Monthly Archives: August 2012

Husbands and Wives

I can find amusement in some of the oddest places.  One of the fun things about being in front of a congregation is watching them during the service.  I get to see all kinds of things from you all that make me laugh, almost right out loud at times.  Like at weddings when I speak from Ephesians chapter five.  You know the “wives submit to your husbands . . .” thing.  Some of the looks you ladies give, and the elbow jabbing from the men, too funny.  But that’s because we don’t know what submission to God looks like in everyday life.

Paul starts with the wives (personally I think he started with the women because he knew they would listen better than the men) but then tells the husbands to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the church.  How was that?  He submitted himself to serve our needs ahead of his own.  One author put it this way; in following Christ’s example, husbands and wives, we are to spend our lives for the wellbeing of our spouse at any cost to ourselves.

This truth actually goes even farther; this passage begins by telling us all to submit to one another as a way of honouring God (vs. 21).  Husbands and wives are the illustration that Paul uses to make his point.  What he is telling us is that submission to God is expressed by submission to others.  We like to think that if we go to church, and give our offering, and don’t lie or cheat or steal etc. we are submitting to God.  Reality is that our level of submission to God is measured by how we submit to the people around us.

Now I can hear all sorts of resistance this; “But you don’t know what this person in my life is like,” and “if I don’t stand up for my rights I will get walked all over.”  If you study the life of Jesus, I don’t think you can ever say that of him.  Even about his death he said that no one can take his life from him, but that he chose to lay it down, again,  in submission to the Father, expressed as service to us.  As a result the Son brought honour to the Father and the Father honoured the Son.  We have the same opportunity, if we will choose to serve others in submission to God.

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Submission

Submission.  We don’t like that word.  It brings to mind ideas of oppression, domineering, and weakness.  Pictures of tyrannical kings from the Middle Ages, repressive regimes in third world countries, arrogant bosses, abusive spouses, or even school yard bullies are all connected with the word submission.  So too, often, is Christianity.

It’s true that the Bible talks a lot about submission, especially to God, but we miss the true nature of submission because we understand it from a human perspective, not from how God looks at it.  Submission in relationship with God is about a mutual giving to one another.  Jesus himself said he didn’t come to be served but to serve (Matt. 20:28).  Paul tells us that Jesus is to be our example of submission (Philippians 2).  It’s really in our best interest.  Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us that if we trust God completely, and look to him (in other words submit to his control) in all our ways, that he will make our path straight.

Let me put it in an analogy that may help.  I had a horse whose name was Nina.  Nina loved to work cattle.  When we would go out on round-up, if she was fully submitted to me the slightest touch was all it would take for her to go where I directed and we would accomplish wonderful and satisfying things together, fully enjoying each other in the process.  On the rare day when she decided she did not want to submit to me, well let’s just say it wasn’t pleasant for either one of us.

 I submitted myself to Nina’s needs by making sure she had good food and water, keeping her feet trimmed and healthy, making sure she had her annual shots, etc.  She submitted to me by doing what I directed her to.  When she did what I asked her to we were able to accomplish what I wanted, but at the same time she was fulfilled, and we both enjoyed the relationship.  A further application of this analogy is that successfully working cattle together did not come without first spending hours of time together, practicing, getting to know each other, and learning to trust  in the mundane setting of the round pen and riding arena.

Our relationship with God is intended to be one of mutual giving of ourselves, which brings enjoyment to both.  God has already completely given himself to us in Jesus, so we know that we can trust him in submission to him in our day-to-day lives.  What does that look like?  We’ll explore that in next the next post.


Decision Making

Many of us have at some point in our lives struggled to know what God’s will for us is, both generally and specifically when needing to make some kind of a decision.  We hum and haw, and list pros and cons, and agonize in prayer, all the while fearful of making a wrong decision.  (As an aside, usually our assessment of a “wrong” decision is based on a human perspective of success not on what God sees as success.)

In John 6:28-29 Jesus was asked what needed to be done to do God’s work, and his reply was to simply believe in the one God sent; Jesus himself.  If you want to know God’s direction for you, then know Jesus.  That may sound simplistic so I think an analogy may be in order here.

My wife, Wendy, is a wonderful gift giver.  She gets great satisfaction in finding a gift for someone that perfectly fits that person.  It is very hard for her to find a gift for someone she doesn’t know well because she doesn’t know what that person values or is important and significant to them.  It takes far more effort and struggle and she usually isn’t satisfied with what she has found.  The gifts that bring her the most joy and satisfaction are the ones where she may not even be looking for a gift and finds something that she immediately knows in her heart just perfectly matches a particular person.  Why?  Because she knows that person so well.

If we picture doing God’s will in our lives as those gifts you can begin to understand what Jesus was getting at.  Rather than focusing so much on what to do, focus on Jesus. Get to know him so intimately that when you come to make a decision, even just the little ones during the day, you will know in your heart “ah, this is him.”

But it goes even deeper than that, because as Christ followers we have the spirit of Jesus making his residence within us and speaking to us, guiding and directing us.  The more we focus on him, the more we get to know him and identify with what is valuable and significant to him then the more clearly we will recognize the “voice behind you saying ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21)