This past weekend Rebekah and I had these two rings cleaned and polished. Beautiful, huh? They date from 1947, when Rebekah’s parents (Robert Alexander and Nell Perkins) exchanged them the day they were married in rural Georgia.
The beautiful rings survived fifty-plus years of faithful commitment and practiced love, the raising of five children, untold amounts of hard work, and the various (and often challenging) faith communities where the Alexanders were called to serve.
This next summer – some sixty-six years down the road – our son Andrew and his fiance, Alicia, plan to use those same, slender, bands of gold as a sign of their love and a seal for their wedding vows.
“Very nice,” you may think, “but what does this heartwarming story have to do with anything going on in this world today?”
Symbols of commitment to the ideal
Here it is: The point of a marriage is more than the particular happiness of the moment (although a good marriage is full to overflowing with happy moments), but the commitment to something larger than even the two people involved. When marriages work, the benefits extend to the “institution” of marriage and serve to strengthen the entire community.
Individual marriages serve witness to the theological truth that faithful love is larger than any one relationship.
Marriage works, in other words, not just because two individuals do everything they can to make their relationship succeed, but also because theidea of marriage is valued and supported and celebrated as a critical thread in the fabric of our culture.
Consequently, when so many commitments fail and the unknotted ends come loose, we all unravel to some extent, because – in a way – we’re all holding on to the same thread.
Eugene Peterson, in his paraphrasing of 1 Corinthians 13, makes this awesome observation: “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” The passage goes on to define the quality of love that holds relationships together -
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.
AMERICA: Similarly, our relationship to the foundational principles that make America tick is a lot like a difficult marriage. The Democrats say they love America, the Republicans say they love America, the Independents say they love America, we all insist that we love America – and the people we have elected to Congress solemnly swear to uphold and defend The Constitution of these United States.
However, the more these same politicians chip away at each other, blast away at each other, seek to demolish each other, sabotage the other party, try to break up the relationship that other politicians have with the American people (in other words, act contrary to the ideals of 1 Corinthians 13)… then the more the whole idea of America is at risk of becoming unravelled because – in the end – we’re all holding on to the same thread.
When you try that hard to destroy your opponent, what you’re really doing is weakening the foundation that we all stand on.
A GRAND IDEA: So how about doing all we can to support one another, instead? How would that play on Capitol Hill? Seriously, it’s a grand idea! Because, when we work to strengthen one-another, then what we’re really doing is working to strengthen America.
How about we work together?
These mean-spirited, angry, truth-twisting folk seem to have forgotten that what they were sent to Washington to do was to keep America strong. And the best way to do that, I believe, is to build one-another up, to put the needs of the country ahead of our own desire for personal power, and to remember that, when it comes to civil war, nobody wins without first destroying the entire nation.
And, surely, that can’t be what these people want. Can it?