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Silver Wedding Anniversary Address

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1 Corinthians
13

The happy couple had just been married in the church. They
were posing outside for photographs. Happy couple with the best man. Happy
couple with bridesmaids. Happy couple with his parents. Happy couple with her
parents. With his friends. With her friends. With hangers-on and people who
didn’t fit any other category.

The photographer rushed back to the evening reception,
hoping to sell some photos there. But there was one problem. Behind the bride
and groom in every picture was the church notice board. It had a Bible verse on
it: ‘Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’

I’m sure that twenty-five years ago, Jim and Joan did know
what they were doing! Although if they didn’t, they’ve managed to bluff the
rest of us pretty well! And as we’ve heard those famous words from 1
Corinthians 13 about love, the first thing I want us to think about is that
lasting love requires forgiveness. Love ‘bears all things’, says Paul (verse
7).

The old film Love
Story
had the tag line, ‘Love means not having to say you’re sorry’. What
rubbish. Love lives and dies by whether we say sorry, and whether the injured
party says, ‘I forgive you.’

True forgiveness, however, never says, ‘I forgive you, it was nothing.’ We need to forgive
because it was something, not nothing. We forgive by absorbing pain and
suffering ourselves that we do not deserve to. Like when we forgive a debt, we
absorb a cost that is not rightly ours. Like Jesus forgiving the sins of the
world, dying a death on a Cross that he did not deserve.

In love, it is true that often we hurt those we love the
most. So forgiveness is essential. Jim and Joan will not have come to a silver
wedding without having forgiven each other a lot, and receiving that
forgiveness.

On to a second aspect of love. It has been said that the
bride has a three-part plan for her wedding day and her marriage:
aisle-altar-hymn. Yes, it’s a triple pun. I’ll alter him. But love that depends
on people changing is no love at all. Love is unconditional. Love doesn’t
attach strings. Married love is about two imperfect people coming together and
accepting one another’s frailties. If our giving of love is dependent upon our
loved one changing, then it changes love from a relationship to a performance.
Love becomes unattainable, because only perfection will do. Conditional love is
love without forgiveness. That’s why it’s no love at all.

Of course, this is not to say that we shouldn’t want to
change for the sake of the one who loves us. We should. But the motive is not
to do it in order that our spouse
will love us; we seek to change because
our spouse loves us. When we know we are loved, we want to change. Love is the
greatest motivation for transformation. It is far more effective than
condemnation.

A third and final point about Christian love. When I prepare
couples for marriage, I sometimes ask them what they think they are going to
say in their vows. Often, they reply, ‘I do.’ I then explain – to their
surprise – that only one person in our marriage service says, ‘I do’, and that’s
the father of the bride. Even he might really be saying, ‘Take her – please!’

However, the bride and groom don’t say ‘I do.’ Maybe in
other traditions, but not in ours. They say, ‘I will.’ And they say ‘I will’ for an important reason. They are
making a promise.

Sometimes, loving someone will be a case of ‘I will’ rather
than ‘I do’. It’s great when love is measured in emotions and hormones. In those
circumstances, keeping our promise of commitment is easy. But the feelings and
chemicals are not reliable barometers of love. They ebb and flow. Real love
requires a commitment that remains, whether we feel like it or not. We say, ‘I
will’ in a marriage, because sometimes it requires an act of will to love
someone. I will love you even when I do not feel like it.

Again, it’s the kind of love Jesus demonstrated. In the Garden
of Gethsemane, he asked if it were possible to be spared the cup of suffering. It
wasn’t. He went to the suffering of the Cross out of committed love to the
human race.

I’ve heard it said that it isn’t love that keeps your
marriage together, it’s marriage that keeps your love together. It’s the
commitment, the ‘I will’ approach to the relationship.

Today, Jim and Joan, we celebrate your committed love
through smooth passages and choppy seas. At the heart of it, we thank God for
the love of your Saviour and ours, whose commitment we seek to emulate, whose
unconditional love is our pattern for life and whose forgiveness is the pathway
to life.

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About Dave Faulkner

I'm a British Methodist minister, married with two children. I blog from a moderate evangelical-missional-charismatic perspective, with an interest in the 'missional' approach. My interests include Web 2.0, digital photography, contemporary music and watching football (Tottenham Hotspur) and cricket.

Posted on July 12, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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