June 22 – Marriage – a “burn the ships” decision

June 22, 2017 Randy Bushey

~ by Randy Bushey – The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 1:18).

He was born the son of an infantry captain, into a family of “distinguished ancestry, but slender means”. Hernan Cortez endured a childhood of poor health. He was vain, restless, and mischievous and terminated his schooling much earlier than his parents had wanted, quickly becoming dissatisfied with his life in a small, provincial Spanish town. Hearing of the discoveries of Christopher Columbus – of the gold, Indians, and conquest of strange lands in the New World – Cortez made his way to the Americas.

He arrived in Hispaniola (currently Democratic Republic and Haiti) while still a teenager, and began to plot his own course to fame and fortune, eventually positioning himself as commander of a significant expedition.

But he is best remembered for a significant “line in the sand” decision. During the conquest of Mexico in 1519 AD, the Spanish explorer gave the command for the unthinkable: to the horror of his 500 men, he ordered the burning of his 11 ships.

His men immediately understood the significance of that move: there was now no way back.

No plan “B”.

No returning to what used to be.

They would have to advance and conquer…or die.

Biblical obedience – living out Christian faith – is often like that.

When a person receives Christ, they leave behind the old life. In many ways steps are taken from which there is no retreat. Friends and family are informed – or draw their own conclusions. Some activities – and relationships – are abandoned. Priorities are rearranged. New activities are adopted. Attitudes shift, appetites emerge, joy results.

However, life becomes profoundly, irrevocably different.

The Bible is filled with many watershed examples of those who took a stand from which there was no retreat:

-Abraham rising early the next morning, to obey God’s clear instruction to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise.

-Moses confronting Pharaoh, demanding the release of Israel under implied threat of divine consequence.

-Daniel’s assurance to King Nebuchadnezzar that God through Daniel could interpret the king’s troubling dream, when the King had just ordered the mass annihilation of the class of wise men of Babylon.

-Peter and John confidently – and very publicly – proclaiming the healing power of the risen Christ by demanding of the crippled beggar, “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk”.

Each of those historical examples demonstrates faithful obedience by the Lord’s people – with severe ramification – if they turned out to be wrong.

What if Abraham had misunderstood the Lord?

Or if Moses, or Daniel, or Peter and John had presumed upon the Lord something that the Almighty had not intended, and therefore did not deliver?

But each is recorded for us as an example of humble, assured, and mature confidence of the power of the Lord to accomplish His purposes in His way.

Biblical obedience still works that way.

And marriage is a great example.

When 2 people marry, they proclaim their commitment before every authority structure they know – their parents, their church, an official vested with the authority of the civil government, and others close to them. The term “witnesses” is deliberate, intentional, powerful.

And they covenant in the presence of God.

The promise: to live and to love as husband and wife until separated by death.

Period.

In purely analytical terms this is a incredible assumption of unknown, incalculable risk.

What if this person changes in an irritating way? Or contracts a debilitating disease? Or becomes less attractive? Or proves to be a poor manager of money? Or turns out to be part of an annoying family? Or struggles with employment? Or no longer represents excitement, romance?

The old Neil Sedaka pop song says “breaking up is hard to do”, but I beg to differ. Staying married is hard to do!

However, the Bible is clear: God designed marriage, and expects it to last. This is declared in graphic terms: “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Clearly implied is that the termination of that bond emphatically cannot occur without painful tearing, approximating the rending of flesh.

But, on the other side of obedience is blessing.

The marriage ceremony is a “burn the ships” moment. There is no retreat, no turning back to the way it used to be.

Maybe that’s in part why marriage is disparaged in a culture that abhors promises – at least those without a convenient escape hatch.

And so we’ve redesigned and redefined marriage to something more elastic, more tailored to personal whim, more in keeping with the times.

Or we’ve ditched it completely, maintaining the benefits without the bothersome weight of obligation.

But we’ve failed to improve on the original design, the Divine design.

And our society is paying the price, another example of the consequence of ignoring a biblical worldview.

Takeaway: It is essential – maybe more than ever before – to ensure that when Christians move toward marriage that they are equipped with sober, pragmatic counsel bathed in experience and realism. Marriage is a wonderful gift given us by God. But as we well know, anything with the such power for good, also represents the corresponding power for misery and heartache. (Full disclosure: in pastoral work, we see that every day of the week.)

Christian marriage is a faith exercise: we are depending totally on the Lord to empower us to keep the commitment we’ve made together.

And successful marriage is tough work, and then more tough work.

Like Christian perseverance, biblical marriage is “a long obedience in the same direction” (Eugene Peterson).

The Lord Jesus summarized the Genesis 2 passage in His simple, yet emphatic pronouncement: Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate (Matthew 19:6).

~originally posted September ‘15