Monday, April 30, 2012

what marriage tells us about the gospel

This Sunday, our high school pastor, Ryan asked me to teach on a passage that people love to hate: Ephesians 5:21-24. 

It's about submission to one another in the church, and specifically about wives submitting to their husbands.  What a difficult teaching!  But it's a beautiful one, at that. 

We talked with students about how submission has been twisted in our world--we see abuse, slavery, war, and oppression all around us, all in the name of submission.  But this is NOT what the apostle Paul had in mind when we wrote these verses to the Ephesians. 

He had JESUS in mind.

Jesus, who loves the Church as his Bride, modeling how a husband should love his wife.

Jesus, who submitted to the authorities who nailed him to a cross and crucified him. 

Jesus, who submitted most of all to his Father. 

Paul writes in Philippians 2 that Jesus "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the likeness of a servant." 

Jesus knew he was equal to God...he didn't have to strive for that equality.  He laid down his rights and willingly gave up his life in order to become a "fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1). 

Jesus doesn't ask us to do anything he hasn't already accomplished for us.
  (Man, I love him for that!!)

When we hold all this in mind, submission starts to look different.  It starts to seem like something I actually WANT.  And it shows us that marriage is not for just two people.  It's for all of us in community together.

When I was telling someone that I’m teaching on this passage today, she said “Shouldn’t a married person be doing that?”  Here’s the thing: this passage isn’t about married people.  In fact, marriage isn’t about married people.  It’s about God.

California pastor Mike Erre has said that God is a god of props.

He knows we are forgetful, that our tiny pea brains can't handle all He has for us.  So in His infinite grace, He gives us ways to remember.

He gave Noah a rainbow.  He told Abraham to build a rock pile.  And to the Church, He gives the sacraments: baptism reminds us that the Spirit raises dead people to life. Communion reminds us that Jesus gives salvation.

In the same way, marriage is a prop that shows us the gospel.  When we see a husband laying down his life for his wife, we see Jesus laying down his life on the Cross.  And when we see a wife submitting to her husband's authority, we see Jesus willingly submitting to the Father.  In another dimension we see in the husband and wife a beautiful picture of Jesus and his Bride, the Church.

We are all called to submit. I confess that I am lousy at this most of the time. My upbringing, my education, my experience have all made me feel pretty entitled.  Can you relate?  Sometimes I feel like I should get to do whatever I want, like the world owes me something.  I think the place we live here in New England kind of cultivates that.

But the gospel says that we are to be like Jesus and lay aside our rights.  That means submitting to our teachers, our bosses, our parents, our youth leaders, and sometimes even our friends.  It is difficult work!  But Paul says that it will show the world Jesus and his amazing love.

And God gives us every resource we need!  He also gives us the awesome privilege of representing Him in our relationships with one another.