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Ephesians 5.22–33 ESV
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,
30 because we are members of his body.
31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
We’ve been learning from our series, “I LOVE YOU. PERIOD.” that Godly love is love without commas or conditions. We’ve been talking a lot about having that kind of love as the family of God. Last week we emphasized how to love the children of this world and teach them the way of God by reflecting God’s glorious image. This is our task as those who bear the image of God, to witness to Him through our personhood. Through today’s lens, the lens of Christian marriage, I want us to see the life-changing holy-love that is reflected in the most intimate of relationships that God has given us.
Before we begin, it is important to note that we do not have to BE married to witness the love God is showing us through marriage. The whole world can benefit from the grace that is imparted through loving, holy marriages.
We’ll deal with our Ephesians text in a bit, but right now I want to turn to some building block Scriptures in order to gain perspective. Genesis 2.24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This passage is repeated all throughout Scripture, especially in Matthew 19.5, Mark 10.7, and Ephesians 5.31, part of today’s text.
To pull from last week, we must leave the place of our mothers and fathers in order to reflect the image of God elsewhere. How is the glory of God to spread unless we leave? And in those instances where man and woman leave and marry, we often times see the fruit of that relationship in children. The offsprings of our love is the continuation of spreading the reflection of God for generations.
But the heart of today’s message is about the radical love that not only exists in an intimate relationship, but in what it takes to maintain such a relationship. Every person in this room, married or not, knows that marriage takes work. We are trying to love each other as best we can. But the difference between many marriages and godly marriages is that godly marriages use the strength of God as the source of their loving.
We’ve heard in here before that if we are loving with our love then it will never be enough. But if we love with the love of God, we will experience for ourselves (and cause our significant other to experience) God’s love with a period.
God’s holiness in our lives erases the comma in an “I love you” statement and places a period. St. Paul talks about holy love as he gives us the definition in 1 Corinthians 13:
“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
How many in here wish a spouse would give up childish ways?! But look at the attributes of unconditional love here (unconditional love being “agape” in Greek). The characteristics described are divine in their source, they are godly attributes. These are characteristics that wear down and erode the places in relationships that fall short or cause problems.
Words like patient, enduring, bearing, truth. These are higher things and we strive for these things because we know their purity, we know what they can bring. But we must have these things at the center, we must strive for these things and make them priorities. And the only way we can attain them is through the holiness of God. Remember, holy means “other or sacred,” meaning there’s qualitative difference between one thing and another.
When we invite God into our hearts and relationships, we are welcoming His holiness into our most inner place. Once the holiness of God is allowed to burn in the fireplace of our hearts, we can experience the warmth of His presence. That warmth and presence is a changing one, as it informs our ideas and attempts at love. It changes the way we see things, say things, do things.
The challenge for us is to assess whether or not we have allowed God and His holiness to warm our hearts and relationships. If not, we are craftily trying to find alternative ways to be married or stay married. When we do that, we lose our witness of showing the world God’s holy love. We love with a comma and a condition—a condition we’ve invented on our own.
Look at our text for today. Wives are to submit to their husbands, but only because the husband is charged with the task of loving His wife sacrificially. The man is to lay down his life for his wife, but it because she is in need of wholeness and blessed salvation. But do you see what’s happening? The man and the woman in the image are players to a larger picture that is meant to call us all to the marriage relationship with God. Ultimately, it is God who is playing out His love for us and our returned love for Him through marriage and our marriage roles.
See, marriage isn’t about us. Marriage is about God and what God is doing through this intimacy that He calls all people to. Our world tells us that marriage is about self-fulfillment. Don’t mishear me, marriage can be about falling in love and companionship and all these other things, but as Christians we must sacrifice the priority we’ve placed on these things and make God the spotlight of our lives, pleasing Him in our marriages and not ourselves. We will find divine fulfillment if we will seek to please God first in our relationships.
Holy matrimony, Godly marriage, makes us and those around us more holy. But we have to put the emphasis on that. We have to let our lives, our relationships, our children, our families, our jobs, our schools, our hobbies be witnesses to God.
Do you see how this has spiraled out into our entire lives being reflections of unconditional love? See how if we make any part of our life about something other than God we fail to reflect His glory? This is not a moment for distress and despair. No, this is a moment of invitation, a moment to say, “Yes, I will begin to work on the many parts of my life by making them witnesses to God.” We start that process and witness it’s progress by inviting the life-changing, soul-transforming love of God into the area we’re working on. And like a marriage, we ride the bumps with patience and endurance knowing that we are going to come out the other side whole.
Let your marriage and the other roles you play be witnesses to love without a comma; to love, period. Be committed, be faithful, be holy. Amen.