Can Marriage Work? No. 7
Why Marriage Isn’t All About You
by Ernest O'Neill
We're talking together on this station each morning about marriage. I don't know how your marriage is, but many of our marriages in these days are in deep trouble. So, we thought we would try to discuss together for eight or nine minutes each morning what marriage is, and how our marriages might become what they should be.
You remember yesterday we said that the reason for marriage is that God wanted to reflect His image perfectly on this earth. That's why He made us male and female. That's why in Genesis 1:27 it says that God decided to make man in His image. "Male and female created he them." In other words, God could only show His many faceted characteristics by having a man and a woman together in perfect harmony, either in marriage or in community or work. That's why God made us.
Our reasons for marrying
That, of course, cuts right across the reason why many of us married. Many of us married with anything but that in mind. Many of us married because of a craven, hedonistic attitude towards the whole thing. It was one of our biggest misconceptions of the purpose of marriage that we felt that marriage was for our benefit, for our happiness, and for our comfort. Yet, it is written into the marriage service that most of us went through in whatever church that we were married, that marriage is not primarily for our benefit.
It's not primarily for our satisfaction or our pleasure. Brothels may be for that. Prostitutes may be for that. But marriage itself is not for that. We grossly misunderstand the whole purpose of marriage when we expect our wives to be, as someone said, a combination of a prostitute, of a mistress, of a housekeeper, of a mother for our children, of a cook, a maid and of a laundress. Then when she doesn't satisfy all those needs we have, but wants apparently to satisfy some other need that we don't have, we wash our hands of the woman, or we wash our hands of the man. So often we women have the same kinds of misconceptions of why our husband is there in our lives.
Marriage isn’t for our benefit
The fact is that in the marriage service that most of us went through, there is clear indication that marriage is not for our benefit. It's not for our sake. That's why we said last week that love is not the basis of marriage. God's will is the basis of marriage because too often love for us is really lust.
We say, "I love you," but really we say, "I want you. I need you. I have to have you." So we mumble, "Oh! Love is no longer present in our marriage. That's why we must throw it away!" We present ourselves as very saintly people, who have great love for the other person, but what we mean is, "Lust is no longer in my marriage!" or "Thrill is no longer in my marriage!" or "Exhilaration, or emotional excitement, or physical satisfaction is no longer in my marriage. So we must throw it up." So we will casually say, "Oh, I no longer feel love for the other person."
We assume, of course, what we have in the center of our hearts is always perfect love; a love that is patient and kind is not jealous or boastful; that is not arrogant or rude, irritable or resentful. Perfect love is one that believes all things, endures all things; the love that never ends. The love that is described by Jesus when He says, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
Why we leave our marriage partner
We say, "Ah, there's no longer love in my marriage. That's why I can't have it continue." But what we mean is, “There's no longer satisfaction for me in my marriage. So I want to throw it up and look for someone else who can give me that satisfaction."
Of course, that's why we keep on rolling from hand to hand and from person to person, because we can never in this world get all the satisfaction that our unleashed ego demands. Indeed, such people end up as old Howard Hughes ended up, in a room with lots of Kleenex around him and no one that loved him taking care of him. The world is not "our oyster" in that way. The world is not made for us. We are made for God, and made to take our place in the world.
The real reason for marriage
So, our marriages do not exist for our benefit. They exist in order to set forth the image and the character of God in us working hand-in-hand in absolute harmony with another person. That actually is where we get our full satisfaction from. The marriage ceremony that many of us went through expressed that.
You remember the vows that go -- I call upon these persons here present, to witness that I do take thee to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward." (Then listen to these words.) "For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy law. And thereto I give thee my troth." (Or, "I give you my promise," in modern English).
Notice these vows. So often, we speak them all with the same volume, but really in our heart of hearts we mean to speak them this way -- I call upon these persons here present, to witness that I do take thee to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward FOR BETTER (and for worse), FOR RICHER (for poorer), IN SICKNESS, (No...rather, we say, in sickness) AND IN HEALTH; To love and to cherish, till death us do part."
In other words, we leave out the "for worse". We leave out the "for poorer". We leave out the "in sickness." We say, "We take you for better, for richer, in health." But of course the vows don't say that. They state clearly that marriage is not in existence for our benefit or for our pleasure. It is for a greater purpose.
God wants to make us like him
That's why we promise to take each other "for better, for worse." So often it's the "for worse" that is the most beneficial to us, because God is trying to bring about in us the purpose for which He made us. The purpose for which He created us and the purpose for which He put us together with this woman or this man is to make us in His image, to recreate His image in us; to make us like Him and to fill the world with copies of Himself.
Have you ever thought what the world would be like if we were all possessing the nature of Jesus? It would be pretty nice. The Kremlin would have been more pleasant if instead of Brezhnev there, someone like Jesus was there.
The work that you attend every day and the office that you go to every day would be pretty pleasant if each person had the qualities of Jesus in their lives. That is, if each of us was gentle and kindly, had compassion for the other person; was understanding and put the other person first and never got irritable with the other person, but was always anxious to help them.
Each of us, when the other person was in difficulty, would always be intent on getting them out of their difficulty first before looking after himself. If our world was populated by people who were like Jesus, it would be a pretty heavenly place.
That's the purpose for which God made you and made me. That's the purpose for which he put us together with another person in marriage. That's the purpose for which He put us together as men and women in our offices and in our factories, because in some way, man and woman could reflect His image in a way that man on His own could never do. That's why God allowed you to marry.
TO BE CONTINUED