Thursday, 23 August 2012

As Unto The Lord

Source for this image here.

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body". (Ephesians 5: 22 - 23).

The Book of Ephesians is possibly one of my most favourite Books in the all the whole Bible - and especially Chapter 5, which I feel can almost be described as a blueprint for Christian living.  Of course, it is actually a letter, written by Paul, and in that sense it is indeed a blueprint for living - spiritual guidance on how to live in a way that imitates the way Christ Jesus lived during His time on earth, and which thus pleases our Father God.  One of the most important elements of this guidance, for us women, appears almost at the end of this Chapter.  Paul tells us that we are to live as wives in subjection to our husbands in "every thing" (Ephesians 5: 24), just as the Church is "subject to Christ".  That means that we are to obey our husband, as if he himself is God - and that when we don't, we are displeasing not just our husband, but God also. 

These words are clear, but what happens when we try to put them into practise?  Now I am very lucky to be married to a man who like me is a faithful Christian, and together we study the Bible, pray, share devotions with our children and enjoy attending Church services and trying to live in a way that pleases God.  In this sense, it's easy for me to fulfill my side of the duty.  I can submit to my husband easily, willingly and happily, knowing that I am pleasing God in so doing, because Papa Bear does not ever demand anything of me that might be felt to be unreasonable.  He is in turn fulfilling his part as head of our home, by obeying God's command - that he lead our family, just as Christ led the Church - and that he loves me, just as Christ loved the Church.  But I do know that it isn't this way for everyone.

Many couples are not born into Christian families and therefore come to their faith much later in life, perhaps as teenagers or maybe as adults, when they make an independent choice to seek God of their own conviction.  Glorious though this is, it may mean that the believing wife can find herself in a marriage with a man who is an unbeliever, or maybe the couple are both believers, but the husband demands things of the wife which are contrary to the teaching of the Bible.  These situations aren't unusual, and it can be very difficult, especially if the wife is a believer and her husband is not.  How can she both obey the commands of Scripture, and yet also be in submission to her husband, if he is asking of her something that conflicts with these commands?

Earlier in that same chapter of Ephesians we are warned as "children of light" (verse 8) not to be "partakers of darkness" by engaging in behaviour such as

"fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience". (Ephesians 5: 3 - 6).

Now, if my husband asked me to engage in any behaviour which meant that I would be partaking in darkness, then I know that I would be sinning.  Therefore, I would be displeasing God.  Of course, if I didn't do what my husband asked, I would be displeasing him, but I wouldn't be displeasing God, because God wouldn't want me to do that bad thing.  God has the ultimate authority - so the answer to my dilemma will always be to do what pleases God, even if so doing displeases my husband.  Ideally, in a Christian marriage, a husband would not demand of his wife that she did anything that displeased God - but of course, being human, we all do things that displease God sometimes!  What matters is that we know what displeases Him, and try to avoid it, and that when we do fall, we confess our sins to our Father God, repent and ask for His forgiveness.

However, in most marriages it is not so much the things that our husbands ask us to do which have the potential to offend God that are the problem.  It is instead the things that we should be doing, to fulfill our duty to obey our husbands, that we fail to do, which cause us to stumble.  I know I do!  When I should be reverencing my husband (Ephesians 5: 33) and respecting his leadership,  I may act instead in a way that does not - and then, even when my husband doesn't notice, God does - and I displease Him, as well as driving a wedge between myself and my husband. 

Society's message to young women is that we should be concerned primarily with serving our own wishes and fulfilling our own desires.  Society tells us that being in a relationship is about what pleases us, and that gratification of the self is more important than being concerned with the needs of others.  Submission is equated with weakness, dominance with strength, and in a culture where appearance is everything, what matters most is being the best - the most powerful, successful, assertive and independent.  This is counter to what the Bible teaches.

It is actually harder to submit, to quash our selfish, ego-driven desires and consider the needs of another before those of our own.  Of course, there will be times, even when we ardently wish to please God, that we will fail and not submit.  There will be occasions when, impulsively, we will go ahead and follow our own urges even when we know that this is not God's will - nor that of our husbands.  But if we are motivated by a spiritual desire to grow in our faith and become stronger by obeying God's will for us to follow our husband's commands, then we will find that we are truly fulfilled, in a way that the superficial gratification of self can never attain.  I am not saying it is easy - I know it isn't - but if both husband and wife strive to please God in this way, not only will they be individually blessed, but they will also find their marriage union strengthening and deepening, joyfully, beautifully and eternally, as they become "one flesh" (Ephesians 5: 31) before Him.  And surely such bounty is worth the self-control and denial that may be necessary, in order to fulfill our part of the command to submit ourselves to our husbands "as unto the Lord".