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A close friend, let’s call him Matt, recently told me of his intentions not to marry. He’s been in a committed relationship for several years so his comment certainly stuck out. After some prodding he revealed his reservations.
Just about anyone who has ever stepped foot in a church can tell you their own version of the same story: the people are hypocritical, judgmental, cliquish, uppity and fake. Without a doubt, we’re in agreement. Too many people, myself included, fall into those categories. The problem with this thinking, though, is we’re basing our worldview of something larger than any one person or group on an individual experience – which simply isn’t fair – nor is it an accurate depiction of reality.
Four marriages. The number of failed marriages Matt saw his father run through. Infidelity, manipulation, deceit; each marriage was littered with them. The winds of marriage came and went like the passing of the seasons, losing its meaning and significance. Unity, service and faithfulness were no longer the picture of marriage. Matt isn’t to blame for what he saw of marriage from his father but his experience is not the only model of marriage, either.
As of this day, my parents have been happily married for 36 years. Not once have I witnessed them question their love or devotion. For as many poor examples of marriage as we’ve collectively seen, we must have seen a couple people do it right. Not to say their example of marriage is perfect, it has flaws, but it’s a marvelous portrait nonetheless.
To completely lose hope of the institution of marriage because of one, two or even ten poor examples would be foolish. All we need is one example of what it can and should be to revive our trust in it. After all, the mistakes of those before us don’t take away the responsibility we have to forge our own path. Your relationship is solely your responsibility.
The mistakes of those before us don’t take away the responsibility we have to forge our own path.
After three years away, Tucson is home again. To this day, nobody has said it better than Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” Tucson is home, and so is the church. For 15 years, I’ve been a part of the same church. Just like any home, or any family, there are certain aspects more lovable than others. Which is to say, there were some ugly facets.
Since my return, I’ve heard stories about my church from people who long ago called it home. Stories like, “It seemed to be all about the money.” Another friend said while being in the middle school youth group, “nobody talked to me”. This church, like all, has a lengthy rap sheet. But even more extensive are its illustrations of God’s intention of the church; what it was intended to be. Not without its flaws, but a marvelous portrait nonetheless.
Marriage and the church are intentionally similar. The Apostle Paul, a contributing author in the Bible, in his letter to the Ephesians wrote:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” -Ephesians 5:25
The church itself was created to be a living example of Jesus’ great love for us. It’s intended to be a gathering of people devoted to faith, hope and love. Likewise, marriage is intended to promote love, service and sacrifice. Yet, as we know all too well, both marriage and the church have fallen well short. But there have been times when it’s blown my expectations as well.
All this being said, and it’s a terrible analogy, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are always going to be good and bad examples of both marriage and church. But let us not give up hope simply because we’ve seen its ugly side. Rather, let us take responsibility to see it become what it can be. For this very reason I returned to my home church. Like you, I’ve seen the shortcomings, but I’m committed to seeing it become what it can be. I dream of what it can be, but I also work tirelessly to see my dream (as well as others) come to fruition. The same can be said of my marriage.
Our frustrations with the institution shouldn’t be a reason to lose hope; rather it should be a foundation of commitment to better the situation.
If you have reservations, I’m with you. Instead of giving up hope, why not give it another chance? At the least, reconsider your reservations and check those against God’s creative intent. Talk to people about what they love of marriage and the church. What it was isn’t what it has to be, and it certainly isn’t what it was created to be.
Do you have questions? You’re not alone, so let’s talk.