October 6 & 7, 2018 – Pentecost 20
Genesis 2: 18-24
Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
“What do you need?” I don’t mean this question like an impatient parent asks his child, “Now what do you need?” I mean it. Seriously. “What do you need?” But before you answer, consider that I didn’t ask, “What do you want?” but, “What do you need?” What do you need in life that you absolutely could not do without?
Air. Food. Water. Shelter. Air conditioning. But what else do you need? A nice home? Respect from your wife? Love from your husband? You know what Beatles thought: “All you need is love…”
In our text for today, God revealed to Adam what he needed: a spouse. And God, in love for Adam, then met that need. God shows us that he made us with a need for relationship. And he’s met that need. But we mess up our relationships with our selfishness. And so, “What do you need?” We need forgiveness for our selfishness in all of our relationships. “What do you need?” we eagerly ask of others as we show our thanks to God for the forgiveness he’s given.
The guy was an absolute slob. His apartment was always a mess. He didn’t know how to cook. He didn’t know how to clean or even do his laundry. The guy could barely take care of himself. His buddy told him frankly, “Dude, you really need to get yourself a wife.”
That is NOT what God did for Adam. He wasn’t showing how helpless Adam was to care for himself by giving him a mom-like wife, someone who would cook and clean and care for him. No. God made Adam perfect. He wasn’t lazy or stupid. He wasn’t lacking any skills to care for himself. But he was still lacking. For the first time in his creative process God said, “NOT good.” After day one, he saw that what he had made was good. After day two, he saw that what he had made was good. After days three, four, and five, he saw that what he had made was good. But now on day six, God said, “It is NOT good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is a suitable partner for him.”
God made mankind to be interdependent. He made us to crave and seek to have relationships. And he would show Adam that need before he met it. He brought [the animals] to the man to see what he would call them. Whatever the man called each living creature, that became its name. The man gave names to all the livestock, and to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal.
Can you picture it? God paraded the animals two by two before Adam in a grand procession (almost as if they were heading to an ark, right)? And Adam came up with a name for each kind. Bear… Cat… Dog. But why did God have Adam name the animals? Couldn’t God just name them himself? Well, it wasn’t for God’s sake that he gave the job to Adam. It was for Adam’s sake. He wanted Adam to notice two bears, two cats, two dogs, but only ONE Adam. But for Adam no helper was found who was a suitable partner for him.
God led Adam to see his need. Then, God, in love, met that need: The Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. As the man slept, the Lord God took a rib and closed up the flesh where it had been. The Lord God built a woman from the rib that he had taken from the man and brought her to the man.
And in doing so, God created marriage. God made marriage, not for himself, but for us, for the good of man, for the good of woman. He gave us each other to meet each other’s needs, to balance each other out, like two gears in a machine, not grinding against each other, but meshing together in perfect synchronization and spinning together in perfect harmony. And God made us for relationship, not just for the good of man and woman, but for the good of their offspring. It’s good for kids to grow up with a mom and a dad who are there to protect and nurture them. God made marriage for our enjoyment and to fill the earth.
And in perfection, Adam and Eve perfectly met each other’s needs. They were completely unselfish. So verse 25 reads, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame,” because they weren’t judging each other, they weren’t looking to use each other, they weren’t lusting after each other, but were only loving each other. What a beautiful design God created. He showed Adam the need, then God met the need. Just like he does for us. God made us to be in relationships as well. He made us to be in committed, that is, life-long, unions with members of the opposite sex. Marriage between one man and one woman for one lifetime is God’s perfect design. And what a mess the world has made of it!
But before you think I’m going to go after the ruling that the Supreme Court has made, what about Christian marriages? What about us? Forget homosexuality for a minute and look at your own marriage. Would you rate it a perfect 10? Is your marriage the ideal marriage for all the world to admire and copy? If not, let’s focus there.
We’ve made a mess of marriage – No. More precisely: What a mess I have made of marriage. Each of us can claim that whether married or single, whether a grown up or a child.
Husbands, have you always led your wife in a way that looked to meet her needs before yours? Have you always had more concern for her needs than your wants? Have you always shown love to your wife, the unconditional love that God calls upon us to give? You’ve made a mess of marriage.
Wives, have you always helped your husband in a way that looked to meet his needs before yours? Have you always had more concern for his needs than your wants? Have you always shown respect to your husband, the unconditional respect that God calls upon you to give? You too have made a mess of marriage.
Singles, have you always held up marriage as the esteemed institution that God has designed it to be? Or have you thought, “What’s the big deal if I treat this relationship I’m in as if I were married?” “I don’t need to save myself for marriage. I want to have fun while I’m young.” You too have made a mess of marriage.
Kids, have you sometimes made a mess of marriage as you try to pit mom and dad against each other to get what you want? Have you ever said to dad, “But mom said I could?” Have you ever said to mom, “But dad said it was okay?” You too have made a mess of marriage.
Why do we do all these things? Because for all of us too often the first questions we ask are “What do I want? And how can I get it?” instead of “What do they need? And how can I serve them?” We’ve made a mess of the family that God has intended to be a blessing because of our selfish sinful nature. And for that we deserve to be kicked out of his family. We deserve to be divorced from God forever in hell. That’s really what hell is, separation from God and his love.
“So what do you need?” What we need isn’t a better spouse. What we need isn’t a good book on the perfect marriage. What we need isn’t better behaved kids, or a better job, or a nicer home. What we need isn’t a more respectful wife or a more loving husband. What we need is … forgiveness.
And God has revealed that need to us. And once he’s revealed to us the need (and brought us to repentance), then God meets the need and gives us the forgiveness we so desperately need though the blood of Jesus. Jesus was perfect, sinless in every way. Even though he was a red-blooded male, he never once lusted. He never viewed people as objects. He always honored and upheld marriage as God designed it, even as a single man. But what’s more, he never asked, “How can I get what I want?” before asking, “How can I give them what they need?” and “How can I do what God wants, even if it’s uncomfortable or painful for me?”
And having lived a perfect life, Jesus died an innocent death. And by that act, he gave us credit for his perfection and he took our selfishness and our sin and the hell that those earn all on himself. And so, we have the forgiveness that we need the most.
In one sense the Beatles were right: “All you need is love”—God’s love. And you have it—through Jesus. He’s shown you your greatest need. And he’s met that need. And that fact fills us with gratitude that changes the way we live and the questions we ask first.
The waiter at restaurant came to the table and asked, “What can I get for you?” The business man asked his client, “How can I serve you?” But as both humbly served, they were still really being self-centered. They wanted to keep their job. They wanted to keep their customers. They wanted their business to grow. But both were still really asking, “How can I get what I want?”
But as Christians we can genuinely ask, “What do you need?” and “How can I serve you?” before worrying about ourselves. Husbands can show love even to wives and kids who show no respect. Wives can show respect even to husbands who show no love. Singles can serve their future spouse by honoring God’s gift of marriage now. Children can serve their parents without being forced or even asked.
We change our first questions from “What do I want? And how can I get it?” to “What do you need? And how can I serve you?” And we do this with little concern to having our needs met first because we know that our greatest need, forgiveness from God, has already been met in Christ. And we trust the promises he gives us to be with us always and take care of us. Yes, Jesus gives us all we need. Amen.