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The Extent of Friendship and Ecclesiastes 4

July 26, 2012

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

I am preaching on this passage this upcoming Saturday at a wedding, but thought I would give you a preview and some thoughts on this as it relates to marriage and parenting.

Ever since the fall of Genesis 3, humanity has been scarred by the damaging effects of sin. We see evidence of this in our relationships with one another. In Genesis 2, the most beautiful relationship between two humans was created. They cared for one another. In fact, when Adam looked at Eve he could not help but cry out about how much he loved her basically stating, “You are me.” The significance of the “togetherness” in the Garden cannot be overstated. However, Genesis 3 ripped humanity from this undying desire to be together and perverted our wants to the point that to this day we seek our own ends in selfish, violent, and if I might say it…”cry-babyish” kind of ways. As Steve Johnson says, “We love me some me.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 is a picture, then, of humanity being restored. It is of two people wanting to be bound together for the purpose of edifying the other where there are no limits to their care for each other. A few thoughts from this passage as it relates to marriage and parenting:

(1) In verse 10 we see a picture that we can easily breeze over. One person falls over and the friend picks them up. Most of us would stop to pick someone up who had fallen. But, that is not the point of this passage. Notice there are no conditions on the sentence. Also, notice that Ecclesiastes is poetry where metaphors are meant to be carried beyond their concrete meaning. This passage pictures a friendship where there are no limits to the number of times we will pick one up and no conditions on the reason for someone needing help. Is your marriage a place where your spouse feels safe failing? What are the consequences both spoken and unspoken, acted and simply thought that someone faces when they mess up? Or, to put it in another category…what will you go through with your spouse? Will cancer scare you off? Will bankruptcy? What if he comes to you repenting of his habitual use of pornography? What will you do?

Your children feel the effects of this. They know when their parents truly care for each other and don’t just give lip service. They also know when their parents treat them in a way verse 10 pictures. Do you hold you children to standards where failure is not an option? Do you have limits on how many times you will help them? They may not be able to articulate it…but they know. Is your home a place they feel is stable, where sin is being taken captive by loving relationships?

(2) Verse 11 speaks to the comforting nature of relationships. In a fallen world, we experience external conflict at a high rate. I know in my own life, the level of conflict outside of my marriage is so high sometimes that my marriage MUST be a soft place for me to land. In the midst of craziness, I need my wife to be an oasis. Many of us, however, run our households like the rest of our life runs us…in chaos. We have not cultivated a warm place in our homes. Instead we opt for the frantic pace we keep in other domains of life.

The beauty of two or more people living together is that they can be a crash zone when the rest of life feel so conflicted we want to poke our eyes out. However, this doesn’t happen on accident. It takes giving ourselves fully to one another to care for, love, and to be gentle with each other. It takes clearing our schedules to realize that providing a warm environment does not happen when ships pass in the night.

Your marriage will thrive when you give yourself fully to the other for their comfort and warmth without any strings attached. Your children will feel supported and free of the constant need to win your affection.

(3) As I read through this, I see a lot of do, do, do and not a lot of why? We will wear ourselves out with endless “to do” lists in the Christian life. They can be devoid of grace without a view on the one who has accomplished everything on our behalf. Why can we even begin to help the other up when the fall and to provide a warm, soft place for our family to land? Because that is precisely what Jesus did for you. He puts no limits on how deep and wide your sin can be before he won’t save you. He looks at you with the debt you cannot repay and calls you a son or daughter of the king. He pays the debt and you walk free. He is the one who comforts the mourner, who consoles the weak. He is the one who is never frantic but always a soft landing spot for you. The only way these things can be true in our families in a lasting, God glorifying way is when we do them in response to the ways that Jesus has done them for us.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Mel permalink
    July 26, 2012 12:12 pm

    Awesome! Thanks! Was talking to Allie yesterday about my fear of messing up. I loved the last paragraph the most. I’m so thankful Jesus puts no limits on our sin.

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