Friday, April 1, 2016

Wisdom, Love, & Respect

Let’s just get to the heart of the matter.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

To steal a line from John Keats Ode to a Grecian Urn, “That is all you know on earth—and all you need to know.”  God bless you.  Amen.  Have a nice day.

I can’t stop there.  We should make this a memory verse!  Of course, someone would bring up the whole context thing and spoil my fun.

Paul wrote a letter and not a text book.  We often treat it as a text and often it complies most effectively but we must remember that in its original form and context it was a letter written by a man of purpose and passion, so we will start from the beginning of this chapter.

To begin this fifth chapter we should first begin the first chapter once again.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love  he  predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 

And so we come to two words that many of you thought you left behind in high school.  They are like and as.  These two words bring us to Winston Cigarettes and their infamous slogan of the mid 1950’s:  Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.

Kids, do not start smoking.  It will not only kill you but it will lead to bad grammar.  Yes, it should have been as and not like in the slogan.

Yeah, okay, gottcha, but who really cares?

We are to follow God’s example as God’s kids and walk in the way of love as a brother or sister to Christ.  We don’t emulate God like one of his kids.  We are his kids.  We don’t imitate God like we belonged to him.  We do belong to him.
We don’t walk in the way of love like we were siblings of Christ.  We are his brothers and sisters.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children  and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

We are God’s children and brothers and sisters to Christ.   It’s a done deal.  Now let’s live like—oops—as the people that we are.  We need to wrap our minds around the fact that we are his; we belong to him.  We are not trying out for God’s team.  We are his team. 

We are light and not darkness and we are to live that way.  Anything corrupt is not who we are so we have nothing to do with corruption.  Anything vile is not who we are so we don’t have anything to do with wickedness.  Anything ungodly is un-us; yes, God’s children get to make up their own words now and then.

We are not deceived by empty words—and the world is full of people speaking empty words—but are part of the fullness of God that we know in Christ Jesus.  We live in right standing with God, goodness fills our hearts, and we are people of the truth.

We are people who take great care in how we live.  Our lives are not haphazard or cavalier journeys but we walk with purpose into an ungodly world.  We are blessed in these parts that as we walk into that world there are many other believers that walk with us, that cross our paths, and that are praying for us.  But Paul says that the days are evil.

Not everyone in this world is praying, “Thy will be done.”  But that is what we pray.  That is our hope.  We are people of God’s purpose and we look at this fallen world and these evil days and we see opportunities. 

For we are equipped with God’s wisdom.  We are charged not only to seek God’s will but to understand it.  We turn from gratifying the flesh as being most important to us and now gratify the Spirit that now lives in us. 

If we are living in the same stuff, different day mode that we did before now that we say that we live for Christ, Paul says it is time to wake up.  Wake up sleepyhead!

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

We are God’s children and:
·      God’s children are light and live in the light.
·      We have been made right with God and have goodness in their hearts.
·      We have passed from death to life and we are really living now.
·      We are wise and make the most of every opportunity to apply God’s wisdom in an upside-down world.
·      God made us holy and blameless before him and we are called to live as the people that he made us to be.

We are not earning salvation.  We are living our salvation as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ; and we are to do this wisely, leveraging every opportunity to be God’s love in this world.

Don’t be overwhelmed.  Don’t think that you are looking at a target rich environment and you will be totally exhausted every day—there are so many opportunities.  Consider this as the authorization to say “No” to all the junk in your life.

Say “No” to all the stuff that consumes your time and “Yes” to the wise application of your gifts and talents in the opportunities that are presented to you.

Paul is not saying do everything that comes along.  He said, make the most of your opportunities.  It’s baseball season so let’s put this in baseball terms.

Every time a batter steps up to the plate, he should make the most out of that “at bat.”  If he always swings at the first pitch, he will never know what else he might have been offered.  If he always takes the first pitch, he should plan to start off most at bats behind by one strike.

The physical attributes of a batter can do powerful things when he hits the ball; but the acquired wisdom of the game and his opponents and his own tendencies lets him make the most of each “at bat.”

As we live out our salvation, we need to make the most of each at bat.  We are called to be wise.  Some have the Spiritual Gift of wisdom, but all are called to be wise.  Just some have the Spiritual Gift of evangelism, all are called to witness.

We can all witness and likewise we can all apply God’s wisdom in our salvation.  One simple, ubiquitous way is that we can submit to one another.  We often sing that we will guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.

We regard each other as much, even more, than we do ourselves.  We do not insist on our own way.  It is not our will, but God’s will that we seek.

So we who are light and live in the light and have nothing to do with darkness must revere each other as we do our best to live out God’s will in our lives.

Sometimes Paul instructs in the details and sometimes in more reflective, theological terms.  Submit to one another.  This surely seems to fit the new command that Jesus gave his closest friends and us, that we love one another.

Paul next moves to something more specific; yet ever so general at the same time.  He speaks to the relationship between husbands and wives, or is it the relationship between Christ and his church?  The answer is yes, yes to both.

Today, we will lean towards understand the relationship between husbands and wives.

While as Christians, we submit to one another; Paul speaks to a more intricate and intimate relationship between Christian husband and wife.

Christ is the head of the church and the husband is the head of the family.  I probably can’t preach this in California without getting sued.  What an inglorious concept.  The wife must submit to the husband.

For those with only a sophomoric understanding of this pericope, there will be a little dissent or complaint or perhaps even unrest and rebellion.  We read or hear just enough to ignite a little ire in our human nature stirred up.
But let us read this passage in its full context.  The husband is to the wife as Christ is to the church.  Christ gave his life to people who did not love him.  Christ died for us.  Christ sacrificed himself for us—his church.  Some extend the comparisons and consider the church to be the bride of Christ.  We won’t chase that rabbit here.

But the man being the head of the wife is stated very clearly and is not just a cultural thing of the day.  This is the model for the family.

The problem that most folks have is that they see the authority granted the husband without considering the responsibility.  I will compare it to my time as a commanding officer.  In military service, the position of commanding officer is the ultimate expression of authority. 

Not all officers are commanders.  Some are unit leaders, staff officers, chiefs of staff, or numerous other billets that come with some authority but not that of the commanding officer.

But the commanding officer is responsible for everything that his unit does or fails to do; and here’s the kicker—whether he knows about it or not.  Some see only the authority of the commander and never know the responsibility. 

There is greater privilege but the responsibility far exceeds the privilege that comes with authority.

So we come to the husband.  Yes, he has the authority in the basic family unit—husband and wife.  While the wife may have authority and responsibility and duties as well; the ultimate responsibility for the care and godly living of the family belongs to the husband.

As I counsel couples contemplating marriage, we inevitably cross the bridge where I ask the husband does he understand that in saying, “I do” he is also saying, “I will die for you.  I will give my life for you and the family that comes of our union.”

We don’t go forward unless there is a “yes” answer.

Remember as Christians, we all are counseled to submit to one another.  Those who enter this special, this sacred relationship called marriage take on a greater level of submission.

The wife submits to the authority of the husband.

The husband commits his life—yes that means the physical sacrifice required in times of danger, but also the living sacrifice of living a godly life that Paul mentions elsewhere.
This is the godly model for marriage.  Within that model, live out your salvation with fear and trembling.  Who does the budget?  Who organizes the garage?  Who does the laundry?  Who picks the new login and password?  Who controls the remote—not that, somewhere in between the lines Paul says that belongs to the man.  That’s not up for discussion.

Love within the marriage of the Christian man and women takes a special and precise form to come to fullness in the union.  This is the agapatō (ἀγαπάτω) form of love.  This is unconditional love.  This is the love that we know in Christ Jesus.

For the husband, love for his wife in unconditional.  If she is as wonderful as the day you met her, you love her unconditionally.  If she is cold and bitter, you still love her unconditionally.  If she if downright mean, you love her unconditionally.  If she is all of these in a single day or hour, you love her unconditionally.

She does not have to earn your love or even deserve it.  You love her unconditionally.

For the wife, her love takes the form of respect—unconditional respect.  The idea that he must earn your respect is the world’s model; you respect him unconditionally. When he makes great decisions, you respect him unconditionally.  When he is making downright boneheaded decisions, you respect him unconditionally.

Some husbands and wives say that this is too hard to do.  “Well, you don’t know my wife.”  Thanks for the counsel Paul, “But I can’t respect that man.  He doesn’t deserve it.”

God’s counsel that we receive in this letter by Paul is to love and respect anyway.

Growing up, how many of you were told to do something with the explanation of why coming down to, “Because I said so!”

How many of you said, “I will never use that with my kids.”

How many of you have eaten those words?

Sometimes when the man is not deserving of respect, you respect him anyway because God said so.  Sometimes when the woman is just unlovable, you love her anyway because God said so.

Unconditional love by the husband and unconditional respect by the wife are two indispensible elements in a thriving marriage.   That does not mean that men don’t respect women and women don’t love men.  It means that God understands and is trying to reveal to us how the two can truly become one.

We meet each other’s most basic needs—the woman to be loved without condition and the man to be respected in like manner.

Where have we come in this fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church or churches in Ephesus?

We are God’s children and brothers and sisters in Christ and we are to live as the people we truly are. In that, we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

For those who follow Christ and become joined in marriage, we also live in reverence to Christ but now go beyond the relationship that we have with all Christians.  We love and respect unconditionally.  The husband meets this most basic human need in the woman of being loved all the time without regard to a report card.  Likewise, the woman meets the most innate need in a man—to be respected—also without regard for whether he deserves it or not.

In everything we do, we are counseled to live wisely, not as the world lives but as God has called us to live.  This applies in our relationship with the world that does not know God, with other Christians, and with our most valued partner in Christian marriage.

Live wisely.

Practice God’s wisdom by making the most of your opportunities.

Live the lives that a person who is holy and blameless before God lives, because we are those people.

Wives, take every opportunity to respect your husbands.

Husbands, take every opportunity to love your wives.

Sometimes living this way may be difficult but it is not impossible.  We are God’s children and with him all things are possible.


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