In all of these presentations of love-like-we-want-it there is a script or lyric sheet carefully written to convey an exact message or feeling, there are producers and directors, editors, sound, lighting and cinematography experts, and historical re-tellers - some might say hysterical re-tellers - all working to create a picture of that perfect love between a man and a woman. Real life doesn't work that way. Even amid all of the books, tapes, cds, dvds, and seminars, perfect and true love escapes so many.
But it doesn't have to. It is freely available to everyone. And for those of us who are Christian, that love lives within us. But, we have problems with it, mostly because of two little words: submit and sacrifice. Could the problem be that we really don't understand the true meaning, God's definition, of these words that we so often stumble over?
Real life instruction is found in the Bible in Ephesians Chapter 5, beginning with verse 21. It is important to keep in mind that the truth of this Word from God is directed to marriages where both parties are Christians. Such love will not be found nor can it exist outside of the bond of a Christian marriage. And, unfortunately, that is not to say that it always exists within the bond of married Christians. (Yes, there is a difference between a Christian marriage and married Christians.)
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
This word from God actually applies to all Christians. It does not mean that we become subservient to one another, but it does mean that we are to serve each other. No Christian should consider themselves as superior to another Christian, for in God's eye we are equal. We are to place ourselves into service for our Christian family, the whole Body of Christ. We are to place others before ourselves. We are to listen to each other, accepting counsel and even rebuke, when necessary. Submission to one another is to recognize God's authority in each others lives.
If this command applies to all Christians, it certainly applies to Christian husbands and wives within the context of their marriages. Submission as is called for here actually demonstrates equality in that it is a choice . . . the choice of the "submissor" not the "submissee". Let's go deeper and maybe this will become clearer.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.On the surface, this is a tough one, particularly in this day and time. But, if it is difficult to swallow, that is only because we continue to see this only through our own eyes and our own definition of wifely submission and not God's. And, again, this is written to married couples where man and wife are Christians.
When this was written women had few or no rights, married or not. To this day we see vestiges of those societal and religious attitudes in many cultures. Some Christian denominations misinterpret and misapply this command to their own detriment and to a distortion of the Word. But, here, God is telling these Christian women that they are equal to men in His eye, and therefore must be held as equal in the eye of mankind. By issuing the command, God is saying you have a choice. You can submit or not. You can obey (God) or not. And you can follow the Creator of family into His design for YOUR marriage and family - the only path to true joy and fulfillment - or not.
So, what is meant by "submission"? This is an important thing to know, especially since any derivative of the word "submit" carries such a negative connotation. In this day and time and in our culture, the idea of a woman submitting to any man is likely to get a "Yeah. Right." Simply put, a submissive wife recognizes, respects, and accepts her husband's God given authority in the home. Accepting the role of submission in marriage is to submit to God. And can you ever go wrong when you are being obedient to God?
Think about this. When a Christian submits to Christ, the power of Christ is unleashed in the life of the Christian. Are wives being told here that submission in marriage carries benefits - blessings - in marriage commensurate to those blessings which come to the church from submission to Christ? Do you want a spiritually charged marriage? Then put the Holy Spirit in charge of your marriage!
OK, men, here we go.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.
Husbands hearing this in the Church of Ephesus were in for a shock. I'm sure that submission thing delivered to the women sounded pretty good to the men. But, now, husbands were being told to take a good look at Jesus and His love for the church - His body - and to love their wives just like that. Not something like that, but just like that! Love just as Jesus loves. A tall order, but no where near impossible. "Fetch my slippers, my foot!"
Jesus gave Himself, all He had, in His love for us. It started when He left Heaven to come down and be born as a human being and to begin His walk on this earth. What did He give up? What did He leave behind? The Living Word by Whom this vast universe was created came to know hunger, fatigue, physical pain, emotional pain, human loneliness, fear, rejection, humiliation, temptation, and even death. He left a place of perfection and unimaginable wonder to come down here and experience all of the above and more. And He did it all for us in love and in obedience to God, the Father. He sacrificed Himself for us. Brothers, that is what we are called to do. We are each to love his wife just as Jesus loves us.
I've not yet fully grasped it, but as I read these 5 verses from Ephesians, I have come to believe that there is something very powerful in obedience to this command. Something far beyond what I have considered love to be capable of accomplishing. We see what Christ has done for the church in His love for her, making the church holy and blameless, presenting the church to Himself ". . .as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish,". And we are told to " . . .love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . .".
Can it be that a husband's Christ-empowered love for his wife has such an effect upon her and how she may stand before her husband, set apart for him and wholly accepted, being made in his Spirit-sighted eyes all that God intended for her to be? . . . and beyond that to be spiritually enriched and to serve at her husband's side as God's own portrait of His saving relationship with His creation?
I can't explain it all. Submission and sacrifice. Respect and love. And that's alright because I'm not supposed to. I'm just here suggesting that we all look deeper into our role in marriage. That is what it is. It is a role. Man and Woman are equal before God, and He has given us, Man and Woman, a role to fulfill in our marriages. How can we enter into Holy Matrimony and ignore or resist God's instruction to us as to the only way we can achieve His ideal marriage?
When there is a problem and we wonder what's wrong, what the problem is, perhaps we should go to Ephesians 5. Am I fulfilling my role as defined by God? NOT, is she, or is he, fulfilling their role. But, am I following God's instruction? You see, marriage was not designed for jr high schoolers. Certainly marriage will not survive without give and take, without compromise. But, there is no room for "I will if you will" where the roles of husband and wife are concerned.
It is a matter of trust. Maybe, at the present time, you don't fully trust your wife or your husband to follow God's instruction in Ephesians 5. It doesn't mean that you don't love them, or that they don't love you. It just means that you recognize that all is not as it should be in your home. That is why, first and foremost, our trust must always be placed in God. We can only - excuse me - must only do what God tells us to do. We can't obey God for someone else or make anyone else obey Him. And we don't get a pass just because someone else passes. But we can trust God in all things to honor our obedience to Him. He may use one person's obedient countenance to bring the other person around. He may work in some other way. But, He will work. He simply does not make room for us to refuse to obey Him based on someone else's failure to obey.
And really, who best for us to rely on to make a great marriage? Self? . . . or God? Pray! Pray Ephesians 5 into your marriage.
God's design for marriage must be what we as Christians seek and pursue with all of our might. Any marriage that does not have Christ at its center is a failure, no matter how great it looks from the outside. That is because a marriage made without regard to God's design and will and plan is counterfeit. Let's face it. God designed marriage so His design can be the only true definition of marriage and family there is. We human beings have no right to redesign or redefine it.
So, here at our 34th wedding anniversary, when I have so little to give to my wife, and she has long known that I am no great prize, I am saying to you, Sharon, that I am praying and asking Jesus to teach me to love you like He loves us. You know I don't like to ask for directions, but I am asking Him, and He will guide, and I will learn. My love, I have found is flawed, just as I am flawed. His love is perfect. And that is what I seek for you and that is where we are going.
I want a love like that. I want to love like that.