Mawwiage is what bwings us togevvah today.

But seriously.

I'd like to share with you the lyrics to a rather amusing song.

Put another log on the fire.
Cook me up some bacon and some beans
And go out to the car and change the tire.
Wash my socks and sew my ole blue jeans.
Come on, baby! You can
Fill my pipe and then go fetch my slippers
Then boil me up another pot of tea
Then put another log on the fire
And come on, tell me why you're leaving me.

Now don't I let you wash the car on Sunday?
Don't I warn you when you're getting fat?
Ain't I gonna take you fishing with me someday?
Well a man can't love a woman more than that!
And ain't I always nice to your kid sister?
Don't I take her driving every night?
So sit here at my feet, 'cause I like you and you're sweet
And you know it ain't feminine to fight.

If anyone has ever seen the muppets' rendition of this song, it begins with candace bergen slavishly obeying her husband's wishes until she can't take it any more, then ripping off her dress in favor of jeans and a T-shirt with a big female sign on it, blowing the door off its hinges and walking out. And who could blame her?

Sadly, this is the idea some people have of marriage. Others see it as a battle, others as an inconvenience, and still others as a cardinal sin. Tonight, I would like to talk about what marriage is supposed to be.

In Genesis 2, we see the first marriage.

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

From this we can draw a number of quick conclusions. Marriage is meant to be between two adults, no longer under the authority of their parents. It is meant to involve one man and one woman. It is meant to include people of the same species (we can argue about the definition of species later.) and it is meant to be a permanent, dedicated relationship.

Another thing I cannot help but notice is that there is no ceremony here. There were no vows. There was no church. There weren't even any wedding clothes. Adam and Eve simply made the decision to be married and they were. Does this mean I support young men and women shacking up together without saying their I do's? Absolutely not. As it has become tradition to formalize one's commitment, I have to question the motives of those who will not. What I am pointing out is that marriage does not begin in the chapel or in the office of the justice of the peace. It begins in the heart.

Some people look at Genesis 3:16, wherein God declares that Eve's husband shall rule over her, and say that a wife is to be treated like a slave or an animal, that she is to blindly obey every order that her husband gives her without question or complaint, no matter how terrible or laborious. This was never the intention. Marriage was created before this declaration, and it was the union of two equal partners. So what does this mean? It means that in any group, even a group of two, there has to be a leader. For example... I am from and in the United States. We have as our leader a president. Now an ancient Hebrew might have called him a king because he answers to no higher human authority, but in reality, he is our equal. He pays taxes like any other citizen. He has to obey the law. If he gets caught speeding, he gets a ticket. And if he comes into my house, he doesn not have the authority to give me a single order. But how can he be my leader if he can't order me around? He does so by organizing our nation, by planning, making strategies, bringing people together, calling for volunteers and making decisions concerning those things which we have entrusted to his care. That is the way a husband is supposed to lead. Not as a tyrant, but as first among equals. In being submissive, the wife is not supposed to be a slave or a doormat, but she is supposed to let him do his job instead of wrestling for control of the reins.

For this harmonious pairing of a dominant and submissive mate as equals to work at all, there has to be respect. Now I don't mean the kind of respect that a private shows his drill sergeant. I mean a true, loving respect that comes from the heart. That meekness that desires the best for the other rather than asserting one's own desires. Jesus demonstrated this kind of respect when He submitted to the wishes of His father. Jehovah demonstrated this respect toward Jesus by giving Him everything that He asked for, as long as it was feasable. Jesus and Jehovah demonstrate the model of a marriage toward us in this way. Submission does not mean slavery, it means placing yourself where you can do the most good, both for yourself and the one in authority. Likewise, the dominant one must show respect to the submissive. It is the husband's responsibility to care for his wife and to meet her needs. He is to provide for her and protect her and love her like his own flesh, because in a very real way, she is his own flesh. When respect is present, it creates harmony because it removes causes for fighting.

I'd like to add a little something my father shared with me. When asked if they would rather be loved and disrespected or respected and hated, most women said that they would rather be loved. When men were asked the same question, a large number were confused, because to them, the two are inseperable. Respect is love in action, and if one is to love his wife or her husband, there must be respect.

And now, I'm going to talk about something which has gotten pastors before me fired, Sex. My great Uncle Sam Scales caused a split in the church for preaching from Song of Solomon. I know a lot of us believe that sex is purely carnal and has no business in church, but as I said in a previous sermon, sex is a very, very powerful thing. It creates, alters and can even destroy life. It was created by God, is an integral part of marriage, and is part of life. If we do not take God's direction on matters of sex, we leave ourselves open to sin and harm in this area.

There are those who believe that sex for any purpose other than procreation is a sin. The bible does not say this. In fact, it encourages husbands and wives to enjoy each others' bodies. Look at what Proverbs 5 says.

18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19 A loving doe, a graceful deer-- may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.

Likewise, Paul, who had the gift of celibacy and wished everyone could enjoy singleness like he did, recognized that this was not the case, so he encouraged those without the gift to mary and engage in sex. In 1 Corinthians 7, he says...

2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

So what can we gather from this? First of all, it is okay to have sex for pleasure, as long as you're keeping it confined to yourself and your spouse. In fact, it's not only okay, it's expected, and even encouraged. Unless you have the special gift of celibacy, the actully encourages you not to abstain from sex except for a little while, lest you fall into fornication. I would add that since single people are biologically identical to married people, this applies to them as well. Enjoy yourself, but keep yourself TO yourself.

This also tells us that if you are married, your spouse has a right to your body. You, in turn, have a right to theirs, but also a responsibility to fulfil their sexual needs. A friend recently made the comment "Youd be surprised what you would do for the person who controls whether you have sex or not." While I know he was being at least half facaetious, I was a bit dismayed by this statement. Sex is an expression of love and should never, ever be used for control. It is not a reward and its absence is not an acceptable punishment. Neither should either spouse ever feel that they are doing the other one a favor.

Because it is an expression of love, it should not make either spouse uncomfortable. It's good for a husband and wife to try new things together, but one should never bug their spouse to do something they do not wish to do. Remember, it is an act of giving oneself. It should always be given, never taken.

In its proper context, sex helps to create a happier home. That proper context, of course, includes a committed, monogamous relationship full of love and respect. Children whose parents have a healthy relationship tend to be happier themselves, having a safe, stable and healthy home environment. They, in turn, learn to treat their own spouses with respect, love and commitment.

If you are married, the challenge for this week is obvious. If you're single, then keep these things in your mind and make deliberate plans to treat your spouse with love and respect. If you have a boyfriend/girlfriend, then now is the best time to start practicing respect.

For anyone who's curious, here's where you can see the song from earlier.

Today's reading: Ephesians 5:22-31
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.