I know a couple that’s been married for decades. They still exchange goodbye smooches when one of them leaves to run an errand. They’ve faithfully attended church their whole marriage, and I can see their intention to live lives that model welcome, patience, justice, and forgiveness – all characteristics and values we as Christians are called to show in abundance. They’ve passed those values on to their kids, who in turn are working to instill the same values in their own children. They are spouses, but they are also are best friends. They make each other better people.
In a best-case scenario, marriage can be a laboratory where we can practice those skills – welcome, patience, justice, and forgiveness – in a safe environment. We can hope our spouse will welcome us home when we need shelter. We can hope our spouse is patient as we work to improve ourselves. We can hope our spouse will be a voice of justice when we make the wrong choice. We can hope our spouse can forgive our missteps.
I write this on the Sunday after my wife, Liz, and I marked 20 years of marriage. Liz and our three kids, the main characters in my life, challenge me to think about what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and whether it should be done differently. I admit, I’ve got lots of room for improvement. Lots. I can be a bear when I’m in a bad mood. I’m impatient with some people and too patient with others. I make bad choices. I’m slow to lay down a grudge. Liz shows me welcome, patience, justice, and forgiveness, and I work to do the same – with lesser amounts of success. I admire Liz and strive to be like her. She makes me want to be a better person.
In a best-case scenario, church can be that same laboratory. Strong faith and strong marriages exhibit the same characteristics, right?
Thinking back to congregations I’ve seen over the years, I remember when those congregations showed welcome, patience, justice, and forgiveness. I remember when those same congregations failed. I bet you can remember times like that, too. Some of those memories will make you proud, and others are downright humiliating.
In healthy marriages and in healthy churches, we hold each other accountable. We work to better ourselves, individually and communally. When we enter into a relationship, whether marriage or church, our hope is to find people who see faith and relationships the same way we do. Or perhaps we hope to find people who will help us see faith and relationships in new, better ways. We hope that in partnership, we can make the world a better place. We hope that when we fail, the community will help us get back on our feet, adjust our attitudes, and remember why God has given us shared lives.
That couple I mentioned? One of them is gay and has been a long, long time. It would have been easy for either spouse to leave and seek out different companionship, but it’s clear that the two of them are meant for each other. They make each other happier. They are happy to share their lives. They make each other better. Together, they make the world a better place.
Don’t we want church to serve the same purpose? Don’t we go to church to make our lives happier? To share our lives with others who care about us and to care for others? To use the lives God gives us to make ourselves better people, to make God’s world a better place?
Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?