Of marriage, queens and serving.
Theirs is a great love story, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. He loved his queen - for almost 74 years. She said of him, "He is the only man I could ever love," and it was clear he adored her too. Oh, you know it could not have been easy for him at times, being married to the Queen of England! Yet he served her.
This morning I saw a young married man who looked at his wife as though she was his queen. (Makes me smile even now as I'm thinking of it) A bit later, I was able to ask the wife if she loved being newly married and her face totally lit up, 'Yes, I do! He's my best friend.' I submit to you it does not get any better than that.
Marriage is a gift, thought of entirely in the mind of God. After creating Adam, God said it was not good for him to be alone, so he took a rib from Adam and created Eve. “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”1
Marriage is also a lot of work at times. But today, we hear from Paul on how things ought to work. In the first part of this letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul described the great gift of grace and eternal life to be found and experienced through relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord, who paid the ultimate price for us. Then in light of the life-giving relationship we have with Christ, Paul pivots to tell us how we ought conduct ourselves, starting in chapter four. [This really is a great, informative, inspirational, instructive letter, comprised of just six chapters, that we could spend a lifetime seeking to understand and live out.]
Paul causes us to look up as he starts the fifth chapter: Imitate God and carefully determine what pleases the Lord, in verse 1 and 10 respectively, love greatly and live wisely like Jesus. And then, out of reverence for Christ, submit to one another;2 in humility, counting others more significant than ourselves.3
With regard to submitting to one another, Paul speaks about marriage. The link to the passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+5.21-33&version=ESV
Here are the key verses:
-Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
-Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
-husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
v. 31-33: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Much has been made of Paul's call for women to submit to their husbands - as though that makes women lesser. On the contrary, it adds to a wife's strength, confidence and dignity. After all, Paul had just called for us to submit to one another in vs. 21. We do well to remember that women in the first century were the property of their husbands; they had no rights at all.
And then Paul radically calls for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, meaning husbands are to love their wives so sacrificially, they would die for them. What?! Prior to this, there was no owe-ness on husbands; that is, until Paul … well, until Christianity. Jesus was the first on the scene to treat women with love and respect—to look past their gender and the social mores of the day. —and into their hearts. Make no mistake, starting with Jesus Christ, the 'position', the esteem of women changed dramatically for the better. As a result, women were last at the cross and first to the tomb. Women loved being around Jesus.
Christ loved by serving. On the night he would later be arrested and jailed, hours before he went to the cross, Jesus set the example of serving his beloved disciples by washing their feet. Jesus loved and showed it by serving.
So why do we find that so difficult to do in marriage? I mean, it is popular to be out in front in some sort of cause or another--serving the homeless, feeding the poor, sponsoring a child in a foreign country, etc., but in the day in, day out opportunity to serve our mate, we oft fall down. Guilty as charged.
Oh, I totally get that life takes its toll … financial hardship, medical conditions, cultural pressures, a tearing away of this way and that--all so hard on marriage, but that's when we must remember we are serving 'as unto the Lord' not just our spouse. Fact is, marriage provides an opportunity for daily service. Remember when Jesus said ‘whatever you did for the least of these, you did it for me.’ (Matthew 25) Because when we give of ourselves to others, our actions bring glory to God. When we serve our spouses selflessly, in turn, we serve God--the King of Kings, and we encourage our mates and strengthen our bond.
Let's love better, give more selflessly, starting at home~
Great love song, sung at my wedding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU2hPIwqbTk
1 - Matthew Henry, 17th century Welsh preacher
2 - Ephesians 5.21
3 - Philippians 2.3