Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
Dear God, I have a lot of things seemingly converging on me this morning.
- There is an article in the new issue of Christianity Today called “Vanishing Vows: Can the Church Save What’s Left of Marriage?”
- I saw an interview with an Evangelical leader on the national stage talking about how the church is losing the next generation because they see us as more interested in politics and shaping the world instead of being who we are supposed to be as the church (and he was repenting and pointing the finger at himself as part of the problem).
- I have all of the anger and vitriol I am seeing in social media from some Christians about the government infringing on our freedoms, making us wear masks, etc.
- My encouragement of others to read the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, which has the thesis: “What if God intended marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
- I have my own personal struggles, but also remarkable blessings.
So I’ve grabbed myself some breakfast tacos (already eaten), come to our town square at 8:00 in the morning, brought my copy of Christianity Today, my Bible, and my keyboard; and I figure I will just kind of hash some of this out with the Holy Spirit this morning. This is likely gong to be a long one, but that’s good. It’s good to just kind of curl up with you and see if I can get a look into your heart and my own.
I guess I’ll start with this Christianity Today article on marriage.
“Vanishing Vows: Can the Church Save What’s Left of Marriage?”
I just want to take some notes on quotes from the article that strike me as I read it:
- “Rachel” met a guy through a dating site, got married, and later became a Christian, but getting marriage and becoming a Christian “felt like a package deal.” Before she became a Christian, “sex was less meaningful, cohabitation was defensible, and marriage was a piece of paper issued by the state…After coming to faith and joining a Southern Baptist church, she now believes that Marriage is a covenant before God and a sacred relationship.”
- In 2005, 50% of men between 25 and 34 were married. By 2018 the number was 35%.
- “Ander,” a 25-year-old med student in Spain is engaged to another med student. They’ve dated for 6 years. What’s he afraid of regarding marriage? “Not to be free. Tied to someone. Compromised. Things you don’t know you don’t know. maybe we’re okay now, but not later. Differences arise in a couple. The other person is different that you thought they were.” When asked if six years of dating hadn’t enabled him to know her he replied, “I feel like I don’t know her that well.” He recognizes his fears about marriage have taken on a life of their own: “This fear is not pathological and is stopping us n some way from doing a good thing.”
- In the United States, 72% of men who attend church weekly will marry by 35. That number is 50% for men who don’t attend church regularly.
- In 2014, 56% of Evangelicals between 20 and 39 were married. By 2018 it was 51%.
- Cohabitation for Christians went from 3,9% in 2014 to 6.7% in 2018. Support for cohabitation over that time went from 16% to 27%.
- The idea of commitment should help relieve fears of uncertainty, but the author’s research showed the uncertainty of the future kept people from committing.
- “What people expect from marriage has changed profoundly, even through that marriage offers has not.”
- Russell Moore in The Storm-Tossed Family: Marriage is increasingly a “vehicle of self-actualization” rather than a setting for self-sacrifice.
- New attitude as stated by “Chloe”: “You have your 20s to focus on you, and then [after that] you try to help others.” Author’s conjecture: Self-sacrifice is learned behavior, not a gift for your 30th birthday. [my own comment–the same is true for philanthropic giving and tithing]
- 28-year-old Pentecostal woman from Lagos: “When I have everything I want. When I am able to achieve everything I want to achieve for myself. Then I will get married.”
- “Farah” is a 25-year-old single Lebanese Christian woman. Lots of devout Lebanese women wait. When they do marry, they seem to work more, not less, since the cost of living in Beirut outpaces salaries. Spare time is swamped with domestic responsibilities: “When both spouses are working, they come home tired. Even before they have kids, the couple doesn’t have the time to sit together, so they delay their discussion time. They delay things to Saturday, usually, so Saturdays or weekends become overloaded, which becomes very tiring. This challenging condition is creating a new image of marriage.”
- Author opinion: While most people marry with affection–as they should–marriage, when you observe it across time and place, still concerns the mutual provision and transfer of resources within a formalized sexual unction. That may sound unsexy and old-fashioned, but it’s not untrue. Matrimony has long depended on an exchange based on inequalities between the spouses: He needs shat she has, and vice versa. Many balk at this notion.
- Author opinion: In an era of increasing options, technology, gender equality, cheap” sex, and secular inaction, fewer people–including fewer practicing Christians–actually want what marriage is. That’s the bottom line.
- Since the secular inaction of the West feeds on and sustains the flight from marriage, the life of faith is key. But if the church becomes marriage’s primary defender n the West, how exactly do we protect and encourage it for those inside and outside our sanctuaries?
- When talking to couples who had embraced marriage: “Meeting a mate seemed more likely to occur–or be on its way soon–when our interviewees focused on holiness before loneliness.”
- Author opinion: Marriage is an earthly arrangement, on that our Lord noted will not be found in the post-resurrection kingdom of God (Matthew 22:30). It’s a tool for material flourishing and a vehicle for spiritual progress that provides daily (if not hourly) opportunities to exhibit sacrificial incarnational love.
Interview with Rob Schenck, President of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute
- “There was a Faustian deal made with Donald Trump which went something like this: Donald Trump promised, “I will give you everything you’ve ever wanted on your laundry list of political deliverables if you will give me what I want and demand, and that is religious cover. I need you to say that I’m blessed of God and that everything I’ve done is good.”
Going back to the passage from Mark 8 above and combining it with the article on marriage and this video, are we weakened as individuals and as a church when we get the power and influence over culture that we want? Are we better off when we are persecuted and struggling? Isn’t that how the church in Acts grew? Isn’t that how the Israelite nation grew in Exodus? Have we made an idol of political influence? Have we made a idol of our comfort and our own personal agendas? What if you want to make us holy more than to make us happy?
- The Southern Baptist Convention reports 13 straight years of decline with the last year being the largest (biggest single year decline in more than 100 years)–and Baptists aren’t alone. And the younger the age group the more alarming the drop. Would people be more attracted to the church if they saw it struggling and caring instead of its members yelling and demanding? “Young people especially are leaving Evangelical churches in droves. And why? Because they see the hypocrisy. They see an identification with establishment power. With political force and influence. They are tired of the combat. The social conflict…”
Father, while this is all good sermon material, what do you have here for me? Where do I compromise my call for my comfort? Do I overlook the needs of others because it’s too much work for me? Do I get too involved in seeking influence and compromise my convictions? Do I fail to take a stand for what I feel is right in deference to those who might financially support the nonprofit where I work? Holy Spirit, give me ears to hear, eyes to see, and words to say. Help me to be your influence on those around me through them seeing yours love and glory in me and not my judgment and self-righteousness.
In Jesus’s name I pray,