Monday, November 3, 2008

The Church in Marriage, pt 3

Here we come to the Church in marriage part 3. Again, Ephesians 5:21, "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ," is the verse that sets the background for the rest of the chapter and the beginning of chapter 6. Keeping this in mind, and how Paul has already told the wives to apply this towards their own husband in respect to him (v. 33 in mind), we come to the husband's role.
In v. 25–30, Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church Objection: How can you command someone to love? Because it is agape love (agapao), the love that is applied by our intellect and our will, not just our emotions. It is a love that feels, but more so a love that does. It is unconditional. This is the same word for love used in Lk 6:27 “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you," and in v. 25, “as Christ loved the church” past tense. Jesus Christ showed love; He acted. To what extent should a husband imitate Christ by loving his wife? Jesus said, "greater love hath no man than . . .(fill in the blank)" That's right, even give up your life for your wife. THIS IS HOW YOU ARE TO FEEL AND DO TOWARDS THAT WOMAN WHO SHARES YOUR BED AND YOUR CHILDREN. What does it say in verse 25? "and gave himself up for her." Here's an example of how that looks in our capitalist society:

(hopefully you're laughing at this. If not, then . . . yeah)
In 8 yrs counseling as a pastor to adults, every marital problem can be chased to one of two things: 1) a wife is not submitting herself to her husband and respecting him; or 2) the husband is not loving his wife.
Paul spent twice as much ink on a husband’s role of loving his wife, than he did of a wife’s role for loving her husband.
Why?: 1) he has partially explained it already, because it is an outflowing of what all of us are to do: submit to one another. 2) he understood that the most difficult position with the greatest responsibility is the leadership position.
Jesus and all of His disciples except one lost their lives in unnatural, cruel deaths because of their leadership position, and their unconditional commitment to the Lord.
Every time you submit yourself to someone in the body of Christ, you give them tremendous power. Power always tempts us towards sin. Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can withstand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power!”[1]
Why do some husbands mistreat their wives? Because they can.
But we, Christian men, use that freedom of leading your wife and family spiritually to live an example of unconditional love. Martin Luther said, “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.”[2] He was hitting the nail on the head.
Unconditional love is hard for men to do; it doesn’t always come naturally. Many men use their friends for their own gain, some prefer not to show any display that would allude to love's existence, and some men have never been shown unconditional love. Some men equate love with sex and physical expressions of love, but that is hardly what Christ displayed for us. The Bible wants husbands to give our wives more than our bodies. God commands us to give up everything for her, in the same way Jesus led by example and gave up everything.
But it’s what your wife needs more than anything else in marriage besides her eternal salvation from the Lord.
The question to ask is not "How much do I need to love my wife." The question to ask is, "How much do I want my wife to respect me and follow my leadership." Show me a man who loves his wife like this, and his wife will become the envy of all women everywhere. No question, she will follow his leadership; she will respect him, and she will grow spiritually.
What does it look like?
5:25 says, “like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
and verse 28 says husbands are to love their wife as, “as their own bodies,” Wow! Another example of the high standard! See Luke 6:31, "Do to others, as you would have them . . . (fill in the blank)" Yep.
Notice at least three stages in which a husband is to follow Jesus' example with his bride. (Are we man enough?):
1. V. 25, sacrifice
2. V. 26, purification
3. V. 27, presentation
From the incarnation of Jesus to the Cross He died on, everything was for saving lost sinners through His sacrifice, purifying a bride fit to be in His presence (free from sin), and eventually we (a.k.a. "the church," "the bride") will be presented to Him.
Then let's zoom out: The marriage is the buildling block of the family; families are the building blocks of a church. Marriages should be so strong in our churches that the world looks and says, “I want what you have.” Joe Aldrich, in his book, Lifestyle Evangelism, tells how important a family and then a church are to our witness: “The two greatest forces in evangelism are a healthy church and a healthy marriage. The two are interdependent.”[3]
Now the application. Zoom back in. How are you doing? Christians overall are not any better nowadays than non-Christians many times. Our divorce rates are climbing (partially because our marriage rates are higher among Christians, but still), our empty nesters are leaving their spouses, and many marriages are struggling quietly.
If you're reading this and saying to yourself, "If my wife would respect me, I would love her," you're not thinking of the respect Jesus received while on earth, yet he loved anyway. If you're a wife reading this and thinking, "I'll start respecting him the day he has a heart and shows me more than a dozen roses to apologize or get physical," then you too are not thinking about how Jesus submitted Himself to His Father's will, knowing it would cost Him everything, and in the end He is the Name above all names. Husbands focus on your part, and wives on yours.
The application is not "you first!" no "you first!" no "you first!" no "you first!" Someone has to start the healthy cycle up. You, whoever you are, if you are redeemed and a follower of Jesus--you do your part and trust God to work in your partner's heart.
So the proper application is this: Don’t wait for the other person and keep score. Willingly submit yourself to God's word whether a husband or a wife, no matter what the other person is doing.
There is exception in the case of abuse, but if two rational, "normal" people are in mind, just do your part and watch God work.
What if I'm reading this and thinking "Nate, you're full of it. I don't understand how you can be so out-dated and ask people to do this stuff." Not me. I'm communicating what the Bible says. (we don't know the "why," but we do know the "what," see part 2).
For you who do not follow the teachings of Jesus, submission begins with submitting yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ and believing in Him for salvation. Follow Jesus and trust that His act of love for the church was for you too, dying on the cross and rising again. Then, trust Him again with your marriage.
One parting thought: Both roles of a husband and of a wife go outside our comfort zones, but they are how God has designed our marriages to work. Growth always involves the "C" word--change. It involves self-sacrifice. James Calvert, missionary in the 1800s to the cannibals of Fiji, was traveling to Fiji when the captain of the sailing vessel tried to dissuade him from continuing, “you will risk your life and all those who are with you if you go amongst such savages.” Calvert replied in a statement worth memorizing, “We died before we came here.”[4] Incidentally, Calvert had enormous success in seeing many people come to faith in Christ in Fiji, and continued to help them with building their government.
Galatians 2:20 tells us, "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me," (The NET Bible). We died already with Christ! Now let's follow Jesus!

[1] John C. Maxwell, Leadership 101: Inspirational Quotes & Insights for Leaders, (Tulsa, OK: Honor Books), 149.

[2] George Sweeting, Who Said That?, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 412.

[3] Joe Aldrich, Lifestyle Evangelism, (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1993), 20.

[4] Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, ([digital copy]: Bible Communications, 1979), s.v. “sacrifice.”

No comments: