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Thursday, 27 November 2014

Ephesians 5:21-6:9

Instructions for Christian households: 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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 Saviour. 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 their own body, but they feed and care for their body, 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.

6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 ‘Honour your father and mother’– which is the first commandment with a promise – 3 ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. 5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. 9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him."

And so the stickyness starts. Easy to get tangled up by the ins and outs of marital hierarchy and miss the main point. Christian households are cultures of mutual submission. Verse 21. We all have a responsibility to make more of others and less of ourselves. We are all called to copy christ in allowing ourselves to be subject to others, in humbling ourselves. And we do so for the sake of the world. Our marriages are not for ourselves but are representations of him. We are to show him off in the way we do relationship. We are to be the lone employee who loves a difficult boss, the children who ceaselessly honour our parents even when we don't think they should be honoured, the parents who refuse to stoop to anger and arguments and petty one-upmanship. This world cries out for another way, an alternative to selfish relationships, to treating others as commodities, to getting all we can and discarding, ignoring, avoiding those we perceive as unlovable. 

Rise up church! Be different. And do it because of him. Do it because you know what he did for us. He gave up everything to bring us to himself. We are to model sacrifice at every opportunity. Not nit picking about who should have the upper-hand in an argument, about who should be the first to give way. Paul's view of household relationships is cosmic. It's all about Jesus. No time for pettiness, for harbouring resentment, for constructing elaborate systems of family rules and getting annoyed when someone messes up. Submit to each other. All of you. All the time. And do it because it shows the world who he is. The bride is being made ready through the refining fire of relationships. His community is a crucible, iron sharpening iron, as we became less and be becomes more.

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