Taylor and Beth

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In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, welcome.

In the kind name of the Lord Jesus Christ, welcome.

In the communion of all the saints who love the Lord Jesus, welcome.

As befits a Christian wedding, we have begun in the name of our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But this does not function for us as a detached theological dogma, or as some kind of magical mantra. This reality encompasses who we are as a Christian people, and it shapes everything that we do. It certainly affects how we are to understand and live in the context of marriage, and that in turn affects how we talk at our weddings.

The Scriptures teach that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons in eternal relation to one another. The persons who are in relation, and the relationships themselves, are all infinite aspects of the triune Godhead. We do not privilege the persons over the relationships—as though three distinct gods had independent existence until they met one day and formed the Trinity. But neither do we believe that the persons arise somehow out of a pre-existing or independent relationship. The persons are in relationship; the relationships are part of each person’s identity.

Now what on earth might this have to do with weddings, or marriage? As a pastor, I have spoken many times with men and women who tragically believe that their personal identity is separate and distinct from whatever relationships that they might happen to be in. Individualism has persuaded many of the disastrous doctrine that personal identity is monadic or solitary. This is one of the reasons why we are dealing with an epidemic of divorce—men and women have come to believe they can walk away from marriage without touching or affecting what or who they are as a person. In their minds, the marriage they walk away from is an event, not part of their identity. They believe that this solitary identity of theirs (hidden deep down inside somewhere) is fixed and inviolable. But the Bible teaches us that we bear the image of God, and relation is an essential part of this. We are created in the image of God, and in Genesis 1:27, this truth is stated in a striking way. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Notice how this imago Dei clearly includes this matter of relationship. A solitary male in the Garden would not have exhibited the relationality that is part of the very nature of God. This is why God said it was not good for man to be alone. In order to bring His image to maturity in man God brought a woman to Adam, and presented her to him. In doing this, He was in a very real sense presenting Adam to himself, introducing him to himself. He was introducing him to one who had been—when she was part of his body—one with him, and who shortly was to become one with him again in a different sense. It would be difficult for God to make a much clearer statement. Our identity is all tied up with our relationships. This is generally true, but it is particularly true in the marriage relationship.

Taylor and Beth, what this means in your case is that you have not yet become who you are going to be. Of course I do not mean that you have had no identity up to this point—we all have individual personality, as well as multiple relationships besides the marriage relationship. Mother, father, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and close friends all help shape and identify who you are, just as you have helped shape and identify who they are. But you are now on the threshold of the one earthly relationship which, beyond all others, will prepare and shape you for the day of resurrection.

At the same time, this is a sinful and incomplete world, and it is not enough to just throw the right ingredients together. Men and women get married all the time, and there is no automatic blessing in it. I used the word ingredients just now, and so let me continue with the cooking metaphor. It is not enough to have the ingredients. Getting the ingredients is shopping, not cooking. In order to prepare the dish, there are very particular instructions to follow. You must do the right thing at the right time, in the right way, and at the right temperature. Or so I am told.

Taylor, what you must do is this. The Bible says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself up for her. Love your wife. Now this might seem obvious and self-evident. Of course you love her . . . here you are, right? But when the Bible commands men to love their wives it is talking about something that goes far beyond what we are dealing with on this day, however glad it is. Weddings are joyful occasions, and are a glorious jumble of gladness, gratitude, love, adrenalin, and nerves. But this is the starting gun for a marathon, not a hundred yard dash. A year from now, five years from now, twenty years from now, and, God willing, fifty years from now, you will be the same person who made these vows, but also, as a result of keeping them, you will have grown into a very different person. Loving your wife means sacrificing yourself for her, as Christ did for the Church. You will not be there fifty years from now because sacrifice means dying to yourself. But you will be there because in the gospel every obedient death comes to resurrection. Every day will present new opportunities for such sacrifice; the fact that you will learn to render it gladly does not prevent it being a gift of yourself. And as she receives the gift that you present to her, the gift of yourself, she receives it and becomes . . . herself.

Beth, you are to do the same thing, but as a godly woman you will do it differently. The Bible tells wives to respect their husbands. As you render honor and respect to Taylor, you are giving yourself to him. As you do, he receives it, and in receiving you, he becomes, again, more like himself. The reason you do the same thing by doing something different is the result of God’s laws of masculine and feminine reciprocity. Taylor bows and you curtsy. In doing different things, you are each showing love and honor to the other. You are doing the same kind of thing by doing different things, and the results are glorious. A man is commanded to give himself away, and that is what his love is. A woman is commanded to give herself away, and that is what her respect is.

In showing love, and in showing honor, you are not simply discharging a duty. Each of you has a tremendous privilege here. That is the privilege of being an instrument in the hand of God for shaping the other. Taylor, as you love your wife, you are not just doing the right thing in the abstract—you are bestowing ever-increasing loveliness on her by loving her. The Bible teaches that love bestows what it is, love brings the blessing of loveliness with it. Beth, as you respect your husband, you are bestowing respectability on him. Respect brings the blessing of respectability with it. Respect does not create a desire to abuse that respect, but rather is used by God to stir a man up to grow up into what he is being given already. And neither does love create a desire to abuse it, but rather the recipient flourishes in it.

Now I know that the two of you know these things. But I also know there is a big difference between knowing something in the classroom, or off the page of a book, and knowing that same thing in the practicum. So as you embark on the task of living together, take care to entrust one another with your very selves, and to do so with glad abandon. When this is done in evangelical faith, and when such a gift is received in charity, the results are glorious. Husband and wife really are created by God to live together, and He in His grace enables us to do so in a way that manifests the very image of God. Male and female created he them.

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