Marriage is For Better & For Keeps

Pipeline.Church had the privilege of hearing my dad, Pastor Chuck Atherton, speak this last Sunday. After over 50 years of ministry and just over 51 years of marriage, I think he has some pretty incredible things to say about love & marriage.

This about sums it up...

Marriage is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

Marriage is a commitment. That's one of the reasons so many times people don't want to get married is they're afraid to commit. They're afraid to go all in. Marriage is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. 

Well, what in the world does that mean? That means, "Look, I choose to give myself to you wholeheartedly, everything I am and everything I've got, knowing that you have the capacity to totally screw up my life."

No conditions. I love you if you stay pretty. I love you if you make money. I love you if you'll take me places. I love you if, not the way you want to go. It's an unconditional commitment you're making to a person that has the capacity to fail you and you know that ahead of time. That'll save you lots and lots of trouble if you'll apply that. We've all heard the phrase, "Marriage is for better or for worse," right?

I think it should read, "Marriage is for better and for keeps." One woman, one man, one lifetime. Marriage is for better and for keeps.

Ruth and I made a decision early on in our marriage right after we got married that in our home and in our lives together, we would not use the word "separation" or "divorce." It was never spoken of in our home in context with us or the things that we're doing in our family. Why? Because you never want to give a foothold to the enemy of your soul

Problems, loved ones, are meant to be solved or resolved. It's an important understanding. With God as your guide and as your leader and His Word, there are always answers and solutions to problems or difficulties. We have to humble ourselves enough to recognize that.

Don't look for the back door.

Many times, people are looking for the back door in your marriage relationship, a way to get out. That's the primary thing I have against prenups. Can you imagine signing a document that says, "If this doesn't happen and that doesn't happen, then I'm bailing out of this thing," and you do it before you're even married? It doesn't work so well. It doesn't make for lasting relationships or happy relationships truly.

If you look for the back door in any relationship you have and especially in marriage, I'll tell you this, you will find it and it will not be a blessing to you.

You will never feel your way into actions. You act your way into feelings

The phrase I've heard more times than I care to have heard is, "You know, Pastor, I just don't feel like I love her anymore," "I don't feel like I love him anymore." The emphasis was on feeling because of how they approach things.

 It's about the two, not you. That's part of marriage. It's giving yourself away.

I found this article that speaks pretty powerfully to this point.

George Crane was a newspaper columnist, but he was also a minister. He tells of a wife full of hatred toward her husband who came into his office one day. She said this and I quote, "I not only want to get rid of him. I want to get even with him. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he's hurt me."

Crane suggested an ingenious plan. "I want you to go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for his every decent trait. Go out of your way to be kind. Consider it generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him completely. After you've convinced him of your undying love and then he cannot live without you, then drop the bomb. Tell him you're getting a divorce and that'll really hurt him."

Well, she got excited about that and she said, "Oh," with revenge in her eyes, "beautiful, absolutely awesome. That'll really hurt him." When he didn't hear from her for a couple of months, Crane called her, "Are you ready now to go through a divorce?" "Divorce?" she said. "Never. I discovered that I really do love him." Your actions, her actions, had changed her feelings and your actions will change your feelings. You never feel your way into an action. You always act your way into a feeling

Never let the sun go down while you're still angry.

Now, Ephesians 4:26 tells us "In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold." Now, the first part of that is very important because we are human beings. It is part of our makeup on occasion to get angry.

We can get angry about injustices, get angry about decisions that somebody else makes or that we've made. We can get angry about lots of different things, even angry at our mate. In that, the Word says, "Don't sin." What does it mean? Whenever we get angry like that, you tend to say things you really shouldn't have said.

You wish you could draw those things back. Because you get angry, you go out of your head with things. You don't think about what you're doing. Words matter.

Never let the sun go down while you're still angry. Why? Because -- even though your mate has made you angry about something -- you have made an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. He or she didn't have to say anything, do anything, act any certain way in order to receive your love.

You knew all along that they had the capacity to blow it, to mess up, as I said earlier, to totally screw up your life or the marriage. You've made that commitment. Don't go back on it.

I would just suggest to you, walk it through, pray it through, think it through, work it out. You may leave it at a point and come back to it later, but don't go to sleep on it thinking that it's a resolved issue. (By the way, making up is really fun sometimes. Don't pass that up.)

As we learn to love each other unconditionally, God wants us to love Him in the same way: without conditions.

God said, "I love you so much that I'll give myself for you. You don't have to be anything, do anything, become anything, say anything. I love you without condition." He says, "I want you to love me the very same way."

Listen, your life is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God.

Is God your number one above everything and all else? Does your life honor and glorify the Lord? My prayer is that these things that we spoke of today and so much more would be a living reality in your life and in your family.
This blog post contains excerpts from Week 2 of the "You & Me" sermon series.
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