The Showroom Family

October 11, 2015

Mark 10:2-16

  1. Committed in Marriage
  2. Centered on Christ

Last week my wife and I got brave. My mom was in town so we left the kids with their grandma and we headed down to that magical place called IKEA. That’s the Swedish home-goods empire that just opened up a store near Forest Park. I’m sure you got their catalog. If you haven’t been there yet, I’d suggest waiting for a few weeks until the excitement dies down, because it’s very busy.

We knew it would be busy on a Saturday only two days after the Grand Opening, but we got brave and we headed down there anyway. It was like a World Series game! Traffic was backed up. There were parking attendants waving you toward the next available spot. There must have been 30,000 people there. And they design the store so that the crowd gets kind of herded through a maze of showrooms—all sectioned off for different rooms of your house and they have it all set up so that their products look incredible.

First there’s a living room section where they put together several little living rooms—this sofa goes well with this coffee table and these pillows. Then there’s a kitchen section with several little kitchens set up. This is how your kitchen should look. This is what your bedroom should look like. This is what the kid’s room should look like. It all looks so nice in the showroom (so nice that my wife said we should just sell everything in our house and start over)! Then after you get through the all the showrooms, you get into the inventory section—a warehouse-type room where you go find the things you saw in the showroom and then proceed to checkout.

Again, it was two days after the Grand Opening, so the checkout lines were long. But what was amazing to me was that off to the left of the checkout lanes, there was the return desk. And to my surprise there was a line at the return desk! How could there be a line for returns in the store’s third day of business? And they didn’t just have the desk open as an additional checkout aisle, either. I saw people holding opened boxes with receipts in their hands. There was a line at the return desk in the store’s third day of being open.

Maybe they couldn’t figure out how to put it together or they didn’t understand the instructions. Maybe they found something else they wanted more, or they got a better deal elsewhere. Maybe when they brought it home they realized it just did not look as nice as it did in the showroom.

Return desks are kind of a phenomenon in America. Every store knows that for every 10 items they sell, one of them is coming back. Online it’s even worse. One out of every 3 items comes back.

The culture we’ve grown up in has given us a consumer mentality. Consumer mentality tells me that I have the right to be happy with whatever I buy, or else I can just exchange it. The infomercial says I can send back the Shamwow or the Magic Bullet if I’m not 100% satisfied. I can send a steak back to the kitchen if it’s too pink in the middle. I can exchange my toaster if I find a different one I like more.

Unfortunately, this consumer mentality often affects areas of our life that have a much deeper impact that the products we buy. It affects our relationships. It affects our marriages. We get this image in our mind of what the “showroom family” is. This is what your spouse should look like. This is how they should act. This is how your kids should behave. This is the standard of excellency they should achieve. Then we compare that “showroom family” to what we see in reality, and we get frustrated. That’s how some people get the idea that a spouse is a product that can be exchanged if they’re not completely satisfied. The promise “As long as we both shall live” has turned into “As long as we both shall love… or as long as we both shall like each other.”

I’m sure it’s not news to you that about half the marriages in this country end in divorce. Children are growing up having to split time between two homes. In many cases, the family unit is broken down in a way that God did not design it.

That’s the issue addressed in today’s Gospel from Mark 10. And Jesus tells us what the showroom family should like. 1) Committed in marriage and 2) Centered on Christ

1.

You’ve maybe heard the idea that the breakdown of family values is a recent development—that some decades ago was the golden age for the American family and there simply weren’t the issues that we face today. To a certain extent that’s true, at least as far as outward appearances go. Divorces didn’t happen as often. There was a general consensus that sex was only for heterosexual married couples. It was far different than the hook-up, shack-up, break-up generation of today. But we know that God expects much more than outward morality, and the underlying cause for troubled marriages—the sinful heart—was still very much at war with God’s will in the “Leave it to Beaver” generation. We’ve had that since the fall of Adam and Eve, the first husband and wife.

The moment that the match literally made in heaven fell into sin, godly family values immediately began to break down. The couple that walked in perfect harmony and love—we even heard Adam gushing about Eve in our first lesson!—soon began arguing and blaming each other for their problems. Their hearts were no longer filled with a love for God and for one another, but with temptation and bitterness. The image of God was lost. The perfect marriage was corrupted. Then they had a son, named Seth, and the Bible tells us Seth was not born in the image of God but in the image of Adam. He was sinful just like his father. And this sinful nature has affected the whole human race after that.

So it’s no surprise, then, that even in Jesus’ time, he was face with the question of broken marriage.

2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

Seems like a fair question, right? Maybe these experts on the law wanted to know what such a righteous and wise teacher would have to say on the subject. But look closely at what Mark writes here. “They tested him.” It was a trick question designed to trap Jesus into saying something against God’s Word. If he said “Yes,” he’d be softening God’s decree in Malachi 2 where he said, “I hate divorce.” If he said “No,” he’d be (in their minds) contradicting a legislation that Moses wrote.

3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied. 4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.

The Pharisees were asking the wrong question. They quoted what Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 24, but interpreted it in their typical legalistic and self-serving fashion.

Here’s the verse in question: If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her [he may write her a certificate of divorce]. Well, what does “something indecent mean?” It’s obvious from what God tells us elsewhere in the Bible that refers specifically to adultery or unfaithfulness. But there was a famous Rabbi in Jesus’ time, his name was Shammai, who said, “That could really be anything the husband doesn’t like about his wife.” Even, and I’m not kidding about this, these are the things which could constitute “something indecent:” “going about with loose hair, spinning in the street, familiarly talking with men, ill-treating her husband’s parents in his presence, brawling, speaking to her husband so loudly that the neighbors could hear her in the adjoining house, or burning his supper.” On the other hand, the wife could insist on divorcing her husband if he “were affected with leprosy, or engaged in a disagreeable or dirty trade, such as that of a tanner or coppersmith.” In other words, if he got sick or she didn’t like his job, she could ask for a divorce.

The alarming frequency and ease of which to obtain a divorce suggests this culture had a bit of that “consumer mentality.” I have the right to be %100 satisfied with my spouse. They tried to take Moses’ words as permission to exchange the product they were dissatisfied with, when that wasn’t Moses’ purpose at all. In no way did Moses, or God, approve of or encourage divorce. But God understood that even among his people Israel, sinful hardened hearts would ruin his gift of marriage, so this rule was set in place as “damage control.” He sought to limit the amount of harm done when people inevitably ignore God’s plan for families.

Jesus pointed them to the underlying issue: “Your hearts were hard. You ruined it.” Now listen to what God really intends for marriage:

6 But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’”

Now Jesus shows us the first component of the showroom family—a committed marriage. Whether you are married, single, divorced, widowed or remarried, it’s important for you to know what God has to say about marriage. Jesus goes straight to our Old Testament lesson for today from Genesis 2—the institution and definition of marriage: one man, one woman. They leave the families they grew up in to start a new family. This new family acts as one unit. Husbands will lead and love. Wives will support and honor. And this family will not be separated until God calls one of the two spouses home to be with him. The only person who has the right to end marriage is God. This is what a strong marriage looks like.

It looks so simple on the pages of Scripture, but it is oh so difficult in practice. Why? Because the biggest threat to biblical marriage, our sinful heart, always tries to run from what God says. That’s why we end up saying mean things to our spouses that would get us fired if we said them to a coworker. That’s why we spend so many late nights in tears. That’s why it’s so difficult to achieve the kind of marriage that fits the showroom of our imagination.

Because hearts are so hardened in sin, husbands and wives start wondering if it’s time to return the product, as if they can take their marriage down to the return desk and say, “I’d like a new one please.” “Yeah I took it home and I just couldn’t figure out how to put it together. I didn’t understand the instructions.” “I found another one I like better.” “My marriage just doesn’t look like it did in the showroom.”

And they’ll reach for every reason to try to justify it. “He doesn’t understand my emotional needs.” “She’s always nagging me about spending time together.” “We just aren’t the same people we were when we got married. We were so young!” “I’m just not happy with my spouse. And God wants me to be happy, right?”

Return to the words of Jesus:

‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’”

Because marriage is a lifelong commitment, some people feel stuck with spouse they’ve become unsatisfied with. If you feel like you’ve lost the showroom marriage, that’s the wrong attitude. Don’t feel stuck. If that’s your attitude, things are never going to get better.

A God-pleasing marital relationship begins with recognizing and admitting that you, yourself, do not belong anywhere near God’s showroom. Because of sin, you’re broken. You’re damaged goods. Yet Jesus still bought you; not for $39.95, but with his blood. He committed his life to you. He committed his death to you. He rose from the dead to seal your place with him in heaven.

He did the same thing for your spouse.

That’s why we can look past the flaws in our husbands and wives as we see them as redeemed children of God. That’s why we can commit to them and love them and serve them—just as Jesus did for us, and just as we do for Jesus.

2.

The showroom family begins with a committed marriage. Now Jesus is going to lead us into the next component. The showroom family is centered on Christ. Immediately after the episode with the Pharisees, Mark goes on to write in verse 13:

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Somehow the disciples got the impression that Jesus had no time for children; that the Son of God had more important things to do with his time here on Earth.

It was foolish for the disciples to think that Jesus came for some, and not for others. Hasn’t this been his message all along? Weren’t they the ones who were once looked down on by the “religious elite” when Jesus chose to eat with them instead of the Pharisees? Why would they now suppose that children were unworthy of Jesus’ attention?

Jesus responds with admonition, “Let the little children come to me. I did not come for one class of people, but to show my love for all souls of all time—young and old—whether they are still in the womb or on their death bed. I am here to show my love to each of them. So let the little children come to me.”

Parents, are you like those disciples? Do you hinder your children from coming to Jesus, or do you focus your family on him? The responsibility falls on you to let your children come to Jesus.

There are two areas of your life as a parent where you can bring your child to Jesus. The first is in your home life, the second is at church. At home you have the opportunity to let your light shine by how you conduct yourself. Considering that children imitate their parents in just about everything, do you have the kind of habits you want your children to form? Do you use the kind of language you want your children to use? Do you watch the kind of movies or television do you want your children to watch?

Imagine the impact on your daughter if she sees you praying. Imagine the impact you could have on your son if he sees you opening the Bible and reading it before breakfast every morning. Lead by example.

And lead them also into God’s Word by telling them Bible stories. Have daily devotions with them at the dinner table. Teach them to say their prayers as you tuck them in. These are all things you can do at home to bring your children to Jesus.

The other place children are exposed to Jesus is at church. They’re never too young to come along. If you’re worried about how the kids behave in church, don’t ever feel like they’re unwelcome here. The Holy Spirit can work faith in the hearts of infants just as easily as he created faith in your heart. In fact, the Bible tells us that our faith should be what? Childlike. Jesus says here, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Children are embrace that “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” That’s the kind of love we teach them here at Good Shepherd—through the hymns we sing, through the Scripture we read, through the sermons we preach, through the Sunday school lessons we teach.

Parents always want their kids to have the best. “I have to get the newest Baby Einstein DVD’s, the best tablet apps that teach kids about shapes and colors. I have to enroll them early in youth sports. I have to get them in piano lessons early. After all, I don’t want them to fall behind, do I?”

There’s nothing wrong with those things, but how much more important is it to teach these children the love of Jesus, who gave his life for them so they could live forever in heaven? How much more important is it to focus the family on Jesus?

That’s how a showroom family works. No marriage or family is going to be perfect. Our sinful hearts will always find a way to mess it up. But that image of God that was lost in the fall is being restored to you through faith in Christ. The marriage that Adam and Eve enjoyed can be achieved through the gospel. The forgiveness that comes from Christ frees us to strive to build a committed marriage and to focus the family on Jesus. Amen.