Sunday, August 24, 2014

Eph 5B: The Missional Marriage

Eph 5:22-33 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 

My wife and I conduct Alpha's marriage preparation course for the community. We often have couples with one or both partners who are non-believers and often divorcees too. Of course, we also have couples where both are Christians. In one session, I will ask them why they want to get married. The common answer is companionship and for some it's to start a family (meaning with children). For Christian couples, the answer often stops there, not much different from the non-believing couples. 

In today's passage, Paul gives us another reason for marriage. Like everything in the Christian life, marriage is an institution that God uses as a witness to Christ, viz., Christ's love for the Church. In other words, marriage has a missional dimension. It's not just about us as believers -- it is about Christ and it is for Christ. Through the husband's sacrificial and selfless love for the wife and the wife's willing submission to her husband's authority, the couple demonstrates to the watching world the message of the Gospel--how Christ loves the church for whom He has given his life: "Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."

Just as the church receives Christ's love through submission to her as her Head, so the wife who submits to her husband will experience the husband's love through her submission to him. 

The feminists believe the word "submission" in marriage is a dirty word. But in life, we are always in situations where we have to submit to authority, whether it be in schools, campuses or workplaces. We don't see submission to our bosses or submission to civil authorities as negative. Why is it a bad word in the marriage and family? Just as we will expect our children to submit to their parents, so it's right and proper that wives submit to her husband, for it is through her submission that the man is motivated to love her as Christ loved the church--selflessly and sacrificially. It's not a win-lose situation, but a win-win situation when a woman submits to her man.

More importantly, a wife's submission to her husband is  a powerful message to the world about the Gospel of the Kingdom, where true leadership is defined by serving one another, not lording over one another. Christian couples that follow the Church-Christ model are not only powerful witnesses to Christ's love for the Church but also a great blessing to couples themselves and to their children.

Father, I thank You that submission is an attribute of the Trinity, for within the Godhead, there is mutual submission. Help us learn the divine attribute of submission to one another. Amen.

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