Sunday, January 08, 2006

What's Love Got To Do With It?

Originally posted on The Underground Railroad

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:22

This passage wads up more undergarments than any other in all of Scripture, so let's dive into it this morning. Read the full context of the passage here and then continue below.


Anyone who grew up in the church learned a song at an early age, a song of encouragement entitled Jesus Loves Me:

Jesus loves me! This I know,
for the Bible tells me so.
little ones to Him belong;
they are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

There are two truths asserted in this song that bears directly on our text today - Jesus loves us and the Bible is our authoritative source. We know that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. Some will say that only certain parts of the Bible are true (the parts that they like) while others will say that since we live under grace we are not bound by the Law, but do not think that Jesus came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; He did not come to abolish but to fulfill. Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished, according to Jesus.

But what's love got to do with it?

God demonstrated His own love toward us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord, such that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved.

But what's love got to do with our text?

Everything that the Christian does should flow out of love. When asked about the greatest commandment of all of the Old Testament, Jesus replied with two: "'You shall love the lord your god with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets." In our relationship with God and our relationship with our fellow man, love should rule our every action and interaction - it is the more excellent way, and it is the evidence of our salvation. Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Paul noted that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And Jesus said that you can tell the difference between those who are real and those who are fake by the fruit they bear.

But what does love have to do with this submission thing?

It's in the text - like Ragu, it's in there. First, we have to understand what the will of the LORD is. Our biggest problem is that we fail to ask what God wants and instead insist on doing whatever we want. The first problem is that we don't submit to God our Father. You would think that those who call themselves "Christians" would follow Christ's example. Jesus said, "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." Jesus said, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me." Jesus said, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works." Now, if Jesus submitted to the Father then don't you think that we mere mortals should submit to the Father as well?

The second problem is that we don't submit to the Spirit. It's in the text. This is the purpose of Paul imploring the Christian to be filled with the Spirit. Paul gives some initial examples of what being filled with the Spirit looks like - speaking lovingly to one another, singing and making melodies, giving thanks to God, and submitting to one another - but it is the next section of the text that gets people up in arms, ready to storm the Church with torches and pitchforks:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Postmodern women often have two words for that command, and the second word is, "Naw!" I believe there are three causes for this errant reaction. The first, and most obvious, is the historic abuse of women and this particular passage by men. This is nothing new. Even back in Jesus' own day, when He corrected the Pharisees about marriage and divorce - telling them that they may not divorce their wives - Jesus' own disciples said, in so many words, "But Jesus, how in the world are we going to keep them women in their place if we can't threaten them with starvation through divorce? It would be better to never marry than to give up that leverage!" To which Jesus essentially said, "If you are indeed a Christian then you will not only accept this but embrace and promote it - I wouldn't expect those whom I do not know to accept it, for those will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Men have been wrong about this for a long time, and Jesus checked them on it way back then.

The second cause of this reaction is a confusing of terms. Wives are called to submit to their husbands - husbands are not called to dominate their wives. Submission and domination are two totally different things. Submission is an act of the will and, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, we do it all the time. When we come to a red light at an intersection we stop - we submit. When a police officer pulls behind us with his lights flashing we pull over - we submit. When we go to buy groceries we wait in line until it is our turn to check out - we submit. We submit all the time, the true question is one of legitimacy - do we believe in the legitimacy of the authority to which we are commanded to submit?

This is what love has to do with it.

A husband and a wife should love one another, obviously, and if she loves her husband then she should submit to his authority. But it doesn't end there - the husband is called to love his wife as Jesus Christ loves the Church. Jesus sacrificed all that He was and had for the well-being of the Church. He gave up His life for the Church. When the Church ignores Jesus, He still loves us. When the Church defies Jesus, He still loves us. When the Church is plain acting a fool, He still loves us. This is how a husband is called to love His wife. He is responsible for her well-being, and just like Jesus loves, respects, and protects the Church husbands must likewise love their wives. Keep in mind, Jesus doesn't dominate the Church - Jesus doesn't bark commands and then issue stark punishments for nonconformity - Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me." Jesus was talking to the Church which He loves - He doesn't kick the door down and barge in; He stands at the door of your heart and knocks.

This brings us to the third problem, the third cause for postmodern peoples' reaction to this passage. The third problem is that they haven't submitted to the Son of God. Obviously, a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. In other words, it is foolishness to expect those who have not submitted to Jesus Christ to act like those who have. We're worlds apart - literally - and the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Children are to submit to their parents, wives are to submit to their own husbands, Christians are to submit to Jesus, and the Son submits to the Father. Likewise, the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Church, husbands are to love their wives, and parents are to love their children. That's how it works in the Kingdom of God.

This love of which I speak is more than a second-hand emotion, it is the kind of love that made my mother snatch my sister out of the mouth of an attacking bulldog. It is the kind of love that had my father working two jobs to provide for his family. It is the kind of love that kept Jesus nailed to that old rugged cross, and it is the kind of love that caused the Father to raise His Son from the grave. I'm not talking about that "Luv ya!" kind of love, I'm talking about the greatest love of all, the kind of love that Jesus spoke about: "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." That kind of love has everything to do with it.

Can you submit to being loved like that?

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants to be your friend,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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