One of the most marvelous days of my life was when I married my true love, Melody. I can still remember the morning with crystal clarity. The music, the guests, me with my knocking knees and sweaty tuxedo, and, of course, my beautiful bride, adorned in a dress that took my breath away. And then came the moment when I spoke that sacred vow to my beloved mate: "I, Zach, in the presence of God and these witnesses, take you, Melody, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, 'til death do us part."
Out of all the lines in this vow, it's the final line that still takes my breath away: "'Til death do us part." For it is in this line that we find the true strength of the wedded promise. We declare, "No matter what happens, we will not be parted. Only death can break our marriage bond."
Paul alludes to this strong marriage bond in our reading for today from Romans 7 when he writes, "By law, a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage" (verse 2). Paul says, "The bond of marriage stands until one spouse dies. 'Til death do us part." Paul continues, however, by talking about something even bigger, deeper, and more profound than marriage: "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ" (verse 4). Paul's analogy is this: Just as a wife is parted from her husband when he dies, so also are we parted from the law when we die. What law is Paul speaking of here? The law which accuses us of our sin and convicts us of our guilt. But now, death has done us part from this law which would consign us to hell. But death has done something else too: "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead" (verse 4).
Death, Paul says, at the same time it estranges us from the law, also unites us to Christ! For this death does not merely kill us off, it also promises new life. This death asks us to die to ourselves, our sinful nature, and a law which would condemn us so that we can rise into a newer, better, fuller life in Christ. As Paul writes elsewhere, "Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:1). Thus, to the law we say, "Death has done us part! You no longer have privilege to condemn me to hell!" But to Christ we say, "Death has done us... together! For I have died to all the sin which has separated me from God and have arisen as his redeemed child."
In this world, nothing parts us as finally and completely as does death. It parts us from our friends. It parts us from our loved ones. It parts us from our marriages. It even, to look on a brighter side, parts us from our worries, our cares, our ailments, our wounds, and our bills. Death parts us from everything... except Christ. For in Christ we can exclaim, "'Til death do us... together!" And death will indeed do us together. For upon our deaths, we have the hope of being together with Christ in heaven. This, then, is Christ's vow to us: "'Til death do us together." Praise be to God for Christ's strong vow!