This weekend, I had the privilege of officiating my first wedding! It was a great time; even though I didn’t have the opportunity to counsel the couple in their months of preparations, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Nathan and Morgan and am praying for their best in the years to come. Below is the homily I gave for them, based on a passage from 1 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Nathan and Morgan, you are in love, and in that love you have decided to make a public, lifelong covenant to one another before God and before the people gathered here today. If we look at the bookends of the Bible – its first three chapters and its last three chapters – we see marriage at the bookends of history. At the beginning, the first man sees the first woman and breaks out in the first recorded poetry, he’s so excited! And at the end is the marriage supper of Jesus and the Church, a feast to celebrate that eternal relationship. Marriage is so important that God uses that as the living image of our relationship with Him. Christian marriage looks back to that first delight between a man and a woman and forward to that eternal delight between God and God’s people.
Marriage is a covenant, which is a unique kind of commitment. The pastor who performed my marriage distinguished a covenant from a contract. A contract is based on mistrust; I’m going to promise you certain things, and you’re going to promise me certain things, and if you don’t give me those things the deal is off. A contract is held together by self-interest.
But a covenant is a relationship based on trust instead of mistrust. I make a covenant with you because I know and love you, and I want to tie myself to you. I want our relationship to be stronger, and I want you and everyone else to know that I’ve bound myself to you. It’s based on trust.
And a covenant is held together by love. I don’t stay in a covenant because you’re keeping up your end of our deal; I stay in it because I love you, and I’m going to keep choosing to love you no matter what. I’m devoted to your good, and I’m going to pursue that with everything in me.
In the passage I just read, Paul describes the kind of covenantal love that it takes to make a Christian marriage work. Nathan, Morgan, the vision of covenantal love in this passage is laced with delight and joy, like a wedding-day. It’s big enough to include the times when marriage feels easy. But this vision is also balanced with seriousness and sacrifice; it’s big enough to include the times when marriage feels hard as well. I want to encourage you with three actions that this covenantal love does.
First, covenantal love gives. Paul says that love does not envy or boast; it’s not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. The flipside of all those things is that love gives to others. It gives delight and praise to the other. It gives attention. It gives the benefit of the doubt. Rather than taking everything I can from the other person, I give every good thing I can for their benefit.
Love inspires and charges each of you to always ask, “How can they benefit from this? How can I bless them today? What can I give them, for their greater good?” This means simple things like gifts, kind words, or a back rub. It will also mean weightier things, like forgiveness or affection that feels undeserved. As you grow together in love, each of you should always be asking, How can I give to my wife today, or how can I give to my husband? Covenantal love gives.
Second, covenantal love endures. Paul says that love is not irritable or resentful; he also says that it bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. Covenantal love commits itself to its beloved through everything. It’s so committed to the relationship that it’s willing to work through anything that comes its way. It holds fast to the other in good, easy, wonderful times; it also holds fast to the other in hard times.
Many days, being together is going to be the easiest thing in the world for you; you’re going to have a lot of delight to share. But there will be days where your relationship is tough. This kind of love compels us to ask ourselves, How can I forgive this wrong? How can I let God’s grace cover this and keep looking to them in love? That commitment – that covenantal love – is going to add new dimensions of beauty to your marriage as you learn to hold fast to one another in everything. Covenantal love endures.
And third, covenantal love guides. Paul says that love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices at the truth. Covenantal love guides the other person toward truth; the idea is that each of you can look toward the same thing and rejoice in it. Just as your family and loved ones have shaped and guided you over the course of your lives, you will have a special role in shaping and guiding one another from here forward. Just as love protects its beloved from harm, love guides its beloved toward truth and goodness and beauty.
And specifically, Christian love guides its beloved toward the God who is both the greatest good in the universe and also the one who makes this kind of love possible. In God, we have a love who gives: he has given us the blessings of the creation, the blessings of relationships like this, and the gift of his own Son’s life on our behalf. In God, we have a love who endures: Jesus gave his own life to have a relationship with his Bride, and he bears with our joys and strengths and weaknesses and failings every day into eternity. And in God, we have a love who guides: the Holy Spirit in our hearts draws us toward truth and slowly transforms us into God’s own image. Nathan and Morgan, God is the author of love; if you place yourself in his giving, enduring, guiding covenantal love, your marriage will grow in delight and beauty and love from this day unto the rest of your lives.
O God, Author of love, we praise you and thank you that you keep covenantal love for your people. We pray now that you would bless Nathan and Morgan in this covenant they are about to make. Let their marriage be one of ever-deepening love; let them always give to one another, endure for one another, and guide one another toward you, in dependence on you. We pray these things in the name of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, amen.