.
Christian marriage is a song we learned from Jesus. It’s a song with two different voices that harmonize, and as you sing your parts, you make a single song together that tells the world about Jesus, about His grace, and about His glory. And when you sing that song, it becomes a song of praise.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.