A Joy in Retirement
The opportunity to retire in Texas gives us many ways to participate in our grandkids lives. Lydia is a freshman at Round Rock Christian Academy where she and her brothers are very active in all types of sports. We attend these events every opportunity we get, cheering their teams to victory.
Lydia was required to interview four adults on how they understood the Biblical passage of Ephesians 5:21-6:4 and then to write a paper to complete her class assignment. Well, this passage was one that peaked my academic interest and gave opportunity to share insights from my counseling experience of the past 48 years
These verses provoke great misunderstanding, controversy, and division among Christians in many faith communities where God calls us to unity. What follows is the paper that I sent Lydia in response to the assignment.
These verses from Ephesians 5 are important on a number of levels.
Ephesians 5:21 (NLT) is the summary text for all that is to follow in this passage. “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The concept of submission is not gender specific according to this verse. We are called by Paul as believers to submit to each other as a show of unity from the Holy Spirit’s presence in every believer’s life. Let’s break this passage down from that baseline by which its meaning and intent is understood.
- First is the fact that the passage refers to God’s design for human relationships reflecting a sense of order that was intended by our Creator. Jesus Christ as the incarnate Son submitted Himself to His Father’s will to make it possible for humanity to be reconciled to a Holy God. Through Christ’s obedience, shown by His death on the cross, all who trust in Him receive eternal life.
- Second, when we accept the work of Christ personally by faith, we put ourselves in submission to Jesus out of gratitude for what He has done for us. As we join with other believers, we become the Church, which is the bride of Christ. As His bride, the Church submits to His sacrificial love and leadership so that each of us may personally know and behave in concert with God the Father’s will.
- Third is that the relationship between Christ and the Church, His bride, is an object lesson of what God’s desire a Christian marriage to be. As Creator, He made all that was made to have order and to reflect His character. When Jesus quoted the second commandment that you were to love others as yourself, He spoke to the Creator’s design. In marriage that order is reflected in the husband and wife to be subject to Christ first and then to one another (verse 21). Then the husband in his submission to Christ loves his wife following the example of how Christ loved the Church, his Bride. The wife by being subject to her husband demonstrates a heartfelt commitment to her husband in keeping with the Creatorial order. This picture becomes complete in Ephesians 6:1 when the child’s obedience to the parents demonstrates the final part of that relational authority and order being lived out through the whole family.
- Fourth is the human reality that exists. Though we come to Christ in salvation, every believer can sin. When sin appears in the marital relationship, it shows how the human spirit resists living by God’s order. If either husband or wife wants his or her own way in the marriage, the harmony that God desires in and for marriage is lost. Fellowship is lost; intimacy is lost. God’s intended order no longer is present and the relationship lacks peace.
The Two Most Common Reasons for Christians Divorcing.
Two examples that illustrate these above concepts being misused come from my experience in counseling Christian couples.
“The Bible tells you to be a submissive wife.” This husband expects his wife to follow his every directive. She must never question him. Whatever he asks of her she must do willingly without hesitation. If she questions him, this man will become verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive to gain the power he wants. He believes that if his wife fears him and obeys without questioning that she is showing him Biblical respect. His desire for control and power leads him to see his wife as an object to possess not a person to love. This husband is not living by Christ’s example to His Bride, the Church. He does not cherishing his spouse nor is he willing to sacrifice his desires. She must act like his puppet, obeying his every command and expectation.
“The Bible says you are to be my spiritual leader.” This wife expects her husband to be a decision-maker wanting him to fulfill her mental image of a strong, assertive man. However, no matter what decisions he might make, they do not ever measure up to her expectations. This woman’s expectations are based on a fantasy. She looks to her husband to be “the knight in shining armor” to provide for her every need or wish and to make her look good to their friends. But anything that her husband attempts, she criticizes and even humiliates him. So his natural response is to become passive to protect himself. She does not trust that the Holy Spirit can help her husband grow to learn how to meet her needs. She wants immediate change so exercises control over his behavior to suit herself. This wife will never experience order and peace in her life because she really does not know how to trust God.
These two scenarios were the most frequent reasons that I saw Christian marriages end in divorce. Sadly, the Christian community generally would pick sides with one of the partners aligning with the one who had their ear. The vocal one usually was the one who the community gathered around. The manipulated wife or the defeated husband heard the faith community speaks the same words back to them. Often the wounded ones received no support and had to leave the faith community for the sake of his or her survival.
My Closing Comments
I witnessed the lives of many believers wrongly hurt in the name of Christ because of couples who are not getting their way. One spouse brings church members into their marital problems as an additional source of control on their side. When Christians feel helpless to intervene with a couple in their church fellowship who is struggling with these issues, they pick sides and justify it with Scripture. Often the Church is seen to parrot the same phrases being used by the controlling spouse. The result is alienation of the one who may really need the most support. The same Bible verses were used by other Christians to beat “the sinner” into a state of behavioral compliance at the expense of the Great Commandment. God holds us to loving Him first and then one another without exception. The Church should never be seen as taking sides. This leads to a good topic for another article.
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