One of the problems that we confront in this modern world is the problem of fragmentation. And one of the central drivers of that broader societal fragmentation has been the fragmentation of the family. This problem finally got our attention when it got to the nuclear family, and started showing up in divorce statistics and in other ways, but the problem had begun a good deal earlier. It has been some time since we thought or functioned in terms of generations.
Our choices for contemporary marriage and family are now too much like designer choices. We choose what sort of Instagramable lifestyle we desire, and we tend to throw everything into that category. Just as a couple “registers” for what kinds of wedding gifts are preferred, we also “register” our desires for what kind of family we want—how many kids, what kind of clothes they will wear, and how they will comb their hair. The problem here, of course, it not that of making decisions about kids, or making decisions about how to cloth or groom them. The problem is in an underlying attitude. In the modern world, we tend to use such things to accessorize our individual identity.
In the older way of seeing, the people around us were our people. In this new fragmented way, the people around us are the landscape for our personal identity. A more biblical name for this is pride and selfishness.
The antidote to all of this is to think in terms of generations. As a man and wife come together in marriage, they must constantly remember that they have obligations to their ancestors and that they also have responsibilities to their children, and their children’s children. All of this falls under the fifth of the ten commandments. We are to honor our father and mother, even when we are grown, and by implication, this includes our grandparents and great-grandparents (Deut. 5:16). That same commandment gives a promise, which is that our life might be prolonged, and that it might go well for us in the land that the Lord is giving to us (Dt. 5:16). Of course, if our days are prolonged, we will be given the grace of seeing our children’s children living under the blessing of God (Ps. 103:17; 128:6). The apostle Paul tells us that this commandment is the first commandment with a promise, and the fact of this promise is directly related to his charge that we bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:1-4).
So what is all this doing in a wedding homily? Marriage is a very great grace from God, but it is not a designer item. At weddings we should take care to remind ourselves, and one another, that we need to think about marriage the way God instructs us to think about it, and we need to pursue God’s blessing on our marriages, and on our families, in precisely the way He instructs us to do it. Marriage is one of our greatest earthly goods, but only if it enjoyed under the blessing of God. Without that blessing, it can easily become the engine of all our griefs.
So what are we to do? We are summoned by the Word of God to flee from idolatry. This wisdom is found for us, yet again, in the Ten Commandments. Speaking of graven images, God says this to His people:
“Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”
Deut. 5:9–10 (KJV)
We sometimes miss the fact that God’s promise to visit iniquity to three and four generation is a mercy of limitation. God limits the consequences of sin to three and four generations. But notice that God, in the same breath, shows mercy to thousands. Thousands of what? By implication thousands of generations. And this is made explicit just two chapters later.
“Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.”
Deut. 7:9 (KJV)
And so here we are, at a wedding ceremony, about to take another step in God’s work of establishing generations of faithfulness. But this task is accomplished in the following ways. First, look in faith to God and His promises. Second, look with honor to your parents. Third, look in faith to your descendants, expecting them to thrive under the covenant mercy of God. And fourth, look for the fulfillment of God’s promises—that your life might go well for you in the land that the Lord God is giving to you.
Makiah, everything rides on faithfulness to the Word. You are being established today as the head of this house, and unless the Lord builds the house, the one who builds it labors in vain. The Lord has taught us that His Spirit always works in accordance with His Word. Your task is to make sure that Scripture has a place of honor in your home. You should be reading it on your own, and you should be reading it together with your bride. As God gives you children, they are to grow up in an atmosphere dominated by the Word of God. That is my charge to you. If you are a husband of the Book, and a father of the Book, you will be heir of great and precious promises. Bring your family to the Book, always to the Book.
Rachel, your task is to reflect this Word-centeredness faithfully. Your husband will bring you to the Word, to the washing of water by the Word, and your role will be to return it back to him glorified. This is something that God has gifted women with—an ability to glorify and adorn. Just as he brings home the bacon, and you glorify it into breakfast, so also Makiah will decide that yours will be a home centered on the Word, and your task will be to give that logocentric reality a distinctive aroma. That aroma needs to be the aroma of spiritual bread baking in the home all afternoon. This is your charge. Glorify your husband’s leadership in this.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.