Summary: The Designer's instructions can breathe Good News, life and peace into a marriage.
WHAT MUST I DO? LOVE YOUR WIFE AND RESPECT YOUR HUSBAND
Big Idea: Whatever God’s Word says you MUST do, God knows you CAN do!
A few years back I decided to help Vickie with some household errands that are not in my “wheel house.” One of those was to do some washing. Now I thought everything was going along swell until my gesture of good will was finished. As I pulled some things out of the dryer I noticed that a few pair of wool socks were remarkably smaller that they were beforehand and there was some delicate garments that, well, would never look the same again. Afterwards I discovered that the designer of these garments had given special instructions for washing and drying. I assumed “clothes were clothes” and everything should be treated equally and, as a result, there was ruin.
If I had only read the designer’s instructions beforehand …
When it comes to marriage we often see similar tragedies. People fail to follow the Designer’s instructions and, consequently, there is ruin.
Too many marriages go through three downward spiraling phases:
Phase #1 – The Ideal
Phase #2 – The Ordeal
Phase #3 – Looking for a new deal
The Designer’s instructions can assure a better outcome.
Jesus’ people are designed to be a counter-cultural force in the world. They are intended to be virtuous force that offers “Good News” and a life-giving, peace-filled way of living. Jesus Christ offers informed transformation to the world.
There are few areas of life in more need of transformation than the marriage relationship. When it is transformed by the Gospel its potential for hope and well-being is unrivaled and God’s word offers the Designer’s instructions for the counter-cultural alternative to the world’s view of marriage.
In the U.S., where things have been influenced by Christian virtues for centuries, it appears on the surface not to be as contrasting as it is in some other cultures. Marriage, like everything else God calls His people to, is designed to have love as its foundation. In ancient times (and in some cultures today) wives were considered property with very few rights; love was seldom the foundation. When we read Ephesians 5:22-33 with the ancient understanding of marriage as the backdrop you will see how radical, how contrasting, and how counter-cultural the Gospel’s understanding of marriage is. Listen to Ephesians 5:22-33. You will notice the “MUST” given in verse 33 which also serves as a summary for the discussion.
22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- 30 for we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
The clear contrast between an ancient understanding of marriage and the Gospel’s would have made this passage quite controversial in Jesus’ day and even though we have come a long way, it is still radical in our day as well. Ephesians 5:22-33 give us the Designer’s instruction for a radical counter-cultural marriage that reflects Jesus Christ and Christian virtue.
First of all, this passage reinforces a couple assumptions about the Gospel’s understanding of marriage.
• For example, God has always used marriage as imagery of his relationship with his people. In both the Old and New Testaments this was the case. The basic understanding is that marriage, like our relationship with Jesus, is a covenant … an agreement that both parties enter into. The ancient world’s understanding of marriage was not covenantal. They did not see marriage as two people being in partnership – walking through life shoulder to shoulder – becoming “one flesh.”
• The Gospel of Jesus also restores all humanity as equal. This Biblical understanding of equality is why slavery was abolished and it is because of equality that marriage can been reformed. Husband and wife are equal – they are “one flesh.” Dominance and power have no place within a marriage. Being in a covenant relationship makes husbands and wives equal in standing and yet they have different roles to play within the covenant.