Read: Hebrews 13:4 

Last month my wife and I attended a beautiful wedding. Yes, we say that about a lot of weddings, I’m sure, and this one was no exception. The setting was a lakeside town on the east coast of Wisconsin. I was the clergyman charged with presenting the vows and introducing the couple as “husband and wife.” Behind me and in front of the couple was Lake Michigan. The sky was blue—not a cloud in sight. It was the perfect setting and the perfect day for a wedding! Please don’t misunderstand what I am about to say. I have every reason to believe this couple will thrive and survive the twists and turns of life. But that’s not true of every couple. Yes, many weddings have started with the most glorious surroundings, and yet they end in heartache and disarray. What is worse, many of those same couples call themselves Christians. However, something happens in their spiritual journey. The marriage dissolves. Possessions are divided up. Angry words are exchanged. And one wonders why these things happen? But a better question is, “What can be done to keep it from happening?

In the preceding post I told you that Hebrews 13:1 instructs us as to how to persevere until the Kingdom of Christ comes in its full glory. The writer challenged his readers to continue in “brotherly love.” More specifically we are commanded to show hospitality to strangers, and to show mercy to those living in desperate circumstances. Both commands, we learned, are acts of “brotherly kindness.” But what does “marriage” have to do with loving our Christian brothers and sisters? It seems out of place in a discussion about “brotherly love.” 

Be sure to read our text again. In the Greek text there is no verb in the first part of the verse. Rather the action is implied. We are told to “honor marriage.” A literal translation might be, “Honor the institution of marriage.” In fact, “everyone” is to do this, whether Christian or not. And then, in the second half of the verse the writer gives the reason for this command. A failure to honor the purity and holiness of marriage will mean that God will judge every fornicator and adulterer. The words are a sobering reminder that the God of grace is also a God of judgment for those who brazenly disregard His commands. While you are making note of the command and the motivation to keep the command, you will also want to remember that the writer is speaking primarily to Christians! Why did he have to speak so strongly and in terms of “warning” that we have seen throughout the letter to the Hebrews? 

The first century was not much different from our own. Sexual immorality was frowned upon by “religious people” but tolerated by the general population. In addition, Christians who were being pushed out of Jerusalem and into the Gentile world found themselves alone and discouraged. Their common despair over life “on the run” weakened their resolve to persevere. They probably reasoned, “Why shouldn’t I satisfy my sexual urges? My spouse lives in fear, and doesn’t care about my needs. No one will know if I give into sexual pleasure…just this once!” Their reasoning was irrational and unbiblical, but it was a common response then and now. That’s where verse 4 comes in. It is both a call to action and a warning. It is for all generations of God’s people. You see, ON OUR WAY TO THE KINGDOM, GOD WANTS US TO PERSEVERE IN MARITAL FAITHFULNESS.

A couple of questions come to mind. First, is the writer only warning against sexual unfaithfulness? Obviously the words he uses imply that sexual immorality is in view. But husbands and wives can defile the institution of marriage in lots of ways. They can withdraw from meaningful conversation and mutual encouragement. Couples can speak harshly to one another. In so doing they disregard the vows to “love and cherish…for better or for worse.” They can put other things ahead of the needs of a spouse, whether those needs are for a listening ear, a helping hand, OR…the need for sexual intimacy. Yes, there are lots of ways one can defile the institution of marriage. 

Second, why don’t we heed these words of warning, especially when we see the mountains of pain that accrue in every marriage that dissolves? Again, there are lots of answers, but I would like to suggest that we really don’t believe that God will judge unrepentant sexual sins. We have come to believe that God (like society in general) looks the other way. But that is not the teaching of Scripture. Yes, God is gracious and forgiving, but when we arrogantly dishonor marriage, God’s grace will be replaced by righteous, divine judgment. 

If you are a Christ-follower reading this blog, stop and notice where you are. In case you have forgotten, you are on your way to the Kingdom. You belong to King Jesus. And He wants you to persevere in remaining faithful to your spouse. He not only asks you to obey His will, but He gives you “Holy-Spirit-power” to carry it out. So instead of giving in to sexual temptation, persevere in marital faithfulness.

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