The new TV show, Marriage Ref, is on the surface a light-hearted look at marriage. If you haven’t seen it, the show videotapes married couples having fights and then a celebrity panel makes jokes about the couples and their disagreements. Then they make their recommendations to the marriage “ref” who emcees the show. Finally, the “ref” makes the final recommendation or judgment concerning the couple. I am all for comedic approaches to marriage—and they make me feel better about my marriage and myself.
This show gives me a sense of superiority by convincing me to say to myself, Boy! Am I glad my marriage is a whole lot better than those marriages!”
However, I also realize this show communicates messages that run counter to my journey as a Christian. Jerry Seinfeld, the producer of the show, just celebrated ten years of marriage, an eternity by Hollywood’s standards. He believes he has a “sense of mission” to share with America the secret to marriage: “Your marriage is fine— we’re all [fighting].”
Please join me today as we evaluate Jerry’s secret.
Mark Benish is today’s guest blogger. He’s graduating this May with a Master’s in Counseling from Denver Seminary. Thanks Mark, for your contribution to today’s blog.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Deuteronomy 1. After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the Israelites are about to enter into the Promised Land. Moses, who will not be joining them, is giving the people their final instructions before entering.
Moses begins by reminding the people of the covenant that God entered into with them through Abraham. He proved his faithfulness in doing what he promised to Abraham and Moses. They’ll still face difficulties, but knowing that God is faithful and ever-present with them should give them strength.
The final leg of their journey is more than 100 miles over an almost waterless and dusty plateau. The prospect of the Promised Land, with its abundance of milk and honey, must have seemed very distant. Yet the people persevered and obediently followed God’s direction.
Luke 5:29-6:11. The word for “complained” in Luke 5:30 shares the same meaning as the word for “grumbling” in Deuteronomy 1:27. Rather than offering a minor complaint, the Pharisees were grumbling against God. Their issue concerned table fellowship, which was a sign of mutual acceptance. The Pharisees definitely thought of themselves as better than tax collectors who were the lowest of the low on the social ladder.
Fasting, discussed in 5:33-39, was a serious expression of worship and was practiced during numerous Jewish festivals. Every Monday and Thursday, the Pharisees resolutely practiced this spiritual discipline. When Jesus compared a fast with an impending wedding (see verses 34-35), the religious leaders understood that he was referring to God’s relationship with his people. Jesus was saying to the Pharisees, “I am God.”
Through his subsequent parables, he proclaimed a new way for the spiritual life. New cloth on old will tear away from the old as soon as it is washed. Simply putting a patch on the old ways won’t work.
In the same way, Jesus’ listeners would have understood immediately what happens when you pour new wine into old wineskins—the new wine will ferment and split the skin. Similarly, trying to force this new way into the old way of doing things will not work.
In verse 39, he says, “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’ ” Jesus is probably saying that he knows there are some, the ones who have practiced the old ways, who will not accept him and who will continue in their old ways.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Moses gives much better advice than Jerry Seinfeld about where to turn when facing problems—in marriage or in life. We need to look at our history and remember everything that God has already done in our lives. Moses reminds us to remain obedient to God, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable issues, even when the Promised Land, the blessings, seem far away and unattainable. God will bless you if you remain faithful and follow his lead.
Moses modeled this to us. Because he kept his focus on God’s power and faithfulness, he kept his problems in perspective. The people repeatedly focused on what seemed impossible and turned to go their way, which brought them impoverishment. When they returned to God, they experienced his blessings.
Similarly, Jesus shows us God’s way, which differs greatly from the world’s way. All of us should be different from people who follow their own way. Jesus said that he came for those who recognize their need and who are willing to repent of the old ways of life. His way is not the way of rules and doing it your way. His way is the way of love—loving God and loving others as yourself. Come, repent of your ways and learn his way.
Not everyone in marriage is fighting as Seinfeld claims. He is showing how to do it your own way. Our readings, today, call us to turn, not to others who are doing it wrong, but to Jesus, the one who can show us the way of love, the way of loving God and others.
- How are the complaints of the Pharisees and teachers of the law similar or different from the people in Deuteronomy? From us today?
- How has God helped you in the past?
- What principles for wise living do these passages give us?
- The next time you are facing problems or conflicts, should you handle the situation differently? If so, how?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.