Let us pray: Dear Savior, while Your greatest creation on this earth is people, because of sin it is also the most corrupted. Likewise, the relationships between people. They can be our greatest earthly blessing or our greatest earthly curse. Today we thank You for showing us exactly how to overcome heartache and strife in those relationships. Yes, Your loving submission to the cross in saving our souls shows the way. May we strive to follow that same blessed path. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF CREATION
TEXT: Ephesians 5: 21-31
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Christianity is totally practical. It provides a practical guide for beneficial business arrangements in that it has the highest of ethical standards. It teaches personal responsibility, so it assists in raising children. It provides practical advice about how to live and even die without having guilt rob you of any joy. It is a practical guide for any and all relationships, too, from friendship to marriage.—For Christ says: “Whatever you do to the least of these my brothers, you do it unto Me.”
It is for these reasons that the Bible correctly states: “Righteousness exalts a nation.” Being right with God through the loving sacrifice wrought by Christ on the cross can and should translate into thinking rightly and acting rightly toward our fellow human beings. And, of course, the commandments provide a huge assist in all this because they provide us with a perfect guide for the Christian lifestyle.
The modern code-word for people interaction is: relationship. We have relationships with everyone we meet. Some are more personal than others. Some are more intense. Some mean more to us. But all those relationships with our fellow human beings are the framework for our lives and can either bring us great joy or great sadness. Well, our lesson provides us with some of God’s practical wisdom when it comes to all our relationships. So, let’s delve into it by focusing on this huge kernel of truth:
LOVING SUBMISSION MAKES RELATIONSHIPS WORK
Everyone here should be familiar with this section of the Bible. It is read at most weddings and quoted a lot. While the imagery is marriage-centered, it has a much larger context, however. That bigger context is the relationship between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His Bride, the Christian Church. Thus, the sub-context includes how Christians should get along in all their personal relationships.
St. Paul begins by saying to all of us, no matter our gender or age, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Folks, that’s a command of God. And He puts it in command form, because such submission makes all relationships work. To truly grasp the import of what he’s saying, you need to know that the Greek word for submission used here means: loving submission. This isn’t about coercion. It isn’t about might makes right. It isn’t about one side being the boss and the other person being the underling. It’s about loving another human being enough to submerge your ego for mutual good. And note well that this practical command ultimately benefits all parties and all parties are to practice it. Can you imagine a world in which that would occur? Work conflicts would cease. Political fights would end. Marital disputes would never happen. Friendships would flourish. Obviously because of sin, pride, and ego this isn’t the reality in which we live. However, it is something that God desires for us to aspire to.
Christ willingly and lovingly submitted to His Father’s will in saving our souls. He submitted to death in our place to make us right with God and win back for us the ability to put such practical loving submission into practice—especially in the Church and especially within our Christian marriages. So, now, Paul follows up with this Godly advice: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
How our pride-filled world has distorted those wonderful words! The modern feminist movement hates them. They are portrayed as demeaning to all women. And they would be, except for one important point: this is all about loving submission. It is about women loving their husbands enough to trust them, to honor them, and to submerge their ego within the marriage for the betterment of both parties. Isn’t that the pinnacle of any relationship?—When each side loves the other more than themselves and tries to show it daily?
Men and women are not exactly the same. And I’m not talking biology here, but how each sex is “hard-wired”. Lately, many studies and books have been written about how the sexes differ in how they perceive reality, how they think differently about things, how they remember the past differently from each other. Innately we all know that, but increasingly physicians and brain specialists have shown it to be true. Well, God knows all that and more since He created us that way. He knows how men have an instinctively desire and need to protect, defend, and be responsible for their wives. (Women exhibit much the same when it comes to those they love, as well.) Anyway, here Paul now addresses those responsibilities specifically toward husbands.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’”
Everyone has a deep need to feel loved. That being said, I’ve talked to a lot of women in my years and they all express that need much more openly than men do. So, God wants husbands to meet that need. He wants them to submerge their ego for her benefit, even to the point of dying for her! (And don’t forget, that’s what Christ has done for all of us!) And in doing that, in engaging in such loving submission of self in favor of another, the relationship is taken to new heights of honor. For it is loving submission in the form of Jesus that has saved our soul and re-forged our relationship with God into an eternal one, and when put into practice in marriage, well, that marriage cannot help but flourish!
Paul here speaks of Christ being the head of all such relationships. As the Head we must let Him guide and assist us when it comes to all of our personal relationships. For as our loving Head He has proven just how infinite and priceless His guidance can be. And so, my friends, go and do likewise. No matter what your ego says, always remember that: Loving Submission Makes Relationships Work! Amen