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Archive for the ‘Marriage and Salvation’ Category

Is homosexuality immoral? If so, what makes it so eeevil? No one’s getting hurt as long as both people are interested consenting adults, right? But adults are discerning enough to know that “hurt” doesn’t always appear instantly with a wince and an “ouch” when something bad is done. Please bear with me, as I am acutely aware that this is a touchy topic in this day and age. This is one of those issues that people are entrenched on one side or another and neither willing to discuss reasons for assumed conclusions. I bear no ill will toward gays, will stand with them to prosecute people who do violence to them, and fully believe I can be loving them and yet disagree with such a lifestyle. In fact, I believe I wouldn’t be loving if I didn’t disagree because, if I’m right about the immorality of it, it’s objective reality for everyone not just me so then those who hear may actually benefit from listening. I’m not singling out homosexuals as particularly bad people any more so than I would be, rather I’m just singling out this one particular issue to discuss. Personal choice and autonomy is where the arguments like to stay but I’ll choose instead not to skip the moral question from the get-go, but try to explain a few reasons why I think homosexuality isn’t moral.

The nature of the issue actually seems clear except by those of our culture, because even gender has been relativized and asserted away so that what’s probably the best argument against same-sex marriage has been conveniently removed, that being that gender matters to marriage. Boys and girls were made for each other. I know that sounds tremendously reductionistic to many but it sounds like an understatement to others. Even atheists have spoken out to this effect, so I know I’m not sitting on this issue with a merely “religious” (i.e. subjective personal belief) complaint. Nor am I suggesting that whatever relationship doesn’t work to “multiply” the species isn’t worth uniting. I’m merely advancing that we think about the reasons why it may or may not be moral, which gets to the nature of humanity and marriage.

First, what reasons do the same-sex marriage advocate give for arguing that it is moral? They’re the ones with the burden of proof since what they are fighting for is virtually unprecedented in human history. Also, if morality, marriage, and family are relative terms, relative to what? Personal wants or reality? We can’t all be right about reality, but we can all be wrong. When it comes right down to it, this issue as any other will bring us to a battle of worldviews. Those that think there is a nature or design inherent in the concept of marriage and those who think marriage is whatever we say it is. Also The Maker figures into it. If there’s a God, what evidence is there and what evidence is there to support that he’s even communicated to us? And why aren’t we even trying to find out as enthusiastically as we look for entertainment? Why is it that even when we know a moral issue when we see one that we don’t follow it anyway? What is morality even founded upon, if not God himself? Who are you to judge, right? God is the only one big enough and fair enough to be the judge. If so, and if God has made his designs and purposes clear to us, then because He says so would be enough and obedience would be for our good, but then I’m the curious type who always wants to know why He says so. In my experience, there are always good reasons.

Second, if it’s between consenting adults, what’s the matter with it? This seems to be the number one reason why same-sex marriage should be a thing. In other words, mutual actions that don’t harm anyone must be moral. Does not hurting people always constitute moral behavior? What do we mean by hurt? Consenting adults should hardly be the bar we set for what’s granted special status let alone moral.

Third, why’s it bad? 1) Changing the concept of marriage changes the very elementary, most basic unit of society, the family. This is already happening. Media tries to portray a variety of family types as perfectly normal above and beyond what they call “the nuclear family.” It’s not “normal family?” Sure a single mom deserves respect for the hardship of raising a child well, but it does little to deny that having been married to a dad to help carry the hardship would’ve been better, and wisdom dictates having one dad and one mom (the natural design) is healthier and better than having two moms or two dads. Advocates of same-sex marriage insist the numbers are fair and that families of gay parents don’t suffer, but others show the very opposite numbers. Instead of being alarmed and calling for a redo, most see this as proof that we all need to choose for ourselves because everyone’s studies are fixed. Normal is what we make it, we’re told, not dependent on nature or design. In other words, humans are somehow above their nature or design? The most basic element of our society is at stake (much like how “no fault divorce” has messed families up by creating new “varieties” of family). If marriage is just a contract, then that’s going to be bad for business… 2) it actually goes against basic nature. Some studies try to show that gay sex happens in nature, but even if they’re right (so what? Animals and humans are worlds apart), these studies end up proving that even in nature homosexuality is a rare deviation from nature. Wisdom at the very least indicates that we try our best to include reality and nature in the way we live, yet we resist wisdom because we are “born that way” as if that excuses us from growing up. This curious phenomenon seems unique to the human. We know the oughts but yet don’t do them. By nature I mean to make a distinction between living naturally according to design and succumbing to our baser nature of sinful desires. Homosexuality, like other harmful (vs. beneficial) lusts, is the later.

Far from allowing the homosexual man or woman to “be themselves” the insidious deceit of homosexuality causes the man or woman to rebel against being themselves. Their DNA says one thing, but they are doing another. Thus homosexuality represents not something glorious and evolved about humanity but humanity’s rebellion at its most extreme by rebelling even against itself, who we’re made to be. It’s a snake eating itself. The wrong inherent in homosexuality is a profound prevention of freedom to be themselves. As an American, that’s a good reason to oppose the moral approval of it alone, but the stakes are even higher for those who realize that we live in a theistic universe, that is, one purposefully made by God. All three of the world’s main monotheistic religions clearly place homosexual behavior and lust in the category of sin, not arbitrarily because priests wanted all the boys to themselves but due to humanity’s design and purpose in being beings of worship made in the image of God to reflect his awesomeness. Everybody worships. It’s just a matter of who or what we worship. The truth of the object of our worship then makes all the difference.

Tolerance is not the key to Harmony, conforming to the Truth is. But until then, the same-sex marriage advocate needs to tolerate others’ convictions that marriage isn’t whatever we say it is.

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On Comparing Gay Marriage to Interracial Marriages:

Is same-sex marriage a civil rights issue? It’s often said that “gay is the new black” and that the laws of the recent past against interracial marriages compare favorably to resistance to adding laws that allow for same-sex marriages because both are said to go against people’s rights to their “pursuit of happiness.” However, for starters the laws against interracial marriages have nothing to do with the far more ancient institution we call marriage. There were societies that accepted interracial marriage before the US had those rules because it’s still a marriage. But while that may show that these laws were unfairly imposed on an already existing institution called marriage and were not themselves a redefinition of it, that doesn’t hit the same sex marriage supporter’s objection on the head exactly. They would still say the two issues still relate to civil rights. Do they? Or is this a category mistake?

Gender has to do with biology and even the way we think and act. Our gender makes us different in kind not merely by appearances. Whereas different skin colors do not constitute a difference in kind. The laws against interracial marriages were bigoted based on rejection of mere appearances (skin color) and arbitrarily calling other races subhuman. At that time, the genders of those involved in a marriage (being male-female) were part of what made it a marriage whereas the color or mere appearance of those involved had nothing to do with it being a marriage or not. It was a ban put on the institution, an imposition not natural to the thing called marriage. Justice was done when the ban was lifted. Defending marriage from being redefined to include same sex couples is not a hostile imposition, it is a defensive position. There’s no prohibition for same sex couples to marry. They can marry just like any one else. What is being prohibited is a regime change for the concept of marriage.

“Humans can marry each other” is basic (e.g. a black man and a white woman are both human). “Same sex couples love each other” makes sense, that’s not in debate here, but “Same sex couples can marry each other” is not basic and doesn’t even seem to fit the words being given. It’s like “I make my own destiny” or “married bachelor”—we can say the words but the meaning doesn’t fit. But what does gender and sex have to do with marriage right? Gender and sex obviously have a great deal to do with marriage while skin color doesn’t. This ought to be immediately apparent as honeymoons are still popular excuses for having sex, and marriages are still the way we keep society going by way of families. There are exceptions, but these are by definition of “exception,” not the norm. It may have to be pointed out to a society who already assumes that gender identity and sexual orientation is up on the list of life choices along with what college to attend, that same-sex couples generally speaking are not a biologically natural pairing of genders. While marriage is a meeting of the minds, it is not a mere meeting of the minds. While it involves romance, it is not simply romance. While it entails a lifelong commitment, it is not simply a lifelong commitment. While marriage is difficult to define, nobody thinks it is hopelessly arbitrary.

The details as well as the whole must be in view here if there is a case to be made to change what marriage is, institutionally. Marriage never was whatever the government or people says it is, and whoever says that is just plain wrong on the face of it. Why? Those who say so are being totally inconsistent, for if marriage is whatever we say it is, then why fight for same-sex marriage with such tenacious vehemence as if God were on their side? If it is justice we want, then we can’t appeal to such slippery logic as “marriage is whatever our generation says it is.” If it’s tolerance they want, they’ve already got it. Tolerance is for whomever you disagree with, not the opposite. But it isn’t tolerance they want, obviously, for they have said openly that they want complete moral acceptance, but this presupposes the answer to the very question I posed in my previous post, “Is homosexuality moral?” Proponents of “gay rights” who want to turn this into a civil rights issue assert that injustice is being done against gays, that the moral depravity lies on the other side, not theirs. How about you? Have you dared to ask or do you repeat what’s popular because it has been so often repeated? The subjectivity with which morality has been treated makes it difficult to even explain why I think it is immoral. I’ll try though, in my next post…

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Why not? If the issue is about changing definitions, then anything goes as long as enough people agree right? If you answered no, then we’re on the same page so far. What is the truth about marriage? Is it a particular thing that we’ve labeled or is it an arbitrary concept that depends solely on whatever a particular culture decides it is? Normally, I don’t get involved in moral issues on this blog, preferring to stay historical or answering questions and objections about the Bible. But sometimes these things intertwine. Plus, I’m getting tired of hearing that if I simply disagree about homosexuality being morally praiseworthy that somehow that makes me an enemy of love. A cheating husband can love his mistress, but their love shouldn’t be a consideration that forces me to praise his adultery.

What is Marriage?

First of all, what are we even talking about? No two sides can discuss very effectively if both disagree on terms. If marriage is not a thing in itself but instead something we can just do with what we want, redefining it to whatever suits the culture, then marriage isn’t anything at all worth arguing about and the same exact logic can be applied to all sorts of absurd cases being put forth in the present (or that we find absurd for now at least). This is the slippery slope logic which reveals the weakness of the same sex marriage crowd’s arguments. Yes, I know that marrying a dog and such is ridiculous too, but what stops anyone else from presenting the very same arguments that are being presented for same sex marriage as say cases for polygamy, incestuous marriage, an elementary teacher marrying her student, etc? Almost nobody is for these things. My point is not that all these will become normal if we let a homosexual foot in the door, but that the same sex marriage activists, using the arguments that they are, have to account reasonably for why they have a case and others using the same logic don’t.

It seems we’ve long since forgotten whether we should even be asking about the morality of it all, even while both sides are clearly making moral assertions about justice and equality. But is anyone afforded the honest pursuit of the question, “Is homosexuality moral?” No one in our culture, Christians especially, is exempt from thinking through this question. I’m not asking, can gays commit or contribute to society, obviously they can, but is it moral? And by moral I don’t think “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone” is sufficient alone to define moral. Someone may be quick to point out that even “hurt” can be too subjective. The moral question goes beyond the scope of this post, and I don’t expect my reasons for defending marriage as a heterosexual endeavor will matter to those pre-committed to their opinion, but I do expect to be listened to with grace just as I’d hope also to behave.

Same sex marriage is always promoted as a civil rights issue. The resistance to adding homosexual unions to the thing called marriage is compared to bans that have been imposed on interracial marriage. Why isn’t that the same? “Are same-sex marriages a civil right?” is a question I’ve given some thought to since I have one of those interracial marriage things. But that’s for the next post…

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Scriptural glimpses of “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:31-38 and Matt 16:22)

Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.
[For the prophet Daniel wrote of the future victorious coming of the Messiah,]
“Behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days (God)
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages 
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one 
that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

[And Peter wrote much later about the rebuilding of the temple. “Believers such as] yourselves, like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
[God said,] ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, . . .” (1 Peter 2:5-8)

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, this is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.’ Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” (Matt 21:42-43) This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by [his own people], the builders. (Acts 4:11) [They just couldn’t believe the prophecies about how the messiah must first suffer and had set in mind only the things of man.]

The Cross: The Messiah must suffer many things . . .
God [presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement to satisfy His just wrath against our rebellion] to be received by faith in his blood. (Romans 3:25)

[The Hebrew prophets declared these things long before Jesus’ time.]
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the Lord of hosts.
“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” (Zechariah 13:7)

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10)

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. . .
We esteemed him stricken,
[killed] by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?

And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
The righteous one, my servant,
[will] make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

Because he poured out his soul to death
and was [considered one of the sinners];
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the [sinners]. (excerpts from Isaiah 53)

[We saw that he cried out “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” These are the first words of Psalm 22, a description of suffering quite remarkably matching Jesus’ crucifixion but written hundreds of years before the first crucifixion had even been dreamed up.]
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots. (Psalm 22:14-18)

[Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. (1 Peter 2:24) [Thanks be to God!] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation. (Psalm 118:14, 21)

But that was not the end.
Two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. . . .” (Luke 24:13-27)

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them [previously, having arranged for a meeting of all his “brothers”]. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:6-11)

Now [God] commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31)

God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. . . . [since] the wrath of God remains on him. (1 John 5:11-12, John 3:36)

[John said of his vision of the end time,] I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21:1-5) Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

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Hypocrite

We sometimes (OK often) get stumped trying to hold onto hard to understand teachings in Scripture. For example, the teachings about grace and faith and works can sometimes get confusing, and we wonder how it can possibly all fit. Once again we face a struggle that is rooted in a misunderstanding of ourselves or God or how we relate. This time it would be an unnecessary difficulty if we know God as being real, living, and active in our life. Paul and James talk in detail about faith and works as a tension. One cannot be without the other. We know we are not saved by our works (because no one can be good enough to become God’s roommate) but by his grace, and this is a good thing because then salvation is a gift and not something we can brag about.

When we come at this as mere teaching and forget our relationship with God then of course it becomes tough to chew on and requires some deep meditative thought. I don’t know anyone (myself included) who has never had a difficult time coming to terms with this and it leads into many other wonderfully heavy discussion topics. However, if we think about it in terms of our relationship to God, it becomes clearer—even chucklingly simple! We actually function in this reality with these tensions everyday without thinking twice about it. If we don’t hold the tension of the rubber band at both ends, we get smacked.

My wife and I are married. Nothing she does or doesn’t do (aside from divorce obviously) changes that. Nothing can make her any more or less married to me anymore than a woman can be any more or less pregnant with child. She is or she isn’t. We’re married. However, because we’re married, she will do (and not do) certain things. She may serve me out of love, though that isn’t what makes or keeps her married to me. This is much the same with the salvation relationship we can have with God.

God chose me and so gave me faith. I’m saved. Because I’m saved, I want to do works of service for him. Because I’m saved (in a covenant relationship) I don’t want to sin so that “grace may abound”. The works don’t make me any more or less saved (I can’t brag about it) because it is from the free gift of God’s grace. This is why it would be terrible to be a blank-check Christian (in fact that’s not Christian at all), nor is it smart to be self-righteous (also hypocritical behavior for a Christian). To use Mark Driscoll’s example, living like we had a blank check of grace for sin would be infinitely worse than if I asked my wife, “Honey, would you forgive me even if I had sex with another woman?” She’s said, “Yes, I would.” If I replied by saying, “OK, thanks, just checking. I’ll be back in the morning…” then how could that be described as any less than spitting in my wife’s face? The same could be said of the self-righteous hypocrite. If I was given a great job and a car by my father’s lifelong hard work (and everybody knew it), and I constantly bragged about how much I’d done to get that job and how awesome my car was instead of giving thanks and credit to my dad where it belonged… I’d have zero friends. At least, not respected ones.

Usually, the struggle with this tension isn’t that I try to go to one extreme or another but just trying to understand how it all fits in. I hope that by putting it in the proper context—one of a relationship of love, proper fear, and respect for God—then we can understand how it fits together and better try to avoid the sinful extremes. The most important bit of wisdom that I gather from this is to be humble in the grace of God and lovingly obediently to tell other people about the blood, sweat, and tears that he’s shed for me so that perhaps they might repent, reach out for him, and find him. The Hound of Heaven is not far from any one of us. He “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

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Happiness God

Americans consider happiness more important to them than money, moral goodness, and even going to Heaven. —The Happiness Show

Why is it that Americans are so quick to cheer Obama when he speaks boldly about a so-called “God-given right to pursue our own full measure of happiness,” but as soon as someone mentions living a holy life (that is, devoted to objective goodness and God) they cringe and affirm their adage, “That’s good for you, but not for me”? It puzzles me. Jesus came preaching repentance so that we might know joy “to the full” (which is like happiness 2.0) and The Good Life in Him and instead of a rousing applause, he got the worst death sentence.

Look around at the state of the nation and our own opinions on it compared to other happier but much poorer nations. Seeking “our own full measure of happiness” doesn’t seem to be working. In fact, it seems to me that it’s actually the problem rather than the solution. I don’t even need to bring up examples of those who are happy to do the extremely perverse, so instead take something normal . . . divorces in America for example. A huge chunk of divorces happen because marriage failed to bring them happiness, not realizing that it was never intended to produce happiness but instead holiness (love your neighbor as yourself should be all the more applied to a spouse, no?). Ironically, divorce to regain happiness often is a self-defeating action. This sort of thing shines a lot of light on Jesus’ statement that those who try to seize life will lose it but those who lose it (i.e. take the focus off themselves) will get it. Perhaps we’d be better off if we sought other people’s happiness rather than our own. Impossible? Of course it is, hence our need for Jesus to step in and regenerate our selfish, foolish, banal hearts (i.e. being “born” again since our fallen state isn’t in the least bit impressive). God said, “Be holy because I am holy” which isn’t nearly as good to us as quoting “God is Love.” He also said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

Are you a Judas or a Peter? Is happiness your chief desire or is holiness? With one you can have both, with the other you ultimately get neither. Let’s become students of Love rather than students of Happiness. There are only two basic parts to joy in holiness: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

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The short answer? Marriage is not a feeling. I’ve been married for just two hundred and seventeen days, but while marriage is quite natural there is no feeling that tells me I’m married nor is there a feeling like glue to keep us together! This “lack,” of course, is not unnatural. The idea of this “married feeling” is the unnatural one. 

If before our wedding someone were to tell me there were an emotion called “married,” I would have laughed at them. I have only the knowledge I am married—and quite blissfully at that—but for some strange reason I expected (without quite expecting it) that I’d feel some kind of amazing bond. While there certainly exists a unique bond of the deepest friendship and family sort between us (as there ought to be), often we go about our daily lives (by now already routine) as if we’ve always been married but yet reminding ourselves “Wow, we’re married! This is new!” Obviously, there is also some foreboding in this realization. If in the future I don’t feel married, or even if I feel unhappy about my marriage, did I make a mistake? Perhaps then “falling out of love” would be a good excuse to divorce. After all, once the love is unfelt (hence presumed gone for good) what’s the point of staying together? But is that even love? I think most people most of the time would not define love as merely an emotion, but they’re actions tell a different story.

Where did I get this idea that I should feel married? Movies or TV fantasies? The draw of attraction? Whatever the reason the fact remains we are quite married whether I feel it or not. I have the knowledge of it and the commitment to love no matter what our situation or emotions may end up being. I’m grateful to God and even feel happy about being married. Through the knowledge I can have a sort of hope and joy that I couldn’t as a single.

Similarly, as my friend Steve pointed out to me when I mentioned this to him, salvation is not a feeling. Jesus calls it a New Covenant (much like a marriage promise), so it’s more of a relationship or an agreement than a sense. It too is a knowledge of my state. We might feel “un-saved” simply by not feeling “saved.” Thereby, even with the certainty of factual knowledge we can fool ourselves, become dissatisfied, and think there is a lack (though there isn’t) and go after other “gods” if we don’t guard our hearts.

I think the hope, however, is that if I have the knowledge I should also have the joy and excitement of knowing God or in the case of my marriage, pink-lensed romance. Yes, true, but I think too often we think the feeling is the main thing rather than something that often or occasionally comes along with it. There’s nothing wrong with having genuine emotions, but they shouldn’t be our foundations since our emotions are so changeable. Joy is something to fight for, not something we are owed (and it should be said it’s distinct from Happiness). So if you are married or saved or both, and you’re feeling rather down because you don’t feel the joy of your situation as you think you should, maybe you just need some time in a good book and a cup of hot coffee.

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