Yesterday at Gateway we explored what the Christian hope tells us about the purpose of marriage.
In Ephesians 5:25-27, Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
That is the gospel. Jesus looks down from heaven and sees that we are just shadows of ourselves, of what we were created to be. He sees us ruined by the fall, and he sees all our flaws and self-centeredness. But he loves us anyway! He comes and he gives himself to us, and he dies on the cross, taking the punishment for our sins. And when we embrace him, he comes into our lives.
But Jesus is not satisfied just to pardon you. He didn’t come just to bring forgiveness. Paul tells us here that He came to make us holy, radiant, without blemish. Jesus has a vision for your future glory and your future beauty.
What does this have to do with marriage and dating?
Paul says that the purpose of marriage is gospel reenactment. The gospel is our model for marriage, and it is a radically counter-cultural model.
Sociologists talk a lot about something called commodification - the process by which "social relationships" are reduced to "consumer relationships."
You have a consumer relationship with your coffee shop. You say might say “Hello” to the barista and you feel like “I know this place.” But the truth is your relationship is based on whether they are giving you a good product at a good price. And if you find another coffee shop, a little closer with better coffee at better prices, you will move on. The relationship is not as important as the meeting of your individual needs.
But this model of consumer relationships has spilled over into our social relationships. This affects marriages for sure, but it also impacts the way we select our future spouse.
Today most people I marry met each other on a website like eHarmony.com or match.com (I’ve even married a couple that met on hotornot.com). This is fine and I’m aware that this is the 21st century, however, these websites are fundamentally the same as the websites we use to purchase our homes or our cars. Data and algorithms to help you find the perfect spouse. Someone already beautiful and pulled together and accomplished and maybe (if you are lucky) someone with some money.
But that is not gospel reenactment - that is the modern Western idea that the purpose of marriage is your individual fulfillment. So you “shop” until you find someone who is going to give you incredible affection and romantic love; someone who completely fulfills you.
To fall in love with a vision for gospel reenactment means you look more deeply.
Tim Keller says, “To fall in love with somebody in this Christian understanding of marriage is to imagine yourself on the final day, the day of judgment, in which God destroys all death and all evil and suffering, and there is a new heavens and new earth, and everything wrong with you and everything deformed and distorted about you falls off, and you blossom into what you were created to be, and you become everything you are supposed to be. To fall in love with somebody is to imagine yourself being there on that day, and looking at that person and saying, “I always knew you could be like that. I saw it in you. And through marriage I have been part of what God is doing in you.”
In Ephesians 5, Paul is saying that Christian marriage means committing to do for another what Jesus did for you. “I am going to give you my life, I am going to lay myself out. I am going to commit myself to serve you sacrificially, I am going to put your flourishing and your thriving ahead of my own individual needs, which is what Jesus did, and therefore, I am going to be a vehicle for what God is doing in your life.”
So instead of waiting for someone who meets all of your qualifications (tall, dark, handsome) you start to become attracted to what God is doing in another person’s life; the person that God is making that person become. To fall in love with somebody with a vision for gospel reenactment is to see what God is doing in that person and become committed to that person’s future self.
At Gateway we believe that children belong to and are an integral part of our church body, we want to commit to coming alongside parents in the raising of them. God never intended parents to raise their children in isolation and the church has the potential to be a wonderful extended family.
This means that as a church we have the responsibility to not only teach our kids about God, but to exemplify His loving nature in our interactions with our children and with one another. One of the primary environments where this can take place, is in our small groups.
At Gateway we believe that incorporating kids into the life of a small group is key for many reasons: 1) this can be a beautiful piece in passing on our faith to the next generation; 2) kids have an entirely different perspective on things that can bring a freshness to our own perspectives and can challenge us to view the world in ways which we never have before; and 3) kids will feel valued and important if they are intentionally included in some of the activities occurring in small groups.
Here are some ideas for incorporating kids into your small groups:
If the kids are old enough, they may want to participate fully in all of the small group discussions and components. In the event that kids are toddler through early elementary age, they most likely will not be interested in hanging out with the adults for the entire span of time. In this case, it may be good to have the kids hang out for a little bit during a prayer time, etc, and then have the kids all go to another room to play.
Integrating kids into small group settings will look different in each group and will need to be tailored as such. While it is certainly not as convenient as simply hiring a babysitter - I believe the long-term benefits more than outweigh the short-term costs.
"Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true."
— Viktor E. Frankl (Man's Search for Meaning)
Sophia (5 years) - inquisitive, meticulous, exuberant
George (3 years) - charming, kindhearted, hilarious
Evelyn (15 months) - strong-willed, determined, endearing
She asked, "Daddy, is it still going to be winter tomorrow?"
I said, "Yes"
She responded, "Oh MAN! This winter is getting me CRAZY"
I said, "Maybe we should move to California"
She responded, "NO! We love it here!"
* She also wanted to make sure her friends could see her socks.