UK Marriage Week takes place from 11-17 May 2020.  John Clarke from UKMW has written the following article. There are other helpful articles on the UKMW website. 

Everyone wants Home. Although Home for some brings pain and anxiety, God’s idea of Home, and his idea of a homecoming is what we were made for.

Homecomings reminds the older generations of times of war – of grainy black and white newsreels which we’ve all seen on TV – the gatherings of hundreds and thousands of people on the streets, to greet those returning from war. Flags flying, bands playing, handkerchiefs waving – joy all around. Coming home – it is so special.

Or think about that family as they return home from a holiday and as the car turns into their street where their home is, everyone suddenly opens their eyes having been asleep. They instinctively know where ‘home’ is.

We see it in the beauty of creation. Take birds for instance who have a remarkable homing instinct, allowing them to return to the same area year after year, even when their migration takes them halfway around the world.

God is Home
As human beings, our souls are homeless and restless until we meet God. Home for humanity is God. It’s God Himself. We are like travellers in exile looking for home. We are all on a journey and what we are looking for is home. Home isn’t a brick and mortar space or defined by its square footage. Home is relationship, first and foremost with God. This is what our soul longs for.

So, God is Home and the Church is a place of Home for everyone because the church is family. God knowing what we need, places us in Family. The beauty of the Body of Christ is we need each other. Whether you are married, have kids, single, old or young – we grow and thrive in the context of community and family. We are the Church.

The church allows people on all places of the spectrum to be part of a family. We are so much more than those descriptors society places on us. The Gospel sets us free so that our identity is now as a child of God adopted into his family no matter single or married. It is the idea of Family which is the bedrock of our society.

One Chinese proverb says: “One generation plants the trees… another gets the shade.”

Family is God’s way of building society.
Family is God’s way of holding society together.
Family is God’s way of restraining evil in the world.
Family prevents society being destroyed.

But sadly, where successive generations have not planted well, children have no shade to enjoy. The result is we have a fallout of children who are now abandoned, rejected vulnerable, neglected, addicted, making poor choices. You could say ‘lost’.

What we are experiencing today is an erosion of Gods blueprint on family. We must be the generation that plants again trees that are like ‘oaks of righteousness’ so that the next generation enjoy the shade of that decision and path.

A healthy marriage is the foundation of family life. Successful and healthy marriages create shade for children.

People who get married have done something powerful. Their decision to commit to each other for life, could not be more powerful, could not be more beautiful, could not be more sacred and holy in creating shade and home for the emerging generation. To create home and families prophetically that reflect the heart and nature of God, we the Church, the whole Church are for the glory and the wonder that is marriage.

Marriage is God’s way of building society.
Marriage is God’s way of holding society together.
Marriage is God’s way of reducing darkness in the world.
Marriage prevents society being destroyed.

Marriage points the world to God. If you want to know who God is, marriage is a display window to the nature of God. You see marriage reflects who God is:

Marriage upholds faithfulness – God is faithful.
Marriage upholds intimacy – God is intimate.
Marriage is a covenant – God is a covenant, promise keeping God.
Marriage upholds unconditional love – God loves unconditionally.
Marriage upholds forgiveness – God forgives.
Marriage upholds sacrifice – God is the suffering servant.

The Bible even talks in these terms of God being the groom and the church being the bride. We see God’s relationship with people – with humanity – in marriage. This is the message and the good news of the gospel, of Christianity – that humanity said no to God, but God didn’t say no to us. God comes to rescue, redeem and restore humankind. In Christ, God became man & dwelt amongst us. In our brokenness we couldn’t come to Him, we wouldn’t come to Him, but he came to us. Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, is a great universal, eternal yes of affirmation, of longing, of redemption, of forgiveness, of hope, of a new start. We are now the bride of Christ. God unequivocally says ‘yes’ to marriage.

Let me give some encouragement to those who are married. Type ‘wedding planning’ in Google and there are millions of sites. Type in ‘marriage planning’ and there are far, far fewer results. A great marriage doesn’t just happen by default. We must make choices by design. The BBC reported that Scientists have devised a new “love test.” The research suggests that a subconscious response to an image of a partner could be a useful predictor of marriage outcomes. Those who had a negative ‘gut reaction’ were more likely to be unhappy several years later. The conclusion drawn was that if you want to build a marriage that lasts it should be built on ‘positive gut reactions.’ Is there any other alternative for building a lasting marriage or is ‘gut-reaction’ the best foundation?

I want married couples, every single day, to ‘say yes’ to each other. Every day, you make a decision to put clothes on (at least I hope so anyway). They don’t just fall on you! Your socks don’t magically appear on your feet! Paul writes to the church in Colossae and urges them to ‘clothe themselves’.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14: Every day as you ‘say yes’ to each other, it looks like: yes, I will ‘put on’ forgiveness; yes I will ‘put on’ patience; yes I will ‘put on’ gentleness, yes I will ‘put on’ humility, compassion, kindness and so on.

There is one word that sums all that up what people getting married say in their vows:

I want to encourage you today to ‘say yes’ to each other in honouring one another. In a world of countless options and choices, it can be paralysing for people trying to make decisions. In a world afraid to commit? where we reply to party invitations with a “maybe” rather than a “yes” or “no”. Where we keep our smartphone switched on at all times, so that we are never fully present at any given moment.

The greatest power in all the world is the power to choose. It’s greater than any gut feeling. Therefore, choose ‘honour’. Experts say that each person makes 35,000 choices every day. That’s roughly a decision every 2 seconds.

People think that the successful life is often like a lift, where we go in and press the button and are taken to that next level of your life. But maybe the ‘lift to success’ is ‘out of order’. What we need to do is to take the stairs, representing thousands of steps called choices.

These choices are hard on your legs, make you out of breath. Choices aren’t always easy and take effort. But choose to clothe yourselves with honouring.

If you create a culture of honour in your relationships, in your home, your marriage and in your family, you will truly influence a community and a generation for the glory of God.

In honour, go ahead of one another. In other words, ‘lead out’ in showing honour. Take the first step: you initiate in communicating to another person respect. People deserve to be treated with respect, not because they’ve earned it, not because they are always kind and easy to get along with, but because they are part of something bigger than themselves. They are part of humanity – and that means they occupy a pretty important place in the scheme of things.

Don’t wait to deserve honour but choose honour at all times. Put others first in all things. The longevity, the happiness, the destiny, the future of honouring in marriage won’t be in the big things, but in the small things. The acts of serving one another – to serve each other in your relationship and in marriage is rooted in what love is actually about. Yes, love can be about romance and feeling and adventure but true love, real love, is about selflessness.

In the book of revelation Jesus says this: “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” Jesus is the one who ‘cleans up’ His bride. Christians will be made spiritually and morally new, not just partially as now, but wholly. That bride is a picture of the church prepared and beautified for her husband, Jesus Christ. When God makes all things new, he makes the church, the people of God, spiritually and morally beautiful for His Son.

As you honour each other you are allowing God to make everything new again and it’s what this world needs.

So, let’s get behind marriage. For healthy marriage is God’s foundation for underpinning wholesome family life. Family creates ‘home’, and homes with God at the centre can change nations.

A Prayer for Married Couples

God of love,
Thank you for our marriage;
For shared laughter and tears;
for strength in our weakness,
And enough for life each day.
Thank you for the gifts we bring each other,
And bless us as we grow together in love,
Through all that life brings through the years.