In a sermon series addressing the issues of brokenness in the world, Pastor Chris Dupree of Baptist Temple McAllen focused one Sunday sermon on the sanctity, definition and value of marriage.
While society has attempted to define and redefine marriage over the years, Dupree encouraged the congregation with this simple truth, "God is the author, definer and creator of marriage."
Dupree invited Ron Smith, counseling pastor at Baptist Temple, to join him in preaching the sermon. Smith addressed the biblical concept of marriage, drawing from John 8 when Jesus confronts the woman caught in adultery. He then asked why followers of Jesus would live together without being married, listing many common justifications such as fear of bad credit, a history of brokenness in the home and inability to pay for a wedding.
"Today, a study will say the average wedding usually costs around $20,000," Smith said. "I understand two people not being able to afford it. I went on to tell them [the congregation], if that is your situation, let me take that excuse from you."
With the strong desire to see those in their church respond to the biblical call to live in a God-honoring covenant as man and wife, Dupree and Smith shared with the congregation that anyone wishing to be married could participate in a wedding hosted by the church at no cost to them.
The church offered a free pre-marital counseling weekend to any interested couples (waving the usual cost of $75), payment for marriage licenses and a full wedding at the church a few weeks later. Members of Baptist Temple joined together to offer services such as professional photography, wedding cakes for each couple, bouquets and assistance with hair and make-up.
Seventeen couples from the church responded within three weeks with the desire to come forward and get married. On Saturday, October 3, the couples were joined together in holy matrimony in a service led by Smith and Dupree. Three of the couples renewed their vows after previous legal marriages performed by the Justice of the Peace.
One couple, Raul and Rachel, had lived together for 17 years. They began attending Baptist Temple in 2011, first entering the church doors when they were in great need of basic necessities such as gas money. Over the past four years, they have become more involved in the church and given their lives to Christ.
"When we heard the sermon about living in sin because we were not married, Rachel and I sat down and talked about it. We both agreed it was time for us to get married," Raul said.
"I assumed I was married after 17 years of living together, but I realized I was not married in the eyes of God," he shared. "The main concern and goal for us is to live in obedience with the Lord. I was very proud of my church for doing that and it hit my heart."
The couple's 14-year-old son was able to witness the union along with a sanctuary full of family and friends from Baptist Temple.
While following Jesus' command to commit to a biblical marriage is extremely important, marriage should not define anyone, Dupree said. "The single greatest thing that defines us is whether or not we are found in Jesus."
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