A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to perform the wedding ceremony for my dear friend from high school, Ann. I found this sermon on-line & had to use it. I also preached a modified version the following Sunday morning. Both were a success. Feel free to borrow...
Well. Here you are, Eric and Ann, all dressed in your wedding finery. You are a very attractive couple on this most significant day of your lives, a couple I like very much -- each of you separately, and as a couple. Behind my affection for you is my respect: you’ve done a lot of work to prepare yourselves for this wedding day. And here we are. Your friends & family. Your wedding party. Yourselves – all dressed up in a nice suit & in a beautiful wedding dress. It took a little longer than normal to get dressed up for this special moment…
But when you take off your wedding clothes, what are you going to put on?
What are you guys thinking about? Get your minds out of the gutter!
For the last several months, your thoughts have been consumed with preparing for this day. But, you know, a marriage is more than just the wedding day. And Paul, in Colossians 3, has some suggestions for a marriage wardrobe. And he introduces them by saying “clothe yourselves” with these virtues. These aren't just simple actions that you do once & then toss away. Clothe yourselves with these qualities, Paul says.
So how does one dress for success in a marriage? What are you going to wear to keep your marriage warm in the face of a cold, harsh world?
First, put on Compassion. Literally, compassion means "a heart of pity." Compassion is an inner attitude you each have toward the other — a fullness of tender caring for and about the other’s vulnerabilities and strengths which will overflow into how you treat each other, in public & in private.
On top of compassion, put on Kindness. Now there’s an article of clothing that gets to be in short supply in a marriage sometimes! When you are clothed with kindness you will be seeking the other’s good as you deal with each others’ weaknesses and sore spots.
Then there’s another item of clothing that does a marriage good: Humility. If ever there is an arena where pride and the need to be right and the struggle for power occur, it’s in a marriage. Lack of humility leads to every kind of struggle. Humility recognizes the other’s equal status, recognizing that each has needs, plans, hopes, & values which are just as important as your own.
Gentleness is another worthy garment for a marriage. Gentleness is the garment of the self-controlled person. Badgering, Nagging, Berating, Harassing, Heckling, Hounding, Complaining, and even a lot of teasing –- these are not gentleness. When gentleness is absent, your partner has to put on the helmet of wariness & the breastplate of fearfulness just to survive. And how can you be intimate with someone in armor? When you put on gentleness, the other can take off the self-defensive armor. And when that happens, trust can thrive & intimacy can reside. Every marriage could use several garments of gentleness...
Now, here’s an absolutely necessary article of clothing for a marriage: Patience. Each of you has lived long enough to realize that you can’t expect perfection from each other. Each of you will discover, if you haven’t already, that the other has the capacity to drive you crazy! It doesn’t matter what the issue is: marriage takes patience.
Another essential garment for a marriage is a spirit of Forbearance and Forgiveness. There’s a lot that needs to be endured in a marriage, a lot that requires forbearance. It is a spirit of forgiveness that makes difficult things endurable, maybe even erases them. Nowhere more than in marriage will you have to say, "I’m sorry." Don’t say it to get out of a tight spot. Say it because you know that in no other relationship is the other so vulnerable, so easily hurt. And when the other has asked forgiveness, grant it.
If compassion is marriage’s inner, garment, and if kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and forgiveness are its active-wear shirts and pants and skirts and socks, then love is the overcoat. "On top of all these things," Paul says, "put on love." Love keeps a marriage warm.
Love is not merely an emotion. Love as an emotion can wear thin and threadbare when feelings ebb. Love, as the overcoat that keeps a marriage warm, is made up of two things, both of which must be there for marriage to endure: commitment and caring. It’s the solid ground on which your marriage rests. "No matter what, I will be there for you. No matter what others may think - they may forget you, lose confidence in you, or turn their backs upon you - but I will not.” That’s the commitment you make with your vows. But what good is commitment without caring? Caring says, "You’re more than just another obligation in my life. You are precious to me. I value you above all others."
These clothes Paul invites us to put on are not made of natural fibers. They are woven of spiritual stuff. Try as you might in your own power to create them, you need God to create them. For instance, human nature says, "I’ll do my fair share but no more." Or, "She deserved it." Or, "It’s his turn to give in." Compassion, humility, kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, love -- these don’t come naturally. They are gifts God gives us when we turn to Him.
It is a cold world out there. A world so biter & harsh that wants to steal the warmth of your love away. But do as Paul says:
"Therefore, as God's chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."