Summary: Follow God’s Plan for the Family 1) Wives, submit to your husband. 2) Husbands, love your wife. 3) Children, obey your parents. 4) Fathers, instruct your children.
XL Foods has been in the news quite a bit recently. Their beef has been less than X-L-ent thanks to unchecked E. coli contamination at its meat-packing plant in Brooks, AB. It turns out that the plant wasn’t even following its own safety plan for packaging meat. Nothing good happens when you don’t follow “the plan.” That’s true in business; it’s true in sports; and it’s true for the family. Today Paul exhorts us to follow the plan for the family – God’s plan. Let’s find out what that is.
Paul begins by speaking to wives. He said: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24). “Wives, submit to your husband.” Can you believe Paul would say something like that and that I would repeat it! What we need to remember is that Paul isn’t sharing what he thinks is best for marriage; he is passing along what God says is best. As we heard in the Old Testament lesson today, it is God who came up with the idea for marriage. To ignore what he has to say about it is like ignoring what he has instructed regarding Holy Communion and insisting that it would be OK to use milk and cookies instead of bread and wine in the sacrament! I hope you would howl in protest if I tried something like that. Likewise Christian wives, you should protest when the world suggests that the Bible’s plan for marriage doesn’t apply anymore. It does. And it’s in your best interest to follow the plan – God’s plan.
When Paul urges you to submit it’s not because you are inferior to your husband. It can’t mean that because Jesus submitted to his heavenly Father. He did so, not because he was inferior, but rather to accomplish the mission of securing our salvation. Likewise you submit to your husband to accomplish the mission of maintaining family harmony and happiness. Think of how it’s a blessing that trucks submit to red lights. When they don’t, they wreak havoc! And so it’s for good order that God directs you to submit to your husband.
But how exactly do you do that? You submit by being your husband’s best supporter. When he doesn’t do something quite right, you don’t belittle him for it. Instead you praise him for the things he does well and you thank him for the hours he puts in at work on behalf of the family. Be specific in your encouragement. Don’t just tell your husband that you love him; tell him why you love him. Do this often! There is of course more I could say but we need to move on because God’s plan for the family has four parts.
Paul turns next to husbands and says: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:25, 28-30).
Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife. Headship, however, is not lordship! Husbands, you are not the boss of your wife. You are her servant-leader and are to love your wife the same way Christ loved the Church of which he is the head. How much did Christ love the Church? He gave up his life for her…even though she didn’t deserve it. We often forget that part, don’t we? We’re willing to love our wife if she first loves us and submits to us. But that’s not what Paul said. We are to love our wife the way Christ loved us. Jesus made no demands of us before he gave up his life to pay for our sins. Neither will we demand a certain attitude or behavior from our wives before we’ll love and serve them. We put them first because Jesus put us first. We’re patient with them because Jesus is patient with us.
If we are hesitant to serve our wife through such sacrifice, then consider this “selfish” reason for doing so. Paul reminds us that in marriage the “two become one.” Therefore the way we treat our wife is really the way we treat ourselves. When we belittle our wife, when we neglect her, when we don’t bother to see what her needs are, we only hurt ourselves. Think of how short-sighted it would be for a new car owner to say, “I’m not going to waste money on changing the oil or getting new tires for the car. That’s money that could be spent on me and meals out on the town!” Well, such an individual better hope that the restaurants he likes to frequent are within walking distance because that’s what he’ll be doing when his car stops running due to his neglect. Likewise guys, we shouldn’t be surprised when the marriage starts to falter because of our lack of attention to our wife’s wants and needs. Treat your wife well; you’re doing yourself a favor.