A Wedding Sermon: Outdo
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.* 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
So, I know, Bryan and Molly, that you’re competitive, but this is a little much, OK?
Did you really have to win the award for being married on the hottest day in May?
In all honesty, of course, I know you both are quite competitive spirits, and that’s what draws you to one another in love. You love the spirit in the other person, the spark, the fire, and the drive that comes from that.
And Paul in this chapter of Romans is speaking directly to that here. Did you hear it? “Love one another with mutual affection,” he says, but then he takes it one step farther and I think you’ll like this, “outdo one another in showing honor.”
So, for the next 60 or so years, your competition then is to outdo the other in showing honor. Honor to your spouse, honor to God, honor to this new thing that you’re embarking on here called marriage.
And that is no easy task, mind you. What in just a few moments you’re going to pledge yourself to the other in a totally radical way; in a way that will be joyous and try you in new ways. Paul speaks of that, too. “Rejoice in hope,” he says. And we’re doing that now, rejoicing in the hope that starts today, the hope that we have for your love, for your relationship, and for the lives you touch.
But Paul goes on, and here is where it gets rocky.
“Be patient in suffering.” Now, of course, in a marriage we’re not talking about physical suffering, although there will be times when you, Molly, will be patient with Bryan as he suffers from illness; and you, Bryan, will be patient with Molly in the same way. That’s the whole “for worse” part of the wedding vows.
But there will be other “suffering” moments of sort in your marriage. Like when Bryan doesn’t empty the dishwasher like you asked, Molly. Or when Molly leaves her curling iron on and you burn your hand while you’re brushing your teeth, Bryan.
And don’t be fooled, those moments need much patience, too.
And we get that patience, many times, be going with Paul’s next advice: persevere in prayer. Because, in all honesty, we give thanks that while he didn’t empty the dishwasher when you wanted to, he loves you, and we say a prayer of thanks. And we give thanks that while she didn’t turn the curling iron off, we have the privilege of sharing a life together, and we say a quick prayer of thanks…before unplugging the iron.
That’s a fire hazard, you know.
But Paul’s advice goes one step further, and this is a true testament of love. Paul says, “extend hospitality to strangers.” And this is important to remember because, while you think you know someone, you don’t really know them until you live together. And you make wake up one day and think to yourself, “who are you and why are you in my house?”
Being completely serious.
We change overtime; all of us. The people we are today are not the people we are in twenty years. And so our love must grow, and adapt, and make space for the people we are going to become. We must welcome the stranger of twenty years into our lives, just as we’re welcoming each other today.
And this, Molly and Bryan, is what it means to love and honor one another in a marriage. It’s not about butterflies and kisses, although you certainly should and will have those. It’s about opening your life up to the possibility that someone else will enjoy you as much as you enjoy yourself…and that you’ll enjoy another life even more than you enjoy yourself.
It’s about hope, and patience, and hospitality to the stranger, and of course, prayer.
So, Bryan and Molly, that’s your assignment for the next 60 years. Outdo one another in hope, and patience, and hospitality, and prayer.
And consider don’t consider the vows the starting point, because then Bryan will get a head start. Instead, consider the blessing the starting point, the blessing of a God who has taught you how to hope, who has unending patience, who welcomes all, and who is worth our prayers.