What Does a Christian Family Look Like- A Grace Perspective

As a Biblical counselor I can recall the one thing that domineering and egotistical males could recite was the verses on submission. They would use these verses to bolster their authority, however their actions in the home clearly reflected a lack of Christ-likeness.  They would actually get indignant when I refused to take up their cause. You see gentlemen, the act of submission is this way: as the man submits his will to Christ and humbles himself as a shepherd-leader by example in the home, then and only then would a wife be willing to submit to his headship. You see a leader who commands but does not lead by example is not submissive to the will of Christ. Jesus humbled himself to leave the glory He shared with the Father to take on mortal flesh, live a perfect life so he could become that sinless lamb needed for sacrifice once for all, suffer horribly unto death at the hands of the creation He came to save. Gentlemen, until you are willing to die to self, and leave all your wants, wishes, and dreams at the foot of the cross and live sacrificially for those of your household you are not worthy of respect or submission! Something to consider guys...meekness does not imply weakness.

Meet Pastor Sam Nunnally:

Okay, on to the famous marriage passage in Ephesians 5:18-33 (NLT):

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts…And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ…For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.
 ”As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
 There’s a lot in here to digest but let’s just pull some of the most overlooked parts out for a minute. Most pastors start with verse 22 – the part about wives submitting to husbands, passing over the preceding verses that qualify it. The whole passage starts where Paul talks about being filled with the Spirit.  What does he mean? He gives us an example – drunkenness, actually. When someone is inebriated, they have assigned their will over to a chemical that makes their decisions for them.  We call this impaired judgment – others call it being smashed.  In the same way, being filled with the Spirit is to allow the Spirit to affect your decisions and life strategies.  Make sense? We are to be “filled with the Spirit” to the point where it affects our judgment. It’s not coincidence that the grammar in the original here has a fluid, loose feel to it almost as if Paul was writing in a drunken way to convey his point.
Next, before Paul says anything about wives submitting, he states in verse 21 that we are to submit to “one another in the fear of the Lord” (NKJV). Here we have mutual voluntary submission - a state of equality and interdependence under the Lord (similar to the concept of the social Trinity I might add…). Paul doesn’t say anything about the husband being higher up on the ladder of spiritual maturity than the wife. They receive equal investment under God.  After addressing this mutual submission under God, only then does Paul delve into the specifics of marriage.
Over the next few verses the smallest words become the most important. Paul admonishes women to submit to their husbands “as to” the Lord. The husband is the “head…as also Christ is head” of the church. “As” the church follows Christ, “so” wives follow their husbands. Husbands should love their wives “just as” Christ does the church. All of these small words qualify the relationship – husbands are to represent the love of Christ for the church. To the extent that they do this, women are encouraged to follow. When Paul says that the husband is “head” of the wife, the actual word means to lead by example. This what headship actually means. When the example of husbandry reflects to the love of Christ for believers, wives are certainly willing to follow one who leads by example.
It’s important to note that Paul was not describing the marriages he saw at Ephesus. He was describing what Christian marriage should look like as men and women grow into spiritual maturity. Of course, the vision that Paul puts forward takes time to develop. I know that it did for us (and still is). Particularly, it took one spouse’s willingness to overhaul their own approach to marriage before the other caught up. That idea scares spouses – what if I make myself vulnerable and they take advantage of it? At first, you can be sure that they will.  But if “the goodness of God leads to repentance” in a person’s life, that same model will transform a marriage. God’s risk can also be yours.
In the end, Christian marriage should look like this: two people madly in love with God to the point that it affects how they treat each other. Made in the image of God, these two believers honor each other in the ebb and flow of life. Rather than squaring off against one another and digging in for a fight, they lay their own opinions aside. Then they do one of two things: 1) they defer to the other or 2) they pray for God’s guidance as their answer. Either way they are not individuals but a team working towards a common goal. The two have become one flesh…
The key to all of this is “as to…so.” In a Christian’s life, the depth of relationship they have with the Father spills over into their relationship with their spouse. Rather than the Western notion of priorities in order, see God as the center of a wheel with marriage as one of many “spokes” originating from it. Or as water spilling over a bathtub. Depth with God creates depth everywhere else.

Well said Pastor Sam! See you all next blog,
Ted

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