Knowledge, Judgement, and Love

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

...When the due time has passed, she, now a marriageable maid, and he, now a young man ripe for marriage, meet somewhere as if by fate, see each other, and at once know as by a kind of instinct that they are mates; and within themselves as though from some dictate, they think, the young man, She is mine, and the maid, He is mine. Then, after this thought has been seated for some time in the mind of each, they deliberately speak to each other and betroth themselves. CL 229

I.    What an absolutely image of the ideal meeting of young people led to each other in the Divine Providence of the Lord.
    A.    Wouldn't it be wonderful if every meeting of young people was as obvious and beautiful?  But in the natural world, a lot of things get in the way of Providence -- natural circumstances, proprial loves, dysfunctional families.  Because of these impediments, it is even more important that we look very carefully at the things the Lord has revealed to us about marriage and the preparation for marriage in the Writings.
II.    We sometimes have a funny view of these teachings
    A.    Conjugial Love (and the Writings) have so many wonderful teachings
        1.    Why do we want to pick and choose, why do we reject some?  We like those nice stories in Genesis, like when Joseph overcomes great difficulties and does well, but you know, those rules laid down in Exodus are pretty strict.  Are we sure that all ten really apply to us today?  Or are some of them just for the Jews in the desert....
    B.    We need to try to see through the "funny" externals to the genuine spiritual principles that apply in any era, to all cultures, and to people of every age.
III.    Difference in approach between men and women
    A.    Having equal rights and being equally valued does not mean that men and women are the same.  The Writings teach how they differ, and how we can use these differences to our spiritual advantage.
        1.    For men, the courting of women and the asking them in marriage is in itself honorable and decorous, but not for women. If women were to ask men, they would not only be censured, but after the asking they would be counted cheap or, after the marriage, as wantons with whom there is no fellowship except what is cold and disdainful. Marriages would thus be turned into tragic scenes  (CL 297)
        2.    A lot of people get excited about this, bringing up all kinds of feminist issues, but the fact remains that we don't do it this way, and our marriages are tragic scenes about half the time! Could there be a relationship?  Is this how the hells attack marriage?  By encouraging "wanton" and "forward" behavior instead of modesty?
IV.    Civilizing effect of such relationships
    A.    This passage goes on to speak of the civilizing effect of women on men; that in order to enjoy the presence of women, men have to control their baser instincts and act in a courteous manner.  The same is true of women, that they must resist the loves of self and the world and act in a courteous manner in order to provide that sphere which attracts men. This process of modifying our behavior for the sake of another is why we observe that marriage and parenthood are effective (although not the only) means of leading both men and women into repentance, reformation, and regeneration, thus into heaven.
V.    In recognition of these differences certain customs have been establish for protection
    A.    Judgment, knowledge, and love
        1.    Because passion clouds the judgment of both men and women
        2.    The young couple needs to seek guidance from others whom they trust and who love them
            i.    The mutual love is an important aspect
                a.    Young people sometimes see the advice of parents as an attempt by the parent force the child to do that which would make the parent happy, without real regard for the child's happiness.
                b.    That can and does happen, and must be guarded against.
                c.    Genuine spiritual love wishes to make another happy from one's self, NOT to use another to make one's self happy.  To manipulate a child's life for one's own pleasure is a form of storge.   See CL 392  
                d.    We often think of the love called storge as being a natural, selfish, or even evil love of children, but the several passages that deal with it indicate that it is a love that is aroused in parents, both good and evil, by the sphere of innocence that surrounds children.  While it is aroused in the natural, its source is the near presence of angels.  This love recedes as innocence recedes -- making it possible for us to accept (look forward to?) our children growing up and leaving home.
                e.    However, if the love of self is strong, it can effect how the parent loves, and expresses love, towards the child:
                    1)    ...The love of infants or storge is equally with the evil as with the good....  The reason is, because every love proceeding and flowing in from the Lord is turned in the [person] into the life's love of that [person]....  When ... [he] actually loves [himself], [he] makes the love of infants [his] own love of self; for [he] sees [himself], as it were, in them, and them in [himself], and thus [he is] united with them. ...Every one is disposed to love, protect, and support his offspring from his own love.  (CL 392)
                f.    But if that love is twisted, that love may take a twisted form.
            ii.    The genuine love of a parent for a grown child expresses itself in different ways in different families, but genuine love always has within it the ideals expressed at the time of baptism, and the hope that is so deeply held and precious that it is very hard to express, that the child will learn to lead a life that leads to heaven.
                a.    That, in their heart of hearts, is what parents want for their children -- that they will go to heaven.  And it is that heavenly love that should guide their every word and deed.
    B.    Judgment
        1.    Important decisions cannot be made just on the basis of strong feelings.  The Lord has given each of us the potential for rationality and freedom, but in order for us to be rational and free, we must first have a great deal of information, ideas and experiences to choose among so that we can make good decisions.
        2.    Parents are, by definition, older than their children, and therefore have had more experiences to learn from.  Conjugial Love says in the case of parents that age improves the judgment and gives clear sight in regard to suitableness and incompatibility. (CL 298)  In regard to the children, the same passage says that their judgment is as yet in ignorance in respect to conjugial life, and is not in a state to compare reasons, or to discern morals from the way people live (Ibid.)
        3.    Young people who are considering marriage have seen a lot of marriages, and believe that they have the insights to make a good marriage for themselves.  But what married couple, looking back, does not smile in wonder when the remember the surprises of their first years of marriage.
        4.    As a way of illustration, imagine yourself getting ready for a trip to an unknown and possibly dangerous place.  Whose advice would you take when planning the trip -- someone who had made the trip themselves, or someone who had only heard about it from others?  Which choice shows the better judgment?
    C.    Knowledge
        1.    A second essential in making such a decision is that of knowledge.  Parents have gathered more experience of life and in dealing with people than the children.  The parents have watched their child grow and respond to joy and disappointment through his or her whole life.  There also needs to be an opportunity for them to get to know the intended partner as more than just a potential partner, but as a person.  There must be the opportunity for the relationship to grow to the point that there is some friendship and regular communication with the potential partner.  And, even more important, honest talk with their own child about the things they see in each of them.  Hopefully, the child can admit his or her relatively limited judgment and benefit from the conversations.
    D.    Love
        1.    And finally, the parents need to be involved from love.  From their love of their child they are looking out for the child's eternal welfare because to provide for the child's welfare and happiness is to provide for their own at the same time.  (See CL 298)
        2.    However, the young people themselves cannot make their decision from love because their love follows the longings arising from the senses (CL 299). There comes a time when young people can become so full of the idea of being married that if two people in that state happen to meet each other at the same time, they may make an unfortunate choice.
VI.    Judgment, Knowledge, and Love
    A.    These three are the keys making good decisions about anything.  To draw on one's experience of life; to reflect on truths, natural moral and spiritual, that you know; and to give counsel from your love and heart-felt desire that the other may be prepared for eternal life in heaven.  If these three elements are remembered and used to develop a sphere open communication and trust, then perhaps we could avoid marriages where there is no fellowship except what is cold and disdainful, marriages which are turned into tragic scenes (CL 297)
    B.    Instead, by allowing ourselves to be led by the Lord through the Word and by shunning evils as sins, we can enter the "stream of Providence" and be led by the Lord to that place in life where we can look at our partners and know that "they are ours."  AMEN