Tag Archive: faithfulness


Marriage and the Culture of Heaven

In the same way that Heaven demonstrates the other-centredness of love, it’s not a leap to see this at work in functional relationships. Lovers are not mercenary when they love their mate; it’s only when they think about what’s in it for them that they become so, and at that instant they cease to love in practical fact.

And this, by the way, explains why cohabitation and casual sex are disapproved of in the Bible.

Marriage is the binding of oneself by an oath to choose to love in spite of feeling; an admission of the fickleness of our hearts, and the taking of a vow to do acts of humility and love – to put the other first in practical fact even when it no longer serves personally or satisfies.

And there is perhaps an important point to make here: Love is a choice and an act before it is a feeling. Many will jettison a marriage because they don’t have the feelings they used to.

But did we expect otherwise? You can’t make yourself continue to feel something by force of will. Your feelings can change as quickly as your digestion or the minute a pretty skirt walks by.

Common law relationships make it easier to reduce love to a consumer relationship since there is no binding vow. They just move out when the relationship gets uncomfortable. That marriage is not honoured as much as before is not that there’s anything wrong with it; people just don’t believe in making a vow they don’t intend to keep. That’s at least honest, but it still puts self before the other; it’s still a consumer relationship instead of a promise.

Love is humble: humility is not thinking of how bad you are, but if thinking of the other before oneself. And that is what a marriage vow is about: that you will put the other first even when it no longer serves. It is love as a positive moral choice, rather than merely a reaction to how the other person makes us feel.

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The Test

It didn’t make sense.

God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac, who had been an answer to prayer and the fruit of a promise and prophecy God made to him.

We know God detests human sacrifice:
“They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.” (Jeremiah‬ ‭19:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬). But that is exactly what God seemed to be telling Abraham to do.

It was a test; but it could also be argued that the purpose was more to change Abraham  than to tell God something He would already have known.

Sometimes what makes the trial of our faith what it is lies in the fact that we can’t figure it out. Will we still trust? Obedience wouldn’t be that hard – or effective in changing us – if we understood.

This kind of test draws us deeper into a relationship of radical, life changing faith. Choosing to trust changes our hearts at a foundational level: it’s when we trust in spite of what we see that we truly draw closer to God.

Sex and the Bible

Sex and Christianity

Sex is a big deal. As a society we are proud of our liberated attitude, and regard the unfettered expression of it as healthy and honest. What does Christianity teach about this?

In the Bible, sex outside marriage is considered as wrong as greed, theft, lying, etc. and Christians are told to avoid it at all costs, that there “must not even be a hint of it” in our lives. Yet modern society does not frown on it, and the biblical admonitions to chastity are regarded as hopelessly out of date. Even many who consider themselves Christians wonder what the big deal is.

But it is a big deal, and the Bible (which wholeheartedly endorses sex, by the way) tells us the only proper place for it is within marriage. If I’m to be honest with what I read, I have to take this at face value and not let my own feelings or the values of a particular time or society condition that doctrine.

Why does it matter? Here’s a few thoughts.

By engaging intimately right away, sex becomes a (the?) defining dynamic of the relationship – pretty shaky ground, especially as we age. It creates a consumer relationship rather than a covenant with which a person legally binds themselves to the other as a true token of love and faithful intent. As long as you continue to meet the expectations I had when we got together, it’s fine; but when you won’t or can’t – then I’m free to go. And things change: even with the best of intentions, beauty and vigour fade. If my partner is no longer attractive to me should I be able to just walk out? A public marriage vow to remain faithful for a lifetime – assuming we are people who keep our promises – puts things in firmer ground. It protects the other person.

Many will object, pointing out the present divorce rate. But the reason so many marriages fail these days does not mean there’s anything wrong with marriage – it just means people are less honest. They break their promises. And surely part of courtship is simply due diligence to discern the character of the prospective spouse before committing body and soul. The most important things to know about a prospective mate can be known without sleeping with them: humility, faithfulness, honesty, kindness, respect, love and service to others and especially to God.

Physical intimacy clouds our judgement if entered into before these things are known. Is it wise by any sensible standard to give yourself away so easily? How can a person really know someone after just a few dates?

Modern dating further skews things in this direction, because throughout the process everyone’s on their best behaviour. Talk is cheap, and people can keep it up as long as they’re getting getting what they want. In particular a person’s sexual performance is blown out of proportion relative to other vital factors.

And that this is so prevalent these days just shows what a small premium modern thought puts on the value of anyone besides our own experiencing selves. We devalue each other in the name of personal gratification; we use people and can easily discard the relation when it no longer serves us. Further, we consensually submit to the cheapening of our own persons for the feelings of affirmation we crave. That lifelong marriages are becoming exceptional hardly surprises me.

Christianity affirms the real value of the person by relationships freely entered into and therefore demands lifelong commitment – in a word, marriage. Not because God wants to keep us from having fun, but because people matter. Their hearts are too important to risk all by rushing into intimacy before its time; too precious to be put at risk when they no longer serve the partner’s purposes.

Testimony

I was looking through some old notes and realized I’d never blogged this. It relates to a time a few years back after a time of difficulty and of how it turned out. God is good!

April 28,2012
I’m feeling delivered right now, rescued by God.

The last few years have not been fun. Starting with my heart problems in late 2008, we’ve had a number of body blows, a descent down a dark tunnel, unsure of what would hit next.

I’ve had to learn how much I needed to lean on God. It was a wounding experience; somehow damaging (yet tending to life as I turned to Him for supply and grace with real need); the scars no less than His mark of ownership on my life. I trust Him in a new way and am starting to see how all things really do “work for good to those who love Him”.

Coming out the other side (at least of this trial) I have a profound and real sense of depending on God, of His reality and my need for Him in every way. I love Him better and know Him better than I did just a few short years ago; my heart is bound to Him in a new way. Grace, and with it, a profound, soul satisfying joy. This is what I was made for.

I know my own weaknesses better than ever, but they don’t discourage me because I know I am His: valued, loved, called and redeemed. Purchased by His blood, pursued by an ardent and faithful suitor: captured by “the Hound of Heaven”. I acknowledge my failings – did I ever think I could do it myself? – but move past them and look to HIM. I feel overwhelmed by Christ’s faithfulness, His humility, His desire for me and His incredible deliverance. Thankyou, God, for Your great love and care!

Part of the wonder is the realization that I’m safe… and that I always was. God was bringing things together to this place of rest.

If I trust God’s providence, that He really can and does “work all things together for good”, then I admit His faithful, determined love for me and my security in Him. There is deep joy in this realization, something essential to living a life that honours God. He is not glorified by dour legalists, nor by people who are just emotionally religious. There’s a deep, rational, balanced joy that comes from really knowing what He’s done.

But this sense of security doesn’t lead to careless living either, because I’ve been changed. We really are new people, fledgling sons and daughters of the God who is really there. And if changed, how can one live selfishly? The blood that redeemed mankind now runs in our own veins; the heart that breaks for the sorrow of the world now beats in our own chests. His Spirit dwells within; we’re family now.

I suppose in the end, it’s something God had to show me; and when He seems far away I wonder if part of the problem is the quality of the receiving equipment. Maybe I wasn’t in the right condition to receive or hear Him before, and that God’s provident use of time and circumstance has finally broken me open, bringing me to the place where I could understand.

I’m in love. There’s a sense of the big picture emerging, a panorama of life as God paints the world in broad strokes: yet within them the brush yields infinite detail and nuance for His children, a great dance or drama with an endless cast and the best of endings.

… is one of conscious dependence on God. It’s not a state of spirit or mind you achieve, but learning (often in trial and perplexity) to cry out to God for help. Read the book of Psalms. A significant portion of it has these godly people crying out “God, what now?!? ” – confused, wondering where God went, but still determined to trust.

How can we know if God’s really there until we’ve hit the wall? Unless you’ve come to the end of yourself, you’ll never know if it’s God or your own talents and skills that brought you through. But once you’ve done all and still come up short, then God can work.

Think of how you came to Christ. When you realized you were, in spite of your best efforts, a sinner still, and deserving nothing but judgement. God’s moral law really is our “schoolmaster to bring us to Christ” (check out the book of Galatians for more). It shows us His righteous standard, and in trying to keep it we discover our own inability to do so. And so -if we have any sense – we throw ourselves on God’s grace. And He meets us.

But this isn’t a one time thing. Our lives are to be a constant coming to God for supply and grace to live a life pleasing to Him. We should hardly be surprised when the you-know-what hits the fan. You really get to know someone when you’re in the trenches with them. It’s in the valleys that we know Him better.

Fasten your seat belts.