HeartSmart: “Making Love Last a
(Ecc 4:9-12; Col 3:12-17) (2/8/15)
Many years ago, Rosemary and I made a special trip to Orlando to be part of the Golden Anniversary celebration for my Uncle Carroll, my Dad’s oldest brother and his wonderful wife, Leatha. Uncle Carroll was the father of my cousin Charlie that visited here from Indiana a year or so ago.
Anyway, they renewed their vows in a formal church ceremony well attended by family, friends, children and grandchildren. Really, nicely done.
Following the reception, remarks were made. At the end, it was Uncle Carroll’s turn. He said, “Many have asked me what the secret was to 50 years of marriage?” He said, “I’ll tell you. We decided that we would go to church, and we would do it together.” We would go to church and we would do it together.
Making love last a lifetime. We would go to church and do it together. I could end the sermon there. Some of you would applaud, I know, but many of you would feel cheated, I hope. And besides, I have more to say.
So, here goes. Last week we introduced our Scripture Reading, Colossians 3:12-17, and I told you it was my Wedding Scripture. It is the Scripture reading I use in every wedding. It sums up the most important relational imperatives in all of Scripture.
Last week we dealt with just the first three verses, 12-14. And maybe, just maybe, we laid out two or three of the most important guidelines in all of our series on relationships.
Since last week was a snow day, and there were only nine here, and of that just two couples, and of that Rick and Rosemary, I thought I’d give the rest of you a shot at what was said. I’ve printed out a dozen copies of last week’s sermon so we have enough for each family. A reminder too that all of the sermons are available in print form in the back.
So last week the first three verses
“Clothe yourselves,” that means put on, put on compassion, kindness. Kindness was the first trait we talked of last week that can make a marriage or make any relationship. Kindness is the glue that holds a relationship together. It is the number one predictor of satisfaction and happiness in a marriage. It is the counter to contempt, contempt that can tear a relationship apart. Clothe yourselves, put on kindness.
Then, “Bear with one another, and if any has a complaint against the other, forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven you, you must also forgive.” Forgive each other. Forgiveness, we said that forgiveness was a pillar of marriage. In this case it tells us we have no choice. We must forgive. “As the Lord has forgiven you, you must also forgive”.
The next trait we emphasized last week, we called “Turning toward one another” (rather than away). We find this in verse 14, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Put on love (not a feeling, not an emotion, but an act of giving of self), put on an attitude of love which binds together everything is perfect harmony.” We said last week that some of the translations say “in unity, in oneness.” “Put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony, in unity, in oneness.”
John Gottman, marriage expert had studied marriage for over four decades and he found two primary traits that made love last a lifetime. The first was kindness. The second he called “turning toward one another.”
He found that wives or husbands “bid” for the other’s attention in a 100 different ways, penny-sized ways, “Come see this,” or “how do you like my new haircut?” (You better like it.). When they respond to one another’s bids, they do it in ways that lift up the other, that affirms the other, that shows that they value the other, that their spouse is important to them. They put on love, agape, giving love, if only momentary! “Come see this.” “Sure, what do you need? Or “How do you like my new haircut?” “Wow, that looks great! How about a date?” These little, penny-sized bids and responses add up. They fill up the emotional love bank.
They have a profound impact on the well-being of the marriage. Gottman found that in healthy marriages, the ones he called the Marriage Masters, that the Marriage Masters responded the bids of their mates 87 percent of the time, while the “marriage disasters,” those who divorced or were broken, responded only 33 percent of the time.
Kindness, put on kindness, the glue that holds relationships together. And put on love, respond if even momentarily to your beloved’s bids. Turn toward one another. Put on love.
Today, we continue with the verses that follow to help us understand how to make love last a lifetime.
Let me say first that God and Christ are the foundation of all relationships. We have a special covenant in marriage, yes; but kindness, forgiveness, giving are the basis of all relationships. Those are things we first learn from God because he first loved us. Hear now verses 15 to 17:
15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ[b] dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.[c] 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Peace let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. “Jesus said, my peace I give you. Not as the world gives.” The peace of Jesus. The word here for peace can mean “joining together.” Joining together. When we are at peace with one another, we are capable of joining together, uniting with one another. That’s the peace that Jesus calls us to. The joining, uniting peace of Jesus Christ.
Rule. Interesting that the Greek word used here is an athletic term. It really means referee or umpire. “Let the peace of Christ be your umpire, let it be the way you make decisions between you and among you.”
It calls us to be joined together in unity, in harmony.
It calls us to become one body, the body of Christ.
In marriage, it calls us to become one flesh.
Jesus is the rule, the means, the guide, the basis of our decisions. “Let the peace of Christ rule your hearts.”
And be thankful. Gratitude for the calling, for the covenant, for the oneness, for one another. Gratitude must always be central to our relationships.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Word of Christ. Let it dwell in you so much so that it changes you and the way you live.
With teaching and admonition. Coming together, growing together in Christ.
And in gratitude, singing. Singing, worshiping together.
“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of Christ.
That’s another way of saying discipleship, being followers of Jesus.
Did I tell you that marriage is a ministry? Marriage is not just an arrangement, it is something we do in the name of Christ. It is an act of discipleship, faithfulness, service and obedience.
Do everything in ministry to and for one another, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
LOVE THAT LASTS
Making love last a lifetime. We began this sermon series five weeks ago asking how we become the person we want, wants. Yet we know we change. We change each year, each decade, each season of life. We are not the same. How is it we will always be the person we want, wants? How is it that we will always become the person we want, wants to be in love with? In other words, how do we make love last a lifetime?
As seasons change, will we have the same hopes and dreams and aspirations? Or will we drift apart?
We know that our hopes and dreams and aspirations change too, don’t we? They don't last. The Bible tells us that “The grass withers, the flowers fade. It is only the word of God that lasts forever.”
And if our hopes and dreams and aspirations are worldly, they too will fade.
There is only one goal that will last through all of our seasons, and that is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. “We will go to church and we will do it together.” Making love last a lifetime.
I better pause here and make a comment because I see at least one or two of you who are here alone. Paul commented on that. In Corinth, there was a lot of that, people were worshiping alone, without their mates; and he had good advice (1 Cor 7:12-16). He said, “For the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband, and the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife… for all you know, you might save your husband, you might save your wife.”
I’m not sure what Paul had in mind, but I’m sure it was that we should not judge them. “Judge not that you might be judged.” Adam Hamilton advises, you cannot focus on what your mate is not. When you focus on the negative, that will only create a wedge between you. Instead, look at them through the eyes of Christ. Look at them with grace. I read of one man who was an agnostic most of his married life until one day he had to come to grips with the beauty of his wife’s faith, (did you hear that? The beauty of her faith) and in so doing, came to believe. “for all you know, you might save your husband, you might save your wife.”
At some appropriate time there might be an opportunity to make invitation whether the partner believes or no. Two weeks ago, we talked about some of the things a partner does to make them feel closer to us, and the women said, “When he worships with me.” It may well be that at the appropriate invitation a spouse attend worship, maybe a special worship, maybe a special occasion just because it’s important, and because it will make him feel closer to him or her.
So, for the person who is here without their spouse, how do you make love last a lifetime? Look at your spouse through the eyes of Christ. And be the spouse that Christ is calling you to be. Marriage is ministry. It is not just an act of love but of discipleship, of living our lives as Christ would have us live in faithfulness, service, and devotion. And I would say, “in beauty.”
And how do we do that? For all of us? We let the words of Christ dwell in us richly. What words?
As Christians, we begin with the Great Commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all you mind… and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” God is love. We love, we have the capacity to love, because he first loved us. He is worthy of our love. And then our neighbor. Maybe the first neighbor is the one lying in bed next to you at night, the one across the breakfast table from you in the morning. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Next, from our Scripture, put on kindness: The glue that holds relationships together.
Then “bear with one another…forgive one another as the Lord as forgiven you so you also must forgive. Forgiveness.
Put on an attitude of love. Not emotion, but giving love, agape. We do that when we give of ourselves to turn toward one another.
We let Christ rule our hearts. We make our decisions with Christ in mind.
And be thankful. Gratitude. Your first prayer in the morning ought to be a prayer of thanksgiving for your mate, and it ought to be the last prayer you say at night. Give thanks.
Words to dwell in you richly. I would then paraphrase Jesus in Matthew 7, the closing chapter of the sermon on the mount because it’s all about relationships:
Do not judge. Let that dwell in you richly.
Do not say unkind things. (You know it as don’t cast your pearls before swine.)
Pray for one another. Pray with one another. It is very difficult to be mad at a person you are praying for, one you are asking God to bless, asking for the very best for them. Pray.
And then Jesus ends the discussion about relationships by saying, “In everything, therefore, do to others as you would have them do to you.” Let the Golden Rule dwell in you richly.
How do we make our marriage not just an act of love, but an act of discipleship? We begin by letting the words of Christ dwell in us richly. Verse 16.
Then we grow with one another.
We teach and admonish one another. We strive to do better, to become a little better each and every day.
We think of marriage as a calling, a covenant relationship. In so doing, we think not what we can get by with, but how we can fulfill it, live into it.
Then we worship together with gratitude in our hearts we sing hymns and psalms and praise.
Then finally, verse 17. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Marriage is an act. We say words, we do deeds. Say everything, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. That makes marriage a ministry; and we give thanks.
If that seems like a lot, today’s Scripture is on the back of the card we gave out the first week. Read through it making it a checklist. Put it on your prayer table this week. When you pray for your spouse, pray using these verses. Pray that God will use you in ministry. Pray.
I’d like to close by wrapping in our first Scripture for today from Ecclesiastes. My Bible entitles this paragraph, “The Value of a Friend.” “9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Friendship is essential in love and in marriage:
Who will lift the other up?
Who will keep the other warm?
Who will stand for, who will defend?
But here is the kicker. It is a three-fold cord. It is Christ who is the third strand. It is Christ who intertwines and strengthens all the rest.
It is the threefold cord, the one with Christ, that is not broken.
It is the friendship in which the peace of Christ rules that survives.
It is the partnership that “does everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God through him” that lasts a lifetime.
In our 54 plus years of marriage, there have been seasons of life where I have left Christ out of it, but thankfully, he is very much a part of my life and our marriage as I stand here today.
And I can personally tell you, I’m a better husband, I’m a better father, I’m a better grandfather, I’m a better friend because Jesus is the third strand in our marriage cord.
Life is profoundly better. It is fuller, it is more joyful, it is filled with much more hope and it could have possibly ever been without him.
How do you make love last a lifetime, an eternal lifetime? You make Jesus Christ the third strand in the cords of your relationship. So may it be with all of you. Amen.