There are two passages of scripture that I always come back to when writing a wedding Homily: Ephesians 5:21-28 and Philippians 2:1-8, and they are the ones which came to my heart to discuss this week. They are both lofty goals for any human to strive towards, but they also help to define the exact purpose of the marriage relationship.
I think it all changed for me when I realized that being married isn’t about making me happy. For you newlyweds this is going to be a shocker, and for you oldies (but goodies) you already know what I am talking about. I don’t know exactly when it happened upon me, if it was all at once or a gradual awakening over time. I was asking all of the wrong questions, just a bunch of “me-centered” questions. This isn’t to say that I don’t struggle with those questions still, but much less than I did. If you find yourself wondering silently why your spouse can’t be more of (fill-in-the-blank) for you, then the problem most likely is not with him/her. Granted, we each have responsibilities for our role in the relationship, but our first inclination should not be to make ourselves the center of the world. As if they exist to serve us. Nope, that’s not the case. Listen to Paul:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Ephesians 5:21-28
Marriage is mutual submission, huh. Who would have thought? And Paul goes further to describe the way that we should think about our marriage, which will fuel our motivation towards submission. He uses the metaphor of Jesus Christ and the Church. It informs both our spiritual and marriage relationships. Jesus Christ became incarnate to become the head of the church and to function as its Savior. Now that implies that the Church was in need of a Savior (which a cursory reading of the Bible would inform and attest). But it is an important implication. The Church needed Jesus, and Jesus came through and met the needs of the Church, and this is how submission from the wife is best motivated. But the Church must acknowledge this need and receive Christ as the leader and Savior.
So wives, how do you communicate to your husband that you need him? Have you acknowledged within yourself that you need him? It seems very en vogue to put men down as useless weak beings, especially in entertainment. I don’t think there has been a strong, moral male role model who isn’t a bumbling hen-pecked idiot since Bill Cosby in The Cosby Show. That says something. Wives, men like being needed, they want to fulfill your needs everywhere in your life, including the bedroom, but they must be invited to and believed in that they can do that. If you don’t believe in them, how can they believe in themselves. Part of being faithful, is having faith in the other. And a large part of locking the door is the trust that comes through having faith in your spouse, and then watching them come through for you.
So husbands, how do you come through for your wives? Christ gave himself up for the Church, sacrificed his entire life for the purpose of lifting her up and making her blameless and holy (read: “set apart because she is exceptional, extraordinary and unique”). Quite a lofty goal, huh? Trite pop love songs croon all day long about “catching a grenade” for the love of his life, but can any of us actually do this? Is it expected of us? Under exceptional circumstances maybe, but we don’t live exceptional circumstances. How do we then lay our lives aside in order to serve our wives sacrificially?
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:1-8
Let’s start the old fashioned way, with a check-list.
Do I act in a way that is tender and compassionate?
Do I do things out of selfish ambition or vain conceit?
Do I act in such a manner as to show my spouse that I value her above myself?
Do I look to her interests above mine?
Do I serve my wife?
Do I humble myself around her?
This isn’t to mean that you must be a weak willed person, by no means! One cannot actually be a weak willed person and commit to a life of surrender and servant-hood, because it takes a great deal of consistent dedication to press down the overwhelming desire to be selfish and seek out on one’s own gratification. It takes great will power to do this. Elsewhere in scripture, when Jesus is elaborating on the Beatitudes of the Christian life, he declares “blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Dr. Jack Partain described this eloquently through the image of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions. Horses of a distinct, pure and noble lineage trained in a highly technical form of dressage, and characterized by an unflappable quietude and grace. When Christ uses the term, “meek” he is describing someone who parallels this kind of existence. These horses are muscular and powerful, and under the correct guidance and proper circumstances are extremely capable of executing strong and vigorous feats, but they are not given to uncontrollable outbursts of bravado and machismo. They have no need for such theatrics.
Husband and wife, you are to submit to one another for separate and distinct reasons, but under the same motivation of love and servanthood. As Corie and I encourage you to Lock the Door on your relationship, we implore that you do so with a servant heart. Asking how you can best make this ‘marriage home’ one that will be a welcome and comforting sanctuary for other. How can you best make it a home of safety and trust? You must live in such a manner as to show that you are not self-seeking, but are God-centered, allowing Him to empower you with the capability to create a place of trust and vulnerability. Only in this will you create a marriage characterized by two individuals who are “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”