The Vow - Week 2: The Promise of Partnership

Today I am concluding a short mini-sermon series on marriage and relationships entitled "The Vow."  Marriage and committed relationships are hard.  They are are challenging.  But they are worth it.  

And it's important for us to talk about marriage and committed relationships in church--and to learn what it takes to have a strong relationship that will stand the test of time, and all of the things that life throws at us.  

Lots of Christians have clear ideas about marriage--what constitutes marriage, who should get married, who shouldn't get married... but here's a pesky statistic to deal with.  

Christians seem to be failing in their marriages at a faster rate than everyone else.  I read recently that the divorce rate among evangelical Christians is higher than just about any other demographic. 

I think at the heart of this problem is that we have lost our understanding of what it means to make good promises and keep them.  The basic idea behind this series is that we need to make two core promises to our Beloved:  The promise of priority and the promise of partnership. 

This week we're going to be talking about the promise of partnership.  

Because if we are going to have a strong marriage--a strong relationship we need to make and keep the promise of partnership.  

But first---let me spend some time talking about intentions and actions.  

Here's the thing.. we generally judge others by their actions--by the things that they do.  We judge ourselves, however, by our intentions by the things that we mean to do.  

For example, when my wife texts me when I am on the way home and asks me to stop at the store she usually texts me a list of things I need to obtain.  Sometimes, because she kind of loves them, she'll list popsicles as one of the things I need to obtain.  

Now, I might forget other things on the list--which happens sometimes even when I try to follow it.  But if I forget popsicles, that's bad.  Merideth knows that I know how much she loves them.  And when she is asking me to pick them up, that means that we are out of them, and she needs one badly that evening.  There have been times when I have forgotten popsicles, though.  

Those were sad evenings for all of us.  

And I'll say in those moments when I have forgotten the popsicles--"I am sorry, I meant to get the popsicles." 

Or there was a time when I promised her that I would go and get her gas because she was almost out of gas.  And then I didn't and the next morning she said to me, "You said you were going to go and get me gas." 

And I said, "I am sorry, I meant to get you gas.  

Because I meant to, I want to give myself a free pass, you see.  

But when Merideth wakes up in the morning and makes herself coffee and doesn't make me a cup, too (which rarely happens), I feel all pouty and out of sorts.  "She didn't make me coffee!  Selfish so-and-so!"  Even though she was probably letting me sleep in because she knew that I was tired. 

Or when we are supposed to leave at a particular time to go to church, an event, on a date, etc. and we don't because of one thing or another--I'll get all bent out of shape, "She doesn't care about me anymore obviously!"  Forget the fact that she was working all day long, worrying about a baby sitter, ordering pizza for the kids, and then getting all dressed up...  "She doesn't care about me... boo hoo."  

We often judge others on what we perceive to be their actions, but we judge ourselves on our intentions

When there is this kind of imbalance in our relationship--there is no equity.  There isn't a real partnership.  When we constantly judge our selves by our intentions and our Beloved by their actions, we are not acting as someone who is all in.  

In Ephesians 5:21-33 the Apostle Paul wrote about the importance of the promise of partnership.  Let's take a look at the last few verses of the passage where Paul offers his exhortation on relationships: 
28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. 
Paul is references Genesis chapter 2 in these verses.  Particularly the moment when God declares that "it is not good for man to be alone," and puts Adam into a deep sleep.  God then takes something out of Adam--most translations would say a "rib"--and creates a woman, whom Adam calls Eve--or Chava in Hebrew.  

I took the liberty of reading some Hebrew commentaries on this passage, and more than one of the venerated rabbis who wrote about this passage believed that the literal translation wasn't "rib" it was "side."  

We could spend hours talking about all of the debates on this one passage, but what was really being proclaimed here was the absolute connectedness, of these people.  They were literally--one flesh. 

One ancient rabbi declared that God did this so that both would love one another as their own body--a notion that Paul picks up here.  When he declares, "no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church..."  

Another thing that's pretty clear here is that the Hebrew word that Paul was probably thinking of when he wrote the word "united" here is the Hebrew word echad, which means completely joined as one.  

From the beginning, God seems to have a strong desire for God's children to be all in on their relationships.  To make a promise of partnership and keep that promise.  To be completely joined as one---united.  

So what do we take away from this...  

If we are married or in a committed relationship, we should be all in--holding nothing back.  As we talked about last week--we should practice mutual submission, putting the needs of our Beloved ahead of our own. 

But we also should do so with wild abandon, giving everything we've got TOGETHER. 

Because when one person is all in, and the other isn't--it's a recipe for disaster.  When one person constantly is judging themselves in the relationship by their intentions and the other person by their actions--it's a recipe for disaster.  

I don't want you to think that because I am up here telling you these things that I have figured it all out.  I am still working on this every single day of my life.  Merideth and I have to hold each other accountable all of the time.  

And we have our good days and our bad days.  

There are plenty of days when I fall back on the notion that my intentions are good enough.  I decide that I should be judged on the merits of something I did for Merideth some time in the past.  

Come on.  Every one has done this. 

I bought you flowers... that one time.  

We went to your mother's for dinner... last year.  

We had that romantic moment... last month.  

In order to have a strong marriage---a strong relationship that will last... We need to make and keep our promise of partnership EVERY DAY.  We need to be all in. ALL THE TIME. 

Pastor Craig Groeschel teaches that it comes down to one simple statement.  

And if both partners in this kind of united, one flesh, completely joined partnership make this statement their mantra every single day---their partnership will remain strong. 

Here it is:  

I promise our relationship will be about we and not me. 

I promise our relationship will be about we and not me. 

Listen... listen... if both you and your partner agree to make saying or thinking about this statement as  part of your daily routine, your waking up in the morning, fog-lifting, before I sip my coffee kind of routine every single day--it will change your relationship.  

You will find yourself constantly focused on the promise of partnership.  You will discover that you will begin to put the needs of your partner ahead of your own.  

I promise our relationship will be about we and not me. 

If you want your marriage, your relationship to last---you need to make good promises and keep those promises.  And the two most important promises you can make as a couple are the promise of priority--to practice mutual submission---and the promise of partnership, to be all in, all the time.  


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