20th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, what’s the purpose of a mirror? I mean, what do you use a mirror for? Decoration? Perhaps. To look at yourself, to shave, to put on make-up, to do your hair. We use mirrors a lot, don’t we? But finally the purpose of a mirror is to reflect our image back to us, finally, to show us who we are. God also gives us “mirrors” so-to-speak in His Word. God’s “mirrors” show us who we are and what God’s done for us and how He has changed us. His mirrors cause us to see ourselves the way He has made us to be and cause us to live as He wants us to live.
All of our readings this morning focus on marriage and family life. Our text for this sermon from Ephesians is no different. When it comes to marriage and family life our world for the most part has shattered the mirror God has provided in His Word. It looks nothing like what God wants it to be. What do we see around us? Pre-marital pregnancies, troubled marriages, cheating spouses, divorces of every kind, abusive husbands, abusive wives. And it even gets worse as our world tries to fix sin with sin. “Traditional marriage” is thrown out for living together or same-sex marriage or multiple partners etc, etc. Ughh! You have to admit that our world is a mess when it comes to this issue and there is no therapist, counselor, newspaper columnist, talk show host that is going to solve these desperate problems. But if you are here today as a spouse or as a member of a family, you know your own relationships aren’t perfect either, right? Think about it: if we are sinful, which we are, and if we sin every day, which we do, and if our sins mostly affect those closest to us, which they do, then at the end your life the person whom you are bound to have sinned against the most is…your spouse. So, what our world needs, what we need is… GOD. God is the author and Creator of marriage and families and He alone knows how they work best. We do best to listen to Him and learn from Him how marriage and families are supposed to work for His glory and our good.
Here in Ephesians we have GOD’s directions for marriage. In the immediate context of our verses for this morning the apostle Paul is continuing a series of different things a Christian who is “filled with the Holy Spirit” does. Someone who has seen God’s amazing love, who has been given the Holy Spirit through faith. Only the Christian can truly understand and appreciate what God now says. The Christian speaks to one another with psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, sings and makes music to the Lord, give thanks to God for everything, and now he addresses the Christian’s response to God’s love within the family. Part of this response includes a self-less submission out of reverence for Christ. The motivating force behind the directions God gives here is “reverence for Christ”; being aware of what Christ has already done for me, it is something only the believer can appreciate and see its beauty.
First Pastor Paul under the inspiration of God takes the women aside from the men, later he’ll take the men aside on their own. Wives, then husbands, then children, then fathers. You see, God doesn’t want us to be so concerned with what someone else is doing, rather, He wants us to be concerned with what WE are supposed to be doing, carrying out the functions and responsibilities that He has given to us.
First it’s women and wives. “Submit to your husband as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife…” Submit?? It kind of jolts our ears, it’s a word that our society has determined is bad and mean and awful. We don’t submit, we’re free!! Right? But remember who is talking here: it’s GOD. This is what God says and we need to understand it. The word submit in the Greek language is hypatasso and it doesn’t have a negative connotation. What it literally means is to “line up under” or to “rank people or things in order under a specific pattern.” It has nothing to do with inferiority or value, but with order. As the wife submits to her husband she does so “as to the Lord.” She understands God’s amazing love for her, how He sent Jesus to save her, to open heaven’s doors for her and part of her worship to God is submitting to her husband, the head of the family. Everything has only one head, there can’t be two heads.
So the wife submits or “lines herself up under” her husband for the good of the family. Every analogy limps but perhaps this helps. A truck driver driving his truck down the road will submit to the 14 year old crossing guard in the crosswalk when his hand goes up. The truck driver is not showing himself to be weaker, less intelligent, less gifted, less important, or in any way inferior. He is, however, submitting. The driver recognizes that because of the order of authority, established by the government for the good of drivers and pedestrians, he must submit to the will of the crossing guard. Submission has to do with order, not value. The army soldier submits himself in rank under the general and his command for the good of the entire army. In baseball the pitcher typically submits to the catcher’s call of what kind of pitch to throw.
And why does a wife do this? Because she looks in the mirror that God has provided. What does she see? Her role in marriage mimics or reflects how the Church, the body of all believers, submits to Jesus. Jesus held the church’s interests up far above His own, Jesus went to the greatest lengths possible to save His Church, Jesus bought His church with His own blood, Jesus does all things and rules all things in the best interest of His church. Do you want to submit to that? Absolutely! Is it demeaning to submit to that? Not at all! So the wife submits to her husband, NOT for him to abuse her, NOT when he wants her to disobey God, but God wants the wife’s submission to her husband to reflect the Church’s loving submission to Christ.
Next pastor Paul takes husbands aside. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. Notice how much more ink Paul used for husbands. The husband has a greater responsibility. As head God wants husbands to wrestle through decisions (certainly with the input of his wife!) and make decisions for the best interests of his family, his wife, and not himself. If the husband is carrying out his role correctly, then it will be a joy and a delight for the wife to carry out her role. The husband loves in both emotion and action and he loves his wife, not for his own interests, but loves in a way that has his wife’s blessing, his wife’s benefit first and foremost. The word God uses for love here is interesting. It is Agape. It is a special word used predominantly for God’s love to us to describe a totally unselfish love, a love that gives, a love that gives regardless of any kind of return or appreciation. That’s the husband’s love to his wife.
Then Paul moves to an even deeper purpose. Since in marriage the two have become one, when the husband loves his wife, he is really loving himself. So closely has God connected two people in marriage that they are no longer two but one. So the husband seeks to feed, nourish, and care for his wife’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
What does a husband who “loves” his wife look like? It’s a husband who cares so much about his wife and her needs that he is willing to set aside all of his wants and needs in order to care for her. If the time came, he would willingly and joyfully lay down his life for his wife without complaint. And it’s a husband who not only would die for his wife, but live for his wife. It’s a husband who understands that his wife needs to hear things like, “I love you,” “I want what is best for you,” “I care about you.” And yet it’s a husband who not only says those things, but does them, one who lives up to those actions. The love of God for us was an action love. It’s was a love that sprung into action giving Himself up for us and our good. The love of a husband springs into action for his wife as he springs into action and looks out for her best interests and most of all her eternal interests.
And why does a husband do this? It is because of the mirror that God has provided for him. He looks into God’s mirror and he sees Christ’s love for the church and for him. Christ showed the ultimate unselfish love by giving up his own life for sinful humans. He purchased them with his own blood. Then He raised His people to an esteemed level, cleansed them of their sins, forgave their sins, quieted their accusing consciences, gave peace with God, and assured them of God’s protecting hand. He continues to do everything in order to bring His people to heaven as His own unblemished, blameless, and without wrinkle bride! The husband sees that in the mirror and he can’t help but reflect that love toward his wife.
When we look into the mirror of God’s Word what do we see first? What does your marriage look like? What is your relationship like to the other sex? Unfaithfulness, lustful thoughts, selfishness, silent treatment, verbal abuse, anger, violence, jealousy? Things that have no place in our relationships, in our marriages. We look in that mirror and see ourselves, hopeless and abused by sin, ragged, disgusting, deserving nothing but shame, filthy with our own sins. But looking closer into that mirror we see something else. We see our God come on to the scene. What does He do? He sends His own Son, etc. In a way, he makes us His own bride! In a Cinderella fashion He picks us up out of the gutter and takes us into His throne room washes us clean in the water of our baptism, gives us new clothes, clothes Jesus Himself wore without stain or wrinkle, or any kind of blemish at all, then He stands at the front of the church and is wowed by us as we walk down the aisle. In a sense He looks at us and says, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” This is my bride whom I bought with my own blood!
Now God says: live in response to that. Mirror that amazing relationship in your marriage relationship. God wants every Christian marriage to be a mini reflection of His marriage relationship to us, His Church. The way that a husband and a wife interact with one another is part of their worship to God, is part of how they say to God, “Thank you for what you have done for us! Let me show my appreciation by living the way you want me to live.”
Then your marriage becomes a witness to children. God wants children to be able to see the marriage relationship between a husband and wife who love and respect each other and learn what Jesus’ relationship is to them and vice-versa. Divorce, unfaithfulness, selfishness all those things distort and wreck the mirror God wants children to see. God has a deep desire for children to know about Him and His love and anyone who gets in the way will be held accountable to God. Finally, your marriage is also a witness to the world. God wants you in your marriage to set an example of a truly Christian marriage and how beautiful it is for the world to see and as a testament against every sinful abuse of God’s gift of marriage. And finally may your life, be it in your marriage, be it in your devotion to Christ, may it all reflect as a mirror the gracious love of our God who rescued us, who washed our sins away, who bought us, and who made us His bride forever! Amen.