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I always preach the same wedding sermon.
I’m not sure if other pastors do this too. Honestly it feels a bit like cheating.
But I only have one thing to say, so I just keep saying it.
I figured, why not say it here too:
____ and ____, it is such a privilege to celebrate with you today as you make vows to one another. It’s good that all these friends and family are here. You will need their support, because marriage is no easy feat, as I’m sure you know.
The promises you are about to make makes this relationship different than any other relationship in your lives. It is different than family because you have chosen it, and it is different than friends because it is more deeply committed.
You can’t easily leave and that changes things. It allows you to be honest with one another in a way that you are not honest with anyone else. Actually, living together forces that honesty. No one else is present in those secret moments, and no one else is quite so well acquainted with your particular habits.
All of that makes you vulnerable to each other. . . and it gives you power over the other.
Marriage is dangerous, because all of this intimacy gives you the power to wound one another in a way no one else can. But if you handle it carefully, tenderly, that same intimacy can create something beautiful. It is not just power to wound, but also power to heal. It’s like marriage takes all of the potential — good and bad — of any other relationship and cranks it to 11. Like friendship on steroids.
Whether the space between you becomes heaven or hell for you, all depends on how you handle the power you have. That’s why Philippians 2 is such a great text for a wedding. Paul pleads with the church to be at peace with one another. He says, “in your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus,” and then goes on to talk about how Jesus used his power for the sake of those he loves. Though he was God, he didn’t insist that we treat him accordingly. He got down low to lift us up. That is the way that power was intended to be used, not to control others or to force our own way, but to support and care, to lift another.
And in marriage, it is vital that you both take that to heart. The power that you have here is power to use for their benefit, to give good things to them, not to tear them down or force their hand.
That doesn’t mean that you keep quiet and always give in. Gross! That’s not a real relationship. You have to both show up if you want your intimacy to be real. You have to speak your piece and hold your boundaries. But you also have to be willing to listen and understand what is happening for the other, and you have to be willing to step into that space whole heartedly. Where you have the power to shut them down, or turn and walk away, to punish them, you have to choose to get down low, like Jesus. Use that power to listen, to try to understand, to work for their good.
Sometimes people think that the beauty of a good marriage is that it is easy and fun and it feels nice all the time. Most of the time that’s not what a good marriage looks like. What is really looks like is two people who are given a safe enough space for all their garbage to surface, but then, to be met with someone who neither caves to it, nor runs away. Someone who loves them anyway, and is willing to step into those hard places with them. To be on their side. To help them through.
It is hard work, but it heals. Those difficult spaces become places that draw you together, rather than driving you apart. A good marriage is one where each of you is committed to the other, and committed to the way of Christ, even in the midst of the pain.
We don’t do it perfectly all the time, but that’s kind of the point. It’s a push and pull that is full of confrontation, confession, forgiveness and grace. And when both people follow Jesus’ way in it, they become more and more like him. Slowly, slowly, it shapes you. And your marriage becomes a blessing, not just for you two, but for the world. Not just because it is fun, but because it is real and it is love.
Intimacy is not for the faint of heart. It is dangerous and costly, but through the Spirit it has the power to heal and to restore. The world has enough people in it who are fighting for their own lives. We don’t need more people bent on protecting themselves or making a name for themselves. What the world needs is more lovers. And today, as you make promises to one another, you are choosing to be lovers above all else.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may you follow the way of Christ in your lives and marriage using your power to serve and to heal.