On November 4, 2016 – in Des Moines, Iowa – I had the honor of performing the wedding ceremony for my son, Brad, who married Emily (Em) Papp. What a day of joy that was for me, Amy, and all gathered! With Brad’s and Em’s blessing, I share below the wedding homily delivered that day.
“Be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving”
Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)
Emily and Brad,
Today is a day of great joy, a day that together you have anticipated for a long time. Life offers us many gifts. We are grateful that in God’s timing, you have received the gift of each other.
As a couple, you have done what many have tried but failed to do. Over several years, you have found creative ways to make a long-distance relationship flourish. Through 11 hour drives between Iowa and Oklahoma, through many “Skype dates” and too many text messages and phone calls to count, you’ve nurtured your love and watched it grow. That effort is praiseworthy. Look around you. On this your wedding day, we your family and friends strongly affirm our love and support for you. We who have walked the same road before you say with confidence that the person who finds a trustworthy companion for life has found a very good thing.
As wife and husband, you are beginning a new and rewarding chapter in your story. You will now enjoy companionship in close proximity and the many joys it brings. Yet most married couples can testify to the adjustment that newlyweds must make, moving from the all-too-familiar “I” to the less familiar “we”. Deuteronomy 24:5 speaks of the challenge of two becoming one:
“A newly married man doesn’t have to march in battle. Neither should any related duties be placed on him. He is to live free of such responsibilities for one year, so he can bring joy to his new wife.”
The Apostle Paul, though unmarried, provided simple advice that is useful to everyone but particularly for spouses early in their marriage. In Ephesians 4:32 (NLT) he writes: “…Be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Kindness, tender-heartedness, forgiveness – In our topsy-turvy world, these characteristics are too rare, yet it is your firm commitment to them that will help you overcome the inevitable ups-and-downs that life brings. By cultivating these qualities, you will bring out the best in each other.
A well-known reference to kindness is 1 Corinthians 13:4 – “Love is kind.” There is no person in this room today who is faultless. We all bring to every relationship not only our strengths but also our quirks and blind spots. These can result in unintentionally hurting each other. When this happens, remember this important maxim: “Praise publicly, correct privately.” Because love is kind, resist the temptation to criticize your spouse in front of others, including the children the LORD may one day give you. Instead, work out the concerns between yourselves in good faith, one-on-one.
Besides kindness, Paul encourages the Ephesians to remain tender-hearted. Some Bible translations use the word “compassionate.” In your lives, Emily and Brad, we have seen not only your love for Christ but also your love for others, a caring attitude that is generous and inclusive. Keep that gentleness; never let your heart grow callous, even though remaining tender-hearted will sometimes bring you pain. In those moments, encourage each other, then keep loving.
The third element in Paul’s triad is forgiveness. When I was in Seminary, I remember Dr. Paul Orjala, my missions professor. “When you’re learning a foreign language,” he insisted, “you’re going to make 10,000 mistakes, so you might as well get started now.” Learning to be married is like learning another language. Try as you might, you cannot speak perfectly right away. You will make mistakes. But I’ve found in both language learning and marriage, if we are willing to forgive ourselves and each other, if we can give each other the benefit of the doubt, if we eventually can even laugh together at the mistakes we make, it’s a whole lot easier, and over time – whether it’s French or marriage – the good news is, you get a lot more fluent.
Brad, your mother and I could not love you more or be more proud of you. Emily, we’re thrilled that you’re joining our family. As our Kenyan friends would say: Karibu! Welcome. We pledge to you both our ongoing love and support and promise to continue to pray for you. Love God and love each other. Make God first in your marriage and stay close to the community of faith.
Kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness – Brad and Emily, on a day when many are giving gifts to you, may these be the gifts that you offer each other, both today and for all the years that God grants you together as husband and wife.