For Jon Hoyt, on marriage

We do a night of blessing for young men in our church when they get married. A bunch of old guys, and younger guys, get together and tell him what it is like, and what it can be like. Good food, lots of laughs, and sober talk.

It’s something men can do and should do.

At our event, the father, or someone who stands in for him, blesses the son and someone, in this case me, gives a charge- to the young man and to all the men.

This was my charge for Jon Hoyt, a longtime friend of the family.

There are not pictures of the event, but you can see more photos of the wedding itself here.
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Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church, for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church.  Ephesians 5;25-32

I haven’t seen License to Wed, the new movie with Robin Williams, but I understand it is about premarital counseling and that Williams’ character, Father Frank, puts the couple through a series of tests, including diapering a pair of urinating twin robots.

As funny as this may be, in real life our success in marriage has nothing to do with how we handle a crisis and everything to do with how we manage the more mundane details of our lives together.  A careless word can be more damaging than a malignant cancer.  As Solomon reminds us in his masterpiece on married love, it is the little foxes that spoil the grapes (Song of Solomon 2:15).

Paul’s instruction in Ephesians is less poetic but more profound.  We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.  This is simple to say and difficult to do.  But for the rest of your life, you will explore what Paul calls here a great mystery. Whatever else you do, in business, church, or community, will occupy less time and energy all put together than your mastery of this simple instruction about a man’s responsibility in Christian marriage.

Love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. This raises two  questions: How did Christ love the church? And what does it mean to give ourselves for someone?

The first is a theological question.  The second is a practical one.  We must let the answer to the first determine the answer to the second, otherwise our judgment will be clouded, and our wives will lose confidence in us as we react to every circumstance and crisis without principle or conviction.

So how did Christ love the church?  Two things seem clear–his love was both intentional and sacrificial. You understand the intentionality, or else we wouldn’t be here this evening.  You have purposed to love Natalie. You have set a date to assume the responsibility for her care.  This intention will be finalized and notarized.  We call the witnessing of this intention a wedding.

But consider, and remember, Christ’s own intention for his church.  He chose her in her weakness and perfects her in His faithfulness.  He loves her when she is unlovely and cares for her when she cannot or does not care back.  He set his love on her, not as a response to her beauty but as commitment to His duty.  He chose the church without equivocation and loved her without limits.

This is what love is, a conscious and deliberate commitment, not an emotional and physical response. Because of this, I charge you to love your wife with steadfast intention, and to set your face like a flint as you journey toward the Jerusalem of your life and the sacrifices you will make there (Luke 9:51).
And make no mistake about it, the choice you have made requires sacrifice beyond your ability to understand and my ability to explain. As the love of Christ compelled him to leave heaven and die for us, your love will require humility, obedience and service.  Dying is the easy part.  Dying daily is the hard part, laying down our life in thoughtful and willing service.

This leads us to the second question.  What does it mean to give ourselves for our wives? I can tell you what it doesn’t mean.  It doesn’t mean we get to eat whatever we want and have sex whenever we want. Such male adolescent fantasies will soon be disabused.  Good food and good sex require time and energy, both of which are limited by responsibilities and resources.

I will tell you this.  You may be decades away from the best sex you will ever experience, not weeks. Your best moments, both in bed and out, will be layered with intimacy, not driven by appetites.  When you have stayed up all night with a sick child so your wife can sleep and you’ve made such sacrifices hundreds of times, joys will be multiplied, much as Christ after centuries of care for his church still looks forward to the Great Consummation. 

His purpose was so the church would become holy and radiant, and this should be the purpose of every married man that his wife would be better and more beautiful because he loves her. Though the church still focus more on doing than becoming, Christ loves us.  Just imagine the patience and gentleness with which Christ has cared for His church, even in its indifference and disobedience.  Imagine the grace poured out on us when we least expected it, and the forgiveness extended to us when we least deserved it.  Imagine it and emulate it. Before you lie failures, stresses, diseases and disappointments. You will not need the patience of Job for this; you will need the character of Christ.

That’s not to say your life together won’t be filled with glittering moments of unspeakable joy.  But these moments will be in proportion to your willingness to set yourself aside in the care of others.  Such moments will require you making tough choices because you see a bigger picture or a more important principle.  They will require you sharing the remote and going to the restaurant you least prefer.  They will require you getting up on Sunday morning when you would rather sleep in and staying up late at night when you would rather crash.  They will require you listening for hours and hours, often to the same concern. They will require you waiting when you want to act.

In ten-thousand ways, and in ten-thousand days, you will earn the trust and respect your young heart earnestly desires.  Then you will understand what it means to love your wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.

So I charge you, as an Elder, a brother, and a friend, to wait for her, to listen to her and to serve her. She will become better and more radiant, and you will become more like Christ.  It is a grace beyond our imagining. Go in His strength and experience His joy.

Wally Metts, July 7. 2007

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About wally metts

Wally Metts is the daysman. He is director of graduate studies in communication at Spring Arbor University and is a pastor at Countryside Bible Church in Jonesville, MI. The father of four adult children, he and his wife Katie raise barn cats and Christmas trees in Michigan. His grandchildren call him Santa.

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