Wedding meditation

Our world is starved for love. We talk about love, sing about it, watch movies about it, we are obsessed with love. But we are still starved for it, because we usually deal in cheap imitations of love. People are friendly to us, have children our age, everything fits us just right, so then we hang out. They invite us out, so we invite them out. We share the same hobbies and schedules, so we must love them. But Jesus said, do not even the tax collectors do the same? Our world is starved for love. Or we are caught up with our own feelings. We mistake the feeling we get when we are with someone for true love. Getting pleasure isn’t the same as getting love, or loving someone. Our world is starved for love. We are dealing with imitations most of the time, so we hardly recognize the real thing.

What is love? Nathaniel loves Christa. Christa loves Nathaniel. That’s why we are here today. What is love? Of course, we should go to God’s Word, the Bible to answer this. And there are many places we could go. Song of Solomon is very appropriate on this day, and often overlooked in the Biblical description of love. “Your love is better than wine.” “You are beautiful, my love.” “I am sick with love.” “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.” “Love is strong as death.” “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.” “You have ravished my heart With one look of your eyes, With one link of your necklace.” Part of real love is a flood of emotions. We tend to say that love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice and a sacrifice. That’s partly true, but too simplistic. The feelings are right there in Song of Solomon, put on display and celebrated. Now, feelings can be put to selfish uses. We can sin against God and hurt others pursuing our own feelings and pleasure. But the feelings aren’t the problem, the selfishness is. Sex isn’t the problem in our culture. Selfish hedonism is the problem. And the song of Solomon shows us how to channel feelings in ways that encourage and admire the one we love. So, according to the Bible, love is desire for the one loved.

We can go other places in the Bible to know about love. One more before our text.  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This is a Christian wedding. Not so much because we sang a hymn, or because we are in a church, not even because Nathaniel and Christa are Christians, or because a Christian minister is officiating. This is a Christian wedding because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is present and proclaimed. And here it is. The good news is that God so loved us, that He sent Jesus to us, to die to remove God’s wrath against our sins, to rise to glory and reward, so that whoever believes He did that for them will live, forgiven forever. If you want to know what love is, you’re going to have to meet Jesus. He is the paragon of love. What He did and does for us is the defining act of love. He came to destroy our destroyer, rob the robber, take us from the tyrant’s dungeon. That was love. He washes us with living water, heals us with power, feeds us with living bread, makes us fruitful in His vine, brings us to the Father. This is love. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends. And that is what Jesus did. God shows His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Why did God love us like this? He didn’t have to, you know. His grace and love were freely given, not owed to us. He loved us, back to the first point, because this was His desire. Jesus tells us what His heart’s desire was, when He prayed to the Father in John 17, “I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am.” This is the desire of all lovers, to be together. So the strong desire of the Song of Solomon led to the sacrifice of the cross for the beloved, for the church, those given to Jesus by the Father.

Now we come to 1 Cor 13. Scripture says “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts,” and we see that love described in 1 Cor 13.  The Corinthians were proud of their spiritual gifts, but they didn’t love each other. That’s a waste. If you offer the duty of love without the heart, you’re missing it. If you repent with sacrifices but your spirit remains stubborn, it’s worthless. If you work yourself to exhaustion, but hold it over someone’s head to get what you want, it is the opposite of love. And we’ve seen where that love comes from, from God giving us Jesus. We need to be receiving God’s love if we are going to be able to love like 1 Cor 13 says. We don’t just work harder to get this love. We have to surrender and accept mercy from Jesus Christ.

So, where does love take us? What does it do? Here we come to those well known words: love is patient, kind, not envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, irritable, resentful, or wrong-loving. It rejoices in truth. Love bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all. Notice that these are not virtues we practice in isolation, to improve our own character without regard to other people. No, love requires a beloved. Love does all this for the sake of the one loved. We aren’t patient just to be better people. We are patient because we love the one trying our patience. Nathaniel will have to be patient with Christa. And he will, b/c he loves her. Christa will have to endures things with Nathaniel. And she will, b/c she loves him. Love does these things, or avoids these things, for the sake of the one loved. The one in the list that sums them all up, Love does not seek its own. Nathaniel’s love seeks Christa’s best interests.  Jesus stayed on the cross because He gave up what He wanted and sought our best interest.  He loved His Father, and He loved His bride, the church, so He stayed on the cross to the end. Love seeks not its own, and so we give sacrificially, it will lead to crosses and losses, for the one we love.

God has set it up so men and women in marriage love a bit differently. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, and gave Himself for her. So Nathaniel will lead and represent Christa, as a head does for the whole person. Christa receives his love with respect, submission and gratitude, and gives it back, multiplied into fruitful beauty, whether it’s groceries, a paycheck, or children. Notice I’m not telling you to do this, I’m just saying it’s going to happen. Nathaniel will lead and set the tone, even if he isn’t trying at all. People get all worked up about wives submitting to husbands these days. Today I’ll leave Shakespeare to do the talking about submission. Portia, the wise and noble widow loves Bassanio and accepts his offer of marriage like this as she speaks of herself:

You see me, Lord Bassanio, where I stand, / Happy in this, she is not yet so old / But she may learn;…. Happiest of all is that her gentle spirit / Commits itself to yours to be directed,
As from her lord, her governor, her king. / Myself and what is mine to you and yours
Is now converted.

Here is a beautiful thing: glad and complete submission of all of you, to another. Jesus submits to the Father. The church does to Jesus. Christa does to Nathaniel. Each of us does to each other. Love does not seek its own.

Nathaniel, search out Christa’s heart. Pursue and cherish her, body, mind and soul. What is Christa thinking? What is she desiring and pursuing? Make sure her concerns are dealt with completely. Your life slogan might be, “What could go wrong?” Well, Christa may have a list for you. Your call is to love Christa by providing for her and protecting her. But those are general abstract ideas. Does she need protection from distraction, or from anxiety?  If you are going to fulfill your wedding vows, you need to study Christa. What does Christa need?

Christa, find your main calling in Nathaniel’s calling. God gave Adam the job of tending and keeping the garden, filling and subduing the earth. Then God gave Eve to Adam to help him. Work alongside your husband. Keep his agenda in mind, as you help and advise him. Talk it out with him. God hears us when we pray, and He wants us to pray to Him. Your relationship with your husband is supposed to be like that.  We listen to our spouse, and we want them to talk to us. Sin can get in the way of both of those, but This is what 1 Cor 13 love looks like.

And last: Where this love is headed. I read to the end of 1 Cor 13 because marriage should be shaped by the future more than by the past. We know in part here. At the great consummation of all things we will know fully. In this life, the heart of others is a deep mystery – you don’t and can’t know your partner completely. There’s potential danger in that. And there’s a great deal of delight, too. When things go haywire in your marriage, as they will from time to time, one way to bear all things is to remember that we know each other only partly here, and to embrace that limitation, that mystery.

But at the consummation faith and hope will not be needed. They will fade away. We will know as we are already fully known. Marriage itself will be left behind for some unknown greater delight. But love will remain. We will be glorified, we will be like Christ. God gives you this Marriage for that goal. To help you grow into Christ-like-ness. There is more to marriage than getting to be together by yourselves all the time. Marriage is a school of sanctification, leading you to glory. You stand before God now. And when you stand before Him in glory, God will have used your marriage to make you more like Christ than you are now.

Jesus Christ’s love is a desire for His bride to be with Him, a desire for her to see His glory, a desire for her to be without spot. Desire led to sacrifice, and so He loved us all the way to death on the cross. God so loved us that He gave His Son, and by His death we have everlasting life. Let us follow Him to the cross and so find life in Him, loving one another sacrificially, not insisting on our own way or seeking our own, but seeking the glory of God and the good of those we love. In the name of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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