I DON’T: MARRIAGE
Make The Cut
October 20, 2002
You know, we live in a contract crazy culture. Everywhere you look you run into affidavits, stipulations, fine print, and escape clauses. The list is limitless. And if you continue down the food chain of contracts, you always run into a bunch of lawyers. I love lawyers. That was a little joke there. I do, I love them. You can’t buy a cell phone without signing a contract. You can’t get cable television without signing a contract. You can’t lease a car without signing a contract. You can’t even work out at a gym without signing a contract, can you? Marriage — you have to sign a contract. Because, after all, marriage is a contract, right?
A contract is an agreement between two parties. “If you keep your end of the deal, I’ll keep my end of the deal and everything is cool. As long as my needs are met, as long as I’m happy, everything is fine. But the moment you mess me around, I’m out of here.
Here are some definitions of a contract. Number 1 — an agreement between two or more parties especially one that is written and enforceable by law. Number 2 — a writing or document containing such agreement. Number 3 — marriage as a formal agreement.
The question, then, that is hanging in the balance today goes like this, “How good is this marital contract?” Again, marriage is a contract. “How good is the contract?”
Over the last 24 hours, 3,000 couples have divorced. Studies show that 65 percent of all new marriages end in divorce. Of the remaining 35 percent, 10 percent say they are miserable. So, if you put all the stats together, 75 percent of all brand new marriages end up in the deep weeds.
How would you like to sign a contract to lease a car knowing in your mind that the car will not run 75 percent of time? How would you like to sign up for a cell phone contract knowing that 75 percent of your calls would not go through? How many of you would like to fly in an airplane knowing that it has a 75 percent chance of crashing and burning? I don’t think we would sign those contracts.
So, if we believe this research, those of us who are married should plan on divorce. I mean, let’s go ahead and put the cards on the table. 75 percent of all new marriages end up in the deep weeds. So, if we’re married, we had better plan on a divorce. That is, if we view marriage as a contract. But, if we view marriage the way God views it, we shouldn’t plan for an immediate divorce. You see, God does not view marriage as a contract. God views it as something else.
I was thinking this past week — we have more marital information at our fingertips than ever before. It’s great to know that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. It’s great to know that we have these five love languages. I think it’s great to think about his needs and her needs and the fact that they are mysterious.
But, even though Dr. Phil and Oprah talk about relationships, the world’s ways don’t really work. I mean, think about all the information, all the books, all the periodicals, all the psychobabble, and all the talk shows about marriage. A lot of the information is good. It’s fun. It helps people. But, rarely does the stuff talk about the most important aspect of marriage. Rarely does it talk about the foundation of what it means to be a husband and a wife.
Here is the foundation. God says that marriage is not a contract. God says throughout His word that marriage is a covenant. It’s a covenant. Most marriage experts, most books, and most shows don’t talk about the fact that marriage is a covenant.
Now, what’s a covenant? I defined a contract, now here is what a covenant is. A covenant is a blood bond of life and death. It’s an “all or nothing” commitment. If you described a covenant in our modern day vernacular, you might say that a covenant is a contract on steroids. That’s a covenant.
So, God has this great plan for every marriage here. I don’t care if your marriage is unhappy. I don’t care if you’re miserable. I don’t care if you’re hanging on by a thread and thinking about divorce. If you grasp this concept called “covenant marriage,” God can morph your marriage, by his power, from being an unhappy, same-old same-old, in-a-rut marriage into something that is truly awesome to behold. It’s all about covenant. It’s all about covenant.
If we’re going to understand this whole concept of covenant we’d better delve into the covenant and how often it’s mentioned throughout Scripture. Covenant is mentioned over and over again throughout the Bible. Go back, if you would, in your Bible to the book of Genesis 12:1-3. I’ll read these verses as we talk about covenant.
Think about the two most intimate relationships known to man — our relationship with God and our relationship with our spouse. Both are founded on covenants. Genesis 12:1-3, “The Lord had said to Abram, ’Leave your county, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’”
You might say, “Wait. Abram? Is that a misspelled word?” Well Abram later became Abraham.
Now, the land God was going to show Abram was a land flowing with milk and honey, a land called Canaan. Abram was from a place called Ur. Who here wants to be from a place called Ur? I can just hear it, “The quarterback for the Cowboys is from Ur. Watch him throw. Ur man, Ur.” So, Abram left Ur and went to Canaan.
For Abram, to leave Ur is not like one man, his wife, a couple of kids, a dog and a cat moving. We’re talking about a mega heavy-hitter. If Abram were alive today he would have the same portfolio of someone like Bill Gates. The guy was a multi-multi billionaire. So, it was like this big honking Fortune 500 Company on the move. And Abram was going to Canaan.
Well God said, “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” That’s Canaan. “I will make you into a great nation and I’ll bless you,” God said. “I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
About now you might be saying, “Man, I thought you were going to talk about marriage. You’re talking about covenant, Abram, Ur of the Chaldeans and Canaan.” Just stay with me. Don’t count ceiling tiles yet.
Now, skip over to Genesis 15:18. “On that day the Lord made a covenant.” What’s a covenant? It is a blood bond of life and death, an “all or nothing” commitment. “On that day God made a covenant with Abram and said, ’To your descendants I give this land.’” Now what was going with the covenant? I want to explain to you, very quickly, God’s covenant with the human being, Abram.
There are many, many covenants throughout the Old and New Testaments. Let’s talk about this covenant. Here’s what happened. Animals were cut in two and the two halves were arranged opposite of each other. God walked through the bloody halves of these animals signifying the fact that He was the initiator of this covenant between himself and Abram, He did this to symbolize the fact that he unconditionally loves Abram, to symbolize the fact that He is in this deal and He will keep his promises. And Abram, through this covenant relationship, vowed the same thing – to keep his promise to obey and follow God’s commands. That’s the covenant. That’s the CliffsNotes of this covenant between God and Abram.
Now, let’s press the fast forward button and move to 1 Samuel 18. How many of you have a best friend? Well, I’m going to show you what true friendship is all about. In fact, I did an entire series on this whole situation. I’m talking about the friendship between Jonathan and David. Do you know who David was? David was the guy that killed that big behemoth, Goliath. Jonathan was schizophrenic Saul’s son. They had this bond, this friendship that was amazing. Let me describe it to you.
These guys got into covenant relationships with each other. 1 Samuel 18:1-4, “After David had finished talking with Saul (that’s schizophrenic Saul), Jonathan became one in sprit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father’s house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David (a blood bond of life and death, you know, a commitment on steroids), because he loved him as himself.” Check this out now [the Scripture continues], “Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”
Now here is what is going on. When these two guys got into covenant relationship with each other, they exchanged robes. That was an illustration of the fact that they were giving100 percent of themselves to each other. They also wore these big belts back then. Do you remember how Batman and Robin used to wear those utility belts? When the Penguin [Ed imitates Penguin’s sound — Quack, quack, quack, quack] would get Batman into a trap or something, Batman would always grab the utility belt and get out of the trap set by the Penguin.
Well, Jonathan and David wore these big belts. These belts held their weapons. They would trade belts, and this showed that they were going to fight each other’s enemies, that their problems were not their problems anymore, they were the other person’s problems, too. It showed that they were committed to each other, no matter what happened. They even exchanged weapons. The weapons symbolized the fact they would fight each other’s battles. They were saying to each other, “I’ve got your back.” That’s covenant relationship.
As we read more and more on covenants in the Old Testament, we discover that the covenant was all about the “blood bond.” In fact, if you look at the word covenant, you’ll see that it comes from a root word that means, “To cut.” The people making a covenant would take animals, split them down the middle, and arrange the halves opposite of each other. They would then put their backs against one another and do something called the “Walk of Death.” Say that with me … one, two, three … the “Walk of Death.”
They would walk in a figure eight through the bloody path, signifying the eternal aspect of the covenant — signifying the fact that they were dying to themselves, dying to their ego, dying to their autonomy, and they were becoming one flesh. As they walked through the bloody halves, it also symbolized that if they turned their back on the covenant, if they dissed each other in any way, they were saying, “God do to me what we have done to these animals. Just go ahead and take us out on the spot.” Making a covenant was a serious deal.
After that they would make this pronouncement about the vows in the covenant. They would tell everybody, “Hey, we’re in covenant together.” It would be a public thing. Then they would take each other’s names. They would take one another’s last name and morph it to their own. Finally, they would share a covenant meal together. They would eat each other’s bread, symbolizing the fact that this person is coming to that person and vice versa.
That’s what was involved in a covenant. It was nothing about feelings, it was nothing about emotion, and it was nothing about if you do this then I’ll do that. It was about unbridled commitment on steroids — a blood bond for life. That’s what it symbolized. So, covenant is a powerful, powerful, thing.
We serve a covenant God. Covenant is in the very heart and nature of the Lord himself. How many of you have ever attended a wedding before? We all have. Sometimes weddings are really fun. Other times they are a whipping, aren’t they? Have you ever thought to yourself at a wedding, “Man, how in the world did this guy get a girl like that? What was she thinking?” I call it a puzzlement marriage. You know, a marriage that makes you go, “Wow, how did that happen?”
Anyway, throughout my ministry I’ve officiated hundreds and hundreds of weddings and I’m not sure if you realize this or not, but the tradition of a modern day wedding reflects and illustrates God’s covenant relationship throughout the Bible. You see, God takes marriage very, very, seriously. Because marriage is not just a contract, it’s a covenant, it’s a blood bond, and it’s a commitment on steroids.
Let’s say, for example, this is a little chapel right here. Normally, when you do a wedding you have an aisle and it goes down the middle of a chapel, sanctuary, or whatever. On your right you have the family and the friends of the bride. On the left you have the family and the friends of the groom. The bride walks down the center aisle. She and her fiancé make this vow before God and witnesses. Then, she and her new husband turn and walk back down the center of the aisle. This signifies and illustrates the “Walk of Death.” It really does. They are saying, I’m serious now, they are saying, “I am dying to self, I am dying to autonomy, I am dying to independence, I am dying to family and I am merging my life to you.” Two are becoming one.
Usually you have a white wedding runner. Have you ever wondered why you have a wedding runner? Well, I’ll tell you why. Turn in your Bibles to Exodus 3:5, this is Moses and God. “Do not come any closer.” God said to Moses, “Take off your sandals (take off your Tevas), for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” So, when you go through wedding covenant commitment, when you are part of a wedding ceremony, it’s holy ground. God takes it seriously. He means business.
Have you ever wondered why the parents have a prominent place in the wedding ceremony? Maybe you think, “Well, is it because they pay for the deal?” No, that’s not it. Parents have a significant role in the seating and whole ceremony because they are a part of this covenant. They are blessing the marriage. They are saying, “We have prepared our son, or we have prepared our daughter for this time.”
What does the Bible say? The Bible says this about children and parents: “Children obey and honor your parents.” Kids, don’t say, “Yeah, but my Mom is so unfair. But my Dad, he’s so…” The Bible says to, “Obey and honor your parents.”
Do you realize that back in the Old Testament, if you disrespected your parents, they would take you out and you would get stoned? I’m not talking about drug use here; I’m talking about them taking you out with rocks. Well, thank God we’re under the new covenant now, but that’s how serious it is. I’m going to tell you something, children and students. Your parents have been put in your life by God himself and they are there for a reason — to help shape you and mold you into someone special. So, honor them. They are a major part of this covenant commitment. Now I’m getting excited.
[Ed is going to demonstrate what happens during a wedding. He has on stage a “fake” bride and groom, as well as a setup for a “wedding”]
So, I’ll come down and we’ll go through this whole wedding situation. Normally when I perform a wedding, I will stand on a platform like this in the center aisle. About this time, I’ll look to my left and I’ll nod to let the groom know to walk in. And we’ve got a groom. Chris, how are you doing?
Chris: I’m doing all right.
Ed: Thanks for doing this. Now, Chris is engaged, but this is a fake wedding. It’s not a real wedding, but he is engaged. Chris is going to play the part of the groom. Have you ever wondered, “Why in the world does the groom wait for the bride? I mean is it like the bride is going to walk and it’s her day and is he like a mannequin there? Why does he do that?”
Well I’ll tell you why he does that, the groom waits for the bride because the groom is the initiator of the relationship. He has romanced her, he has dated her, he has “popped the question” to his fiancé. [Ed turns and says to Chris] You said, “Yanci, will you marry me?” And she said, “Yes.” [Ed turns back to the congregation] This is a picture of what Jesus Christ has done for you and for you and for you.
What did Jesus do? Jesus took the initiative in my life. I didn’t deserve it, but he initiated the covenant. He voluntarily gave his life and spilled his blood on a rugged cross. He went into covenant, that’s the new covenant, just so I will respond to his love, just so I will say, “I do,” to him. That’s what Jesus did.
So, the groom is reflecting that, because the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” Well, here’s how Jesus loved me — unconditionally. I thank God I’m not in contract with Jesus. If I were in contract with him, I’d be in serious trouble. I mean, man, I’ve broken that contract tens of thousands of times. I’m in a covenant relationship with him — in covenant. That’s why the groom does this, that’s why he waits. It’s because he’s the initiator of the relationship. It’s a reflection of what God has done for all of us.
Next, we have the bride walking down the aisle. [Yanci, a member of the praise team is playing the role of the bride] Yanci has the entire wedding dress on, the whole nine yards. Again, this is a fake wedding so don’t stand. Yanci is taking that “Walk of Death,” and this symbolizes the covenant. No, you’re not dead animals but you see the picture. [Ed is referring to how the two halves of the animal were placed opposite of each other, just as the two halves of the congregation are separated by the aisle] As Yanci walks down the aisle she’s saying, “I am dying to myself, I am dying to my past relationships, I am dying to autonomy, and I’m dying to ego.” Chris is saying the same thing.
Now, her father will give her away. I’m not old enough to be her father, but let me be the father for a second.
You may ask, “Why does the father give the bride away?” Well, I’m glad you asked. If you read Genesis 2:22, you’ll see that it says our heavenly father gave Eve, the first bride, away to whom? Adam.
So, then the father will bring the bride and groom’s hands together. As they bring their hands together, as they hold hands, it signifies two becoming one flesh. Then from there, I’ll walk up and begin this covenant commitment.
Usually, when I do a wedding, I will begin by doing a sermonette. I’ll say a little message, and then we’ll get into the vows. The vows are very, very important. They’re very, very significant and they should be straight form the Bible. Now, I think it’s cute to have poetry and some people say, “Well, I want to write my own vows.” But, do you know what I say to them? I say, “Unless you have a theological background, unless your vows are straight from scripture, I don’t want them in the ceremony. The vows are part of the covenant, and as a part of the covenant, they need to be straight from the word of God.
I think it was Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston who wrote their own vows and one of the things they said was something like, “I’ll make you a milkshake everyday.” Well, you know that’s cute and they’re this handsome Hollywood couple, but that’s about this deep. [Ed holds his fingers up very close together to show how meaningful the “milkshake” vow was]
It’s fine to laugh and it’s fine to cry at a wedding, but this is a serious deal here. We’re talking about a covenant relationship, so the vows should reflect scripture. They should reflect this covenant, this unconditional love, this picture that I’ve been talking about. Because remember, when people went into covenant relationship with one another it was a public thing. Marriage should not be this little private thing. It should be a public thing because you are in covenant with God, with one another, with your parents, with your family, and with your friends. If you break the covenant, you break this covenant with God, with each other, with your family, and with your friends. That’s why God hates divorce.
Maybe you’re saying, “Well Ed, I’ve been divorced. I mean I said these words and I didn’t realize it was a covenant.” If you have, I have good news. Here’s the great thing about Jesus. He is in covenant with you. You can start today, fresh and anew. You can make this vow before God and say, “From this day forward I’m going to do it God’s way.” Divorce is not the unpardonable sin.
They [Ed is referring to the “bride and groom”] recite the vows to one another. And, usually, I tell them to look into each other’s eyes while saying the vows. As they say the vows people listen and they watch. They’re saying the vows before God, family, and friends.
From there, I’ll take the rings and I’ll talk about the rings. [Ed takes Yanci’s ring to demonstrate what happens] This is a beautiful ring, Yanci, Chris gave to you. I know rings are beautiful pieces of jewelry, maybe a nice diamond, but here is what they represent. They represent the covenant commitment, this blood bond that is made. The circle is eternal, just like your unconditional love is eternal for each other. I mean, there are no terms or conditions here. You’re in covenant. [Ed speaks to Chris] You love Yanci, even when she’s tough to be loved. [Ed speaks to Yanci] You love Chris even when he’s tough to be loved.
Don’t complain, “Well she’s not meeting my needs,” or, “I’m not happy.” Well, do you know what? Happiness and all that stuff is not mentioned in the vows. We’re talking commitment on steroids. Too many people see it as just a contract. That’s precisely why so many marriages are messing up today.
We think, “Now if you do your part, if you meet my needs, and if you help me out, then everything will be cool. But the moment you don’t do that, I’m going to change to someone else.”
That is a weak and shallow and worldly view of marriage. Marriage is about covenant and commitment and the ring represents that. It’s an outward symbol of the inward covenant we have before God. So, when you wear these rings, Yanci and Chris, when you wear your wedding ring you’re saying, “I’m out of the game, baby. I’m out of the game, baby. I’m spoken for. I’m a one-woman man. I’m a one-man woman.” That’s what the ring represents. It’s a powerful, powerful, thing.
Now, sometimes you’ll have a unity candle in a wedding covenant. One time I did this wedding; this is pretty hilarious, full of body builders. I have some friends who are body builders. The guy, the groom, was a body builder — I mean a hulking guy. His bride was a body builder, too. So, it came time for the unity candle. Now, with the unity candle here’s what you do. [Ed demonstrates what is involved in lighting a unity candle] Usually the bride takes this out [one candle] and the groom takes this out [the other candle] and they light the flame together [the unity candle]. It represents two becoming one, and then they extinguish the [separate] candles. Well, in this body building wedding for some reason, I think it was a new candelabra or something, the candles that they were supposed to remove got stuck. So, this big body builder said, “Excuse me.” and he took the candles like this and bent those things to light the middle flame. [Ed shows how the body builder bent the candle holders in to each reach the unity candle, without removing the candles] It was unbelievable!
Sometimes, in a marriage, it takes bending, it takes strength. Marriage is hard, but it is worth it. It is worth it. Jonathan Cude said it best, “Marriage is not the easiest thing, it’s the hardest thing.” But, when it is done God’s way, in covenant, it will be the most blessed relationship, next to your relationship with God, that you will ever, ever be a part of.
After that, I’ll pronounce them and then I’ll say, “You may kiss the bride.” [Ed turns to Chris and Yanci] Now, I won’t have you kiss right now. Remember, I talked about what you don’t do before you say, “I do.” I’m kidding, it’s OK to kiss. I’m joking around. [The congregation laughs] You see, the people that laughed have been here for the whole series. Those who didn’t laugh didn’t even get it. That’s all right.
Then I‘ll have them walk back down the aisle signifying the fact that this covenant has been made, that they have a blood bond of life and death, a commitment on steroids. That is the end.
Don’t you see the genius of God now in marriage? Don’t you see how important marriage is to Him? It should reflect His relationship to His people, you and me. If you think about it, Jesus Christ, the groom, has been romancing you and me. He’s been dating you and me. He’s been seeking you and me. He’s been a pursuing lover. He loves us unconditionally and many here have responded to this question. Jesus asked, in faith, “Will you marry me? Will you receive what I did for you on the cross? Will you?” Many of us here have said, “Yes, I will” or “I do.” But, some of you right now have never, ever, made that decision.
Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is the ultimate covenant. Here’s what our Lord said about this new covenant. In Mark 14:24 Jesus said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” In 1 Corinthians 11:25 he said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.” Jesus has popped the question. He has. What is going to be your response? The moment you say, “Yes Jesus, I’ll marry you by faith,” the moment you make that decision, you will have the power; you will have the octane, to make the cut.