As Christ loved the church…

As Christ loved the church...
Romans 5v8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

Ephesians 5v25
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her….”

OK, so last week on this blog I proclaimed that I was going to cultivate positive marital expectations from here forward, and look forward to great things, despite the challenges that most marriages face.  All that is still true, and I am working on shifting my mindset over.

Recently though, I was thinking a little on the verse quoted above, and thinking “hmm, perhaps things are not quite as one-sided in a Christian marriage as I had always assumed!”.

Now the issue is that the Bible makes it clear that wives are to submit to their husbands –  unconditionally – in EVERYTHING.  I’d always thought that that was unfair –  I have written about it at length already on this blog.  I’d always thought that the counterpart to wifely submission was frankly a little tame – ie, that men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  But then I got thinking about it (yesterday in fact!) and thinking exactly about how Christ did love the church, and what parallels we can draw from that to loving Christian marriage.

Christ gave everything.
Philippians 2v5-11 tells us of the extent to which Christ gave everything:  “He was in the form of God, yet He made Himself of no reputation.  He took the form of a slave.”  Therefore, I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to suggest that husbands should be ready to give up everything for their wives, including their reputations, after all, this is part of how Christ loved the church.  He gave up His wealth, His position, His status for His bride. The husband should be the slave/leader of his wife, in the same way that Christ is the slave/leader of the church. (Note, not slave-driver, which is how this might also sound). I’m loving this already!

Christ was a servant slave/leader
One of the things I’ve been dreading about marriage is that one day Mr Wonderful Husband will find cause to say (or shout!) “I am the head of this home!”  Yes you are, honey, but let’s look at what Christ teaches us about being a leader:

Matthew 20v2527
25. “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.

26. Yet it shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.

27. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.””

We see from Jesus Himself what this means in practice :  John 13v2,4,5
v2 And supper being ended…
v4[Jesus] rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself
v5 After that, He… began to wash the disciples’ feet

Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. This was the work of a slave.  Even before His death and resurrection, Jesus was recognised as a King.  And yet He humbled himself to this level.  Husbands, this is your duty.  Even if you actually are a king, maybe relative to your wife in terms of background, education, etc, you should get right down and wash her feet.  Oh yes!  This is what the Bible says.

Christ loved first.
I often find myself getting drawn into arguments over who should “go” first – should the wife submit first, or should the husband love first?  Check out this answer I posted to a LinkedIn discussion about this subject a couple of years ago. * (You might have to scroll down a little to get to my answer). Admittedly, in the New Testament, the wife always seems to be instructed to submit first.  That is, the instructions to wives always seems to precede those to husbands in the texts.  You get anecdotes such as “If you treat him as a king, then he will treat you as a queen”.  However, if we are  to consider the way Christ loves the Church, then it is obvious that Christ overwhelmingly “went first”.

Romans 5v8  says: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.  Christ made the ultimate sacrifice while His church was largely still rejecting Him.  His disciples had denied Him. Those people whom He had healed and on whom He had had compassion throughout His ministry had turned around and shouted “Crucify Him”.  Many of those people would later form the early church.  And yet in the face of persecution, betrayal and denial Jesus still lovingly, tenderly gave everything.  He did not wait for the Church to submit to Him “first”.  Husbands, this is your duty.

Now, what does this mean in practice?  I don’t think  that being a slave/leader means just submitting to every request that your wife could possibly make – that would merely make you a slave.  I think that being a slave/leader – (notice I use the word “slave” as that is the word the Greek uses – doulos δοῦλος.  When people refer to “servant-leaders” that softens it a little.) – this  means that you remain the leader, but you need to serve as Christ has called all His leaders to do.  To be a leader in Christ means that you are constantly working to bring your wife, congregation etc to become more like Christ, and to be more like what God wants them to be.  This might mean refusing requests from your wife etc, but not selfishly for the sake of your own ego, but rather because you know that what they have requested is not in line with God’s word and His truth, or because it does not lead to where He wants them to be.

It’s a little like this – loving your children does not mean giving them everything they want.  However, even in refusing their requests you act in their best interests.  I’m a little reluctant to compare wives to children, because as a woman I am after all a grown-up, I have a fair idea of what is good for me. However, I think the same basic idea stands, and I note that in New Testament times the comparison of wives to children was not so far fetched, as young girls would often be married off to far older men.

More to husbands: being a leader means that you take the initiative. No-one asked or commanded Jesus to wash His disciples’ feet, He took the initiative and did it Himself.  Husbands, you similarly are to take the initiative to wash your wives’ feet – metaphorically speaking – or literally, as the case may be!  Husbands you are to take the initiative to humble yourself to serve your wife in any way necessary, in line with God’s word and God’s purposes.

So, how about that then?!  That redresses the balance a little, I think!  I think that this is huge, but I put it to you that only this level of service from husbands would justify the commands to wives to submit to them “in everything, as unto the Lord.”  This is what the Bible teaches, and I think that if you are unwilling to commit to this level of service or sacrifice, then you should not get married, just as I have for a long time resisted marriage, as I have known that I would find it difficult to submit to another human being in everything.

That said, I think that even I would easily submit to someone demonstrating this level of service and humility.  That is, I am committed to submitting to my husband anyway.  That is why I have been carefully looking for someone whom I feel I could submit to. However, if he behaved like this; if he humbled himself, and took the initiative etc, then I am confident that this would make submission for me a lot more effortless! (Although I would say that, wouldn’t I!) 😉

Stay tuned as next week I plan to start a humorous series on “Essential Characteristics for my husband” (and also for myself as an excellent wife too!) 😉

Bible Verses:
Ephesians 5v22-33

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body,[a] of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

*Briefly glancing over that LinkedIn article, as I edit this post in June 2014, I notice that the original writer of the post says this:
“If you want to keep your husband’s eyes on you and not a another woman, then the first step is to respect your husband….”
I simply hate this.  The implicit suggestion is that if a husband has been “looking at another woman”, then somehow it is the wife’s fault.  So many times, in the church, I have noticed subtle ways of blaming the wife for a husband’s indiscretions.  The difficulty is that there might be an element of truth, which will vary from situation to situation, however ultimately individuals need to take responsibility for their own failings; the question of adultery is first and foremost about faithfulness to God, even before it is about faithfulness to your spouse, and your interaction with God should not be dependent on any other person whatsoever.

Bible Verses:
Ephesians 5v25
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her….”

Matthew 20v2527
25. “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.

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Photo of cross from Pixabay
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