Sermon: Excel Still More – Marriage

Excelling Still More:  Marriage
1 Peter 3:1-7
February 13, 2022

The couple that stands before their friends and family and in front of the preacher in a gleaming white dress and an immaculate tux, with flutters in their hearts and beaming smiles on their faces (and maybe tears in their eyes) can never imagine the time when they won’t feel overwhelmed by love.  But as Tim Keller has recounted, the changes in their feelings for their mates often come with dramatic speed:

As a pastor, I’ve listened to hundreds of plaintive accounts of difficult relationships and lost love. Typical is the case of Jeff and Sue. Jeff was tall and handsome, the kind of mate Sue had always pictured in her mind. He was talkative and she was shy and quiet in public, so she loved how he took the lead in social gatherings and directed the conversation. Sue was also decisive and future oriented, while Jeff tended to “live in the present.” Their differences seemed to complement each other perfectly. Secretly Sue was shocked someone this good-looking would fall for her, while Jeff, who many women found to be too unambitious, was glad to find a girl who was so adoring. Just a year after getting married, however, Jeff’s talkativeness looked to Sue like self-absorption and an inability to listen. His lack of career orientation was a bitter disappointment to her. Meanwhile, Sue’s quietness looked to Jeff like a lack of transparency, and her soft-spoken shyness masked what he now saw to be a domineering personality. The marriage quickly spiraled down and ended in a speedy divorce.

Disenchantment, the “end of the honeymoon,” is common and has been for centuries. It is normal, even inescapable. But the depth of the disillusionment people experience in our time is something new, as is the speed with which marriages collapse. In our day, something has intensified this natural experience and turned it toxic. It is the illusion that if we find our one true soul mate, everything wrong with us will be healed; but that makes the lover into God, and no human being can live up to that. [The Meaning of Marriage, 33-34.]

He also says…

I’m tired of listening to sentimental talks on marriage. At weddings, in church, and in Sunday school, much of what I’ve heard on the subject has as much depth as a Hallmark card. While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental. Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories. No marriage I know more than a few weeks old could be described as a fairy tale come true. Therefore, it is not surprising that the only phrase in Paul’s famous discourse on marriage in Ephesians 5 that many couples can relate to is verse 32.…Sometimes you fall into bed, after a long, hard day of trying to understand each other, and you can only sigh: “This is all a profound mystery!” At times, your marriage seems to be an unsolvable puzzle, a maze in which you feel lost. I believe all this, and yet there’s no relationship between human beings that is greater or more important than marriage. [13]

Marriage, when two people are walking with Christ is gloriously wonderful, but too often it can degrade into a horror of two enemies co-existing in the same foxhole, battling ruthlessly for supremacy.

I’ve seen it too often.  In seminary, Raye Jeanne and I lived in school housing.  I think there were 24 apartments.  With most of the couples we had only a passing acquaintance.  I’ve kept up with almost none of them, but I personally know of at least three divorces among those couples — one within just 3-5 years of leaving school, and one of whom was one of my two closest friends at school.

And you and I have seen it with family members and neighbors and co-workers and church friends.  Marriage is supposed to be gloriously satisfying and too often it just ends up as another battlefront and is deeply unsatisfying.

Is there any hope?  There is.

This year we are focusing on Excelling Still More in loving and caring for one another.  If we are going to do that well in the church body, we need to start in our homes — and that is the topic for this morning; today (the day before Valentine’s Day) we consider the realities of the world and marriage, and the hope of Christ amid those realities.  We consider the provision of God for difficult marriages that provides so much more than flowers and chocolate.

When marriage goes wrong, excel in loving more
by remembering what God has provided so you may live right.

I want to answer it with three words from Colossians 4 — pray, live, and speak.

As we go through this passage, I want to give you (and me) some practices we can cultivate in order to help yourself in each of these areas, so that you leave today not guilt-ridden but hopeful.When marriage goes wrong, excel in loving more
by remembering what God has provided so you may live right.

I used to find it something of a curiosity that Peter, in a letter that is predominantly about suffering, has an extended section in it on marriage?  Why all this talk about marriage in a book on suffering, Peter?  Because there is much suffering in marriage.  Life after the wedding was not what the planners promised.  Here, then, is Peter’s antidote and four provisions for marital difficulty and suffering.

  1. We Live in a World Where Things Go Wrong (2:11-20)
  2. We Live in a World Where Marriages Go Wrong (3:1-7)
  3. One Short Phrase to Guide Our Thinking (3:1, 7)
  4. When Marriage Goes Wrong, Remember…

Download the rest of this sermon on 1 Peter 3:1-7

The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.

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