The Plank… or Marriage Mayhem.. or ARRRGGGHHHH!!

As I write this, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been more burdened by a cultural conversation than I am right now. I received a text from a friend this morning asking my opinion on the swirling marriage controversy and I, though I am really not sure why, found myself feeling a definitive weight… So please walk with me through the journey of my mind as I weigh in on what seems to be the defining issue of my generation for the church.

First… I think it’s by scheming design that it’s Holy Week and this topic has grabbed everyone’s attention. The enemy wants no more than to distract from the awe that is the resurrection of Jesus, the complete substitutionary atoning work of the death and resurrection of our Risen Savior. I mean after all, who wants to be reminded of the greatest butt whooping they’ve received to date? So he wants to distract believers with the one social thing that divides, frustrates, consumes, and embitters more quickly than soft butter melts in a hot skillet. So let’s push back… because true equality is found only only at the feet of the Savior, in the redemptive work of His gospel (at least that’s what I get from Col 3:11)

So that brings me to the rest of it, and truly let me say this is an honest and open struggle, not with the biblical definition of marriage, or sin, or love. Those who know me, know that I am a rather huge fan of the Word of God. The struggle is the collision of culture and church, government and faith, hypocrisy and sanctification. So let me start with the asking of a couple of different questions I struggle with. Some of this stems from the wave of facebook profile picture shifting that I have witnessed over the last few days seeing the red = sign pop up everywhere. So to my Christian friends I have questions, a few for each side of the fence. These questions are meant to cause thought, whether introspective, or outwardly processed through discussions and comments, either way as long as we are talking honestly and openly.

To my Christian friends that are changing their profile pictures to red = signs, and declaring to stand in the camp of marriage equality:

What is the reasoning behind your stance?

Where do you stand with regards to the Bible, sin, and the rather direct way in which marriage and homosexuality are defined?

What is the church’s role in your thoughts? (for example, if the government mandates marriage for all, will it then be o.k. for the govt. to mandate that the orthodox/evangelical/Christian church perform gay weddings?)

To my Christian friends who are opposed or have changed their profile pics to something else in response:

Same first question as above (and feel free to expand on your thoughts…or in other words… don’t just say “because the bible says”)

Where does the role of church and government balance out? In other words, are we in a right place as the Christian church to say that the government should mandate a one woman-one man definition of marriage?

To anyone who is reading this that is not a believer, or perhaps is LGBT… and honest question (and in thinking about it maybe everyone should consider this):

What is it about the word “marriage”? Let’s face it, at this point the argument is over a label and certainly not an institutional definition of what it is, because the reality is those camps will forever be differentiated by a host of inputs. Basically I see a bunch of people at the center of this argument with both sides trying to scream louder than the other “IT’S THE PRINCIPLE!!!”, without anyone willing to lay down their hatchet to see what’s really going on.

I know I’m at risk here, I know that I’m at risk of hard core conservative believers saying I’ve gone liberal, and at risk of those on the other side of the argument saying I’m judgmental and un-loving (which is kind of an odd place to be considering the argument itself) but I’m willing to be at risk as I’m in process.

These words have been floating around facebook as well, a quote from Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest Ca:

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

This particular quote gives me great hope that there are those who are looking to have an honest perspective, and hopefully honest dialogue. I want to, I am longing to be involved with an open and honest dialogue that involves an actual agreeable disagreement that is founded in love, respect, and dignity (kind of like the model seen in John 8)

I’m going to speak from an honest point of view, maybe it helps maybe it doesn’t, maybe it clarifies, or maybe it’s just rambling, it’s in keeping with the “Mayem/ARRRGGHHH” part of the title. I’m in agreement with the idea that we should in no way as believers feel that we are to compromise our convictions in the center of this issue… but let’s be honest.. the sanctity of marriage issue, should really start at home.  How is it that we as the church aren’t putting forth a better model of marriage for the world to see? Why is it that the church is wrought with divorce, abuse, and other marital dysfunction? We aren’t offering a better image of marriage! It seems to me that most times the argument being made that the world is defiling the institution of marriage is the epitome of the plank in the eye. I mean we live in a world that does little to honor the actual covenant bond of marriage, where people get married on a whim, in drunken stupors, out of desperation, in complete selfishness, men and women sacrifice marriage on the altar of “ministry”, fail to serve one another, fail to cultivate dependence on Jesus rather than spouse, and so much more, all this and we have the audacity to try and tell the world it’s corrupting the institution of marriage? Ouch.  Perhaps it’s high time we realize the greatest thing the church could do for the institution of marriage, is change the face of marriage in the church! I mean, I have a tough time justifying my preaching at an unbelieving world about the “morality” they should espouse when I need to spend more effort encouraging Christians to actually adopt and practice a biblical model of gospel centered marriage.

Does this mean I deny God’s Word and condone gay marriage as cool in God’s eyes? Nope, sorry, I’m not swinging that way either. In my eyes the biblical institution of marriage is by far the best model, in fact when the biblical model of marriage is put in place and grounded in the Gospel it’s one of the most powerful cultural tools for redemption man has ever seen. The problem is, most Christians can agree with that, but then fail to realize that the government never mandated that, nor is it by any government institution that that occurs. So maybe it’s my opinion that the government can’t change the institution of marriage, any more than they can re-write the bible. Perhaps, I wonder at what point to we simply render unto Caesar and let them do what they will do. People get married without the church all the time, whether it’s Vegas or the courthouse and millions upon millions of people are legally married and don’t hold the Christian value of marriage as esteemed, other than they are “one man and one woman” and let’s face it… that alone is not the biblical definition of marriage. People are longing for something more though, something to give them them value, meaning, and really to give them a sense of satisfaction in life, and that is where we can enter the discussion in love and in truth.

When we get to the point that we can understand that one of the main roots of sin is the heart of man/woman seeking deep satisfaction, then maybe we realize the battlefield isn’t one of espousing morality, but elevating Jesus as the true means to satisfying our hearts deepest thirsts. Perhaps that’s where we get back to the real crux of the matter, That 2000 years ago God came, at just the right moment, in the flesh, lived the life I should, died a death that I deserved, and walked out of a tomb, all that I could have that satisfaction. Maybe the priority should be getting beyond the “marriage” issue and pointing out the Jesus is the better Groom and has come to redeem for Himself an undeserving bride, who is broken, imperfect, and flawed, but in whom He places beauty, perfection, and flawlessness. That’s the only solution I can see as lasting, as meaningful, or as viable for the believer… I guess I’m not sure how demanding a biblical standard be endorsed by the government helps that mission, or how the government endorsing the other side of the argument, changes or hinders that mission. AT the same time… I KNOW that walking away from, watering down, or abandoning God’s design for ourselves as believers, our marriages especially… that does hinder the mission. Anyway… there are other good reads on this matter, the guys over at The Gospel Coalition have THIS to say and it’s hard hitting and thought provoking for believers (and Biblically accurate).

The bottom line… I’m sure that this is not the end of the process for me, because, like all of us, I am continually being sanctified by the grace of God and grown in maturity, but I just want an honest, grace-filled, open discussion about a really difficult issue, I think we could all use a little more of that.

Please pray and consider your words and hearts before leaving comments or questions.

Indebted to Grace,

j-

P.S. – This is the actual bottom line.

Thoughts Occuring on My Last Day in the 30’s

So here it is… It’s my last official day as a thirty-something, and to be honest… it’s a bit odd.

The day started pretty much like any other in the Pritchard household. We arose early and charged through our morning in a flurry of coffee, oatmeal, cereal, hair-brushing, and of course the required guidance from me… then I went on to deal with the kids. Totally kidding… I had already dealt with the kids :D… Please if anyone finds me broken and bleeding anywhere, I was beaten up by the most amazing and beautiful, and of course completely Godly woman ever!

I digress… After getting my wife coffee and getting kids to school, I was off to Crossfit for one of the three weekly torture sessions I subject myself to there. I think that is where the day shifted for me. Perhaps it was the completely obvious difference in my physical ability or the aftermath of being caught looking like I was about to die after the workout, but somewhere in there I started thinking about turning 40 tomorrow (even typing that is just weird) and the lessons that I have learned in the last decade of my life, those slightly-less-than-roaring thirties (growling?) I am going to take a minute or 10 to list them out… some are deep, some are amusing (at least to me).  So if you have ever been curious as to what a guy thinks on the eve of his 40th birthday… or if you suffered a 40th birthday and were struck with senility (which I hear can happen) and can’t remember your thoughts… here are mine. Feel free to borrow.

1. The Gospel is the most important bit of information the world has ever received.

2. My wife is without doubt the coolest, most amazing, wonderful, hottest, best friend I’ve ever had.

3. Whew… I finally have an excuse for all this gray hair.

4. I can now admit I am not as quick as I used to be.

5. One can actually hang out with Jesus…it’s called abiding, and it rocks!

6. Where did this hair on my shoulders come from?

7. It’s never too late for a fresh start.

8. Is it too early to start anticipating how cool of a grandpa I’ll be?

9. Ministry is honestly not just a job… it is an adventure (take that Navy)

10. All the things I thought I had to get accomplished by now… life is just as sweet, if not sweeter, without them.

11. That is actually a bald spot starting on the top of my head.. bummer.

12. Manhood is deeply important, and not as cliche as so many people think.

13. Do I really have to start wearing Dockers and polo shirts?

14. Christian sub-culture is weird.

15. Authenticity is definitely worth living by.

16. Humility is of incredible value, and is probably the central character trait of Jesus.

17. Standing on convictions can be costly, but in the end is always worth it.

18. My relationship with my Dr. is about to change dramatically.

19. At whatever age you are, you should be mentored and mentoring someone else.

20. The most significant thing a pastor can do aside from preaching the gospel… is raise people up to perpetuate ministry. That my friends is discipleship.

21. I have never been more thankful for friendship in my life, as I am at this point.

22. Community is not a buzz word… it’s a lifestyle.

23. Talking to my own sons about puberty, sex, and so on… wasn’t bad at all

24. The Bible… freaking awesome.

25. Politics…. riiiiiiigght.

26. I can learn a lot from my children… especially my daughter, who loves to laugh.

27. I promise not to complain about weird ailments starting tomorrow.

28. I believe I am becoming the father I always wanted to have.

29. I actually like “dub step” thanks Gray, for introducing me.

30. All that I need or could ever want is given to me through Jesus and His amazing truth… everything else is just gravy! (but I am blessed to have been given a wonderful marriage to an incredible woman, four amazing kids that I am deeply proud of, a humbling and satisfying career as pastor/shepherd, truly gracious and caring friends, a roof over my head, food on my table… and who could forget the cat.)

Thanks for reading… See you on the other side!! (of 40)

j-

No… you can’t do better

So… here it is a hefty 5 days into the new year and I have another opportunity to write, so I will pounce on it with the ferocity of a starving man on a Christmas ham.  Opening wit aside, I come bearing a bit of a warning;

WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ (if you’re a guy) MAY BE IRRITATING, UNCOMFORTABLE, OR POSSIBLY CONVICTING…

but hey… at least I waited an entire 5 days into the new year before I posted something like that!  Truth be told, I have a laundry list of bloggable (?) topics I have been keeping in my phone, but given the sermon topic this weekend and the response to it, I thought this would be a great fit for the week. So… on to the meat of the matter:

I have heard in many conversations with men of varying demographics this particular statement, that pretty much grates my nerves (and possibly garners the occasional violent thought), when referring to their wives;

” I know I could have done better”.

Yep, true statement, heard it from the mouths of men and it is a stunner.  I, personally, do not get this! Better than what? Better looking? Wealthier? Better family pedigree? I’m not sure the answer to those questions from the minds of the men speaking, and I am not without understanding that some things are said in haste and with lack of forethought, but I would offer that no matter what, that kind of statement is over the line and has no place in the husband’s vocabulary.

You may be wondering why this statement bothers me so much (or of course you might be searching your closet for a blunt object with which to bludgeon these men) and I would say that that curiosity deserves an answer. This statement merits this kind of response because of its root nature; selfishness. It screams out that “my marriage is about me and what I want and what I deserve”, and that is a horrible way to walk through life and most certainly a wretched existence in marriage. I think for men that make this kind of statement (oh, it has cousins, it’s like a whole dysfunctional statement family) there is a motivation of self serving comfort, or at least a desire for it.

Now, before we get too far into this post I have to make sure that I emphasize my own selfishness and the fact that my marriage has indeed suffered for that selfishness at times, days where the “honey do” list gets the back seat to a Clint Eastwood marathon, or days I have pretended to sleep in while listening to the chaos of the house and just not wanting to engage. These things have come with cost, and at the same time have been used to refine me a bit.

And therein lies the answer… and the root of the problem. We have a perspective issue. We believe, and for the most part are culturally reared to understand, that marriage is about the joy and pleasure of self, that it is something that exists to feed us. Then we are told that if it stops feeding us, we are then cool to get divorced and move on a try again… and again… and again (having a divorce under my belt… I have indeed lived through this great delusion). We have to grow and adopt a new perspective and then fight to keep it. Marriage is not about us, it’s about the other, and it’s about God’s refining process in our lives.

So to those men I say; NO… you can’t do better! You cannot do better than a woman who calls you out of your comfort zone and demands that you be the man, husband, father,  you are called to be. Yes, she is going to need you to step up and be a man of character. Yes, she is going to need you to stand and lead your family in a Christ-like manner. Yes, she is going to need you to grow and stretch and be uncomfortable at times. She, that wonderful bride that God gave you, is a tool of His refinement in life. What an incredible gift! What could be better than that, than a woman who would cause you to rise to be more those things than you were before? Not much in my book.

Here is the kicker… Ephesians 5 gives us a clue (as does 1 Peter 3) as to the keys to marriage that works and lasts. Two key words SUBMISSION (hers) and SACRIFICE (his)… oh look how cute, hers & his matching “S” words… that paint a picture for us of what makes it happen. We men are called to live in sacrifice, not selfishness, that we would grow marriages and families that build up, and not break down. We are to be refined by our marriages, not just take from them until they are left dry and we are to pour out into our wives, that she would be presented before Christ without stain or blemish.

Recommended bible reading for this stuff- Eph 5, 1 Peter 3, Proverbs 31 (because you help enable that)

Recommended books – The Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart by Stu Weber (good character building)