Marriage is just a piece of paper? I hear statements like this often: “Marriage is more than a piece of paper. It takes trust, loyalty, love, faithfulness . . . .” So why get married? Of course a good marriage takes all those qualities and more, but is that the best way to think about this relationship? Is your birth certificate “just a piece of paper?” Is a car title “just a piece of paper?” Is your driver’s license “just a piece of paper?” Is your 1040 “just a piece of paper?” Are death certificates “just pieces of paper?” No, they are much more, and so is a marriage certificate. One can drive without a license, you can be alive without a birth certificate, and of course you can be dead without a death certificate. Yet all of those “pieces of paper” are helpful, useful, and in some cases, absolutely necessary for transactions and transitions.
It used to be (and still should be) that a wedding was the solemnization of vows “in the presence of God and the company of witnesses.” It publicized, solemnized, and legalized a relationship. It was a line in the sand, a post along life’s pathway saying officially, “two have become one” (Genesis 2:20). All of this was (and still is) good for human flourishing. Marriages should keep people together who ought to stay together even when things are going poorly. It can be security for offspring in these relationships. It should be a reminder of a promise made. It can be protection for people when things go wrong. Marriage certificates give the spouse rights. In life, death and “divorce,” unmarried couples don’t usually have this protection unless they draw up legal documents. The written covenant, which is an expression of a verbal covenant, gives both goals to strive for. You agree to love, honor and cherish each other in good times and bad times; in sickness and in health; whether rich or poor; until death do you part. It helps to completely define the relationship.
A good marriage takes love, trust, loyalty, commitment, sacrifice and more. In some ways, it can’t be reduced to mere paper. But, there are compelling reasons for those who commit, who covenant to co-habit for a lifetime to solemnize these relationships with marriage. It isn’t mere paper. This “mere paper” that represented in marriage is security, it is public commitment between two people, it is a promise to keep, it is a goal to work for, and frequently, a document to protect rights.
Some Christians/people take offense when none is intended.
If I am offended, I have responsibility, Matthew 18:15-18.
- I can either deal with the offense biblically, or
- Let love cover it, believing the best about people, see below, Proverbs10:12.
If I am easily offended, I may be ultimately selfish and not loving in some areas of my life.
- 1 Cor 13:4, 5 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful . . .
If I easily get my feelings hurt, I may be defective in my view of ministry, i.e., I am not very Christ-like. I think my “feelings” and interests are more important than those of others.
- Phil 2:3-4 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
If I am offended, my response to offense is always wrong if it 1) seeks revenge or, 2) seethes in resentment.
1. Destroys, acts to condemn, seeks revenge, Romans12: 17, 19; 1 Peter 3:9
2. Endures, Eph 4:26,27; Lev 19:18 “bears a grudge,” seethes in resentment;Psalm 37:1ff
If I am easily offended, I am usually proud.
- Proud people usually struggle a great deal with correction or criticism. They presume themselves to be right. Often they cannot bear that someone else has found an area where growth is necessary or a fault that may need corrected, Proverbs 13:1, 1 Peter 5:5.
If I am easily offended, I may not be teachable or correctable.
- Proverbs 19:20; John 9:13-34
If I am easily offended, I am likely not very open to biblical teaching
God’s word offends, 2 Tim 3:16.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof (this is offensive), for correction, and for training in righteousness.
Jesus offended people–that is a shock to many.
- . . .his sayings are often hard because they run counter to well-entrenched presuppositions and traditional assumptions of life and human relations. . . . But the Jesus whom we meet in the Gospels, far from being an inoffensive person, gave offense right and left. Even his loyal followers found him, at times, thoroughly disconcerting. He upset all established notions of religious propriety. He spoke of God in terms of intimacy which sounded like blasphemy. He seemed to enjoy the most questionable company. He set out with open eyes on a road which, in the view of ‘sensible’ people, was bound to lead to disaster,John 6:60-69.
People easily offended, especially when no offense is intended, usually need to repent of their pride, selfishness, and lack of love. They need to develop the same attitude as Jesus Christ, Phil 2:5.
 F. F.Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, pp.14, 15.
The story of Jesus clearing the temple (John 2:13ff) is used as justification for the rioting, looting and destruction of property going on today. I do not intend to be argumentative. I do intend to shed light on a misused passages of Scripture. Take a minute to read this:
1) According to F.F. Bruce, biblical NT scholar, “Northwest of the temple area stood the fortress of Antonia . . .garrisoned by a cohort of Roman troops under the command of a military tribune, (According to Josephus, Jewish Wars 5.8).” The fortress was connected to the outer court of the temple by two flights of steps, so that a garrison might intervene as quickly as possible in the event of rioting.” In Acts 21:31ff we see centurions (plural, at least 200 soldiers) sent in to save Paul’s life in the Jerusalem Temple [same place Jesus overturned the tables].
2) This fortress existed in the in the days of Christ, so whatever happened in John 2:13ff was not considered violent in nature because the garrison did NOT spring into action. No lives were lost and no permanent damage was caused, and no garrisons were called to quell the action. In the eyes of the garrison, and in the eyes of the money changers at the temple, what he did was not worthy of garrison intervention. I should add that the event left a lasting impression on Christ’s disciples (John 2:17), but it was far from a riot!
Is there any reason to obey God when your obedience won’t change an undesirable outcome into a more desirable one? What if God told you, “Nothing you do, no obedience of any kind will change an undesirable outcome into a more desirable outcome?” Would you still do right? Well, that is exactly what happened to Josiah in 2 Kings 22:16, 17. The prophetess Huldah told him that disaster would come no matter what. Yet, Josiah continued with the most extensive reforms Judah had ever known (2 Kings 23:1-25). Verse 25 says: Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.
Yet, the next verse states: Nevertheless, the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him to anger.
Josiah does right, and nothing changes. So why would anyone serve a God like that? Maybe because they love him for who he is and what he has already done in history past. Maybe because the Spirit of God has put in their heart a desire to see God pleased in spite of the outcome. If you are obedient for what you can get out of it, then ultimately you are not being obedient because you love and worship a God who is totally worthy of your worship. What you are trying to do is manipulate God into doing what you want him to do. You are not interested in obedience, you are interested in yourself, you are at the center of your universe, and you are hoping, praying that God would give you your selfish desires by means of a divine bargain. “I’ll obey you God, IF you bless me.” People like that fail to see that the blessing is in the doing, the satisfaction of knowing their creator is pleased with their behavior.
I confess that to one who isn’t born again, and probably too many who would claim to be, all of this seems like nonsense. Yet along with the Psalmist, the believer can say, “You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing,” Psalm 16:2
Do you love the gifts or the giver? The blessings or the blesser? The creator or the creation? Sometimes God will take away his gifts, his rewards, his response to your “desired outcome” for your obedience to remind you that it isn’t about the gifts, it is about enjoying the giver. On occasion, God removes the blessings so you can be prompted to delight in the blesser himself. The creator will sometimes spoil the pleasures of his creation for his children so that they won’t become ignorant idol worshippers and live like pagans who “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator,” Romans 1:25.
So if life is difficult for you, if it seems like you have been obedient with no result, remember that you are thinking like an unbeliever. Ask God to help you enjoy him and find joy as you gain a right perspective on himself. See also Psalm 73.