January 14, 2018
Jesus chose to do his first miracle at a wedding. That makes sense. Jesus loves marriage. By turning water into wine, Jesus not only manifested his glory to his disciples, so that they would believe in him, Jesus also blessed the marriage of the wedding couple with very good wine. Jesus loves marriage. That is why he also teaches, "From the beginning God made them male and female. Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So, they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)
God gives three reasons for marriage in Scripture: companionship, chastity, and children. Companionship: God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (Gen. 2:18) And so, God created the woman. Marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman. This life-long companionship is a gift from God. God did not give the man another man. That would not be a helper fit for him. God gave the man a woman. "Same-sex marriage" is not marriage. Just as you can't have two bodies without a head or two heads without a body, two of the same sex cannot have the companionship designated by God for marriage, nor can they live a chaste life or beget children. Not a single pillar of marriage established by God stands in so-called "same-sex marriage."
God intends for the man and the woman to be joined together for the rest of their lives as one flesh. Yet, people tear apart what God put together. This doesn't just break God's commandment, but it hurts the people in the divided family. Life-long companionship helps men and protects women and children. Dividing this companionship brings hardship to husband, wife, and children. For this reason, God forbids divorce except in the cases of marital unfaithfulness and malicious abandonment.
Chastity: Marriage is a union where a man and woman can live together in purity, not in sinful lust. St. Paul writes, "But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband." (1 Corinthians 7:2) Sex belongs between a man and a woman within marriage. Sex outside of marriage is called fornication. Fornication is a sin. Sex is not a sin. It is a gift of God to marriage. Within marriage it is a pure gift. Outside of marriage it is a sin against God.
Fornication is not only breaking God's commandment, but it is harmful to people. It objectifies women and men and robs them of their dignity. The reason why sexual harassment scandals are so rampant on the news, is because fornication was accepted as okay. Despite what romantic movies and books will tell you, sex outside of marriage is not an expression of love. Love is selfless. Fornication is selfish. When a man commits this sin with a woman, he is stealing what does not belong to him. If he loves the woman, he should bind himself to her lawfully and promise to care for her in sickness and in health, for better for worse, till death parts them. Young people, pay attention to these words. They are words of wisdom spoken by Solomon the Wise, himself, "Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. ... Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth... (Proverbs 5:15, 18)
Children: Scripture calls children "a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Blessed is the man, who fills his quiver with them." (Psalm 127:3-5) Yet, children have not been accepted as a gift from God. Part of this is because of the prevalence of fornication. Children are no longer looked at as a reward from God, but as an inconvenience and outside of marriage it becomes all the more difficult when the parents are not committed to each other for the rest of their lives. And so, in our country we have a multibillion dollar industry to prevent and dispose of children, as if God is being shortsighted by trying to give them to us. Nevertheless, God still gives children as a blessing and we should regard them as such. You can't baptize your car. You can't teach your vacation home about Jesus. But God does promise that he will feed and clothe your children and he invites you to bring them to Jesus.
Companionship, chastity, and children are certainly wonderful gifts to marriage, which shows why Jesus would honor a wedding with his first miracle. Yet, there is something more that shows how greatly God loves marriage. Marriage is a picture of Christ's relationship with his bride, the Church.
The Holy Spirit caused St. Paul to write in Ephesians 5, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." Now, these have become some of the most hated words in all the Bible and even Christian women blush when they hear them. But this shouldn't be. These are beautiful words from our God. We should not let the secular world define the meaning of words God gave to us Christians. For a wife to submit to her husband does not mean that she becomes her husband's doormat or slave. Listen to the words from Scripture, "Submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands."
How does the church submit to Christ? By obeying laws and ordinances? No, but by receiving Jesus' love. The church submits to Christ through faith in Jesus' love, his death and resurrection. The church submits to Christ by hearing and believing the Gospel, which forgives sins and grants eternal life. The church submits to Christ by being washed in his baptism, by eating at his banquet, by trusting in him to protect her from all danger, from sin, from death, and from the power of the devil. This is a completely different picture than what the world would paint.
And so, how does a wife model her relationship with her husband after the church's relationship to Christ? This too is a fruit of faith. A wife submits to her husband by trusting him, trusting that he will care for her, love her, and will do what is best for her. This is how the church submits to Christ.
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her." Now, this is an interesting balance to submit isn't it? If a master leaves and tells his servants to submit to the foreman, he'd then tell the foreman to keep the servants on track, to rule over them well. But God doesn't tell husbands to domineer over their wives, but to love their wives. This means that they put their wives' needs before their own, so that when a wife submits to her loving husband, she is submitting to being loved and cared for. Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. Jesus gave himself for the church as the hymn states, "The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord, she is his new creation by water and the word. From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride, with his own blood he bought her and for her life he died."
Christ did not consider his own needs when he went to the cross. He thought of the need of his Church to be saved. Jesus didn't even think of the worthiness of his Church. She was covered in her own sins, filthy, and undeserving of a husband. We are that bride. We didn't love Christ or submit to him. Yet, even so, Christ loved us and gave himself for us, so that he might cleanse us of our sins through the washing of water in the word. And so, through Baptism, Christ washes us by joining us to his death on the cross, so that he might present us as a holy Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. And so, husbands you should love your wives regardless of whether they submit to you. And you should cover their sins and forgive them, protecting their honor and reputation.
But wives don't submit to their husbands. They don't trust them as they should. And husbands often don't give them much confidence to trust in them. They fail to love their wives, to sacrifice their time, talents, and bodies for their wives. And they often fail to cover their shame as they ought. Likewise, we make a mess of the gift of companionship through bickering and selfishness and divorce. We can't stay chaste, even with the gift of marriage. And we're often afraid to welcome children as the gift they are and we fail to bring them to Jesus as we ought. In short, we make a mess of marriage. No wonder it is so despised in this generation.
Yet, Jesus still loves and blesses marriage. And his favorite marriage is his own with his beloved Bride, you his church. Although we crumble the companionship within our marriages, Jesus stays committed to his Bride. She is his body and he is her head. They cannot be separated forever. Christ Jesus is wholly committed to his Bride, even as he chose you to be his own before the foundation of the world. We fail to keep our lives chaste, yet Christ has made his bride pure through the washing in his own blood. He presents each of us, who have been unfaithful to him and to our spouses, holy through this spiritual washing.
Jesus gave himself to death, so that he could remove the sins of the whole world. He did this, so that he could forgive and save those, who have fallen into homosexuality and those, who have divorced their spouses wrongfully. Jesus died for fornicators and those, who hurt children. Jesus died for wives, who fail to submit to their husbands, and for husbands, who fail to love their wives. Jesus died for all these filthy sins, so that he could present you as his holy bride; so that he could make you chaste and his marriage to his church pure.
In our materialistic world, we can lose sight of the blessing of children. But Christ never loses sight of this blessing. And so, he blesses his church with many children. Through the preaching of Christ's crucified and through Baptism children of God are born to the Church. And within the Church, they will continue to be nurtured and cared for forever, through the grace and mercy that rains down from the cross of Christ. Marriage is a profound mystery. And Scripture says that it refers to Christ and the church. And we will rejoice in that blessed marriage forever. Amen.