Marriage: God’s Counter-Cultural Love Story

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Dear friends,

I had the very special gift of co-officiating David and Janie Robinson’s wedding this weekend. With their permission, I’m sharing my wedding homily, which reflects on the radical theological meaning of Christian marriage. Whether you’re married, engaged, or single, I pray this sermon strengthens your love for God and people. Congratulations, Janie and David!!!

Yours with celebration,
Andrew

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Introduction

Friends, this wedding covenant takes us back to the beginning of our universe, into the very heart of God, and forward to our ultimate hope. Let me briefly explain what I mean.

The Origin of Love  

Level the mountains. Drain dry the deep oceans. Wipe away the earth and billions of planets. Snuff out the stars and suns. Rewind every life that has ever lived.

Return to formless and void. Back to God and only God – to God and nothing else.

Why are we here? Where do we come from? What is the origin of our existence?

The Christian answer is love.

The Apostle John declares, “God is love” (1 John 4:7). And to love is to give of oneself, to welcome and work for the other’s flourishing in new community. So when there was nothing, God broke the silence and said those wondrous words of love and freedom: “Let there be.”

And thus we began. God created and blessed an entire world and created human persons in God’s own gift-giving image. As C.S. Lewis said, God loved us into existence (The Problem of Pain, 43) – loved us when we were nothing with nothing to give God.

And thus a radical change took place in God. God went from being God and only God, to God with us and God for us. God made a covenant with humanity and said, “I will no longer be who I am without you. For the rest of forever, I will be myself – with you and for you in love” (see Proverbs 8:30-31; Wisdom 11:24). God crossed an infinite distance and married himself to us.

And that is what we are witnessing today. David and Janie in love are creating a new world that never existed before – their own marriage and life together. And they are doing it by giving themselves to one another in an unbreakable bond of faithfulness that will transform who they are and create something new. Today they are covenanting that they will no longer be themselves without one another and they will unceasingly give themselves to one another. And we with God are here today saying, “Yes! Let it be! It is blessed and full of goodness, like it was in the beginning.”

Oh friends, the cosmic root of marriage is this divine generosity and unconditional covenant in which the self is given away and made new by embracing the other. Janie and David, today you reflect the magnificent image of your Creator and the mystery of our world in your freely giving yourselves to one another in covenant love. This day takes us back to the beginning.

But there is more to the mystery of marriage in the biblical imagination.

The Sacrifice of Love

John the Revealer declared, “The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). God knew from the start that when God freely gave himself to us, we would be unfaithful lovers. We would take the gift of life, claim it as our own, and turn our back on God, our life-giving Lover. There would be pain, failure, loss, and betrayal. Renegades in heart and mind, God would need to make a radical self-sacrifice to redeem his covenant with us.

And so Scripture tells us that from the foundation of the world, God said, “I’m all in. I am willing to give my very soul to redeem the covenant I have made with humanity.” And thus the Apostle John gives us these astonishing words: “For God so loved the world that God gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). Paul says that like a spouse for his beloved, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Jesus our Spouse, Jesus the Friend of sinners.

And thus from creation we move to the cross, to Jesus giving himself and enduring excruciating suffering, humiliation, and death to embody God’s unconditional love for us. Hidden in the words “Let there be” we now hear the words from the cross, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).

David and Janie, today is your day of joy. But it is also your day of sacrifice. Today you are entering into the passion of Christ who freely suffers and gives himself for our redemption. You will hurt each other. There will be pain, suffering, and the need for forgiveness and healing in your covenant.

So like the Lamb of God, lay yourselves down on this altar today and promise, when everything in you is shouting, “Save yourself!” to keep your covenant. Declare, “I will suffer and sacrifice my soul for your life and flourishing. I will not only give once and then walk away. I will release you from your failures, forgive you, and seek healing together.”

This is the countercultural core of Christian marriage. In our world of contract, convenience, and conditionality, you embrace the cross as the key to your marriage (Ephesians 5:1-2).

And there is a third moment in the biblical story that your wedding sacrament evokes today.

The Hope of Love

Oh, when the moon turns red and the stars fall from the sky and humanity is swallowed in death, God declares, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Out of every black hole of destruction, the gentle dove of love will defiantly fly free, and a new heavens and a new earth will appear. The dead in Christ shall rise and we will be like him (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 John 3:1-2).

And what is at the heart of it? John says we will be welcomed to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, the ultimate triumph of God’s covenant love in which there is plenty for everyone and no more pain or sorrow (Revelation 19:6-9). The climax of history is a wedding party – the indestructability of God’s covenant of love, which is a testament of freedom.

As the Apostle Paul declared, “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). And thus nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord – neither trouble nor hardship, neither angels nor demons, neither life nor death itself (Romans 8:35-39). In the end, there shall be joy, despite everything.

Today in this wedding party, friends, we catch glimmers and hear the music of this divine promise of radical hope, this defiance of despair for joyful confidence in a good end. We shall be together. God’s covenant love will heal every wound, fill every emptiness, restore every loss, right every injustice, and lift us to everlasting life with every tongue, tribe, nation, and people.

Janie and David, this is the hope of your marriage and the hope of each one of us. When you fear your love has died, know that it is waiting to be transformed into something higher. It is sustained by the eternal promise of your Creator. Let resurrection hope be the horizon of your covenant. This day and every day of your marriage, throw open your arms to embrace the promise of everlasting joy in the wedding party of the Lamb that awaits us through the veil of death. Practice resurrection.

Creation, Christ, the resurrection – this is the biblical story that originates, imbeds, and liberates the sacrament of marriage. Let your marriage be a life-long Yes to God’s radical love that comes before us, sustains us now, and holds our future forever.

Practicing Love

David and Janie, I say these weighty words to you as a challenge. But I primarily say them as a celebration. In your love for one another, all of us gathered here have seen glimpses of the miraculous self-giving love of God at the origin of our universe. We have witnessed the healing power of sacrifice and forgiveness. And we taste the everlasting feast of hope toward which this day points us.

The words that you have shared with me about one another are so beautiful and full of God’s love.

Janie, when you talked about David, you named his inexhaustible friendship, boundless intimacy, deep transparency, and patient kindness that sets you free to be yourself. You described his mind as densely intricate and full of rich humanness. You see eternity in him. He is overflowing with care for others and is filled with sadness when others hurt. He is a man of adventure who hungers for the marrow of life and pours himself out in the way he lives.

David, when you talked about Janie, you named her solid reality, authenticity, and rootedness in the soil free of pretense – upright and transparent. You talked about her love for adventure and hospitality, her profound gift for bringing beauty and welcome to others wherever she goes. You celebrated her kindness, the way her heart is open to all people and gravitates towards others in pain. You celebrated her hilarity, her listening ear, her tireless work, her loyalty and fullness of the Holy Spirit, her love for goodness and overflowing giftedness.

Dear David and Janie, we see the love of God in you and through you. We celebrate and cherish you. Your love and marriage today is a witness of the Love that loves us – the origin, salvation, and hope of our lives. And I charge you today to live deeper and deeper into this Love each day for the rest of your lives in three simple ways.

First, be with each other. Spend as much time together as you can. Talk together, know one another, run errands together, go out of your way to be together.

Second, be for each other. Praise and celebrate each other. Forgive each other; hold onto one another, not the wrongs you have done to each other. Weep with one another and rejoice with one another. Always be for one another.

And, third, be together for others. Let your marriage be a mansion of love and service that welcomes and refreshes others, near and far, in joy and sorrow.

In this way, your marriage will not only be a human decision. It will also be a sacred window into God’s covenant love story for humanity. The miracle of the beginning, the sacrifice of history, and the triumph of hope will radiate throughout your days.

And thus through your marriage, you will bear witness to why we are here, what it means to be human, and our ultimate hope – the radical love of God that crosses every boundary to be with us and for us, especially those we have overlooked and excluded.

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

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