Sunday, May 26, 2013

Marriage: The Very Reflection of God

I came across two journals recently. The two journals belonged to a husband and wife. The following quotes represent two journal entries as this wife and husband reflect on the same day’s events.

First, “Her” journal:

Tonight, my husband was acting weird. We had made plans to meet at a nice restaurant for dinner. Conversation wasn't flowing, so I suggested that we go somewhere quiet so we could talk. He agreed, but he didn't say much. I asked him what was wrong. He said, "Nothing." I asked him if it was my fault that he was upset. He said he wasn't upset, that it had nothing to do with me, and not to worry about it. On the way home, I told him that I loved him. He smiled slightly, and kept driving. When we got home, he just sat there quietly, and watched TV. He continued to seem distant and absent. Finally, with silence all around us, I decided to go to bed. About 15 minutes later, he came to bed. But I still felt that he was distracted, and his thoughts were somewhere else. He fell asleep. I don't know what to do.

Now, “His” journal entry from the same day:

Rough day. Boat wouldn't start, can't figure out why.

I have some breaking news for you this morning. Men & Women are different! I know that may come as a shock to some of you. But others of you have known this for some time. One man from Arkansas (wouldn’t you know it) proved my point recently. He wrote a letter that was later published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the state’s most widely circulated newspaper. If the journal entries didn’t convince you of just how different we are from one another, maybe this letter will…

"Women are very touchy about certain gifts, as I discovered years ago after buying my girlfriend a catcher's mitt for her birthday. It seemed to me to be a particularly thoughtful gift, especially since she claimed not to be getting enough physical exercise. But apparently she didn't see it that way. The minute she unwrapped it, she ran sobbing from the room. "At first, I thought those were tears of joy streaming down her face. I figured she was overwhelmed at being the first in her crowd to have a catcher's mitt, that sort of thing. Or I figured she was so excited she couldn't wait to get outside and work on her throws to second base. But when she didn't return after a few hours I got the hint.
"Here I'd spent all that time running around from one sporting goods store to the next trying to find the perfect gift. I mean, we're talking the Johnny Bench model here; top of the line. And she calls me insensitive. I mean, you'd think I gave her a year's subscription to Field and Stream or a box of shotgun shells, which everybody knows should be saved for Christmas stocking stuffers. Personally, I think she just had a lot of anger in her and took it out on me. Not that I'm trying to play amateur psychologist or anything."

Now, there's a guy who doesn't get it. Men and women are different! It makes you wonder, doesn’t it, how some men and women have succeeded in staying married so long! There are people in this room that have been married for 25 years, 50 years, even longer! Wow! We need to celebrate that, church! Godly, strong marriages that last 50 years should be celebrated. I think God celebrates the success of those marriages.

This morning, we are beginning a short series, centered on our Stand @ Home ministry.

As you know, the Glenwood Church has committed to spending a lot of time, energy, and resources on making families stronger. We believe that the primary place of spiritual formation is the living room, not the worship center! And as we begin this ministry together, we want to start with marriage. I cannot say this any more emphatically, church: The relationship between husband and wife is the most sacred relationship on this earth among God’s creation. We must do all that is within our power to protect it and make it stronger.

The apostle Paul described the relationship between a husband and wife like this:

Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.  Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.  Ephesians 5:22-33 NRSV.

Now, I recognize that at least the first few verses of this text are not often quoted in 21st century America. In case you missed it, the first sentence of this passage reads: “Wives, be subject to your husbands.” Other translations read, “submit” to your husbands.

Some of you have heard of Bob Russell. He is now a retired preaching minister from the Independent Christian Churches. During a sermon on this same subject, he recounted that he’d recently seen an interesting cartoon. The cartoonist drew a preacher that had prepared the pulpit area like a fortress. He was peering through the crack of a machine gun nest. The caption of the cartoon said: “Today my text is I Peter 3:1, ‘Wives, submit to your husbands.’” Yes, we live in an age wherein people are not comfortable talking about “submission”, especially the submission of one gender under another. To some people these words of Paul sound extremely sexist. Some critics of Christianity generally, and Paul in particular, have long labeled this apostle "a chauvinistic pig." And this text is one of their primary weapons!

But church, would you believe me if I said that with these words, right here in Ephesians 5:22, Paul actually aligned himself with 1st century feminists? OK, maybe that is too strong a classification. The feminist movement was not around in the 1st century. But with these words, Paul certainly caused those who supported “traditional family values” to straighten up and pay attention. In order to understand this, you have to understand something about this verb Paul uses here, “to submit.”  The verb is actually in the middle reflexive voice. What that means is that the one performing the action, in this case the act of “submission”, that person is doing that action to him or herself. In other words, one way to translate this sentence would be: Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands. Some of you are wondering how that changes the meaning at all. Actually, it changes the meaning a great deal. With these words, Paul encourages wives to voluntarily submit to their husbands. He gives them a choice. And he encourages them to choose to submit.

Why were Paul’s words so revolutionary in the 1st century? Because according to 1st century Jewish and Roman household customs, wives were expected to involuntarily submit to their husbands. They were not given a choice. It’s just the way it was! By virtue of their gender, they were relegated to submit. Paul, however, encourages them to choose submission. Make the choice to put your husband first. Make the choice to live your life for him. Make the choice to serve him.

And this admonition of Paul to wives in many ways mirrors what he says to husbands. Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. In other words, husbands, make the choice to put your wife first. Husbands, make the choice to live your life for her. Husbands, make the choice to serve her. Just as Christ put us first, lived His life for us, and served us.

If you boil down Paul’s words from Ephesians 5, his message is quite simple. Husbands and wives, do what Jesus did. Jesus lived for you. Jesus died for you. Now, husbands and wives, live and die for one another. I wish we had time this morning to hear some stories from those of you who have made it to 50 or 60 years! Stories of how you’ve had to live and die for one another over the years. Yes, some of you have had to die…more than once! “Dying” happens more often than we might think. It often comes while we’re still breathing and moving around.

Take for example the real life experience of a guy named Chris Spielman. Some of you may have heard of Chris Spielman. He played for the Buffalo Bills. He was everything a middle linebacker should be: tough, strong, and smart. He played with passion, total commitment, and loyalty to the game. He played the entire 1995 season with a torn pectoral muscle that he sustained in the season opener. But the game took a distant second place, in his thinking, during the 1998 season. During that entire season, he chose to stay home. Instead of playing football, he cooked, took care of his kids, and cared for his wife—by choice. Stephanie, Chris' wife, was struggling through the stark reality of breast cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy, and nausea were Stephanie's opponents. During her fight, Chris was at her side. His actions supported his "family before job" credo. Asked by a reporter from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle if he'd consider a return to the Bills late in the season, Spielman said, "I'd play in a heartbeat, but what kind of man would I be if I backed out on my word to her?” “I wouldn't be a man at all.” Football fans saw Spielman as a man because of his aggressive, leave-it-all-on-the-field style of play. But what really makes him a man? It's his personal sacrifice and unending commitment and his decision to choose to submit to the needs of his wife.

Brothers and sisters, I want your marriages to succeed. Not just because I want you to be happy—though I do want you to be happy. As I said earlier: The relationship between husband and wife is the most sacred relationship on this earth among God’s creation. God wants your marriage to succeed. In fact, when God created marriage He intended for the relationship between a husband and wife to be a picture of His own relationships—Father, Son, Spirit. Now that is a close relationship! But, we all know, marriage is difficult sometimes. I wish I could tell you that every minute of my marriage with Kim has been perfect. But it hasn’t. There have been times in our relationship when we struggled. I remember when we had our first children. That was tough! I remember when we have had to make important decisions about our future—where to live, where to work. Those times were rough! Marriage takes hard work. Submission is difficult! Sometimes you may think there is no way to move forward.

I recently heard a great statement about God’s power. If God is powerful enough to split the Red Sea into two, if God is powerful enough to kill a giant with a stone, if God is powerful enough to create this entire world, if God loves us enough to send His Son, then God is powerful enough. God loves you enough to save your marriage!

For those of you who think it might be too late, listen to this couple’s story.


Do we really believe the things we sing each week? Do we really think God is “Mighty to Save”? Is God really “Alive”? Do we really believe that “Salvation Belongs to Our God”? If God is all these things, God is powerful enough to restore your marriage. God is strong enough to make your marriage a reflection of His own relationships--so that when people see your relationship with your spouse, they see God! But some of us have some work to do.

Glenwood has made a commitment to help you make your families stronger. This morning, we want you to take something from our Stand @ Home Center. We are calling this a “recipe card.” There will be other recipe cards from time to time there. If you follow the “ingredients” on these cards, we think your family will become stronger. This one focuses on marriage. It gives you the blueprint for a date night with your spouse. I encourage you to take that card this morning, and allow it to guide your time together. Get your calendars out today. Set your date night. Make this commitment.
Your relationship is too important to take for granted any longer.

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