When my daughter & son-in-law got married this past fall I was asked to read some scripture during the service. I was allowed to pick one verse myself, the second verse being selected by the couple getting married.
My verse was easy. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
"9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him - a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
I love that verse. Not only does it describe how our relationships should be with each other but it speaks volumes about what it is like to have Jesus as Lord of our lives.
The second verse I read on that wonderful day was selected by the wedding couple and, quite frankly, when I was given the verse to read, its selection surprised me. I was expecting something more like the typical one from 1 Corinthians 13 - "Love is patient, love is kind." Instead I was asked to read a verse about submission and sacrifice in a marriage - not something this world or women's lib and gender equality would have us believe. The passage being discussed here today is Ephesians 5:22-33.
"22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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. 28 In the same way husbands should love their 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 Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."
This is God's pattern for not only husbands and wives but for the church's relationship with Jesus. Remember, HE is the bride groom. We are His bride. We are to submit to the authority of Christ and to love and respect Him. He in return has protected us and indeed SAVED us. sacrificing Himself FOR us because God loves us THAT MUCH.
I received a message from a relative of mine a few weeks ago, questioning my giving the "submissive" advice to my daughter. She said I "scared her." Hmm. All I did was read a Bible verse and I suddenly became scary? I think perhaps she is afraid of God's Word.
The world in which we live has a different idea about marriage. It doesn't matter what sex a married couple is, as long as the couple loves each other. That's what the world says. What God says is quite a bit different. Seeing as God created us, one would think He just might know how He planned to have things work.
God wrote our instruction manual. It's called The Bible. We are to submit to God. It says it right there in Ephesians. Jesus is the bride groom and we, the church, are the bride of Christ. We are to submit to Christ. Christ, the groom, sacrificed Himself for us, His bride. And He was already done that. So how are we doing on OUR end of the bargain? Are we submitting to Jesus?
"If you love me you will keep my commands," said the groom, Jesus, to His bride. The bride in God's plan would do what He says. We are to submit to God's authority.
In a marriage in today's environment, things are a little more cloudy. When it's time to make a decision as a married couple there is discussion, or at least there should be, but in the end a decision is made. The husband is the head of the household. It is ultimately his decision.
But let's not forget to role of the husband is more than that of a dictatorial king. He must analyze the situation and make a God-honoring decision, without thought of self.
Here's an example. A husband wants to buy a new deer rifle. His old one is getting old. His wife would like to buy a new sewing machine. They discuss. The husband says the new deer rifle will put meat on the table. The wife wants to use the sewing machine to make clothes and also to teach other women how to sew. They discuss some more, weighing all the options and ramifications, but ultimately the man decides. But not selfishly . . . self-LESS-ly.
"Honey, I've thought about this a lot. Although I really would like to get a new gun, I can make due with the one I have for one more year. Your idea of helping others by teaching them how to sew is a good one. It would be providing for many, not just for ourselves. Let's go get you that new sewing machine."
That's nice and it works if everyone honors God's plan. But we live in a self-centered world where everyone seems to be out for themselves. That's where the plan falls apart, when the husband thinks only of himself.
"You want a new sewing machine!? Seriously? I need a new rifle so I can provide for this family. A sewing machine can't do that so forget it."
In this last example the man is not thinking of others. He doesn't see how teaching someone to sew actually DOES put food on the table . . . for a lifetime!
The plan of submitting to authority, to God, to anything must be a two-way street. Yes, there is someone making the final decision. But the decision maker must make those decisions considering all of the options and which decision is the most God-honoring. And if the deer rifle/sewing machine decision is too close to call, he is to sacrifice himself and let his wife get the machine.
Men are to be the leaders of the family but that does not mean they are to be dictators of it. It means that men are the last to eat. It means that men do the dishes because their wives have had a long day. It means that the man sacrifices all for his wife.
We all kind of bristle at authority. None of us like to see the flashing lights of a police car in our rearview mirror. But there is nothing more comforting when we are stranded on a deserted road in the dead of winter than to see the flashing lights of authority, of sacrifice, when it is truly needed.
When Jesus died for our sins He did so because He was submitting to the will of His Father. Jesus sacrificed Himself for His bride, the church . . . so that any who would believe in Him could survive the wrath of a righteous and holy God. How can we as Christians not submit to Him?
When we read the Bible and find something that is not to our liking, do we ignore it? Or do we submit? Do we erase that particular verse thinking others might see us as judgmental? Or do we stand by it and submit to our King . . . on bended knee . . .