Summary: The Credible Christian household depends on those within it being submitted to one another, offering hospitality to others and using their tongues only to build up.
I want us to spend some time today thinking about what a Christian household might look like. Mind you I don’t mean just any Christian household. Of course I mean a credible Christian household.
Well, what is it that might characterise a credible Christian household? Is there something about a Christian household that people might notice as different?
Well, as usual I want to start by thinking about a particular passage, the one we just read, from Ephesians 5 & 6, and as we go along we’ll think about some other passages as well.
Here in Ephesians 5 Paul begins to think about how the unity of the Church should be reflected in the way households operate. So he starts with this simple instruction in v21: "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ." His desire is that Christian households would demonstrate a level of harmony and partnership that will be seen by others as commendable, that is, as commending the gospel.
Now I guess most of us are familiar with the concept of a submissive wife. It’s an idea that’s been taught fairly widely over the years, based largely on this passage. Wives are told to be subject to their husbands, just as they’re subject to the Lord. The idea is that if the unity of a couple is to be maintained then the wife needs to overcome her natural inclination to want to rule her husband. Now before you start throwing things, let me assure you that there’s more to this than just that and I’ll be talking about husbands in a moment. But this bit is important. If you’re a wife you have a primary role in maintaining the harmony of the household. Not the primary role, but a primary role.
When God announced the curses that had come on humanity as a result of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, one of the curses was that the woman’s desire would be for her husband, but that he would rule over her. Now we tend to think of that in terms of sexual desire, but in fact the word desire is also used in the next chapter to describe the way sin is desiring to master Cain, but instead Cain must master it (4:7). So it seems probable that the curse has to do with the desire for control, whether by the wife or by the husband. Now, as I said, we’ll say more about husbands in a moment. But first, wives need to work this one through. If your marriage is to be characterised by mutual submission, by you being subject to one another, then that means being prepared to go against the way we’ve all been trained over the past 30 to 40 years. In other words you might need to forego the desire for self fulfillment, self-actualisation, in favour of working for the benefit of the partnership, perhaps even giving up your own desire for fulfillment because you want to see your partner grow. I don’t have time to go into the legacy of Abraham Maslow, but for those who don’t know about him he was a psychologist who observed human behaviour in organisations and came up with what he called a hierarchy of needs. The trouble was that this hierarchy of needs, with the need for food and shelter at the bottom and self-actualisation at the top, I think, has become a self fulfilling prophecy. So, now it isn’t just that people come to the point of desiring self-fulfilment after all their other needs are met. We now see it as the most important thing we can have.