The Marriage of William Thompson and Ji Yoon Noh

June 22, 2019

Holy Cross Lutheran Church, St. Louis, Missouri


안녕하세요 (An nyong hah se yo): Hello! Except that’s not exactly what an nyong hah se yo means, is it? The Korean greeting literally means, “Are you at peace?”

There’s something profoundly important about that. In the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, peace describes the right relationship between God and man, and the right relationship between people. The Christian liturgy is filled with the message of peace, from the announcement as the Pastor holds up the Body and Blood of Jesus (“The peace of the Lord be with you always”) to the song before Communion (“O Christ, the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world, grant us Your peace”) to the last words of the final blessing (“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace”). We might say the entire Christian worship service is designed to bring us into God’s peace.

It’s interesting that the Korean greeting is a question. An nyong hah se yo - “Are you at peace?”

We kind of do that in English. “How are you?” or, “How’s it going?” But few people actually want the answer. But this question, An nyong hah se yo - “Are you at peace?” might just be the most important question of your life, and of your marriage.

In the Old Testament, God established as one of the sacrifices the Peace Offering. Now I used to think this was like if a husband had been acting selfishly, and his wife was upset, so he took her out to a nice dinner and did some extra chores at home. His offering would serve to make peace with her.

But with God, the Peace Offering was not something done to make peace; it celebrated the peace that already existed between the Lord and His people. God’s peace was not earned by the people. It was God’s gracious gift to His people.

You find the same thing in the New Testament. Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” Peace is a gift. From Jesus to His disciples – and from one person to another.

On the evening of Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared among His disciples. They had been faithless cowards who ran away when Jesus was arrested, and denied Him. Now that Jesus was there, they were afraid He would punish them. But He didn’t give them what they deserved. He gave them peace. Shalom, He said. Peace. Peace is the gift Jesus gives.

And that is the gift, William and Ji Yoon, that will make your marriage strong, able to withstand all the lack of peace that this life and world will throw at you.

The day will come when things will have gone sour. You will have gotten on each other’s nerves. You will have misunderstood each other. You will have disappointed each other – maybe in a severe way. You may even question if you still have a future. But the godly marriage, no matter how rough the waters are, comes back to this question: An nyong hah se yo - “Are you at peace?” And the answer, between children of God—especially husband and wife—the answer is always, 네 - Ne: “Yes. I am at peace with you - because God is at peace with me. If Jesus forgave my sins, how can I not forgive you yours?”

Now it can be hard to just declare that when things are bad. But we shouldn’t make this too hard. Have you heard of that book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? Well, I’d like to adapt that just a little: All I really need to know about marriage I learned in a Korean phrasebook. 

Really, just three phrases. The first is An nyong hah se yo - “Are you at peace?”; and the second is   미안해   Mi-an-he - “I'm sorry.” Standing before God, we cannot bargain with Him. Holy Scripture teaches us to confess to the Lord, “If You, O LORD, kept a record of sins; who, O Lord, could stand? But with You there is forgiveness.” If God keeps track of our sins, we’re done. We are judged, we stand condemned. The only thing we can do is say, 미안해   Mi-an-he - “Sorry! I repent! Please forgive me.” And because of Jesus, His atoning death, He does forgive. Totally, and completely.

And the same is true in a Christian marriage. In that great chapter of the New Testament, 1 Cor. 13. I think my favorite passage is this: “Love … keeps no record of wrongs” (v5, NIV). With every wrong you commit against each other, love calls you to turn and say, 미안해   Mi-an-he - “Sorry!” And Love calls the other to respond, “Peace!”

This love of forgiving and self-giving is more than any emotion you feel today, or twenty years from now. “In this is love,” St. John teaches us, “not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Which brings us to our third word: 사랑해 Sarang-hae “I love you!” This is the calling in marriage given specifically to the man: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” William, your love for Ji Yoon is the call to protect her in every danger, giving yourself to the point of death. This call to love is a call to increasingly uncurve your selfishness toward self-giving to your wife. What you vow today, Will, to love Ji Yoon, means that everything you do is oriented toward her benefit. The entirety of the husband’s life is fulfilled in a continual saying of  사랑해 Sarang-hae “I love you!”

In turn, Ji Yoon, you are called to submit. We are steeped in twenty-first century American egalitarianism. Submission is anathema to the modern creed of individualism. It sounds patriarchal and outmoded. But the Bible calls each Christian to live a life of submission – of putting the needs of others before your own. That’s what the wife does in marriage - she orders her life around the needs of her husband. But in Christian marriage, while there is an ordering of the household with the husband as head of the family, this is no militaristic hierarchy. The husband leads his household like Jesus leads His Church: He dies for her, He sacrifices Himself for her, everything is ordered for her salvation and life. A truly Christian marriage becomes a constant self-giving, where husband and wife live not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of the family.

This now is your life, William and Ji Yoon, all wrapped up in these three phrases: An nyong hah se yo (Are you at peace); 미안해   Mi-an-he (sorry - I confess, I repent!); and 사랑해 Sarang-hae “I love you!” In these three words you have the ground of a good marriage. And more importantly, you have in these three words Christ, who forgives us all the things we are sorry for, who loves us to the point of death, and who gives us His peace. +INJ+