Pastoral Perspectives

Since the day we say ‘€œI

Whether it is a married couple’s first, tenth or seventieth wedding anniversary such as that of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, what are some reasons why people mark and celebrate such an occasion? What is so significant about having spent a certain number of days of your life together with someone else?

After all, there is usually very little fanfare when it comes to marking our work anniversary although we would have clocked in considerable hours as well. While some organisations and companies may award long service recognition to their faithful stalwarts, few individuals would give a gift or offer a treat to their colleagues to mark their years of labouring alongside them. Ironically, it is more common to have a farewell meal when someone leaves for another workplace. On this note, perhaps Christians can be counter-cultural and learn to show more appreciation to our current colleagues for their efforts in our workplaces?

I suppose one of the key differences when it comes to our wedding anniversary is that we are giving thanks and remembering the marriage covenant that we have made to one another since that fateful day. Undoubtedly, it is a turning point for both parties and one that would place our lives on a totally different trajectory compared to if one remained single.

As someone who has just celebrated my tenth anniversary two days ago, I am most thankful for how my wife has faithfully chosen to stick with me despite my failings and weaknesses. As an expression of her trust in God and out of her commitment to love, she has had to make more sacrifices simply because she is now married to me and we have children to care for. Admittedly, our time together has been far from perfect and has its share of ups and downs. However, the fact that God has graciously seen us through the past ten years is in itself a worthwhile cause for celebration.

In addition, it is also a timely occasion to pause for reflection as we mark this milestone of our love for each other. When I consider some of the challenges we have overcome as a couple and see how far we have come, this gives me hope for our future together. As much as our hair will turn grey and our strength may wane, I still look forward to the many more years ahead together with Sharon. This is because Scripture assures me that we will experience God’s mercies anew with each passing day.

Moreover, God has a gracious plan for every marriage that seeks to build itself on biblical foundations. As God moulds us through how we faithfully and lovingly keep our marriage covenant and conform us into the likeness of His Son, we will find each other even more beautiful than the day we were decked in our wedding suit and gown. To be honest, I am really captivated by such a glorious vision. Rather than an ideal to strive for, it is a spiritual reality in God’s sovereign timing.    

In receiving the selfless love from Sharon as she sought to imitate Christ’s example (Ephesians 5:1-2), I have caught a glimpse of that reality. And it only also led me to love her even more. I also know and have experienced that the source of love in our marriage comes not from within us but from above. Furthermore, as a husband, it is only right and pleasing to God that I should love my wife the way Christ has called me to (Ephesians 5:25-29).

At this juncture, I want to turn our attention to another covenantal relationship that those who identify ourselves as Christians are in but may be unaware of or may have neglected over time. You see, in the Bible, we are told that Christ is the groom and the church is his bride (2 Cor 11:2-3, Eph 5:23-32). Here, the bride is not referring so much to individual Christians but to the community of God’s redeemed people – all who have truly trusted in Christ alone for their salvation. Therefore, if one seeks to honour and love God, he or she cannot remain indifferent towards belonging to a church, especially when Jesus has shed his own blood to bring her into being (Acts 20:28). In addition, believers must not behave like consumers and treat the bride of Christ like some religious service provider where one is always looking out for a better bargain elsewhere.

For those of us who are baptised, I believe it can be a good practice to remember that occasion and recall the vows that we have once made in the presence of God and other believers (Note: While baptism itself does not save, I trust that every Christian will work towards baptism since it is God’s command and a practice of the early church). Instead of having to wait until the end of the year to make some New Year resolutions, perhaps we can consider marking our baptism date as a significant milestone in our spiritual life. If anything, it provides us with a redemptive framework and personalised context to reflect upon what Christ has done and assess how we have grown in our love for God since the day we made a pledge to Him.

Hopefully, our hearts will overflow with thanksgiving and joy whenever we mark this “anniversary”. After all, our baptism should remind us that it is Christ who loved us first and it is He who remains faithful. And whenever we sense that our love has grown cold, let us take heart that God is patiently inviting us to return and recover our first love. And as his beloved bride, may our hearts be always tender before him and long for the great wedding banquet as we await the return of our Bridegroom (Rev 19:7-9, 21:1-4).

Rev Edwin Wong

November 26, 2017