Weddings Are Easy But Marriage Fellowship Takes Time
My wife and I “tied” the knot 30 years ago this year. It’s interesting to look back on the occasions and realize that while I thought I was “old” – I was 28 then – from my vantage point now, I was still a youngster in many ways.
On the day of our wedding, my bride and I stood before nearly 500 people and participated in a ceremony designed to make us officially husband and wife. We stood there and as part of the ceremony, recited our vows that promised certain things to one another. One of the things we promised is that divorce was simply not an option (“til death do we part”). We promised also to love and cherish one another above all others.
Following the marriage ceremony, my new wife and I signed our names to the marriage license/certificate so that as far as the state of California was concerned, all the t’s were crossed and i’s dotted. It was official. We were then officially husband and wife.
That was really the easy part even though there was a great amount of work, planning, and money that went into that one relatively short marriage ceremony. Without the ceremony, we were not officially married.
Just prior to walking down the aisle together as a married couple, the minister in charge of the ceremony introduced us to those gathered for the first time as Mr. and Mrs. Fred DeRuvo. It was a bit weird. Here was this woman I had chosen to spend the remaining part of my life with and she with me.
But in reality, though we were now married, the hard part began. When I say the “hard” part, I’m referring to the part that takes place following the ceremony and is supposed to last until at least one partner dies. I’m talking about the actual marriage. Sadly, over 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. That means that just over 1 out of 2 marriage unions end with the two people, who at one point stated their undying love for one another, walking away from each other. Whether it’s the dreaded “irreconcilable differences” or something else, the truth is that people are not working on making their marriages a success and working is the operative word.
There is no magic in making a marriage work at all. It doesn’t accidentally happen. It happens because two people are willing to work at it and continue working at it because that’s what they promised to do. So why do marriages fail? For many reasons obviously, but the most obvious is because one or both parties either fails to pursue the other in fellowship or because, while they might pursue one another in fellowship early on, they fail to continue pursing fellowship as time goes by.
As I say, the wedding is really the easy part, but the marriage itself takes a good amount of constant work, work that, over time, becomes more easy to fulfill. In the end, for the couple who remains together and continues to grow toward one another, finds it much easier to stay together because they have grown in fellowship with their partner. This is not only true of course of marriages, but any real friendship that two people might share. No relationship can last without the constant pursuit of fellowship.
For the longest time, I have had such a difficult time understanding phrases like “in Christ,” “abide in Him,” and others like these. They always confused me because they seemed to say that it was my goal to remain “in Christ,” which is often taken to reference our salvation. As long as we are “in Christ,” we continue to have salvation. When we stop being “in Christ,” we are in danger of losing salvation.
Yet, I know that this is not what the Bible teaches. Salvation cannot be lost. If it can be lost, then it is something we can earn to some degree. Salvation is a gift by God to us. If so, then what kind of gift would it be if God could take it back? Moreover, what does that say of God if we – as Christians – could actually and totally walk away from God, rejecting the salvation that we’ve received from Him? How is it possible that we could be strong enough to remove ourselves from His hand when He clearly tells us that nothing has the power to do this? I realize I’m not going to settle the debate and that’s fine. People will have to come to their own conclusions about what the Bible actually teaches.
It makes far better sense to understand the many times that Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, John and others urge us onward in our “walk” with Christ not in terms of potentially losing our salvation, but in losing fellowship with God. If we understood it this way, I firmly believe so much more of the Bible would come into focus for us. Instead, we are constantly trying to “marry” or bridge what appears to be a gap or even a contradiction in various portions of Scripture.
Once my wife and I married, we had a choice. The choice was really twofold. We could either work on drawing close to one another in fellowship on a daily basis or we could simply live with the expectation that now that we were married, everything would simply work out well. Clearly, the second option is what guides at least 50% of the marriages in America. Things don’t work out all by themselves. People need to work at them.
I started playing drums when I was 10 years-old. Now, five decades later, while I’m not the best drummer that ever lived, I’m certainly much better than I was when I began playing. Why is that? It’s simply because I took the time to work at becoming better as a drummer. I practiced sometimes for hours a day. However, there were times when I was “out of fellowship” with my drums and I ignored them for days or even weeks at a time. Once I started practicing again, while I might have been a bit rusty, I picked it up quickly and pushed myself onto the next level.
Today, there are multitudes of drummers who have far exceeded my playing ability. Why is that? Because they practiced their drums for six to eight hours each day or more. You cannot help but become very accomplished over time. The more a person applies themselves to anything, the better they will become at that particular thing, whatever it is.
Relationships, more than any other issue, require our emotional involvement and promised commitment. They cannot survive unless people are willing to put in the time, the energy, and the effort to make a relationship work. Granted, some relationships are easier than others, but all require work to some degree. A relationship cannot last on its own without effort. It is that simple. The divorce rate in America proves it and unfortunately, Christian marriages are included in that percentile.
Set aside marriage for a moment and just consider a friendship. Think of someone you consider to be your best friend. Why are they that? What has made them that? What kind of work or effort have you put forth to keep the relationship alive and growing?
But see, for Christians where Jesus is concerned, we have completely different expectations. We think of our relationship with Jesus in ethereal (spiritual) terms. Because of this, often we tend to be in a state of flux. We aren’t sure about our Christianity. We do not know why we “feel” the highs and lows. Sometimes, it can be so bad that we even question our salvation. Why is this?
It exists because Jesus is not physically present with us today. We cannot hear His voice. We cannot see his facial expressions or measure His body language. We cannot simply look at Him and take Him in as we might do with a really good friend or spouse. Though He is with us, He is not physically with us and that leaves us open to completely misinterpreting signals that we might think we “receive.”
We will get more into this in a few upcoming articles. But I would like to clearly point out that I am not an expert. I am learning as I go just like you are and just like we all do in any relationship. As my wife and I have been together for 30 years, I can truthfully say that I know her better now than I did 30 years ago, though I certainly thought I knew her pretty well then. I didn’t. I would also hasten to say that I am not disappointed with my wife. She’s a wonderful woman who seems to delight in me and I’m not sure why, quite frankly. She loves me and even likes me and I am thoroughly grateful for her love and devotion. She gives me plenty of reasons to treat her as I believe God would have me do.
We need to greatly understand that having salvation is not the same as experiencing fellowship with God. Fellowship is made possible only because we have salvation but it is no guarantee that it will exist anymore than fellowship is guaranteed to exist with our spouse just because we have had a wedding.
A Christian cannot lose salvation. By the same token, having salvation does not guarantee fellowship. Fellowship is the ongoing relationship we pursue (or not) with God in Christ. Salvation changes our legal standing before God from unrighteous to righteous. That will never change back to unrighteous even if we live unrighteously until we die. It is forever, this new standing we have in Christ because of salvation. It also opens the door to the potential of fellowship with Him. That is what we must pursue and I am convinced that our self-doubts, self-condemnation, questions about our salvation, feelings of inadequacy and everything else are all related to this one area – fellowship. Satan has convinced us to question our salvation instead of our fellowship.
We need to focus on the existence and strength of our fellowship because our salvation remains as it is in full measure from the time we receive it until eternity future. It will never change and will never be taken from us. Fellowship, on the other hand, is something that can change, can be broken, and can even be removed from us based on how we live our life.
We need to thoroughly explore this and we will do so as time progresses. Join me in future installments.
Entry filed under: christianity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: abide in christ, fellowship, in christ, marriage, salvation.