Greg Laurie - Marriage 101
I heard about a husband and wife who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. So the husband took the wife by the hand and made a dramatic announcement in front of friends and family. He said, "Dear wife, I love you so much and in honor of 25 years with you, 25 years of really wedded bliss, I'm going to take you to China". She was so excited. She said, "I've never been to China before. Thank you. So if this is what you're going to do for our 25th anniversary, what will you do for our 50th"? He says, "That's when I'll pick you up". That's not good. Maybe that's why someone said marriage is like a three ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, suffering. So you don't want that to happen and it doesn't have to happen.
In our culture today, the divorce rate is around 50 percent more or less, but that rises when you get to the second marriage where it goes to 60 percent. Then you go to a third marriage, it goes up to 73 percent. So you wonder, is it even possible? I'll tell you what, I've told you this before but my mother was married and divorced seven times, so I kind of know a little bit about divorce. I've not been divorced, but I've seen it up close and personal. I know about the devastation of divorce, and I want to do everything I can to encourage you when that day comes, if you're single and you get married, to honor that commitment for a lifetime: to keep your eyes wide open before marriage and then half shut afterwards okay. To know what you're getting yourself into. I think sometimes we think marriage should be like a fairytale, and they lived happily ever after. Well it doesn't always work out that way, but I do believe you can live happily even after. Not ever after, even after, if you do it God's way.
Now let's just sort of establish a fact here that I think we would all agree on. Culture, and by culture I mean media, Hollywood, television, etc., doesn't know anything about how to have a good marriage so we don't need to listen to them. In fact, if anything in many ways it seems like culture is almost opposed to a happy marriage. I mean look at all the celebrities. They marry each other. Rene Zellweger married country star Kenny Chesney. Four months, the marriage lasted. Eddie Murphy and Tracey Edmonds, two weeks was the length of their marriage. Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman that was six days. Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan Tatum recently divorced after nine years of marriage, and in their divorce announcement they made this statement, "They lovingly have chosen to separate". Lovingly chosen to separate. When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin of Coldplay divorced they described it as a "Conscious uncoupling". A conscious uncoupling.
Okay now we're learning. They're telling us what they're doing. A conscious uncoupling and lovingly choosing to separate. How about consciously choosing to lovingly stay together instead? That's possible. It's possible, but some wonder. I just read an article the other day about a well-known actress who got a divorce and she said, "I don't want to sound cynical about marriage or be bitter, but I don't know if people are meant to be together forever". The article went on to say, "She isn't alone in wondering that there's no doubt, particularly as lifespans have increased that there's less certainty about finding and keeping lifelong love with just one person".
A survey conducted among millennials found 43 percent would support what they call a beta marriage model, which means you test the relationship for two years before you decide whether or not you're going to commit to it or dissolve it. And then 36 percent of the millennials backed the real estate marriage model. Real estate marriage model in which couples would commit to a set period of time ranging from 5-30 years and at the end they have to renegotiate if they want to remain married. I'm going to save you a lot of trouble, and here's what it is. The real estate model and the beta model are not going to work and here's why. Studies show that those that live together have a far higher divorce rate than those who don't live together. In fact, couples who live together are losing out in 85 percent of their marriages. So if you want to set your marriage up for failure, live together. Try the beta model, try the real estate model, or better yet try God's model which is it's a lifelong commitment.
I wish we could strike the word divorce from our vocabularies. If you're going to go into it thinking you're going to get out of it here or there, don't go into it. Stay single instead because God has a plan. There's a TV show on right now. It's called Marriage at First Sight and it features people who agreed to participate in an extreme experiment each covenants legal marriage with a complete stranger. So you walk in, you've never met this person, you make a commitment "I'm going to marry them," they put a nice wedding on for you. All the trimmings, all the good things, and it's all there on television. And they say it's going to work because they have specialists helping you which include a spiritualist, a relationship coach, and sociologist using scientific matchmaking methods to determine each couple who have not yet met will have a marriage that lasts.
Listen, what could go wrong if you have a spiritualist counseling you? They have a 22 percent success rate. You're better off just going on randomly doing it on your own. But this is the kind of thing people look to as a possible example. It's called the Bible and it works. B.I.B.L.E - Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. So check the user's manual. It tells you how to have a successful and a blessed marriage. "Yes, well, you don't know Greg what we're going through in our marriage. We have irreconcilable differences". Oh, shut up. If I hear that again I'm going to pull what little hair I have out of my head. What are you talking about irreconcilable differences? I've had irreconcilable differences with my wife for 44 years. They're irreconcilable. She's neat and I'm messy. She's sometimes late, I'm often early. She likes British TV dramas and I like shoot-em-ups. She's cute and I'm fat. It's irreconcilable.
Don't tell me about irreconcilable differences. Question: what attracted you to your spouse in the first place? Probably the fact that they were different than you. You've heard the expression "Opposites attract". There's truth to that. You didn't want someone just like you, so you probably picked someone that in some ways was your opposite. And now that difference that attracted you has somehow, at least in your mind, turned into some wide chasm that you describe as irreconcilable or an obstacle that is insurmountable. No, listen, you make a commitment for life and we all recognize: we need to constantly grow in our marriages.
When someone comes to me and the wife says, "You know, it's all his fault". And then he says, "No, it's all her fault". I can see what the problem is. They're not taking any responsibility. They're saying, "It's all them. It's not me". Both people have to work at having a good marriage. It doesn't happen by accident: and you can have a happy and a blessed marriage. Listen to this, a study was done and it found that people were very happy in their marriage, 61-62 percent. We don't hear that stat. We hear the divorce stats, but 61-62 percent of people who are married say they are very happy in their marriage. So I guess God knew what he was doing when he created marriage.
As you're looking around, here's what you need to look for: look for a godly person. Start there. And I didn't say look for a Christian because a lot of people will say they are Christians who are not Christians. You know, there might be some guy who's not a believer and he'll ask you out and you'll say, "I won't go out with a guy that is not a Christian. Are you a Christian"? "Oh, yeah. Hallelujah". "Whoa. The way you said it sounded icky". "Yeah, no I love God. Whatever". A guy will lie through his teeth and even some girls will. That's why I said look for someone that's godly. If you spend time with a person, you'll know whether they're a godly person or not. One of the best places to go, lets go to church. Let's go to church and worship together and have a Bible study together and see if they're into that. "Oh, well I don't really want to do that". Well, okay. You have a problem already.
Now let me take it a step further, look for someone who's even more godly than you, more godly than you are. So find contentment in your singleness before you go and try to find contentment as a married person. Let me say this, there is a certain flexibility in being a single. I'll give you a little homework assignment to look up later. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35. Paul talks about the mobility of a single and he says, "An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord's work and thinking how to please Him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife". that's not a criticism. When you're married you have to think about your wife. You have to think about your husband. Then when you become parents, you have to think about your kids. You can't just run off and do whatever you want. But when you're single, you have a mobility to maybe do things a married person could never do. So if you're in that moment of singleness in your life, embrace the moment, be the godliest version of you that you can be, serve the Lord, take that free time you have and use it for his glory, and I just bet the Lord will just drop that person into your life.
Alright, so lets look at Ephesians now and this is a few words to married people. "'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church, nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband". So here we are talking about what happened in the book of Genesis. A husband and wife coming together leaving and cleaving. Just imagine for a moment what it would have been like to live in the Garden of Eden. I think sometimes we think of the Garden of Eden as a place that's not real like Camelot or Neverland or Atlantis. But the Garden of Eden was a real place in which God placed real people, and they were brought together. It surpassed all the beautiful places on the planet today, and Adam was all alone and he gave names to all the animals, but there was something missing. And in fact, it was someone who was missing and it was Eve. So the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he woke up. There was Eve. He says, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man".
So that is what is being talked about here. It's interesting in Genesis 2:18 God says, "and the Lord said, 'it is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him'". And a better way to translate that would be who assists another to reach fulfillment. Even another translation would say someone who comes to rescue another. Eve came to rescue Adam from his loneliness and then Adam said, "This is good".
Now there's two operative words. Write these words down if you would please. Two operative words that must constantly be in play for a marriage to be vibrant and successful, and those words are: LEAVE and CLEAVE. Verse 24 for this reason, "Shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife". The word cleave means to glue or to cling. So it's leave and cleave, and that means a redefinition of old relationships. A son is still a son to his mom and dad. A daughter is still a daughter, but when she marries a man a new home has started, a new family has begun and her primary responsibility is to her husband. His primary responsibility is to the wife. That's why God says for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother. And by the way, that means that your wife, your husband should be your best friend. Marry your best friend. That's very important because... I think sometimes when you're single, you're thinking "Oh, we get married and it's just sex nonstop sex". There will be sex, but marriage is a whole lot more than that. It's companionship. It's friendship. It's communication. It's a partner for life that includes sex as an expression of that love and oneness and all that it entails. But you have to understand it's more than just sexual contact: so you have to make that break.
I heard about a guy that wanted to get married in the worst way. So he brought home a young lady to meet his mom that he thought had potential and the mother didn't like her. And he went out and found another girl, brought her home to meet mom that he thought he might marry. Mother didn't like her either. So then he found a girl that looked like his mother, dressed like his mother, even talked like his mother, but the problem is dad didn't like her. Okay, so it's leaving and cleaving. Now don't think of cleave as separating something. It's something coming together because the word "Cleave" means to adhere to, or to stick, or to be attached by some strong tie. It doesn't mean you're stuck together: it means you're holding on to one another. Big difference. See if I'm climbing up the side of a rock, I'm holding on. Why? Because I want to live that's why. So in marriage it's not, "We're stuck together, whatever".
Someone said in a question that I read in the back room, "Should we stay together for the kids"? Now you would expect me to say no. I'll tell you my answer. Absolutely. But I have a better reason. Stay together because God told you to stay together, number one. That's a reason. 2. Yeah, the kids are a good reason. 3. Your emotions will catch up with your commitment in time. Because in marriage, you feel a lot of love at first and then it ebbs and it flows and it ebbs and it flows and it changes and you change and they change and life changes: but you're honoring that commitment and then the love comes back emotionally stronger than it's ever been. You don't feel it a day here or a day there or whatever. The point is you keep that commitment throughout your life because these decisions you make have ramifications for generations to come.
But in closing, stay together because God called you together and he'll give you the strength to be the man to be the woman to be the husband to be the wife he has called you to be. But of all the pictures that God could've chosen to show his love for the world, and of all of the pictures that God could've chosen to show how much his church loves him, he chose marriage. How do we know that? Because he says to the husband, "Husbands, love your wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself for it". He said to the wives, "Wives, submit to your husband. Respect your husband".
So basically here's what the Lord is saying, "Hey, planet earth, you want to know how much I love my people? Check out the way that Christian husband loves his wife. That's what it's like. Hey people, you want to know how much my church loves me? See that wife over there married to that guy. Look at the way she loves him. That's how much my church loves me". What a beautiful picture that is. Why are we Christians right now? The Bible says we love him because what? He first loved us.